Rum is making a steady comeback with real liquor aficionados and normal guys alike. It’s time to upgrade your home bar accordingly, and find out why people are getting so into the tropical booze.
If rum still makes you think of a drunken pirate or a college kid with some Malibu, you’re not alone. Rum has an odd rap because the stuff you typically see around is heavily sweetened or flavored, and you probably wouldn’t sit back and sip it like a grown-up. However, there’s a whole other side to rum that cocktail-lovers and liquor geeks get very excited about.
Rum breaks down into four main categories: white, dark (or aged), navy and spiced.
White rum is what you want in a rum cocktail; it’s light, crisp and easy to drink. Dark or aged rum is a bit more classy, offering some strong spice that’s great for sipping with some friends. Then there’s navy rum, the wild one of the bunch, which maintains the 57% ABV of standard-issue naval rum from back in the day. And lastly, there’s spiced rum, which brands like Malibu and Captain Morgan fall into, although there are nicer bottles of spiced rum that are great for sipping too.
There’s also golden rum, which is a less-aged dark rum. Golden rum makes a good go-between for light sipping or strong cocktails.
Whatever your taste, there’s a bottle of delicious rum to match. Check out our top picks below to feel like a real pirate king this season.
1. Mount Gay Eclipse rum
BEST GOLDEN RUM
Golden rum is a good place to start your tasting (and future rum collection). The flavor is light and easy for newbies to love, but still complex and interesting enough to enjoy like you would a nice whiskey. Alternatively, you can throw some golden rum in a mojito for a unique flavor. Our favorite golden rum is this one from Mount Gay, which offers a no-frills rum experience at a very affordable price point.
2. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
BEST DARK RUM
When it comes to dark rum, you’ll want something slightly more distinguished (i.e. more expensive). This Reserva Exclusiva from Diplomatico is our recommendation (especially for aged-rum-newbies) because it boasts a complex blend of rums that translates to some very enjoyable sipping. And while it’s certainly more expensive than a bottle of Captain Morgan, it’s not too bad at $40. If you love it, you won’t be alone: this bottle comes in at #1 on rumratings.com.
3. Chairman’s Reserve White Label
BEST WHITE RUM
The light crispiness of white rum makes it ideal for cocktails including daiquiri’s, mojitos and dark n’ stormys, although you can still enjoy a nice bottle on the rocks. If you really want to explore the world of rum, be sure to try out a slightly upscale white rum, such as this Chairman’s Reserve. Take a thumb on the rocks, and then use it for an upgraded el Floridita or daiquiri.
4. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
BEST SPICED RUM
This Kraken might be spiced rum, but it’s certainly more ferocious than that bottle of Malibu you stole at 19. After aging for a couple years, the liquor is blended with Kraken’s special mix of spices including clove, ginger and cinnamon. This turns up the flavor significantly but tastes like a premium drink. Enjoy the spiced specialty on the rocks for a nice happy hour or after-dinner drink.
5. Privateer Navy Yard Barrel Proof Rum
BEST NAVY RUM
Think you’ve got what it takes to drink like a 19th-century sailor? Pick up a bottle of this Privateer Navy Yard rum. It’s 56.3% ABV, which packs a serious punch — even for seasoned drinkers. This makes it fun for sipping (slowly) when the nights get colder, but it’s also great for supercharging a rum-based cocktail with some extra bite.
6. Bacardi Superior White Rum
BEST FOR COCKTAILS
If you’re just making cocktails with your rum, no need to mess around with the fancy stuff. Bacardi’s Superior white rum will get the job done in style, offering a light, fruity taste. Flavors such as citrus, coriander and ginger finish off the cocktail without overpowering the mint, lime or other ingredients.
7. Plantation Rum Grande Reserve
BEST FOR GIFTING
Know any rum-lovers? Give them a bottle of this Plantation Grande Reserve. The characterful bottle makes it pop when unwrapped or pulled out of the gift bag. But the bottle is just the beginning; inside you’ll find an award-winning rum that’s been aged in French cognac barrels and pumped up with a dash of sugar.
8. Angostura 1824 Premium Rum
BEST PREMIUM BOTTLE
For the real rum connoisseurs — or big-spenders — we suggest this 1824 premium rum from Angostura. The liquor is aged at least 12 years in American bourbon barrels, blended and then re-casked to mature. The result is a sophisticated drink that still has some sea-side Carribean flair. Enjoy this stuff neat or on the rocks, preferably with a nice Cuban cigar.