Bartenders Pick The Best Rums For Bourbon Fans

Previously, we wrote about the best bourbons for rum fans. So it’s only fair that we flip the tables and shout out the best rums for bourbon fans. In the prior piece, we talked about the flavor notes found in both spirits. Vanilla, baking spices, and toasted oak, to name a few. From there, the tastes of the two spirits can either diverge wildly or stick to a parallel path. The fun is tasting them and testing for overlap.

Since we’re talking about rums for bourbon fans, you can go ahead and put away that bottle of white rum immediately. For sipping purposes, you’ll need the aged stuff to really match the notes found in bourbon. Zack Musick, beverage director at Merriman’s in Hawaii likes to switch out friends’ bourbons for similar rums to see if they can even tell the difference.

“A great aged rum has a very similar flavor profile to bourbon,” he says. “The longer it’s spent in oak the more your whiskey fan will enjoy it.”

To make sure you find rums that you enjoy just as much as your favorite bourbons, we enlisted the help of a handful of well-known bartenders to help us find the right bottles.

Real McCoy 5

Kurt Bellon, general manager and beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

Real McCoy 5 year, aged in heavily charred oak bourbon barrels, can start a nice semantics-based discussion of what really constitutes a whiskey.

Zacapa XO

Lynnette Marrero, mixologist and founder of Speed Rack

I would recommend Zacapa XO for bourbon fans because Zacapa rum is aged in two different bourbon casks. Initially in uncharred barrels that previously held bourbon, then again in re-charred barrels. The char level is set at #4 which re-engages the flavors of the whisky it previously held. The aromas and characters of vanilla, cherry, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, all come through and add to the complexity of the rum. It continues into sherry barrels — which a lot of scotch is aged in.

So Zacapa Rum is crafted and aged in a way that whiskey lovers can appreciate.

Diplomatico Mantuano

Zack Musick, beverage director at Merriman’s in Hawaii

The rum that I find works the best is the Diplomatico Mantuano Extra Anejo. Beautiful dried fruit qualities as well as plenty of oak and vanilla. Serve it neat to turn any bourbon drinker into a rum lover.

Papa’s Pilar 24

Leo Morjakov, bartender at The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey

The Ebbitt Room carries great rum from Key West — Papa’s Pilar 24. This is a great Caribbean rum with the taste of fruits and the color of bourbon. If you like an old fashioned, you should try one with this rum.

The Real McCoy 12

John Marchetti, bartender at Dr. BBQ in St. Petersburg, Florida

In my humble opinion, The Real McCoy 12 Year Aged Rum is superior to any other that I’ve tried. While I’m not the biggest bourbon drinker, I can appreciate a good bourbon when I taste it. This Barbados-born rum, free of any added sugar and coloring I might add, mixes the best of both worlds. It’s got enough sweetness to remind you that you’re drinking a rum but the fact that it’s been aged for 10 years in charred American oak bourbon barrels, gives it those wood and spice notes that some of the best bourbons’ are known for.

Perfect for bourbon fans who want a bit of sweetness but don’t want that syrupy mouthfeel of something mass-produced.

Ten to One

Nazar Hrab, beverage director at The Pineapple Club in New York City

Ten to One aged rum is the best rum for bourbon fans. They age it in bourbon barrels and this one is the easiest way to trick people into drinking rum.

Rhum Barbancourt 8

Melissa Reigle, beverage manager and head bartender at Byblos in Miami

Rhum Barbancourt 8 Year is a great rum for bourbon lovers. Because it is a rhum agricole it has lots of depth and funk, and the French oak barrel aging imparts the vanilla and baking spices from the rickhouse that bourbon lover’s love. Barbancourt also has enough heat to light up the back of your pallet like a solid rye but ends with a sweet, grassy note.

Rhum Clément 10

Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

The best rum for bourbon fans is Rhum Clément 10 Year because, taste-wise, it’s in the same range as a 10-year bourbon. It also has a complex barrel essence and just enough vanilla and baking spices to mimic bourbon.

Ron Zacapa 23

Jorge Centeno, chief spirits officer at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois

Ron Zacapa 23 is the best rum for bourbon fans because it has many of the same characteristics as bourbon — a body with a spicy note and hints of rich chocolate.

Santa Teresa 1796

Frantjasko Laonora, head mixologist at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Curaçao

Santa Teresa 1796. With elements of bitter chocolate, nuts, and buttery biscuits combined, this rum makes for a dry yet smooth and balanced rum. Whiskey drinkers might opt to drink this rum for it has a lot of oak and cherry notes.

WRITER’S PICK: Flor de Cana Centenario 12

This ultra-premium aged rum was matured for 12 years in American oak barrels. The result is a highly complex, oaky rum with hints of vanilla, honey, and caramel. A slow sipping rum worthy of the was ardent whiskey fan.