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The ‘Rum Finished’ Whiskeys You Need To Chase Down This Winter

Finishing whisk(e)y in a second barrel is a great way for a distiller or blender to put a unique stamp on their juice. It’s a move that’s becoming more and more prevalent too, with sherry, port, beer, rum, and even coffee casks/ barrels all getting play. Each of these iterations and expressions brings something unique to the final product, but today we’re focusing on whiskeys that are finished with rum barrels.

Dark rum and whiskey share a lot of nuances. Though one is made from a sugar cane base and another with a mix of cereals and grains, their aging process is very similar. That is, they mellow in oak until they’re just right. That oak exchanges the sugars in the veins of its wooden staves with the spirits carried therein, adding color, texture, and flavors along the way. In turn, flavors are left behind in the wood that can then add a little extra something to whatever goes in that barrel next. This may sound like putting a hat on a hat but, really, it’s just a way to add extra depth to the sip.

The ten bottles below represent some of the best whiskeys from around the world. Most of these bottles will be fairly accessible in higher-end liquor stores. A few of them you’re going to need to travel for. Either way, one thing remains true: These are the best bottles to sample to get an idea of how exciting rum finished whiskey can be.

BALCONES TEXAS SINGLE MALT WHISKY RUM CASK FINISHED (U.S.A.)

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The Story:

Balcones is becoming world-renowned for their distinct Texas Single Malt Whisky. This special release takes that nuanced juice and adds a little extra flair with a final mellowing in rum barrels. This is a big whisky that gets blown up to massive proportions with the extra aging.

Tasting Notes:

As stated above, this is a big whisky. The alcohol, oak, caramel, florals, and malty biscuits covered in corn syrup meet you upfront. The sip leans into the burn of a good campfire with plenty of toasted wood, bitter tea, fatty nuts, wildflowers, and a moment of vanilla. The end is deeply warming as the plumy sweetness mixes with that campfire heat.

TEELING WHISKEY SMALL BATCH (Ireland)

The Story:

Hailing from the distillery that brought whiskey back to Dublin, Teeling’s local spirit is a great rum-touched sip. The juice is aged in oak and then finished in Nicaraguan Flor de Caña rum casks. This isn’t a special bottling — all of Teeling’s Small Batch Irish Whiskey goes through the same process.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla and peppery spice mingle with notes of sweet rum oakiness. That wood carries through as the honey, citrus, and more hints of spice carry on. Finally, the sip fully embraces the sweetness of the rum and the spiciness of the whiskey on a slightly dry, woody, and floral finish.

ANGEL’S ENVY RYE FINISHED IN CARIBBEAN RUM CASKS (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Angel’s Envy took its time when they decided which rum barrels to use with their signature rye. They tasted over 100 rums to land on the exact Caribbean rum they wanted to age their spicy juice in. The rye is aged according to standard rye rules for the U.S. and then is filled into those rum barrels for an additional 18 months of mellowing.

Tasting Notes:

This is another big whiskey. The sip opens with notes of maple syrup, notes of citrus, plenty of oak, rich caramel, hazelnuts, vanilla, and, of course, rye spiciness. The rum kicks in with a clear sweetness that leans towards sherry with a nice presence of wood. The spice, wood, and rum sweetness all peak and then fade into a dry finish.

PIKE CREEK AGED 10 YEARS RUM BARREL FINISH (Canada)

The Story:

This Canadian whisky is one part throwback and one part future of Canadian whisky. The ten-year-old rye juice is cut with a small dose of a blend of corn and rye and then finished in rum barrels to tie the whole sip together.

Tasting Notes:

Dark fruits dance with rich caramel, vanilla, and rum molasses. Toffee, cream soda, figs, and plenty of rye spice counterpoint that rum sweetness on the palate. Freshly milled lumber arrives with a hint of citrus as the sweet and warming end lingers on the tongue.

TULLAMORE D.E.W. XO CARIBBEAN RUM FINISH (Ireland)

The Story:

This is a special sip of whiskey. This expression of Tullamore D.E.W. marries the mastery of Irish whiskey distilling with Caribbean rum aging. The triple-distilled Irish triple juice (pot still, grain, and malt whiskey is used) is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels, blended, and then finished in Caribbean rum barrels that held extra old Demerara rum from Guyana.

Tasting Notes:

Ripe bananas, citrus, vanilla, oak, hints of peppery spice greet you. A creaminess arrives that leads to a Banana’s Foster feel and taste with notes of sweet and plump dried fruits and more, subtle spice. The bananas and burnt sugar carry on as the end lingers with a nice hint of warmth.

KAVALAN RUM CASK (Taiwan)

The Story:

Taiwan is quickly becoming one of the most interesting whisky regions in the Far East. The sub-tropical climate, glacial waters, and attention to detail have helped create some powerhouse whiskies worth taking note of in 2020. Among these, Kavalan’s Rum Cask is an extraordinary whisky to get your hands on.

Tasting Notes:

Honeycombs and orchard fruit interweave on the nose with a sense of rum wood, citrus, pistachio, apples, and a wisp of white pepper. Melon fruit mingles with cloves and sharp ginger alongside hints of mint and a powerhouse punch of caramel/toffee/candy bar sweetness. The end lets the sweetness fade as a whisper of spice and fruit lingers.

SLYRS TRINIDAD RUM FINISH CASK STRENGTH BAVARIAN SINGLE MALT WHISKY (Germany)

The Story:

German whisky is going to be the next big thing in whisky from Europe. The masterful crafting of the spirit across the country is starting to get attention on the international stage and Slyrs — from Bavaria’s Alps — is leading the pack. Their Rum Finish is a perfectly-made single malt that’s aged in American white oak for three to six years and then finished in Caribbean casks from Trinidad. It’s then bottled in small, unique batches.

Tasting Notes:

Notes of fresh honeycomb mingle with hints of chamomile, caramel, buttery toast, and cedar. The vanilla and rum kick in with hints of burnt orange and more honey sweetness. The cedar carries through with the vanilla and caramel towards a finish that’s equal parts dry and sweet.

THE BALVENIE CARIBBEAN CASK AGED 14 YEARS (U.K.)

The Story:

Okay, it’s time to get into the big leagues. The Balvenie aged this juice in used American oak for 14 long years. Then, they purchased new American oak barrels and seasoned them with a mix of rums from the Caribbean. The whisky then mellowed in those bespoke barrels until the juice was just right.

Tasting Notes:

Rich toffee and fresh tropical fruit orchards greet you on this sip. The vanilla and oak kick in as the fruit carries the sip through the palate. Finally, a rich sweetness rises with wisps of spice, honey, and vanilla leading towards a subtle end note.

JEFFERSON’S RESERVE OLD RUM CASK FINISH (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Jefferson’s bourbon is probably best known for its ocean-aged barrels of whiskey. And, trust us, those are fantastic and unique. Jefferson’s also ages a great rum finished expression that’s worth putting on your shelf (and drinking). Their Old Rum Cask Finish is aged for eight years in new American oak and then finished in Gosling’s Family Reserve rum casks for 15 additional months.

Tasting Notes:

This is a five-star bourbon all around. The sip opens with classic notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. Those notes give way to apple orchards dripping with toffee and a hint of florals with an echo of campfire smoke in the background. There’s a bit of leathery chew that leads to a mild spiciness with hints of vanilla on the velvet end.

GLENFIDDICH AGED 21 YEARS RESERVA RUM CASK FINISH (U.K.)

The Story:

This scotch is aged for 21 long years in ex-American oak at Glenfiddich in Scotland. Then, as a last flourish, malt master Brian Kinsman handpicks Caribbean rum barrels (mostly from Cuba … but don’t tell U.S custom’s agents that) to add a finishing touch to the old spirit.

Tasting Notes:

Toffee mixes with caramel, vanilla, and molasses alongside hints of citrus and tropical fruits. Sharp ginger, limes, and figs round out the taste as moments of spice and banana balance out the palate. A clear billow of smoke comes through with the spice and leads towards an end that’s equal parts velvet and vanilla and rummy.

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