What to Drink Right Now: 5 Great New Rums
Spirit bottles like these are changing perceptions about the spirit.
Most people associate rum with bottom-shelf brands you can find in every liquor store, whose marketing budget emphasizes beaches and bikinis over distillation techniques, pirates and parties over aging techniques. There are also upscale sipping rums, which may or may not contain sugar, coloring or various chemicals and flavorings added after distillation, all aimed at delivering a sweet, smooth, approachable finished beverage.
Aside from that, there are rums you'll find here, made around the world, distilled in various ways, some at distilleries that date back hundreds of years, eschewing additives, aged where they are distilled and having flavor profiles that may not appeal to the typical Captain Morgan drinker. It is these rums that are generating excitement in the category, the ones that are slowly but surely changing perceptions about what rum is. Each of these rums will not appeal to every taste, but they provide a snapshot of where rum is today, where it has been, and where it is headed.
Transcontinental Rum Line: Fiji 2014, Aged 5 Years
There is only one distillery in Fiji that makes rum, South Pacific Distillers. The majority of Fijian rum is sold to independent bottlers, but logically, all of it tastes like burnt rubber in different degrees of intensity. Although this rum isn't for everyone, it's certainly weirder than it tastes, like many Jamaican pot still rums with notes of green peppers and gasoline. Fijian rums are so delicious and intense that they may make you wish you had old tires. Last year, Transcontinental Rum Line released a superb 4-year-old Fijian rum distilled in 2014 and sourced from South Pacific. With the burnt rubber notes slightly less pungent after an extra year of aging, and the sweet vanilla notes a bit more intense, the flavor has been rounded out somewhat. There's 56.9% alcohol in it, so it's not for the faint of heart, but it's almost criminal to dilute it. Who knew burnt rubber and vanilla could taste so good?
Mount Gay Master Blender Collection: Andean Oak Cask
With its 318th birthday in 2021, Mount Gay will be the oldest continuously operating rum distillery in the world. But the brand has embraced innovation in recent years, especially since the launch of its Master Blender Collection in 2018. The XO expression is finished in peated whiskey barrels as part of its annual limited-edition release that tweaks the classic Mount Gay formula.
Master blender Trudiann Branker has finished Mount Gay's 14-year-old pot still rum in virgin Andean oak barrels for 11 months in preparation for the latest edition. This is the first rum to use Andean oak, a tree that can grow up to 80 feet tall at high altitudes in Colombia. It imparts a distinct spiciness, adding a layer of flavor to the pot still rum. Featuring a sweet and inviting nose with notes of vanilla, butterscotch, melon and coconut, the wine is 48 percent alcohol by volume. On the palate, you'll find nutmeg, toffee and vanilla, along with spicy Andean oak notes. In addition to notes of dried pineapple and apricot, the finish is balanced by gentle oak and spice. The Master Blender Collection is only available in 1,042 bottles, and it's a one-time-only offering.
Long Pond 15 Year Old Impex Collection Cask #21VRW
Since the rum industry was in such a state of decline in the years following 2011 to 2017, the Long Pond distillery was mothballed from 2011 to 2017. Jamaica's Long Pond distillery is one of the best distilleries in the world for pot still rums. The ImpEx Collection of rare whiskies and rums contains this single-cask beauty, which was distilled before the mothballing, in 2005, and tropically aged in Jamaica; most rums are conditioned in cooler climes, such as Amsterdam and Liverpool, where their blends are blended, for 15 years. In addition to smelling a bit funky, it has the presence of allspice and citrus. This 52.2 percent ABV wine has a sweet and tart aroma overlaid with notes of marmalade on the palate, along with ripe melon, cinnamon, and a dry, moderately funky finish. 304 bottles were produced, and it is a complex rum that rewards repeated sipping with layers of aromas and flavors that develop over time.
Foursquare Exceptional Cask Mark XVII: 2009
Only a quarter century old, the Foursquare distillery operated by the legendary Richard Seale, which is based in Barbados, is even older than the distillery we know today, but it has already established itself as one of the world's most influential and perhaps best rum distilleries. Almost universally, hardcore rum fans will fawn and sigh over this particular rum. Seale often breaks new ground with the Exceptional Cask series, a three-times-a-year showcase of Foursquare's finest rums, such as this year's "Shibboleth" expression that, at 16 years of age, is the longest tropically-aged rum Seale has ever released.
In spite of the fact that it is not a new product, this blend of pot and column still rums ages for a dozen years in first-, second- and third-refill barrels and is bottled at 60 percent alcohol content, simply tastes great. The Foursquare rums were a great influence on popularizing rums that were aged where they were distilled, a process known as tropical aging, which did not use color, filtration, sugar, or other additives. The 2009 is simply an unadulterated expression of a distillery that was achieving its full potential. With allspice, ginger, hints of citrus and surprisingly gentle oaky spice, this is a wonderful cold-weather sipper, and it must also taste pretty good in the summer, too.
Equiano Light Rum
If you are looking for sipping rum that is esoteric, often overproof, but what are the best sipping rums for making a daiquiri, this is the rum for you. Equiano is a rum that combines rums from Mauritius with rums from Foursquare distillery in Barbados. It is a rum crafted from rums from Mauritius and Barbados, and is supervised by Foursquare's Richard Seale and Ian Burrell. The first expression, which is released in 2020, will be a dark aged rum designed for sipping and mixing. It is intended to be enjoyed both way.
As a result of Foursquare's molasses-based pot and column stills aged in Barbados for at least three years, this lighter version is made up of molasses-based pot and column stills, as well as unaged sugarcane-based rums from Mauritius that have not been aged. It is a great combination, because the Barbadian rum has more roundness, sweetness and slightly oaky notes while the Mauritian rum has lighter, grassier, and vanilla-centric flavors. A gorgeous daiquiri can be made with this rum, as it has a lot more depth and complexity than typical charcoal-filtered light rums, and it also makes a fine sipper with a squeeze of lime or grapefruit juice. It is also delicious on the rocks with ice and lime, as well as grapefruit juice.