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How to Choose Rum
There are many varieties of rum that can be used to make cocktails and the choice can be a daunting one. Rum is made throughout the world and while the Caribbean is best known for their rums, there are some fantastic options available from elsewhere.
Choosing a quality light or gold rum to stock in a bar is a good place to begin and is required for the majority of rum cocktails. Dark rums are used occasionally in addition to light rum in a few cocktails and should be a second priority. Flavored... rums are not as necessary as their counterparts, but are useful for specific cocktails and can substitute other rums for more flavor.
In the following pages, you will find a basic guide to popular brands of rum divided by style. One of the best aspects of exploring rum is that, in general, they are inexpensive when compared to other distilled spirits, so you can easily discover a new favorite without going broke.
While I do my best to keep this guide up to date, it is only a guide to give you a general idea of what to expect when searching for rum. It is also impossible for me to list every brand and label.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Light Rum Brands
Light rum will be your first choice for mixing the majority of your rum cocktails. It has a sweet, neutral flavor that pairs well with almost any flavor and its clear color doesn't affect the look of the drink.
There are many quality light rums available and many are very reasonably priced. I encourage you to look beyond the big brand names like Bacardi because some of the lesser-known brands are superior in taste and mixability.
Less than $15
- Appleton Estate White - Jamaica
- Bacardi Silver - Puerto... Rico
- Barton White - Virgin Islands
- Castillo White - Puerto Rico
- Fernandes White - Trinidad
- Flor de Caña 4 Year Old White - Nicaragua
- Myers Original Platinum - Jamaica
- Ron Castillo White - Puerto Rico
- Angostura Old Oak White - Trinidad
- Mount Gay Premium White - Barbados
- Rhum Barbancourt White - Haiti
- Ron Matusalem Platino - Dominican Republic
- Wray & Nephew White Overproof - Jamaica
- El Dorado White - Guyana
$30 and Up
- Charbay Tropical Islands Cane - US
- Oronoco Fazenda Reserva - Brazil
- Papagayo Organic White - Paraguay
- Rhum Clement Premiére Canne - Martinique
- Tommy Bahama White Sand - Barbados
- Starr African Light Rum - Mauritius
Please note: I have not listed every brand or label available and price ranges are based on the average price that a 750ml bottle sells for.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Gold and Aged Rum Brands
Due to rum's global production, there are really no set standards for its production and this can lead to some difficult choices, particularly when it comes to aged or gold rums.
It is very important to read the label on gold rums if you want to learn a bit about their production (though not all labels are as revealing as others). Some gold rums are blends of rums of various ages, others are a straight rum aged for a specific amount of time, while still others (typically cheaper ones) are blended... with spirits other than rum or may contain artificial colors to give them the amber color.
It is also important to note here that not all rums require the same amount of time in the barrel. Climate plays a large role in aging times and the Caribbean's warm, humid climate can make a rum in just a few years that tastes similar to an American rum that has been aged for a decade or more.
Less than $15
- Appleton Special Gold - Jamaica
- Bacardi Gold - Puerto Rico
- Palo Viejo Gold - Puerto Rico
- Fernandes 19 Gold - Trinidad
- Ron Castillo Gold - Puerto Rico
- Ron Rico Gold - Puerto Rico
$30 and Up
Please note: I have not listed every brand or label available and price ranges are based on the average price that a 750ml bottle sells for.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Dark Rum Brands
There are really two styles within the category of dark rum: those that are aged in charred oak for a long period of time and those that begin with a distillate made from the darkest molasses. This second category is often called blackstrap and these rums are very rich and thick and quite interesting.
The aged dark rums are used in a number of cocktails and are often used as a float on top of the finished drink. The Mai Tai is a good example of a dark rum float. Some of the higher-proofed dark... rums that are floated are also used when lighting drinks on fire.
Less than $15
- Angostura Dark 5 year - Trinidad
- Coruba Dark - Jamaica
- Cruzan Estate Dark 2 year - St. Croix
- Diplomatico Anejo - Venezuala
- Fernandes Dark - Trinidad
- Ron Abuelo Anejo - Panama
- Trader Vic's - West Indies
- Whaler's Dark - US
- Bacardi 8 year - Puerto Rico
- Pusser's British Navy Dark - Trinidad
- Rhum Barbancourt 8 year - Haiti
- Myers Dark - Jamaica
- Gosling's Black Seal - Bermuda
$30 and Up
- Angostura 1824 12 year - Trinidad
- Mount Gay Extra Old - Barbados
- Flor de Cana 21 year - Nicaragua
- Pyrat XO Reserve Planters Gold - Anguilla
- Pampero Rum Aniversario - Venezuela
- Rogue Dark - US
- Zacapa 23 year - Guatemala
- Zaya 12 year - Trinidad
Luxury at Over $100
- Appleton Estate 21 year - Jamaica
- Pyrat Cask 1623 - Anguilla
Please note: I have not listed every brand or label available and price ranges are based on the average price that a 750ml bottle sells for.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Spiced Rum Brands
Spiced rum is a flavored rum that is a category unto itself. Though the spice blends vary from brand to brand, you will know a spiced rum when you smell it.
Some drinkers really enjoy spiced rum, others do not. If you have any issues with acid reflux or similar digestive issues, it is probably best to avoid these as they can cause further irritations.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, clove, cardamom, peppercorns, anise, allspice, and orange peels are among the ingredients used in spiced rum. It is a... nice way to get an interesting flavor into drinks and spiced rums are featured in a number of popular cocktails.
Continue to 6 of 6 below.
- Admiral Nelson - US
- Captain Morgan - Puerto Rico
- Castillo - Puerto Rico
- Kilo Kai
- Lieutenant Dan
- Montecristo - Guatelmala
- Sailor Jerry's Navy - Virgin Islands
- Trader Vic's - West Indies
- VooDoo - Virgin Islands
06 of 06
Flavored Rum Brands
Though not quite as fast, the options for flavored rums is increasing almost as fast as flavored vodkas. Typically rums take on the flavor of tropical fruits and can be great for adding a little flavor to tiki drinks. There are also a number of cocktails that specifically call for flavored rum.
There can be a significant difference in flavored rums. Some brands will do a natural infusion of flavors while other opt for artificial flavors and, sometimes, add sugars to sweeten the rum, making it... into something similar to a liqueur. Just like all rums, the lack of regulations and disclosures should make the flavored rum drinker more cautious when making purchase decisions.
If you want to guarantee the quality of your flavored rum, try infusing it yourself. Light rum is the ideal candidate for homemade infusions.
- Bacardi - apple, coconut, lemon, melon, orange, peach, raspberry
- Brinley - coconut, coffee, lime, mango, vanilla
- Charbay - vanilla
- Cruzan - banana, black cherry, citrus, coconut, guava, mango, pineapple, raspberry, vanilla
- Malibu - banana, coconut, mango, pineapple
- Mount Gay - mango, vanilla
- Parrot Bay - coconut, key lime, mango, pineapple
- Trader Vic's - banana, coconut, mango, pineapple