Everything You Need to Know About Rum

Last month I focused on whiskey for my old roommates, and while I do appreciate the flavor of the liquor now, rum is where my heart truly lies.

In the process of obtaining whiskies, we also came across quite a few amazing rums, which prompted me to seek out the best rums from all over the world to see how they stack up.

Although the rum collection isn’t as impressive as the whiskey, those we were able to obtain fared mostly well and made the forced move across town a little easier to swallow. Here’s what we learned about the liquor in the process.

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History of Rum

Although rum’s roots are in the fermented sugarcane drinks of ancient Indochina, its the 17th century distillation in the Caribbean that popularized the drink we know today.

It wasn’t long before the drink became popular in the American colonies and spread to Europe, where it quickly became a staple of both the British Royal Navy and pirates. Watered down rum is a grog and the Royal Navy rum rations were known as a tot.

Rum is still consumed in various naval ceremonies and special occasions in both Europe and the Americas.

Rum Production and Regional Variations

Unlike whiskey, there’s no particular standard for rum production, with the exception of cachaca, which is a Brazilian twist on rum. Whereas rum is typically made from molasses (a sugar byproduct), cachaca is made from fermented sugarcane juice, which contains much more actual sugar.

Only cachaca made in Brazil may carry the name cachaca, and the U.S. recently stopped referring to it as rum.

Rum (or rhum) is made by adding yeast and water to molasses in order to start fermentation. The resulting mixture is then distilled and aged in either steel tanks (light rum) or wooden barrels (dark rum). It’s then filtered and blended to produce the desired consistency.

Like vodka, rums are often flavored, typically opting for tropical flavors, such as pineapple, mango, and coconut. Spiced rum adds spices and flavoring. These flavored rums are an acquired taste only recommended for mixers. Unlike most flavored alcohols, I have to admit I’m a fan of coconut rum.

Old-Rum-Bottle

Popular Rum Drinks

Rum is used in a variety of cocktails, from the basic rum and coke (also known as a Cuba libre, though you better add lime juice before you call it that) to the post-Potter era hot buttered rum.

Cream rums are popularly made by distilleries that are great on their own. Rumchata, based on the Mexican rice drink has also recently been introduced to the American market.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the classic pina colada, a pineapple/coconut rum drink that can be served blended or on the rocks. Also, whereas tequila mixed with juice, ice, and a salted rim makes a margarita, rum, juice, ice, and a sugared rim is called a daquiri.

Garth Rum Drink

Fruity drinks like rum punch, mai tai, hurricane, and zombie can be found at beaches and tiki bars all over the world. Rum is typically the drink found in those bright, fruity, over the top drinks you see in movies with umbrellas, flowers, fruit, and the works are rum drinks.

Another great (and rather iconic) rum drink is the mojito, a mixture of muddled mint, lime juice, soda, rum.

People will often tell you these fruity and sweet mixed drinks are “girly” drinks, but fuck those people. They’re just insecure douchebags with tiny dicks. There’s nothing unmanly about enjoying fruit, smoothies, or a mixed drink, and never let any fucking idiot tell you otherwise.

Top 10 Rums

Of course, not just any rum will do – you can’t sip on Bacardi or that other cheap trash in the grocery stores. You need a bottle of decent rum to enjoy like a true boss.

10. Pusser’s 15-Year British Navy Rum

Pussers British Navy Rum

Pusser’s rum is the same blend of five West Indian rums that was issued on board British warships during the height of the royal navy (think Pirates of the Caribbean era). This rum blend has been released to the general public and, the 15-year bottle is spicy and strong with a smooth finish.

9. Cruzan Single Barrel St. Croix Rum

Cruzan Single Barrel

Cruzan is mostly known for competing with Bacardi and Captain Morgan for American college kids’ affections, but the company does still make a few great rums for sipping (and is my preferred well brand for cocktails). The Cruzan Single Barrel is the smoothest, sweetest rum in the line.

8. Don Pancho Origenes 30-Year Panamanian Rum

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Unlike Captain Morgan, Don Pancho is a real person who’s been distilling rum in South America for over 50 years. This 30-year blend is as smooth as it comes and the tastes of vanilla, butterscotch, and ginger-spiced fruits. This amazing rum needs no mixer.

7. Pyrat Cask 23 Anguilla Rum

Pyrat Cask 23

Although a bit pricey, Pyrat Cask 23 is a testament to everything a rum can be. Simultaneously tasting of both vanilla and chocolate, with a woody taste and citrusy undertones, this is a must-have for any rum collection.

6. Appleton Estate 21-Year Jamaican Rum

appleton_estate_21_year_old_rum_3Jamaican rum has a spicy, citrusy tone that’s both bright and enjoyable. Much like a dreamsicle, you taste hints of vanilla mixed with the orange-like aromas that finish with a brown sugary sweetness on the palate.

5. Espirito XVI Dourado Brazilian Cachaca

Espirito Cachaca

The Dourada expression of cachaca from Espirito is a great place to start understanding the differences between pure cane sugar and molasses liquor. Sporting a fresher, bolder, and spicier flavor, Espirito cachaca tastes great on the front and back end with a slight burn.

4. Kirk & Sweeney 23-Year Dominican Rum

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Kirk and Sweeney’s Dominican rum is a myriad of flavors like molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. It’s like taking all your favorite natural sweeteners and blending them into a sweet, creamy drink fit for the gods. This is my favorite rum for hot buttered rum as well.

3. The Kraken Black Spiced Trinadad and Tobago Rum

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The Kraken grew quickly in popularity in the U.S. due to its unique name and artwork, bold flavor, and, let’s be honest, affordable price. If you’re looking for an everyday utility rum to be used in everything, look no further than the Kraken.

2. Clement XO French Caribbean Rhum

Clement XO

Clement XO is a mixture of aged agricole rums dating all the way back to 1952. It’s a great rum for sipping, with complex flavors like vanilla and oak that mix together with an almost floral undertone. Clement XO is a smooth sipping rum for those who don’t typically like alcohol.

1. Flor de Cana Centenario 25 Nicaraguan Rum

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At the top of the rum heap sits Flor de Cana’s Centenario 25, a deliciously sweet and simple flavor inside one of the most luxurious bottles you’ll ever see. It’s pricey (over $100 anywhere you look), but once you’ve had it, you’ll wonder how you ever drank a Bacardi and coke. It’s like sipping straight liquid honey.

Rums Worth Checking Out

Facundo Exquisito Bermudan Rum 

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Exquisito isn’t the top of the line in Facundo’s rum collection (that honor belongs to Facundo Paraiso), but it’s still a worth sipping rum. A Blend of 7 and 23 year rums from the Bacardi family’s private reserve, it’s one of the more full-flavored and complex rums you’ll taste. Aged in both oak and sherry casks, it’s reminiscent of my favorite whiskies but with the fresh, bold character you can only find in a tropical rum. If you’re going to drink Bacardi, this is how you want to do it.

Afrohead XO Dark 15-Year West Indian Rum

Afrohead-XO-Front

This small, dark bottle of Afrohead is one of the better rums I’ve tasted so far. Hints of toffee mixed with vanilla take over the sweet flavor before providing a kick of oak and finishing with a smooth toffee taste. Afrohead is best served on ice, but if you want to mix it, it’s great for premium coladas. Like the islands its from, there’s a wide variety of culture and flavors contained in this bottle.

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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