If you’re a fan of good bourbon, there’s a pretty fair chance you also enjoy quality aged rums as well. Though they’re made from different ingredients (rum is sugarcane, sugar beet, or molasses-based and bourbon is corn-based), they both have relatively similar flavor profiles. Both often feature vanilla notes, toasted caramel, and an underlying sweetness. In fact, many rums are actually aged in second-use bourbon barrels — furthering the crossover appeal.
If you’re specifically seeking out a bourbon that reminds you of a well-aged rum, you’re going to want something on the sweeter side. Something with tropical fruit, vanilla, and baking spice flavors is sure to conjure that dark rum feel, too.
“The bourbon I recommend for rum fans is, without a doubt, Angel’s Envy Bourbon — finished in port barrels,” says Zack Musick, beverage director at Merriman’s in Hawaii. “This bourbon is of great quality and has a certain fruit quality that resembles something you might find in an aged rum. They also have a rye whiskey that’s actually finished in rum barrels.”
This week, we’re all about bourbons for rum fans. To help us pick the best bottles, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to chime in.
Four Roses Yellow Label
Kurt Bellon, general manager and beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
The Four Roses Yellow label is my go-to, every-drink whiskey which has the same adaptable and smooth energy as rum.
Bib and Tucker
Leo Morjakov, bartender at The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey
My choice would be Bib and Tucker Bourbon. This bourbon has aromas of vanilla which is similar to dark rum, with the spice of ginger and some dried fruit.
Michter’s Single Barrel
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John Marchetti, bartender at Dr. BBQ in St. Petersburg, Florida
If we’re talking just bourbon here, then my vote goes to Michter’s. There are better rye whiskeys, by the likes of Angel’s Envy or Basil Hayden’s, but for a bourbon that a rum-lover would enjoy, I think Michter’s does the trick. It’s made from a carefully selected mash bill that features the highest quality American corn. The fact that each batch of this bourbon really is “small-batched,” allows the sweeter notes of this bourbon to come through.
Think rich caramel, balanced vanilla, and stone fruit.
Jacob Cantu, tasting room manager at West Fork Whiskey Co. in Indianapolis, Indiana
For an easy transition, the Old Hamer Straight Bourbon Whiskey 80 Proof has a sweeter profile featuring a mash bill with 99% corn and 1% malted barley. This resurrected whiskey brand highlights locally grown Indiana corn, for a unique palate that rum fans will enjoy. It showcases sweet caramel notes but offers a hint of spice that brings it to another level.
Weller Antique 107
Melissa Reigle, beverage manager and head bartender at Byblos in Miami
The best bourbon for rum lovers is Weller Antique 107. The raisin, vanilla, and spice will be familiar to rum lovers, while the honey notes and charred oak round this out and take you down the bourbon path. An excellent bourbon for anyone, rum-lovers will certainly appreciate heat and the extra-long finish on this fine Kentucky Bourbon.
Evan Hosaka, lead bartender at Electra Cocktail Club inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas
Angel’s Envy because it has great tropical and banana notes that are also present in aged rums. I think rum fans would also find Angel’s Envy works well in many cocktail variations, such as our “Capricorn Cocktail” from our specialty zodiac menu. It has bourbon, Genepy liqueur, Benedictine, a float of Islay Scotch, and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Jorge Centeno, chief spirits officer at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois
If you like a spiced rum, and want to try bourbon, I suggest Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. It translates the same as rum with hints of clove and vanilla. In competitions, I love to use this bourbon when making drinks that typically call for rum.
Frantjasko Laonora, head mixologist at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Curaçao
Maker’s Mark. This bourbon is packed with different spice notes while remaining sweet and balanced with caramel, vanilla and fruity essences. These flavors combine to make it a smooth-yet-flavorful bourbon, perfect to sip on or as something to use in your cocktail of choice.
If you enjoy your rum highly potent and full of flavor, Booker’s is the bourbon for you. This small-batch, cask strength bourbon is uncut, unfiltered, and full of honey and vanilla sweetness that feels very rummy to me.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
This cask strength, uncut bourbon is perfect for fans of dark, aged rums. Even though it’s over 112 proof, it remains tremendously smooth with hints of candied oranges and sweet toasted caramel.