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These Rum-Finished Scotches Bring A Touch Of The Tropics To Scotland

If you’re a fan of Scotch whisky, you’re probably well aware of the popularity of aging and resting in sherry butts and sherry seasoned casks. The Macallan, Glenmorangie, The Balvenie, and GlenDronach are well-known for utilizing the sweet, dried fruit flavors imparted by remnant sherry during the secondary aging process. But as that trend has become commonplace, distilleries have searched to find the next big thing.

By most any measure, it seems they’ve found it — aging and resting their whiskies in barrels that formerly held rum. Rum cask finishing imparts a wide array of aromas and flavors (and a general “tropical vibe”) into Scotch. Molasses, vanilla essence, rich milk chocolate, and tropical fruits are only a few of the unique notes this process typically (but not always) adds to Scotch whisky expressions. These added flavor notes help to round out some of the rougher edges some drams might otherwise have, like tamping down the campfire smokiness of peated scotch, for example.

With spring putting us in a tropical mood, we decided to share eight of our favorite rum-centric Scotch whiskies on the market. Check them out below.

The Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask

The Balvenie

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $85

The Story:

A favorite in the bartending community, The Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask begins its life like a regular 14-year-old single malt. It’s aged for 14 years in traditional oak casks. It’s then finished in casks that once held a blend of rum from the West Indies.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find aromas of dried cherries, brown sugar, molasses, and cinnamon. On the palate, you’ll be treated to flavors of buttery caramel, crisp apples, citrus zest, vanilla beans, and subtle spices. The finish is long, warming, very dry, and ends with a nice combination of sweet vanilla cream and cinnamon sugar.

Bottom Line:

If you’re only going to purchase one bottle of rum-finished scotch, make it this one. It’s my favorite on this list and one of the first to hit the market.

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish

Glenfiddich

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $205

The Story:

When it was first released in 2002, it carried the name “Havana Reserve,” but due to an embargo with Cuba, the name had to be changed to “Gran Reserva.” It still consists of a Glenfiddich single malt that was aged for 21 years in traditional oak casks before spending the last four months of the aging process in Caribbean rum barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Take a moment to breathe in the aromas of clover honey, maple syrup, caramel apples, and spicy cinnamon. Sipping this whisky will immerse you in a world of caramelized sugar, charred oak, toasted vanilla beans, and citrus zest. It ends with a warming, mellow ride off into the sunset, flecked with toffee candy and spice.

Bottom Line:

This is a reasonably expensive bottle of scotch. It’s likely not a bottle you want to purchase the first time you dip your toe into the rum finishing world. Start with one of the cheaper bottles and work your way up to this complex pick.

Talisker 8 Year (2020 Special Release)

Talisker

ABV: 57.9%

Average Price: $120

The Story:

Released as part of Diageo’s 2020 Special Release Collection, this whisky was first aged for eight years at the Talisker Distiller on the Isle of Skye before finishing in pot-still Caribbean rum barrels. While the final months spent in the rum cask impart extra, sweet, tropical fruit flavors, it’s also bottled at its natural cask strength of 57.9% to give it an added, bold kick.

Tasting Notes:

Give this whisky the nosing it deserves and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the craggy island on which it’s distilled and aged. The scents that swirl around your nostrils are those of ocean brine, iodine, smoked bacon, and sweet vanilla. The palate is where the rum comes on in full — with tropical fruit flavors and buttery caramel. The finish returns to Skye, with a nice combination of spicy pepper and woodsmoke at the very end.

Bottom Line:

If you prefer your rum-finished whisky to have just a kiss of smoke and salt air, this is a great choice for you. Enjoy a dram as you imagine sitting by the Scottish seaside on a surprisingly warm spring day.

Springbank 15 Rum Wood

Springbank

ABV: 51%

Average Price: $200

The Story:

Springbank might not have the greatest looking labels, but it’s what’s inside that really matters. This non-chill filtered single malt expression spent all 15 years of its aging process in rum casks. This is slightly different than most of the whiskies on this list — most of which began their lives in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in rum barrels.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find aromas of charred wood, molasses, dried fruits, and just a hint of ocean brine. Take a sip and you’ll be greeted with sweet cane sugar, dried ginger, vanilla beans, and peat. The finish is long, warming, and ends with a nice combination of ocean salt and peat smoke.

Bottom Line:

You’ll find a few smoky, rum-centered whiskies on this list. But you won’t find one with a better ratio of smoke to sweet, rummy flavor.

Spey River Rum Cask Finish

Spey River

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $38

The Story:

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the Spey River brand of whiskies. Named for the famous river located in Speyside, this brand is a collection of single malt whiskies from the region. They don’t disclose which distilleries they get their whisky from, but this offering was first aged in American oak barrels before spending a secondary maturation in former rum casks.

Tasting Notes:

Before sipping, take a moment to breathe in the scents of butter cookies, dried fruits, and spicy cinnamon sugar. Sip this whiskey and you’ll find flavors of charred oak, toffee, nougat, brown sugar, and dried fruits. It all ends with a nice, warming combination of caramel candy and subtle cinnamon spice.

Bottom Line:

If you can find this bottle, buy it. It’s a highly flavorful, easily sippable whisky that is way cheaper than it should be. Just don’t let the folks at Spey River in on this fact.

Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth

Dewar

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Story:

Dewar’s is one of the biggest names in the blended scotch world (along with Chivas, Famous Grouse, and Johnnie Walker). Its fairly new Caribbean Smooth expression is a blend of 40 single malts and grain whiskies. All have been matured for at least eight years. The blend is finished in former Caribbean rum casks for six additional months.

Tasting Notes:

The nose makes you believe you’re definitely not imbibing a cheap blend. It’s ripe with molasses, vanilla beans, charred wood, and citrus. Your palate will be dancing with notes of candied orange peels, mint, buttery caramel, and dried fruits. The finish is sweet, warm, and ends with a nice dollop of creamy caramel.

Bottom Line:

Many scotch drinkers stick to single malts. But you’d really be missing out if you didn’t give this highly complex, sweet whisky a chance to shine.

Ardbeg Drum

Ardbeg

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $150

The Story:

Released in 2019 to celebrate Ardbeg Day, this limited release single malt was created to bring a little bit of the tropics to the North Atlantic. This fully matured, peated single malt from the renowned Islay distillery is finished in casks the formerly held rum. What came out was a magical combination of vanilla, tropical fruits, and the peat smoke the distillery is known for.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll get aromas of tropical fruit flavor, sugar cane, dried fruits, and pleasing peat smoke. Take a sip and be greeted by notes of cinnamon sugar, ginger candy, buttery caramel, sweet vanilla, and more campfire smoke. The finish is warming and filled with a tad more peat smoke alongside milk chocolate notes.

Bottom Line:

Some of these whiskies appeal to fans of single malts or blends that appreciate extra sweet vanilla and caramel flavor. This is the whisky for drinkers who also appreciate bold smoke bombs. It’s on par with pairing a glass of rum with a fine cigar.

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

The Glenlivet

ABV: 42%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

This unique, tropical fruit-centric whisky comes from the folks at Glenlivet. It holds no age statement, but a portion (not all) of the single malt whisky included was finished in barrels that formerly matured Caribbean rum. The result is a subtly fruity, malty expression perfect for slow sipping or mixing into a cocktail.

Tasting Notes:

Give this whisky a nice nosing before taking a sip and you’ll find notes of juicy peach, ripe bananas, molasses, and toasted vanilla beans. The palate is swirling with dried fruits, cinnamon, sweet treacle, and butterscotch candy. It ends the way it began: with a mellow, fruity flourish.

Bottom Line:

This is the expression to try if you’re a fan of rum. It’s complex, rich, and filled with caramel, vanilla, and tropical fruit flavors that should appeal to the most ardent rum aficionados.

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

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