I want to take a moment to talk about rum. Rum is a distilled spirit that is frequently associated with the Caribbean because a major ingredient is sugar or molasses and the Caribbean has long been known for its sugar plantations. As a result, rum became the drink of choice for many of its residents.
Generally speaking, there are three types of rums: light, dark and spiced. Dark rums are dark because they have been aged or because manufacturers have added coloring. I discourage buying young rums with added color because they’re masquerading as being older than they are. If you want a young rum, buy a light rum. Spiced rums frequently are darker than light rums, but this is because of a variety of spices that have been added during the manufacturing process.
My favorite type of rum is the aged variety. Like Scotch, well-aged rums have a different flavor profile than younger varieties, and good aged rum can be enjoyed neat. I’ve been told that the older a Scotch is, the better it is. I’m not a Scotch drinker, so I cannot verify this, but I can say with certainty that this is not true for rum. In my opinion, the aging process for rum follows a bell curve with the best rums being aged somewhere between 12 and 16 years. Some rum manufactures will blend rums of different ages, and this is acceptable to me as long the “average” falls somewhere in this range.
Now for my top 5 favorite rums.
When I tasted this, it was harsh in the nose but otherwise tasty. An ice cube can be added to help if drinking it neat is not for you.
This is a mild rum that has great coloring and a smooth flavor and finish. About 4 oz consumed neat in the evening really hits the spot. The only drawback is that it does not have a complex flavor profile and has a heavy taste of vanilla.
This is a Trinidadian rum that has a fantastic flavor and is typically inexpensive. I feel the dollar value of this rum is near perfect. I can usually purchase a bottle for around $30. It tastes as good as the Pampero, but it has a more complex flavor without the heavy vanilla undertones.
This is firmly a 9/10. I have only been able to find it a few times, but that may be more of a reflection on my lack of interest in shopping around instead of there actually being a limited supply of this brand. There is a younger version of this rum that is also good, but the Reserva Exclusiva is worth the extra cash. When I taste this, I do not get a strong hint of vanilla but instead picked up more earthy flavors like oak. It is smooth on the palette and hardly has any burn. I think it would pair nicely with dark chocolate.
This is hands down the best rum I’ve ever had. Shots of this at a bar range from $9-$12 and the bottles regularly sell for $40+ at the liquor store, so this isn’t one for every day drinking. Having said that, there are simply just times when you need a glass of Ron Zacapa. This is one of those varieties of rum that is a blended of different ages, including some aged 23 years. I have sampled close to 50 types of rum and blind taste tested a variety of rums and Ron Zacapa is always at the top.
What about you? Do you have a favorite rum?
Dr. Noah Mueller is a geographer, teacher, photography, and amateur herpetologist. When he’s not photographing reptiles and amphibians or getting bit by ribbon snakes, he can be found enjoying a nice glass of rum while watching some glorious television or studying the Caribbean.