Life

We Blind Taste-Tested Dark Rums Under $50 — Here’s The Champion

Dark rum is an easy spirit to skip over. Whiskey — bourbon especially — dominates liquor store shelves, pop culture, and almost all the conversation in the spirits world right now. It’s hard for dark rum to break through all that noise.

Today, we’re going to do our part and blind taste test some of our favorite dark rums that all clock in at under $50. These are dark rums that you should be able to find at pretty much every single liquor store across the land. Except for one.

I’m including a Cuban Havana Club expression in the mix. I know, Havana Club is still pretty impossible to get in the U.S. unless you go to Cuba and bring back your own bottle. But I wanted to share a sense of what the booze is actually like. I’m also curious to see how it holds up to the other rums from the Caribbean, Philippines, South America, and Central America in a blind.

Sound good? Let’s get tasting. And if any of these dark rums interest you after reading our ranking, click on the prices to try them yourself.

Part 1: The Taste

Zach Johnston

Taste 1:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a mix of dried fruits, nuts, and holiday spice that’s very close to a holiday fruit cake in all the best ways. There’s a nougat creaminess to the body that plays well with those dried fruits and spices. This is very easy to sip and notably velvety.

Taste 2:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Woah… There’s this clear sense of prunes stewed in a spicy sauce with hints of orange zest and vanilla pods. There’s a definite Christmas fruitcake vibe full of candied and dried fruits, dark spices, sweet and dark molasses, and a mix of walnuts and hazelnuts. The end is this delicate dance of those fruits and spices with the hint of vanilla-soaked tobacco.

Taste 3:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a tropical fruit nose next to hints of light molasses and soft leather. The sip leans into bananas cooked in butter and brown sugar. There’s a slight note of musty cellar beams on the backend with a nice dose of bourbon vanilla.

Taste 4:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is pure pina colada. Hello, Kasama. It’s all pineapple juice and creamy coconut cream with a hint of sugar cane and a touch of wood. It’s surprisingly light… in a good way.

Taste 5:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

There’s definite dark molasses that leads towards a little holiday spice. The vanilla feels more like a vanilla extract than the real thing with an almost vegetal greenness and a hint of stale cream soda.

Taste 6:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is like spicy-yet-vanilla-heavy tobacco in a leather bag with a hint of cedar nearby. The palate brightens up with orange zest and sharp allspice (but not hot). This is crazy silky and really leans into that vanilla, spiced tobacco, and cedar.

Taste 7:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Hum. This is … burnt coconut husks next to old figs and a stack of vanilla husks. There’s a honeyed dark cocoa presence next to a touch of soft leather and orange pith.

Taste 8:

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is a bit thin on the nose with a hint towards vanilla, dark chocolate, and wet old wood. The taste has a slightly buttered toffee feel with some kind of fruit … maybe apple? The end is, again, thin and a little dry on the tongue.

Part 2: The Ranking

Zach Johnston

8. Brugal Añejo — Taste 8

Brugal & Co.

ABV: 38%

Average Price: $20

The Rum:

The Dominican Republic’s Brugal makes some damn fine rums. This gateway expression is distilled multiple times and then loaded into ex-bourbon barrels where it rests for three to five years. The barrels are then married, proofed, and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This just didn’t pop for me today. It’s clearly mixing/cooking rum (and that’s fine) but it looks like the dark rum I’d order if I didn’t know anything about rum.

7. Goslings Black Seal — Taste 5

Gosling Brothers Limited

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $22

The Rum:

This rum is a blend of Caribbean rums that were aged for varying years in ex-bourbon barrels. The blend is specifically designed to be mixed but can work as a sipper. Really though, this is known as the base ingredient in a Dark ‘n Stormy and that’s really the best use for it.

Bottom Line:

It’s funny this tasted like stale soda given it’s primarily made to be mixed with ginger beer for a Dark ‘N Stormy. On its own, it’s not really worth getting too bothered about. It’s fine but 100 percent meant to be a mixer.

6. Kasama Small Batch — Taste 4

Polmos

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $26

The Rum:

Kasama is a truly international spirit. The rum is made from noble cane juice. The distilled rum is then aged in ex-bourbon barrels for seven years under the warm, tropical sun in the Philippines. Finally, the juice is transported to Poland where it’s proofed and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This is starting to grow on me. That one note of pina colada is so dialed in and purposeful that I forgive this rum for the fact that there’s not much more. This bottle clearly knows what it is and that’s fine.

5. Flor de Caña 7 Gran Reserva — Taste 7

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Rum:

The Nicaraguan rum is a quality product at its price point. The juice — which is made from local cane grown in volcanic soil — is aged in fresh white oak barrels for seven years in the shadow of the San Cristóbal Volcano. The barrels are then batched and proofed down with volcanic soil-filtered spring water.

Bottom Line:

This was pretty solid today. While this isn’t the bottle I’d reach for out of habit, this is certainly a rum on the rocks I wouldn’t turn away. It’s well-rounded and a little basic and that’s kind of nice for beach sipping.

4. Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez — Taste 3

Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Rum:

This is Bacardi’s high-end expression that’s crazy cheap. The rum is aged for ten long years in lightly charred oak before its charcoal filtered and brought down to proof, creating an ultra-refined expression.

Bottom Line:

I thought this was going to win. I like this a lot but, alas, here it is at number four. Still, this is a nice sipper on a rock and a killer cocktail base, especially if you want to replace whiskey in that cocktail.

3. Havana Club Añejo Especial — Taste 6

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Rum:

Cuba’s Havana Club makes some consistently great rums. Their Añejo Especial is a blend of rums aged in fresh white oak. The blend is formulated to be a workhorse that’s easily sippable in everyday situations and easily mixable all night long.

Bottom Line:

This is a really easy-to-drink rum. It’s complex while also being approachable. There are no rough edges and the rumminess is front and center. For what it’s worth, this is my go-to mixing rum.

2. Appleton Estate Rare Cask 12 — Taste 1

J. Wray and Nephew Ltd.

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $35

The Rum:

This expression is what happens when you let quality rum a little longer to really dig deep on flavors. Each rum in the blend has been aged at least 12 years (some many more) and is hand-selected by legendary blender Joy Spence for its exactness in texture and flavor.

Bottom Line:

This is so well-crafted and … just … delicious. Even if you only passively drink dark rum, this will grab your attention as an easy-sipper if you’re anywhere near a beach.

1. Diplomatico Mantuano — Taste 2

Destilerías Unidas S.A.

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Rum:

Venezuela’s Diplomatico is one of the best rum houses on the planet. Their antique stills, high-altitude Amazonia aging, and masterful blending prowess make for great expressions. Mantuano is a blend of rums made on all three of their antique stills that are aged in ex-bourbon and ex-single malt barrels for eight years.

Bottom Line:

Really, it was very clear that this was the runaway winner. It’s complex and deep without being overwrought or unapproachable. It’s so soft and delicate on the palate with no rough edges and a real matrix of complex, rummy flavor notes.

Also, at $25 it’s one of the best value buys in the entire spirits world.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Zach Johnston

In the end, I’d have to say the top five were all really solid. Though, I wouldn’t say they were interchangeable. Each expression in the top brought their own vibe to the table and built on classic rum notes until you got to a really high plateau, especially for this price point.

That all being said, besides the top two, these all felt way more like cocktail rums than sipping rums. So, I guess it’s time to shake up a rum cocktail. Salud!


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

Promoted Content

×