Like other dark alcohols, rum starts as a clear spirit before it enters the barrel and begins aging. While there are various types of rum, dark rum is aged for an extended period in charred barrels. Just like with whiskey, the longer the maturation, the more pronounced, nuanced, and rich the flavors will be. Known for its sweet notes, dark rum can carry myriad flavors including molasses, vanilla, oak, coconut, and various baking spices.
A great dark rum is invaluable when it comes to holiday mixing. The time is right to stock up on all of the essential styles, but a great dark rum can be enjoyed neat (instead of your usual bourbon or single malt Scotch), on the rocks, or mixed into a dark ‘n’ stormy, Planter’s Punch, or even a hot, buttered rum.
To find the best bottles of dark rum for the holidays we asked a handful of well-known distillers and spirits experts to pick bottles for this party-filled season. Keep scrolling to see them all.
Montanya Oro Rum
Caley Shoemaker of Altar Spirits in Santa Fe, Mexico
Average Price: $31.99
When it comes to rum, I am forever a fan of anything that Montanya Rum from Crested Butte, Colorado releases. Their rums are interesting and complex, making them an absolute delight to sip straight. A great beginner dark rum is its Montanya Oro Rum.
Aged for one year in American oak barrels, it’s known for its flavors of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and tropical fruits.
Real McCoy 5 Year
Jason Barrett, founder and master distiller of Black Button Distilling in Rochester, New York
Average Price: $24.99
Real McCoy 5 Year. It’s the real deal and what rum should taste like with no additives. Aged for at least five years, this favorite or distiller, bartenders, and drinkers alike is known for its notes of vanilla, candied orange, caramel, and oak.
Mount Gay Master Blender Collection Madeira Cask Expression
Meghan Ireland, head blender at WhistlePig in Shoreham, Vermont
Average Price: $236
We love supporting our female friends in the industry doing awesome things. There are a few we are geeking on right now. Mount Gay’s Madeira Cask (Maggie Campbell and Trudiann Branker) is a great expression. Being fans of Madeira finishing ourselves, this expression takes the cake with juicy pear, brown sugar, vanilla, and dried fruit.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Matt Chavez, brand ambassador for Beefeater Gin and beverage director at Ci Siamo in New York City
Average Price: $35.99
As a fan of rum, I tend to gravitate towards so many different producers depending on my mood. My most comforting and tried and true bottle may be Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. I am a big fan of rum old fashioneds and Diplomatico carries all those notes inherently. Brown sugar, cola spice, toasted nuts.
A perfect sipping rum over a large cube of ice.
Lyon Dark Rum
Max Hames, distillery operations manager at Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore
Average Price: $48
Some phenomenal dark rums are being made right here in Maryland. Lyon Dark Rum from Windon Distilling in St. Michaels, Maryland embraces the Maryland eastern shore maritime rum tradition with a classic palate of caramel and molasses. Rum has a long history of production in Maryland, and that is carried out today across the state.
This consideration of the rum roots of distilling in Maryland is in part what inspired our Rum Finished Rye Whiskey.
Ron Centenario Fundacion
Jared Adkins, founder and master distiller at Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Average Price: $45
Centenario Rum from Costa Rica. I travel there to surf several times a year, and I always make it a point to pick up a bottle of their 20 — the Ron Centenario Fundacion — or 25 year at the start of my trip. It’s chock full of brown sugar, spice, and dark fruits.
New Liberty Distillery Dreadnought Dark Rum
Robert Cassell, CEO of Millstone Spirits Group in Philadelphia
Average Price: $34.99
New Liberty Distillery Dreadnought Dark Rum. It’s got a rich velvety sweetness with notes of molasses, chocolate, and cherry, sugary caramel, as well as a touch of oak and spice. It’s a great, bold rum that’s great for drinking neat, on the rocks, or as a base for your favorite seasonal cocktail.
Ten To One Caribbean Dark Rum
Eli Servance III, bartender at Cedric’s At the Shed in New York City
Average Price: $51.99
Ten to One Caribbean Dark Rum. Its palate is dominated by two of my favorite things: toffee and apples. Plus, a slight hint of oak with baking spices. This highly complex rum is a combination of 8-year-old Barbados, Dominican, Jamaican, and Trinidadian rums matured in ex-bourbon barrels.
Denizen Vatted Rum
Beau Gaultier, bartender at Bay 6 in Nashville
Average Price: $32.99
Denizen Vatted Rum is the perfect bottle to have at the house. This blend is well-balanced, fruity, and funky, and it doesn’t break the bank — perfect in stirred and shaken cocktails. A good portion of the blend is made in Guyana and this award-winning rum is known for its flavorful palate featuring hints of caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, plantains, and tropical fruits.
Rhum Barbancourt 5-Star 8 Year
Andrew Hueston, bartender at El Vez in Philadelphia
Average Price: $26.99
5-Star Rhum Barbancourt 8-Year. The perfect daiquiri dark rum. Made from sugar cane juice, this unique rum is matured for at least eight years in oak barrels. Flavors include chocolate, barrel-aged stone fruits, oak, vanilla, caramel, and dried fruits.