Here Are the Sipping Rums to Pop Open This Summer
Celebrating a special occasion? You may readily reach for a splurge-worthy bottle of whiskey, cognac or even aged tequila. But this summer, consider raising a glass of top-shelf rum instead.
The cane spirit has been historically overlooked as far as its premium expressions. Last year, only some 16 percent of rum sales were premium compared to 66 percent for whiskey. But that's not for lack of quality products; many producers have been making premium aged rums for years. But with reinvigorated interest in Cuba coupled with the resurgence of tiki bars in America and consumer fascination with new ingredients, rum continues making its play for premium. This is ever more evident as category leader Bacardí makes a bet with a new line of premium expressions, adding to the beloved industry favorite Bacardí Ocho with the release of Añejo Cuatro, Gran Reserva Diez and Gran Reserva Limitada last month.
How to Read a Rum Label
Now, if your last encounter with rum had you shaking off a terrible hangover or you're thinking $60 sounds pricey for a bottle of rum, there are some misconceptions to clear up. First, the number listed on Caribbean rums typically refers to the oldest rum in the mix, unlike whiskey, which lists the youngest (there are some exceptions). But if the number on your "extra-old" rum still seems low, consider the warm, humid climates from which rum comes: Tropical aging can expedite evaporation twofold, meaning flavors and smoothness develop quicker in the barrel. A bottle of Bacardí Añejo Cuatro, for example, might take only four years to reach its optimum flavor profile, but if it were aged in the more temperate northern Europe, this process could take almost a decade.
Types of Rum
Another thing to remember is that due to a lack of regulations, rum is incredibly diverse. In contrast to tequila, which must be produced using 100 percent blue agave in designated regions of Mexico, or Scotch, which must be produced with malted barley in Scotland, rum can come from technically anywhere, though it feels most at home on island nations, such as the Caribbean. And it can be made from sugarcane, sugarcane molasses or other cane by-products. That means rums can range from sweet-but-complex darker varieties to drier ones with strong oaky finishes—all worthy of tasting on their own.
Just take it from Joseph Bennett, bar manager at Fine & Rare in New York. "Rum is the Wild West of spirits," he explains. It is the tiki spirit, which is one of exploration and creativity. "Try everything: Every country has its own style, and every bottle has its own character. If you think you don't like rum, there is absolutely a rum that you will like; you just have to find it."
Ready to search out that special bottle that will make you fall in love with the sugarcane spirit? Here are eight excellent premium rums to help get you started.
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