It’s official – booze insiders have declared rum the new gin, with UK sales recently reaching £1bn for the first time. Summer is a great time to get reacquainted with this often overshadowed spirit, thanks to its Caribbean roots and versatility in tropical cocktails.
There’s been a real surge in new brands available here in the UK, joining some of the more well-known labels you may already be familiar with. Our roundup includes a variety of smaller, artisan producers as well as tried and tested rum stalwarts.
With rums coming in so many different guises, we’ve tried to demystify the main categories. Uncomplicated, unaged rums are lighter in character and perfect in cocktails. Those with a sugar-cane base are normally herbaceous and grassy, guaranteed to appeal to mezcal drinkers.
More tropical, fruity styles, often referred to as “funky”, will very often come from the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Your most classic rums will be spicy, with just a touch of fruitiness, often with a little ageing, these might be a blend.
However not all rum exhibits fruit – some are much drier (look out for ones with no added sugar) and will therefore feel much darker, spicy and often oaky. Finally, there are the rich, treacly sweet and ultra-decadent varieties that are great drunk neat, or poured over dessert.
Whether you’re partial to a moody dark and stormy or a refreshing cipriani, rum looks here to stay. So ahead of this revival, we’ve found 12 of our favourite rums to drink right now. When taste-testing these spirits we tried all of them neat, as well as in their signature serve.
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Dark and spicy, this Venezuelan single-estate rum is all about the oaky spice you only get after maturation. Much drier than some of the fruitier, sticky sweet rums we tried, there was still a very elegant honeyed quality this spirit, backed up with cacao, butter and toasted nuts. We think the price reflects how this rum is made. The solera process – a barrel-stacking system normally associated with sherry – means the liquid is a blend of ages, with a portion of it being an impressive 35-years-old. We’d recommend drinking this over ice to really appreciate the nuanced grown-up flavour.
The motley crew behind this rum can be found near the high seas of the River Lea in east London’s Hackney Wick. It’s a relatively new operation, only launching in 2014, but has since picked up awards at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) and the World Rum Awards. This lovely liquid has really mellowed during its five years of ageing – smooth and sweet, it has butterscotch notes reminiscent of angel delight. As such, it would work a treat over vanilla ice cream but is equally delicious neat.
From the Caribbean to…. Cornwall. You can’t fail to have noticed the CBD craze taking the food and drink world by storm, so it was only a matter of time until you found it in your favourite spirit. You won’t get high but as you might imagine, this one’s quite heavy on the herbaceous notes, with earthy pine also vying for attention. Dreamt up in St Ives’ Rum and Crab Shack, this is a fun, vibrant bottle that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Kick back, relax and enjoy with coke.
Aged for a minimum of five years in American oak barrels, this golden nectar is a mix of Trinidadian rums with the resulting liquid full of burnt caramel, vanilla, cacao and spicy notes. There are older expressions in the range which are more complex, but we think the five year ageing here represents great value for money, especially when used in cocktails. At this price, you certainly won’t regret adding this to your drinks cabinet.
Inspired by the rum and spice imports into Salford docks which took place in the early 1900s, the pretty ceramic bottle features a map of the docks, and in celebration of Pride, has been updated in rainbow colours. These new kids on the block only launched in 2018 and make everything in small batches, fermenting and distilling from scratch here in the UK, a stone’s throw from the old Salford docks. Golden-amber in colour, this spiced rum has been infused with fragrant vanilla, warming nutmeg and cinnamon and ginger, with a concentrated tropical fruit punch on the finish.
If you’re a fan of spiced rums, this does exactly what it says on the tin. Heavy on the vanilla, super sweet with a welcome hit of fiery ginger – it slips down a complete treat. A blend of Caribbean rums are selected before being left to age in oak barrels, and with 100 per cent of Majestic’s customers saying they’d buy this inexpensive rum again, who are we to disagree! Equally delicious with coke or ginger beer – lime wedge recommended!
Fruit-forward and funky, Hampden Estate has really chucked the whole fruit bowl into this full-bodied Jamaican pure single rum. From ripe pineapple and passion-fruit to more confected jelly fruits and even a touch of dried, concentrated banana, there’s plenty going on here. Despite all of these layers of fruit shining through, there’s actually no added sugar in this one, so the result is intense, yet balanced with a pleasing oily mouth-feel.
We can’t mention rum without including a coconut flavoured version. Something of a guilty secret, we’re partial to a tropical little number every now and then. Coconut rum is essential for your pina colada but is equally delicious served simply with pineapple juice. This is the latest flavour from Bacardi – an incredibly aromatic white rum – which has launched just in time for summer sipping.
If you’re fans of the standard Mount Gay rum, prepare to get your socks knocked off with this black barrel version which has had some time in charred bourbon oak barrels. These toasted spicy notes are apparent on the nose, backed up with creamy vanilla, warm cinnamon and smooth caramel in a luxuriously long and balanced finish. Rich and spicy, it’s simply delicious with ginger beer and a wedge of lime, or in a Manhattan.
Pronounced “zay-muck-uh”, this new expression from Plantation is a celebration of legendary rumfunk or “hogo” rum-styles, meaning “high taste” in French. Time seemed to go that little bit slower when sipping this. It’s all about the overripe tropical fruit here – lip-smackingly sweet pineapple and caramelised banana. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is sickly sweet. Thanks to the orange peel nose, herbaceous quality and spicy, smoky finish, the overall result is surprisingly dry. The brands signature serve combines lemon juice and soda in a take on the classic collins.
Previously named Rum Producer of the Year at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge 2017, this blend has had aged for ten years, across both ex-bourbon and sherry barrels. The “exceptional cask” series is the name given to these very limited edition releases, which are proving to be quite the collectables. Sweet vanilla is balanced with punchy clove, candied fruit and dried banana. It’s pretty easy to drink as it is, but a drop of water opens this rum up further, smoothing off the alcohol and making it an absolute treat when drunk neat.
Why should the Caribbean have all the fun? This small-batch rum is produced in the Philippines, or more specifically the island of Sugarlandia as it’s known locally, where rather unsurprisingly they make some of the world’s sweetest sugar cane. Rich, smooth and powerful – the underlying sweetness is backed up with marmalade, cinnamon and dried fruits which works well in cocktails and on the rocks.
The world of rum is a pretty exciting place right now with so much on offer. Our best buy goes to the grown-up Santa Teresa 1796 rum, which is very special and should be savoured. However if you’re looking for something a little fruitier that will also work a treat in cocktails, we’re big fans of Plantation xaymaca.
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