Happy World Rum Day 2020! Bars and restaurants are starting to open up once more with social distancing practices in effect. If you are comfortable venturing out to celebrate, some of our rum haven faves have reopened with outside spaces, table service and reduced capacity. These include Notting Hill’s Trailer Happiness, Islington’s Laki Kane and the new permanent iteration of Limin’, now gracing the Southbank. However, for those who are still (understandably) not comfortable braving that new outside world, never fear! We have come up with our Best Rums of 2020 for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
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Rum in 2020
Rum is a category that magazines and newspapers have been touting as “the new gin” for close to a decade now. Over the passed few years however, we’ve seen a huge increase in its popularity, with rum sales in the UK on-trade rising 7% in 2019 (driven by the popularity or cocktails as well as flavoured and spice varieties) and CGA reporting a 10% increase year-on-year of consumers drinking the spirit at home.
That’s mental. Especially since rum is not like gin, where a staggering 402 new brands popped onto the market between May 2016 and October 2019. Consumers in the UK are more limited when it comes to the brands available to them and some of the top rum-makers and industry boffins are seizing this opportunity to educate would-be customers away from mass produced, additive-ridden and sugar-heavy products and instead steer them towards distilleries producing unadulterated rums that will open their minds to the category and blow that cheap, pirate-y image out of the water.
Here are a few of our favourite new expressions doing just that.
Best Premium R(h)ums
Doorly’s 14-year-old Rum
Doorly’s rum has been made on Barbados since 1908 and was the first brand ever to be exported from Barbados. From then to now, it is known around the world for its exceptional quality and true encapsulation of the Bajan spirit.
Doorly’s 14-year-old is a phenomenal rum from the famous Foursquare Distillery. Released last year, it is the latest addition to the Doorly’s core range (however, as you might expect from a 14-year-old, tropically aged spirit, stocks of this expression are not widely available, so best snapped up quickly). In this way, Doorly’s 14-year-old bridges the gap between Foursquare Distillery’s staple commercial range of the usual Doorly’s suspects, and its limited edition Exceptional Cask Selection series.
A classic Richard Seale (Master Distiller and Master Blender at Foursquare Distillery) blend of Pot and Column distilled rums, this expression marries spirits aged in ex-Bourbon barrels with some aged in ex-Madeira casks. Transparent labelling and Foursquare’s stellar reputation for unadulterated rums assure us that each component of the blend has been aged for fourteen years, making it a wise old tropical number that really packs a flavour punch.
Ginger and oak spice tickle the tongue, treacling into vanilla toffee and honeycomb. A smooth and viscous mouthfeel allows notes of banana, pain au raisin, dark chocolate and preserved orange to reveal themselves. A touch of char and echo of Madeira complete this beautiful sipper.
£60.95. Buy it here at Master of Malt.
Compagnie des Indes Dominican Republic A.F.D. Cask Strength Rum
A rambunctious number full of powerful flavours and boasting a high ABV to match. This is a rare (263 bottles available) single cask expression from the French bottler, Compagnie des Indes. Produced at Alcoholes Finos Dominicanos – a Dominican Republic based distillery founded in 2009 by a Spanish group and considered to be the most modern distillery in the Caribbean – this is a rum that any lucky booze nerd would be happy to have in their collection.
Master Blender Florent Beuchet is another advocate for unadulterated rums and aims to bring unusual and exceptional spirits to the attention of the world. Compagnie des Indes Dominican Republic A.F.D. Cask Strength Rum has a powerful nose full of dried dates, prunes, bittersweet dark chocolate, mango, rambutan, ripe banana skin, tobacco leaf, liquorice root, raisins, sultanas, nutmeg and white pepper. This translates on the palate into a thick and full-on sweep of funky vegetal sweetness. Tobacco leaf and stubbed out cigars combine with rich dark chocolate, plump raisins, mixed pepper and sticky homemade barbecue sauce in this surprisingly smooth tot.
Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition Rum
The Real McCoy Rum is the product of a collaboration between its founder and Emmy award-winning filmmaker, Bailey Pryor, and Foursquare Distillery’s Richard Seale. In 2009, Bailey set out to produce a documentary film about the US’s “pioneering Prohibition rum runner” Bill McCoy, who was known for selling unadulterated alcohol (unlike his counterparts who added turpentine and the like to their wares) on the water by New York. This journey led Bailey to Barbados – a spot Bill used to pick up rum – where he met Richard. Fast-forward to 2012, The Real McCoy was born with a mission to continue its namesake’s work of distributing delicious, unaltered “pure” rum to would-be imbibers. Like all of the rums coming out of Foursquare Distillery, and in keeping with McCoy’s legacy, no sugar, flavours or perfumes are added to The Real McCoy rums.
Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition is a brilliant example of what the brand is doing right. This micro-batch of 3,000 bottles boasts a higher percentage of copper pot still distillate for a richer and more pronounced flavour profile than the core range. Two batches are aged separately, with the first spending 12 years in ex-Bourbon barrels, and the second aged for 10 years in virgin American oak (with this younger rum defining the age statement). These are then carefully blended to reach the desired outcome, before being bottled at a robust 46% ABV. The result is an unusually woody number with a juicy palate bedecked with spice, toasted pecans, milk chocolate, spotted dick and fresh green apples. Drier than most rums, this is a bottling that would readily convert even the staunches whisky palate.
£66.75. Buy it here at Master of Malt.
Clairin World Championship 2017 Blend Rhum
If rhum agricole is your jam, listen up! Clairin is a first-of-its-kind brand from the legendary bottler, Luca Gargano, bringing the unbridled spirit of Haiti to the world.
Clairin is a raw, unaged spirit produced from distilling naturally fermented sugarcane. It bears a striking resemblance to rhum agricole or cachaça, and is made and drunk widely throughout Haiti. Small, often one-man-band, distilleries (some 532 at last count) are scattered throughout the country, creating these natural rhums from chemical-free farmed and spontaneously fermented, indigenous, un-hybridised sugar cane.
Luca decided that he wanted to bring clairin to the back bars of the USA and beyond. After many trips back-and-forth to Haiti, he settled on four distillers that were making exceptional clairin. He bottled these and brought they over to the States, where they were pounced upon by the bartending community.
Clairin World Championship 2017 Blend Rhum is a bottling commemorating the Clairin World Championship 2017, which saw eight international bartender finalists descend on Haiti to visit the distilleries, learn about the country’s culture and produce, and battle it out via cocktail-off using Clairin. The liquid itself marries spirits from four distilleries – Vaval, Sajous, Casimir and Romelus. The resulting blend is a gorgeously clean yet complex spirit with a dry, smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Spice is backed by a fruit-vegetal ensemble with flinty notes hiding amongst lemon rind and lime cordial. Pineapple, vanilla and foam banana sweets noticeable on the nose, trail into a lightly smoky vegetation. This impressive spirit is delicious on its own as well as truly transformative in cocktails.
Best Naturally Flavoured R(h)ums
Black Tears Spiced Rum
Forget what you think you know about “spiced rum”. Black Tears Spiced Rum is something like no other. The first ever Cuban rum marketed as “spiced” that has been exported to the UK market, it hopes to embody that true, honest and effervescent Cuban character.
Black Tears is produced using molasses sourced from the Ciego de Avila province. The molasses undergoes a double fermentation, the first being a small batch, high temperature blitz for four hours, followed by a large batch, lower temperature vat fermentation for 10 hours. Aguardiente distilled in a Column is rested for a minimum of two years. This base rum is then infused with locally grown cacao, coffee and ají dulce (a delicious sweet chilli pepper used in Cuban cooking), to make it a spiced rum.
Unlike most spiced rums that are packed with sugar, Black Tears is “dry”, with a maximum of only 9g of sugar per litre. Instead of the usual vanilla smack in the face, the bouquet is unusually savoury and earthy with an unexpected vegetal sweetness. Cola sweet bottles, pepper, vanilla, coffee beans, cinnamon bark, chocolate, nutmeg and papaya skin are amongst the first whiffs. On the palate, baking spices of nutmeg and cinnamon move towards warm pecans and bittersweet coffee beans. This profile meanders into rich cappuccino topped with cocoa and subtle caramel notes. The sweet, earthy spice comes next with a tobacco sidekick, kept in check by the comforting roundness of the cacao.
Black Tears is a hugely versatile rum that screams to be experimented with in cocktails. Its low sugar means drinks can be easily tailored to individual tastes without diminishing the natural flavours infused within it.
SPECIAL OFFER: £34.99. Buy Black Tears Spiced Rum at DrinkSupermarket.com and get a FREE Cocktail Shaker, Mixers & a Recipe Card (see below).
The limited offer Cocktail Pack includes:
- 1 x Black Tears Spiced Rum (70cl)
- 1 x Black Tears cocktail shaker
- 1 x Coco Re’al (coconut cream)
- 1 x Pago Pineapple Juice
- 1 x Pago Pink Grapefruit Juice
- 1 x Pago Pear Juice
- 1 x Pago Cloudy Apple Juice
- Recipe card with four cocktails using these ingredients
Ron Colón Coffee Infused High Proof Aged Rum
Born as a passion project amongst spirits industry friends after an unexpectedly beautiful and inspiring trip to “the murder capital of the world”, Ron Colón, aims to showcase and honour El Salvador and local flavours.
In 2018, Thurman Wise and Pepijn Janssens embarked on a crazy 22-day bar-hop through 16 Latin American countries. When they arrived in El Salvador, they were blown away by its pristine beauty and grit, as well as its incredible produce and coffee, and the idea of Ron Colón was born.
Named after the lost currency – the El Salvadorian Colón – the rum blends spirit produced in the oldest sugar cane mill in the country with two Jamaican rums (unaged pot still from Worthy Park, Hampden and Monymusk and a three-year-old Worthy Park). The Salvadorian rum brings a fruit-forward, tropical nose with a light, dry finish, whilst the other components bring that tell-tale Jamaican funk.
Bourbon coffee beans grown next to the Santa Ana volcano are slowly, hand-processed, before being roasted by Jag’s Head Coffee and naturally infused into the Ron Colón High Proof Aged Rum base. These impart a gloriously rich and fragrant roasted coffee flavour to the rum, with bitter chocolate combining with aromatic smoke and an echo of bitter herbs and stewing fruit. A truly extraordinary cocktail ingredient.
£38.99. Buy it here at The Drink Shop.
Damoiseau Les Arrangés Mango Passion
Looking for a fruity number? Damoiseau has you covered with its naturally flavoured Les Arrangés Mango Passion., filled with hand-cut chunks of fresh mango and passion fruit seeds from Guadeloupe. Now, this one isn’t technically a rum as it is under 37.5%, nor is it a liqueur (minimum 100g of sugar per litre); it’s a stunning rum-based bevvy that is well-worth its sneaky appearance on this list.
Damoiseau is one of the most popular brands producing agricole rhum on Guadeloupe. The Damoiseau family has been creating much-loved rhums since 1942 and recently launched its range of arranges within the UK.
Arrangés are a very local Guadeloupean drink made to family recipes and include rhum, sugar and fresh fruit. Sold at markets and happily sipped all day long, they celebrate agricole’s fresh notes and relaxed island living. Local sugarcane is harvested, processed and fermented with local yeast for 24-36 hours. Next, it is distilled in Creole Column stills and left to rest in wooden foudres for 90 days, before being brought down to 30% ABV. Fruit is placed through the necks of empty bottles, which are in turn filled with the agricole rhum and 7g of sugar per bottle. These are left to macerate for 45 days so that the fruit can impart is deliciousness to the rhum.
Our favourite of the two Damoiseau Les Arrangés expressions is definitely the Damoiseau Les Arrangés Mango Passion. Here, the full, fresh, juicy fruit flavours pair seamlessly together. The thick, ripe mango comfort provides a guiding hand to the vivacious and tangy passion fruit, whilst the agricole’s grassy backdrop keeps the sweetness in check.