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Rum Basics

The variety of rums out there is huge. Unfortunately, too many people in their youth found the bottom of multiple bottles of Bacardi or Captain Morgan, and regretted it so much that they've sworn off rum in any form besides mixed with tons of juice or soda. We are here to tell you that rum really deserves respect. It is the most varied of any liquor, because there really is no rule to how it's created, aged, or blended, other than that it must start with cane sugar. Flavors come from wild yeasts and distillation methods. After distillation, most rum gets aged in barrels. These barrels often come used from whisky and wine production. But how do you select a bottle? How can you possibly know what you like? Well, you'll just have to try it. Every bottle of rum is almost always a blend of barrels and techniques. Imparting key flavors of multiple rums is what makes a good blend. The only way to guess at what a rum might taste like is look for these loose guidelines on the label:

  • Spanish Colony - "Ron." Light. Buttery, honey, and caramel.
  • English Colony - "Rum." Bolder. Dark fruits, toffee, herbs, and spices.
  • French Colony - "Rhum." Intense. Fresh cut sugar cane, flowers, and lots of barrel taste.
  • Unaged - No time in a barrel. Tastes like the distilled spirit. Sometimes referred to as "greener" or "grassier".
  • Lightly Aged - 3 to 8 years in barrels. The vanillin and other flavors start to join in and mellow out the aggressive base spirt.
  • Aged - 8 to 12 years in barrels. This is the go-to stuff. Flavors from the blending barrels balance the base spirt.
  • Long Aged - 12 plus years in barrels. This is all about the barrel and the care taken over the years to mix and match different types of barrels.
  • Spiced - Adds any kind of spice—usually nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and others.
  • Black - Adds molasses, and has flavors like blackstrap molasses, burnt fruits, and oak.
  • Column Still - Efficient production method. Light in flavor and smell.
  • Pot Still - Inefficient production method. Gives the "funky" flavors and smells to rum. A pure pot still rum is very high in esters.
  • Overproof - Higher then 100 proof

Confused? Yup. Us too, even after tasting hundreds of rums. But, we have go-to bottles in each category that are common to find:

  • Appleton 12 year - Jamaican blended aged
  • Appleton Signature - Jamaican blended lighty aged
  • Bacardi 8 year - Puerto Rican aged
  • Clément Premier Canne - Martinique unaged
  • Clément Rhum VSOP - Martinique lightly aged
  • Goslings Black Seal - Black
  • Hamilton 86 - Demerara lightly aged
  • Hamilton 151 - Demerara overproof
  • Smith & Cross Pure Jamaican - Pot still
  • Planation OFTD - Overproof multi-island blend
  • Plantation 3-Star - Unaged Multi-island blend
  • Real McCoy 3-year - Barbadian lightly aged
  • RL Seale 10 year - Barbadian aged