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Tasting Notes On The Rum Finalists From The ‘Super Bowl Of Spirits’

You can’t beat a good rum, especially as the weather starts to heat up. White rums are a wonderful addition to fruity and funky cocktails with umbrellas. A solid dark rum over some rocks is the perfect beachside pour when you just want to watch the waves crash and bask in the sunset. So with May underway, let us help you decide which rums to reach for.

Below, I’m calling out the nine rums that not only won double gold at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition but were sent to the finals where they might be named a “best in class” bottle for 2022. I was actually on a few of these panels and judged some of these rums this year, so I’ll be filling in tasting notes on the ones I’ve already tasted (with one filled in from the distillery because I haven’t tasted it yet).

Let’s cut this preamble short and find you a new rum to try in your next pina colada or daiquiri!

Also Read: The Top Five UPROXX Rum Posts From The Past Six Months:

Best White Rum Finalist — Cotton & Reed White Rum

Cotton & Reed White Rum
Cotton and Reed

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Rum:

This is a complex rum from a small distillery in Washinton, DC. The juice is fermented with both raw cane syrup and blackstrap molasses from certified sustainable sources. That’s combined with rhum agricole and Chenin Blanc yeast strains for fermentation. The wash is then double distilled in a bespoke column/pot still before proofing and charcoal filtration.

Tasting Notes:

Bananas burst forth on the nose with a touch of pineapple and mango salad tossed with lime juice and a distant echo of soft vanilla. The palate stays pretty close to the nose while adding in dry sweetgrass and fermented sugar cane juice with a little more of that vanilla sneaking in on the backend.

Bottom Line:

This is a very good mixing rum. Try it on your next rummy cocktail; that’s what it’s made for. You could drink it on the rocks with plenty of fizzy soda water and lime too.

Best Dark/Gold Rum Finalist — Rum Co. Of Fiji BATI Dark Rum

Bati Dark Rum
Bati

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $30

The Rum:

This Fijian sipper is a sugar cane dark rum made with hand-cut cane from the islands. The spirit spends at least two years (up to five) resting in heavily charred oak before the juice is filtered through coconut shell charcoal and proofed all the way down to 75 proof.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with dried fruits — prunes, raisins, dates — rolled in wet brown sugar and then packed into an old and musty charred oak barrel. The palate really leans into the bitterness of the char while countering that with dark, almost burnt molasses next to that medley of dark and dried fruit. A minor note of vanilla husk and maybe a little clove come in late, creating a burnt minced meat pie vibe by the end.

Bottom Line:

This is bold for sure. I prefer it over some rocks to calm down that wood char. It’s also a pretty decent cocktail base for a rum old fashioned.

Best Dark/Gold Rum Finalist — Ron Colón Salvadoreño Dark Aged Rum

Ron Colón Salvadoreño Dark Aged Rum
Ron Colón Salvadoreño

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $41

The Rum:

Ron Colón is renowned for innovative blends. This expression is a mix of six-year-old Salvadorian rums (made with sugar cane juice and aged in ex-bourbon barrels) with unaged and aged Jamaican rums. The blended juice goes into the bottle at pretty much cask strength and as-is.

Tasting Notes:

That bourbon really shines on the nose with rich notes of vanilla beans, caramel candies, winter spices, and old wood staves next to a hint of banana peels. The palate carries on in the same direction as notes of black pepper and rich and dark molasses lead back to the vanilla and a hint of raisin and prune by the end.

Bottom Line:

This is a super soft sipper that needs a rock to really bloom in the glass. Once it calms down and opens up, you’re in for a nice treat.

Best Overproof Rum Finalist — Rum-Bar White Overproof Rum

Rum-Bar White Overproof Rum
Rum-Bar

ABV: 63%

Average Price: $29

The Rum:

This Scottish rum is a blend of three unaged rums produced on copper pot stills. The juice/blend leans into Jamaican traditions of over-proofed mixing rum.

Tasting Notes:

Although this feels hot on the nose, there are notes of Jamaican funk, or HOGO, black bananas, old mango skins, and green grass with this slight echo of rock candy. The palate is largely those notes layered under a lot of alcohol warmth until the finish, which has a touch of that funk and banana.

Bottom Line:

This is for making tropical cocktails. Use it for that.

Best Extra-Aged Rum Finalist — Zacapa XO Solera Gran Reserva Especial Rum

Zacapa XO Solera Gran Reserva Especial Rum
Zacapa

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $100

The Rum:

This expression is a blend of Guatemalan rums that spent six to 25 years resting in the Solera warehouse in former sherry casks at high elevations. The rum is then finished in French cognac casks to add that little extra refinement to the final taste.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a familiar draw of vanilla and spice that’s accentuated by worn leather, salted butter, rich pipe tobacco, and a foundation of soft cedar. Those notes hold strong as a sticky and buttery toffee arrives with plenty of dried fruits, more spice, chewy vanilla tobacco, and a hint of cacao. The finish is long, svelte, mildly sweet, and full of that cedar until the very end.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a killer sipper, this is it. It lives up to the hype and price. Moreover, this is a great bridge rum between the world of bourbon and dark rum.

Best Extra-Aged Rum Finalist — BACARDÍ 16 Year Gran Reserva Especial Rum

Bacardi 16
Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $115

The Rum:

This is a rare edition of Bacardi. The blend is made from hand-selected barrels from the Puerto Rican warehouses only (Bacardi makes their rum all over the world). The barrels of new white American oak are a minimum of 16 years old when selected, blended with local water, and bottled in a large, one-liter bottle for the duty-free travel market.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a hint of that Bacardi sweetness on the nose but you have to dig around for it. Mostly, you’re getting rich vanilla pods, wintry spices with mulled wine vibe, buttery toffee encrusted with almonds, and a good dose of old and charred wood with a bit of cobweb. The palate leans into the “bourbon-ness” of everything with the vanilla and spices taking centerstage as meaty mincemeat pies with a buttery crust and a brown sugar dusting mingle with a silky butterscotch and vanilla pudding on the velvet finish.

Bottom Line:

This is, again, a great sipper. Though, this doesn’t need a rock to cool it down. A drop or two of water in a neat pour will help it bloom. Pick one up the next time you’re at duty-free, you won’t be disappointed.

Best Flavored Rum Finalist — Kōloa Kaua’i Coffee Rum

Kōloa Kaua’i Coffee Rum
Kōloa Kaua’i

ABV: 34%

Average Price: $34

The Rum:

This Hawaiian sugar cane rum is blended and proofed down and filtered with water from the springs of Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The rum is then mixed with coffee from Kauaʻi Coffee Company to amp up the “cacao” aspects of the flavor profile.

Tasting Notes:

The nose meanders through mocha lattes and dark chocolate sauces with a bitter edge but is mostly sweet on the nose. That sweetness drives the palate toward more mocha frappuccinos with hints of vanilla cream, rock candy sticks, some Nutella, a hint of peach, and echos of winter spices. The end leans into the coffee with an espresso bite as the dark chocolate gets creamy and lightly spiced on the end.

Bottom Line:

This would be great in either a white Russian or espresso martini. I can’t really see any other application. Well, maybe poured over some vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Best Flavored Rum Finalist — Distillerie Mariana Morbleu Rum

Distillery Mariana Morbleu Rum
Distillery Mariana

ABV: 40.3%

Average Price: $28

The Rum:

This Quebecois rum is all about the spices. The rum is juiced up with cardamom, star anise, rosemary, cinnamon, and vanilla before getting batched, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

On the palate, it reveals fresh, grassy notes reminiscent of mint, supported by a silky and smooth texture. The finish is dominated by molasses, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Bottom Line:

This is from a tiny distillery up in Quebec and may never make it down to the States. So if you’re up there, maybe give it a shot. I don’t know, I’m not a spiced rum fan.

Best Rhum Agricole Finalist — Clément Rhum Blanc Agricole

Clément Rhum Blanc Agricole
Clément Rhum

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Rum:

Clement’s Rhum Blanc Agricole is one of the most unique expressions of the style. The sugar cane juice is fermented and distilled only once. The hot juice then rests in stainless steel vats for nine months. Finally, the mellowed spirit is cut with volcanic spring water to bring the ABV down to 40 percent.

Tasting Notes:

Blossoming fruit trees — apple, plum, and lemon — greets you on the nose with a very floral vibe. There’s a soft minerality at play which makes the texture very inviting while hints of fresh mint, wet sweetgrass, and a whisper of black pepper make appearances on the palate. The sweetness comes in late as a vanilla sheet cake gives way to a slight alcohol burn on the end.

Bottom Line:

This is, again, for mixing. If you’re mixing up some tropical cocktails, this is a must-have on your home bar cart.

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