Food & Drink

The 14 Best Rums That Make the Case for Sipping

Daiquiris are great, but these rums are so good they deserve to be enjoyed on their own.

"The rum explosion has been massive, especially over the last few years," says Kenneth McCoy of the Rum House in Manhattan. "And what’s happening in Cuba at the moment is just going to catapult it into the mainstream."

According to a recent Nielsen Data report, the ultra-premium rum category is already showing approximately ten percent growth, and McCoy says he believes rum is "going to be the next big spirit, following along the train of whiskey." (If you need evidence of whiskey's dominance, look no further than the upcoming release of a 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.)

So grab a few of these bottles, and see for yourself why rum is poised to become the next liquor to appeal to sippers worldwide.

1. Parce

This 12-year-old Colombian rum has "a lot of wood right off the nose and caramel from its bourbon barrel aging," McCoy says. "Add some ice and start to detect a subtle sweetness and spice."

2. Flor de Caña

"Sugarcane Flower" as it's translated, Flor de Caña is extremely affordable, even in its older expressions, Jesse Vida, bar manager at New York's rum-focused BlackTail, says. Sippers should prepare for what McCoy calls "a rich, lush rum with notes of banana, caramel, and sex. Add a cube and watch the world go by in hues of dried fruit, vanilla, and cinnamon." He describes this 18-year-old Nicaraguan rum as "truly outstanding."

3. Santa Teresa 1796

This Venezuelan rum is aged in the solera process made famous by sherry producers in Jerez, Spain. Santa Teresa 1796 is the first premium añejo rum in the world to be aged using this method. "It's beautiful and balanced, with dark wood on the nose, and subtle honey and leather on the palate," Vida says.


4. The Real McCoy

"I couldn't leave my namesake out of it," McCoy says. The 12-year-old rum from Barbados is "exceptionally smooth and lush, and you can taste hints of bourbon, dried spice, and banana." With a cube of ice or a cigar, the hooch becomes even more of a pleasure to drink.


$50, binny'

5. Plantation

Another rum from Barbados, this vintage was introduced to mark the 20th anniversary of Maison Ferrand. After starting its aging process in its home country, the rum was further aged in Cognac—in casks that originally held Pierre Ferrand cognac. It's an easy-drinking rum, with notes of caramel, vanilla, dried spice, and banana.


6. Brugal 1888

In order to make what's been called one of the smoothest rums on the market, Brugal, in the Dominican Republic, double-distills, and double-matures this liquid in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels and then first-fill Spanish sherry oak casks. The resulting blend of rums from four to 14 years old has candied apricot on the nose along with dried fruits and vanilla. "It's a very dry rum, which would suggest there's no dosage [added sugar], unlike the vast majority of rums on the market," Vida says. "The strong oak presence results in a tannic dryness and a slightly grassy, bright finish."


7. Mount Gay

Everyone knows Mount Gay—and its famous red hats—but this XO version is far from standard. It's a blend of rums from eight to 15 years old, and McCoy recommends adding a cube of ice to bring out its "dry banana sweetness, light spice, and complexity." (Mount Gay also recently released the latest edition of its 1703 Master Select blend, which has up to 30-year-old rum in it, but good luck tracking down one of the $150 limited-edition bottles.)


8. El Dorado

A very limited offering, this 25-year-old bottling from Guyana was distilled in 1988 and created to mark the turn of the millennium. It's rich and viscous yet smooth, with notes of tropical spice, coffee, and fig. This might be a given considering the price, but McCoy points out that this is best for "take your time catching up with an old friend type of drinking."



9. Ron Zacapa XO

This blend of Guatemalan rums from six years to 25 years old is made with virgin sugar cane honey (instead of molasses, like most rums) to impart a smoother texture. It's then aged in French oak barrels that previously held cognac and is best served neat or over one ice cube to bring out flavors of toasted wood, spice, and dried fruits.


10. Samaroli

"Any time you can get your hands on a bottle from Samaroli it's well worth it," McCoy says. The company was established as an independent bottler of Scotch whisky in 1968 and soon began bottling rums as well. This Demerara Dark Rum 1988 was distilled in Fiji before getting bottled and aged in Scotland. "It's like opening a buried treasure of rich spices and caramel—simply delicious," McCoy says.


11. Diplomatico

The Reserva Exclusiva from Diplomatico is distilled in copper pot stills and aged for 12 years, and it's considered among the best Venezuelan rums. Its banana flavors are prominent, but with ice, McCoy says the rum "comes alive with subtle spice, dry vanilla, and smooth chocolate."


12. Clément

Rhum Agricole is the term for a special type of liquor made in the French West Indies using fresh sugar-cane juice instead of molasses. They're known for being potent, but Vida says this XO with a nose of "savory grass and dusty orange and vanilla" is "on the softer side of funky intensity," making it "a very approachable option into the world of aged rums Agricole from Martinique."


13. Appleton Estate

"This is a true sipping rum," McCoy says. The Jamaican-based Appleton Estate uses a blend of rums, each at least 21 years old, to create this flagship offering (the distillery also produces a limited-edition 50-year-old rum and a new blend to commemorate Joy Spence's 20th anniversary as its master blender). The 21-year-old Jamaican juice has aromas of orange peel, cocoa, and coffee, and shows its complexity best with a bit of ice or water, McCoy says.



14. Havana Club

When President Obama lifted the restrictions on bringing Cuban products back to the United States last year, Cuban rum fans rejoiced. There are many options to choose from (take a look here for a slew of suggestions), but McCoy says if he had to choose one it would be Havana Club's Añejo 7 Años. "It's a gorgeous rum all by itself—no ice needed—with notes of rich, dark wood, tobacco and honey," he says. For the full experience, McCoy suggests pairing it with a Cuban cigar.

Approximately $25

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