For a spirit that’s so complex and diverse, it’s a shame that rum’s image tends to focus on pirates and parties. The best rums are more than a match for the best single malt whiskies, and it’s a spirit with history and a huge sense of place – hop around some Caribbean islands and you’ll notice a big difference in each rum you’ll find.
What’s even more impressive is that all rums are made from by-products of sugar production, whether that’s molasses, sugar-cane juice or sugar-cane honey, with Christopher Columbus introducing sugar cane to Haiti and the Domican Republic in the late 1400s.
Rums are usually aged in oak after distillation to add a spicy depth to the finished spirit, no matter what colour they end up. The most elegant style is rhum agricole, which is made with sugar-cane juice and has a deliciously clean, grassy note. Four of this year’s IWSC rum award-winners are agricoles, all hailing from Martinique. Gold winner Triple Millésime 99/00/10 Rhum from Trois Rivières wowed judges with its notes of tropical fruit, zesty freshness and oak spice.
The huge growth of artisan cocktails has helped put rum in the spotlight in recent years. Rum is one of the stars of the cocktail world, no question. Want something clean and refreshing? Step forward the Mojito or the Daiquiri. Something spicy? A Dark ‘n’ Stormy hits the spot. Something sweet? Go for a Piña Colada. After that, you’ve still got the world of tiki drinks and punches to explore.
It’s high time rum took its place at the top table of spirits. Here are the best from the recent IWSC Spirits tasting.
12 Ans D'Age Rhum
Complex nose of sweet poached pears, pineapple and banana with a pinch of spice. Richer palate with beautifully balanced fruit and oak, followed by a long and evolving finish of liquorice and bitter almond. 42%
Millésime 1999 Rhum
Incredibly fresh and fruity for a rum of this age, supported by subtle spices and a whiff of varnished wood. Rich and multi-dimensional palate has notes of cherries and orange peel, leading to a long, spicy finish. 42%
Extra Old Rhum
Maison La Mauny
A broad array of aromas with dried fruit and nuts, dried flowers and sweet wood spices. Complex and elegant on palate with sweet fudge and juicy dried fruit leading to a huge, spicy finish. 42%
Triple Millésime 99/00/10 Rhum
Complex and layered nose combining tropical fruit salad, leafy herbaceousness and oak spice. Bright and refined on palate with sugarcane character, zesty freshness and well integrated oak spices. 42%
Elegant with the soft scent of oak, orange peel and chocolate. There is a bright fruit character to the palate, supported by hints of liquorice, which is well-rounded and lingers on the finish. 43%
Foursquare Nobiliary Rum
R L Seale
A complex example with layers of immense flavour: first comes the sweet hit of fruitcake and marzipan, followed by bitter chocolate, cedar and a glowing finish of cinnamon. Elegantly textured and effortlessly balanced. 62%
Foursquare Plenipotenziario Rum
R L Seale
An intense and harmonious composition: complex aromas of dried fruits, cedar, cinnamon and aniseed compliment the rich notes of Christmas cake and stewed fruit on the palate. Beautiful balance, well-rounded and a moreish finish. 60%
Doorly's 3 YO White Rum
R L Seale
Complex aromas of warm, spicy pimento and old oak; on the palate, its silky smoothness and luxurious mouthfeel heightens the rich molasses notes and deep underlying pot still character. This impressive, subtle harmony will make it a fantastic cocktail rum. 47%