It’s a great time to get into rum. First of all, the sugarcane-based spirit is perfect for drinking neat or mixed into your favorite cocktails during the summer months. Secondly, it feels like enthusiasm for the spirit has never been greater.
“Rum is definitely having its time in the sun,” says Mohammed Rahman, bar director at Kata Robata in Houston. “This is visibly reflected by the prices at which high-end rums and unique variations are being sold. Unfortunately, with the low barrier of entry to being considered ‘rum’ in the United States, the market has been over-saturated — with a plethora of brands that are adulterated and make hefty claims as to their products’ lineage.”
With the number of expressions on the market spiking, you’re going to want to stay away from overhyped brands whenever possible. To help you do exactly that, we went to the experts — asking a handful of well-known bartenders to tell us their favorite rums that deserve more love.
Flor de Cana 12
Melissa Reigle, beverage manager and head bartender at Byblos in Miami
The Flor de Cana rums are fabulous. The distillery has been running consistently in Managua, Nicaragua since the 1890s. This brand has risen from the ashes of scandal to be sustainably produced and fair trade certified, running environmental programs and social programs for the land, the people of the region, and their employees.
My favorite expression is the 12 year. I throw it on the rocks or mix it with falernum and guanabana for a refreshing tropical cocktail.
Zaya Gran Reserva
Reggie Maharaj, beverage manager at The Peninsula Beverly Hills in Los Angeles
Zaya Rum. Zaya has a unique dark rum flavor. It’s smoky with a hint of coconut — great for sipping, or in a cocktail.
El Dorado 12
Nestor Marchand, director of food and beverage at Plunge Beach Resort in Lauderdale, Florida
El Dorado 12 years. This rum, from Guyana, is not very well known, but delicious. Great nose, great taste, and very affordable.
Reniel Garcia, bar director of Havana 1957 in Miami
Botran Rum – the king of Guatemala rum is yet not well known but has amazing tasting notes. Sipped, the rum is quite sweet but not overly so – the rich oaky notes and vanilla are very pleasant. It gives a very nice spicy kick in the mid-palate – allspice and a little ginger. The finish, although slightly short, is nice and rounded.
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Mohammed Rahman, bar director at Kata Robata in Houston
One of my all-time favorites and perhaps not a widely known brand hails from Barbados — Foursquare Rum deserves to shine. Alongside having its main line of rums, Foursquare for years has been consistently producing small batch, single barrel, single blended, and experimental (Zinfandel cask) rums of high quality.
The brand’s forward-thinking dogma toward what can make rum delicious and taking chances into unknown flavor profiles makes this brand a must-buy for any rum enthusiast.
Smith and Cross Navy Strength
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One of the latest additions to the collection: Smith and Cross Plummer & Wedderburn Pot Still Jamaican rum. Bottled by Hayman Distillers in the UK at navy strength – 57% abv. Plummer and Wedderburn type rums are famous for their exotic fruit flavours. #rum #rumsoftheworld #TheCollection #SmithAndCross
Seamus Gleason, bartender at Hotel Jackson in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Smith and Cross Navy Strength. Classic sugar cane distillate with a bite. Holds up well in cocktails. Sip it neat to feel like a damn pirate.
Arundel Cane Rum
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My Mom just bought this back for me from #TORTOLA #usvirginislands It's a delicious 10-yr rum that is remarkably smooth without an "oakey" flavor. I taste a hint of vanilla, but in a savory (not sweet) sort of way. This distillery has been around for over 200 years!! I'm honoured to have a bottle!! #lanettethelifestyleexpert #cocktails #arundelcanerum #purecanejuice #purecanejuicerum #drinking #drinkingsolo #delicious @arundelcanerum
Robert Swain Jr., owner of On the Rox Bartending Service in the British Virgin Islands
The most underrated rum is the Arundel Cane Rum) by Callwood Distillery in the British Virgin Islands. Its smoky, sweet, and savory taste goes unmatched.
Tim Wiggins, co-owner and beverage director of Retreat Gastropub in St. Louis
Rumbar Gold Jamaican Rum (made at Worthy Park) and The Real McCoy 12 year (made at Foursquare). Rumbar is awesome juice from Worthy Park at a great price. It is super versatile in that it can be sipped neat and also makes bangin’ daiquiris.
The Real McCoy 12 is incredible rum made at Foursquare that will rival most 12-year-old whiskeys. Both of these rums are void of sugar and flavor additives, making them honest expressions of well-crafted rum.
Hampden Estate Rum Fire
Jeremy Allen, beverage director of MiniBar Hollywood in Los Angeles
The Jamaican overproof Rum “Rum Fire” is crazy high in alcohol and crazy delicious — with a terrible label, kind of like Tapatio Tequila. You have to be in the know to know.
Don Papa 7-Year-Old
Peter Ruppert, brand ambassador for Don Papa
One of the most underrated rums on the market has to be Don Papa’s 7-year-old from the Philippines. Typically, when you think rum you go directly to the Caribbean, but sugar cane actually has a very rich history in the Philippine Islands. The region that Don Papa grows their cane in is typically referred to as “Sugarlandia” where some of the heartiest sugar in the world is produced. That combined with the aging process that takes place in American oak, ex-bourbon barrels produces a flavorful and aromatic rum that really stands out in a crowd. It’s absolutely perfect on its own and dynamic inside a cocktail.