Photograph by ©AlenKadr – stock.adobe.com
First brewed from by-products of sugar making in the English West Indies in the early 1600s, rum was a “hot, hellish and terrible liquor,” one early critic noted. Over the next 200 years, advances in distilling, filtering and flavoring transformed rum into a smooth and sweet spirit. Today, distillers are increasing flavor by returning to traditional methods. Though the market is still dominated by white, spiced and flavored rums, which are less expensive and easy to mix, quality and craft are on the rise, and easy to find.
ABCs of RUM
Rum flavors range from the floral to funky, offering much to explore. To get you started, here are some types and brands to consider tasting.
Ron Centenario 30 Year Aged goes for $150 a bottle. The Costa Rican distillery’s 20 Year is a bargain at $50 a bottle.
American Craft Rum
High Wire Distilling, in Asheville, North Carolina, ferments fresh crushed sugar cane to make a craft rum in the traditional French West Indies rhum style.
Brazilian rum made from fermented sugar cane has a high-octane punch. White cachaça, mixed with mashed limes, sugar, and poured over crushed ice, is a caipirinha. Try sipping aged cachaça after dinner.
Mount Gay, the oldest rum brewery, releases annual selections of ten- to thirty-year-old rums, under the Mount Gay 1703 label.
It’s sweeter than white rum, with caramel notes.
Coconut-flavored Malibu is the classic. Who doesn’t love what it does for piña coladas?
A traditional method of reusing fermented sediment from the bottom of the stilling pit. This produces high levels of esters, flavor compounds that are deep, earthy and nutty. Try Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still super hogo.
Rum takes well to being infused with fruit, herbs and spices. Think pineapple, ginger, citrus, or rosemary. Try infusing at home!
This is a traditional, fruitier, funkier style found in Appleton Estate Reserve Blend and Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year, and El Dorado, from Guyana.
Distilled from molasses.
Distilled from sugar cane.
Don Q 10 Year Aged, and Gran Añejo 9–12 Year Aged, both from Serallés Destilería in Puerto Rico (open again since Hurricane Maria) are favorites of connoisseurs.
Special Wood Finishes
Ron Abuelo, from Varela Hermanos in Puerto Rico, is aged in Oloroso sherry and port casks.
Captain Morgan has steered to less sweet Black Spiced Rum and Sherry Oak Finish rum.
Clearer and crisper than dark rum. Better for mixed drinks.
SIPPING ENCOURAGED Pairings ideas for before, during or after your meal
Rum is one of the few spirits drunk warm. L’Escale’s hot Cool Runnings, a blend of Dos Maderas rum (Barbados and Guyana rum aged in Spanish sherry casks) and warm, infused apple cider, is a great way to start your evening when dining in Greenwich.
South End in New Canaan serves Urusala’s Punch, rum with pineapple and orange juice, and grenadine.
At Farmer’s Table in New Canaan, chef Robert Ubauldo suggests having a mojito or rum punch with his Shrimp Mojo, or guacamole and chipotle salsa tacos. He uses Panamanian Caña Brava white rum, aged three years, in his mojito, and Blackwell rum in the punch, a blend of pineapple, orange and lime juices.
Because aged rums have complex, rich and sweet flavors, Try lingering and sipping them straight or over ice. You can thank me later.
Elizabeth Keyser has written about beer, wine and spirits for newspapers, magazines and blogs. She has sat on the Yankee Brew News tasting panel and judged craft and European brew contests.