For over 300 years, rum, distilled from sugar cane and its byproduct, molasses, has been the Caribbean’s coveted spirit.
Once a popular, if rustic, favorite of everyone from pirates to the Royal Navy, the rum of today includes high-end bottlings and a fanbase of serious spirits lovers. Whether mixed into innovative cocktails or slowly sipped after dinner, it has broad-ranging appeal and diverse character.
Here is an island-hopping introduction to some of the region’s choice rums, from mixable silver to superpremium añejo, and the resorts where true rum geeks can mix and sip to their hearts’ content.
Savor Traveller’s 1 Barrel Rum while gently swaying in a hammock. Aromas of butterscotch, caramel and just a hint of maple syrup entice your nose before a smooth explosion of flavor in your mouth. It’s great on its own or mixed into cocktails. Lodge at Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Ellie’s Turtle Inn and enjoy one of their 25 individual thatched cottages on a white sand beach. Scuba divers, rejoice—a worldclass natural reef is just a few fin kicks away. Five bars and restaurants delight the guests’ senses with sumptuous Caribbean fare, while a beautiful seaside spa rejuvenates the spirit.
Appleton Estate 12 Year Aged Rum’s aromas of caramel, vanilla, candied orange peel and sweet almond set it apart. Try the Reserve and Master Blender’s Legacy Rums as well. Rums have been made on the Appleton Estate for over 260 years, and the experience shows. The GoldenEye Resort is a renovation and expansion of Ian Fleming’s private island residence. In 1952, Fleming wrote Casino Royale, the first book in the legendary James Bond series. He penned 13 Bond books in total— all written on site. GoldenEye is owned by Chris Blackwell, Island Record’s founder, who produces the utterly delicious Blackwell Rum.
Sip Brugal 1888 and linger over the smooth palate of candied orange peel and dried sultana raisins, or pour Ron Atlantico Private Cask over ice. Stay at the Casa De Campo Resort; your friends who golf will love playing a round or two on the legendary Teeth of the Dog course. Wine and food lovers will adore the Beach Club by Le Cirque restaurant on a private beach. Let the Maccioni family’s Le Cirque trained chefs spoil you with exquisitely executed classic cuisine presented with Caribbean touches, or grab a light lunch at La Caña Restaurant & Lounge by Il Circo.
93 Brugal 1888 – Ron Gran Reserva Familiar (Dominican Republic, Remy Cointreau USA, New York, NY). A limited edition rum, newly launched in August 2011, and finished in previously used Spanish sherry casks. That sherry finish contributes so much: the bright copper-penny color, the lush aromas of burnt orange and raisin, and the smooth, full-bodied texture. Enjoy the elongated flavors of toffee flavor dusted with Mexican-spiced chocolate while you can. –KN
abv: 40% Price: $50
Bacardi 8 in a brandy snifter or on the rocks is a great way to appreciate one of Puerto Rico’s best rums. Its aromas of nutmeg and vanilla will draw you deeper into the glass, where nuances of ginger, caramel and dried apricot dance on your palate. Aged for eight years in oak, it can rival a fine French Cognac. In 1830, Don Facundo Bacardí was credited as the first producer to purposely age rum in barrels to achieve a smooth texture. Or try Bacardi Gold, Select, Añejo, or Solera. Stay at La Concha Resort, just steps from the crashing waves, and savor a romantic dinner at Perla, a seashell-shaped restaurant surrounded by reflecting pools.
91 Bacardi 8 (The Bahamas; Bacardi USA, Miami, FL). Aged for a minimum of eight years, this full-bodied amber rum has a fruity scent with a hint of vanilla and sweet caramel flavor with a baking spice finish. Smooth feel. Good choice for mixing into cocktails. –KN
abv: 40% Price: $20 for 1 Liter St Lucia
96 Chairman’s Reserve (St. Lucia; St, Team Spirits Import Co., Bowie, MD). So this is what all the bartenders have been talking about. Bright copper-penny color and a mulled-wine aroma rich with cloves, cassia bark, and sweet dried fruit notes. The flavor is delicately balanced, sweet and spiced but not too much of either. Ginger, cinnamon, and allspice take the leading role, not vanilla, from the first sip through to the lingering, lightly spicy finish. One of the few spiced rums worth sipping straight. –KN
abv: 40% Price: $22
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, St. Lucia’s exotic offering, is excellent in a snifter or with your favorite mixer. Flavors of clove, cinnamon and allspice—think fresh-baked Christmas cookies—play on your tongue. The must-stay on the island is the stunning Jade Mountain Resort, with 24 very private, three-walled suites, each with its own infinity pool. The fourth wall was omitted by Owner/Architect Nick Troubetzkoy to afford guests unparalleled views of the island’s emblematic Gros Piton and Petit Piton mountains. You can also enjoy breathtaking scenery from the Jade Mountain Club restaurant, run by Chef Allen Susser, and the open-air Celestial Terrace—ideal for evening cocktails and stargazing.
Mount Gay Rum Extra Old, a blend of rums aged 12–17 years, is rich in aromas of vanilla and caramelized bananas, and smooth and silky in the mouth. Rum connoisseurs will love the Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection, while cocktail lovers should try the producer’s Eclipse and Eclipse Silver, as their unique flavors shine through any mixer. Kick back at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion and sail, water ski, play tennis and snorkel—or choose to just lounge around on the resort’s half-mile beach of pinkish-white sand. Dine at the open-air, white-tablecloth Palm Restaurant by night and the casual open-air Taboras Restaurant by day—it’s all good.
93 Mount Gay Extra Old (Barbados; Remy Cointreau USA, New York, NY). This drier-style rum has a soft amber color and an enticingly warm caramel fragrance. On the tongue, it has a soft feel, with crème brulee and banana flavors, braced up with lightly tannic black tea notes and a baking spice finish. While a versatile choice for all manner of cocktails, the spice profile seems a natural for enlivening warm winter toddies. –KN
abv: 43% Price: $50
Try this rum-based cocktail:
Hibiscus Rum Swizzle
By Kara Newman
This island-inspired cocktail is meant for languorous sipping. If Fruitlab Hibiscus liqueur is unavailable, try Hum liqueur or a non-alcoholic syrup substitute, such as Wild Hibiscus.
2 ounces dark rum (any of the rums mentioned in this article will work well)
1 ounce Fruitlab Hibiscus liqueur
½ ounce lime juice
2–3 ounces Ginger beer
Lime wheel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice, combine rum, hibiscus liqueur and lime juice. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass with the ice. Top with ginger beer, and gently stir or swizzle to mix. Garnish with lime wheel.