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Rum

Rum is such an evocative spirit. It transforms, transcends and instantly transports the drinker to the sun-washed shores of the West Indies; white sands, palm trees and blue seas. It always has a sense of joviality, in part thanks to its Caribbean origins, and also because of the unabashed decadence surrounding a libation made from sugar.

The kind of sugar used is one of the key differentiating factors in rum production. In the Spanish and British Antilles, for example, rum is traditionally distilled from molasses - a by-product of sugar production. In the French Caribbean islands, however, sugarcane juice (sometimes called sugarcane honey) is used instead of molasses. Countries like Martinique and Guadeloupe are famed for producing spirit distilled from sugarcane juice, known as rhum agricole - French for 'agricultural rum'. The spirit is often made in a way that more closely resembles the distillation of some of the famous French brandies, such as Cognac or Armagnac. Younger varieties often exude a tangy, herbal flavour, whilst the aged varieties (often matured in Cognac casks) will offer up subtlety and complexity, just like any fine aged spirit.

The Caribbean has been cultivated for sugar for centuries, and the various occupiers, be they Spanish, French or English, have their own terms for the spirit; Ron, Rhum and, of course, Rum, respectively.

As far as British involvement with the spirit, there has always been a strong connection with the Royal Navy. Indeed, at one time the Navy afforded their sailors a half pint of rum as part of their daily ration. The rum was traded and export grew in large part because of the export possibilities that sea travel brought about.

Many competing arguments exist as to the origins of the term "rum”. The most convincing is that it is a shortened version of "rumbullion” – a word meaning great uproar and noise, and a good reminder of the often violent, dramatic history of rum. Other terms have existed, including "kill devil” which was used to describe spirit distilled from molasses.

Due to the huge geographical territory in which rum is produced, there are many variants in production, the type of still being one of the most obvious. Usually, pot stills are used to distil thick, rich, aged rums (El Dorado 15 and El Pusser’s are good examples). Continuous column stills, on the other hand, are used to produce white spirits best associated with cocktails.

Maturation is an interesting aspect too. White rums are either unaged or aged only very briefly. Classics such as Bacardi Superior are crisp and tangy and work brilliantly well in cocktails. Gold rums tend to be a mix of spirit old and new, and also work nicely in cocktails, with an increase in complexity and flavour. For the connoisseurs of sipping spirit, however, dark rums are the preference. These can be tremendously refined and delicious, thanks in no small part to the tropical nature of the climate. The hot weather allows Caribbean rums to mature particularly rapidly - at as much as thrice the rate of Scotch Whisky . In this respect a 15 year old rum is the equivalent of a 45 year old whisky!

Other geographical factors come into play too, and some of the top rum-producing countries have attained their own unique style.

Jamaica is perhaps one of the most prolific rum nations today, with its own unique style. Prior to distillation, the molasses are typically allowed to ferment for a great length of time. This is then followed by distillation in pot stills. The result is intensity and body, often with notes of tropical fruit and banana. Appleton Estate and Wray and Nephew are superlative examples.

Barbados is another prime rum territory. One of the original islands to begin rum distillation, Barbadian rums are often superbly balanced, with deliciously aromatic tendencies. There are three main distilleries on the island (West Indies Rum Distillery, Mount Gay and Foursquare), and each makes use of pot stills. These are easy-drinking rums, with some of the longer-aged variants (Doorly’s XO, for example) working brilliantly as sipping spirits.

Guyana is one of our favourite rum nations, thanks in no small part to the heavy, Demerara rums bottled in the El Dorado range. These are full-bodied spirits, traditionally the main constituent in British Navy rum. Made in a mix of pot stills and column stills, there is quite a variety of flavour to be found. Where once there were more than 200 distilleries, today there is only one. We suggest you seek out El Dorado 15 for an example of just how good Guyana rum can be!

Latin America is home to the lighter, fresher cocktail rums. The popularity of such spirit (with the advent of the recent cocktail revolution) has transformed the place into the most prolific region of all. It all started, however, with Bacardi, originally produced in Cuba before the country's factories were nationalised. Today, Bacardi is made in Puerto Rico, and the classic Carta Blanca remains a mainstay for many cocktails including the Daiquiri. Countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela and Trinidad play hosts to some of the world's top distilleries. Brands such as Ron Zacapa, Brugal and Pampero - among many others - are well worth a look.

Whilst not always thought of as a true rum, this introduction would not be complete without a mention of Cachaça. The famous spirit, made almost exclusively in Brazil, is traditionally enjoyed as part of a Caipirinha cocktail, and its production closely resembles Rhum Agricole. It is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, and is bottled at between 38% and 54%ABV. One interesting aspect is the legally permissible addition of up to six grams of sugar per litre, giving the spirit additional sweetness. Varieties are sold both aged and unaged, with the former being a more premium style thanks to the extra complexity imbued by the use of wooden barrels. To sample some fine Cachaça, look for the superb distilleries Germana and Abelha. We recommend you enjoy the aged varieties neat, whilst the tangier white Cachaça is best drunk in the aforementioned Caipirinha - a cocktail made simply with two shots of Cachaça, half a lime and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Delicious!

Recently, rum has surged in popularity. Its regard as a fine cocktail mixer is good and widespread and a number of the world’s most popular drinks are rum-based - the Daiquiri and the Mojito being two prime examples. It is only recently, though, that our beloved rum has really been enjoyed en masse as a standalone beverage of true merit, and this new direction is excellent, for rum is as much a connoisseur’s libation as any other dark spirit. Like all dark spirits, a stemmed tulip glass is best for optimum palate entry and for focusing the aroma.

Rum

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Tasting Sets
Rumbullion!
(70cl, 42.60%)
A sure-fire hit from Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, Rumbullion! is a cockle-warming spiced concoction, based on the kind of rich, full-bodied rums the seafaring fraternity would have enjoyed...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$53.16
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$234.78
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth took his famous Rumbullion! and bottled it at Navy Strength to create a much much bigger drink. This is a warming concoction that would no doubt give a sailor vim and...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$73.51
A smart looking Venezuelan rum, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is matured in whiskey barrels. This was awarded a Gold Medal at the International Sugar Cane Spirits Tasting Competition in Ybor City.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$58.10
Just when you thought Rumbullion! and Rumbullion! Navy-Strength couldn't be beat, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth emerges from his laboratory with 'Rumbullion! XO 15 Years Old'. Once again, it's a...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$93.86
Pusser's Blue Label
(70cl, 54.50%)
Blue Label is a higher proof traditional British Naval rum, produced using the blending recipe from the Admiralty. Pusser's is produced in the same stills as El Dorado.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$51.36
Ron de Jeremy
(70cl, 40%)
For those of you aren’t familiar with his work, Ron Jeremy is a long-standing leading man in some of the more #ahem# ‘artistic’ films in the gentleman’s section of your local video store. Ron...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$49.74
Quite possibly the greatest packaging ever to grace our humble, but delicious, shelves. R L Seales is a rich 10 year old rum from Barbados, lots of character and richness, very smooth too.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$51.07
This was rated the best rum in the world at the International Wine and Spirit Competition four years running. This is pot-distilled and matured in bourbon barrels.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$65.09
An excellent spiced rum, with utterly brilliant packaging! This was launched in the UK in early 2010, and it has an extraordinarily rich, spicy flavour. Named for the legendary sea monster, Kraken is...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$32.65
RedLeg Spiced Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
RedLeg is a superb spiced rum made with Caribbean spirit which was aged in old oak whilst being infused with Jamaican vanilla and ginger. Just superb and very good on a crisp Winter's evening!  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$30.88
Made from rums of between 21 and 25 years of age, matured in 45 gallon oak casks, within six degrees of the equator in Guyana. El Dorado 21 was awarded a Gold at the International Rum Festival 2003 in...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$113.08
A firm favourite here at the Master of Malt, this is a truly superb Guatemalan rum, blended using the solera system. Sublime stuff. This was matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. The Beverage...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$75.22
A super high strength dark rum from Bermuda. Despite the 75.5% of Gosling's Black Seal 151, this is a very smooth rum, and it's utterly delicious. Well worth trying.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$48.96
Gosling's Black Seal
(70cl, 40%)
A much rated rum from Bermuda. This was rated 96 out of 100 at the World Spirits Championship. It is named for the black sealing wax used to seal the stopper in place.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$31.89
Mount Gay 1703
(70cl, 43%)
A new and very exciting addition to the Mount Gay range. 1703 celebrates the foundation of the Barbados-based Mount Gay distillery, and it was created by Allen Smith, the master distiller. It contains...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$161.97
Mount Gay Extra Old
(70cl, 43%)
A full bodied rum from Barbados, very enjoyable. This was awarded its 5th Gran Gold award at the Monde Selection in Brussels, as well as a trophy at the 2001 International Spirits Challenge in...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$55.68
El Dorado 12 Year Old
(70cl, 40%)
A great 12 year old Demerara rum from El Dorado. This has won golds at the Caribbean Rum Taste Test in London 7 times in the first 10 years! There are nine stills at the distillery, and this is based...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$46.96
The flagship from the Gosling's rage. Family Reserve is made using top quality rums from Bermuda. Each bottle is hand labelled, dipped in wax, packed into boxes, stamped, put in the post box, you'll...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$75.64
Pusser's 15 Year Old
(70cl, 40%)
A 15 year old Naval Rum. Traditionally, this rum would be afforded to seamen as part of their daily ration. A double dose was offered before battle, given to the sailors by the ship's purser...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$63.04
Bundaberg Overproof
(70cl, 57.70%)
A higher strength rum from Australia's Bundaberg. The name "Overproof" refers to an archaic means of tasting the strength of a spirit. In the days of yore, gunpowder would be saturated with the...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.0/5)
$41.85
STRICTLY 1 PER CUSTOMER
A very special release from Guyana's rum experts El Dorado - the 1986 vintage 25 year old Demerara rum. A blend of rums chosen in 2011 by the late George Robinson, master...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$594.89
This 15 year old is created by 'repeatedly' blending the rums and aguardientes and maturing them in old oak barrels. Havana Club's Primer Maestro Ronero, Don JosÚ Navarro, describes this as "Cuban...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$181.37
Appleton Estate 12 is a blend of rums aged for between 12 and 18 years. Dave Broom describes this as "the finest aged rum from Jamaica"!  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$50.04
Rebellion Spiced Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
A beautiful Trinidadian rum from a distillery founded in 1824. The producers recommend Rebellion Spiced be served long with cola and ice (and a squeeze of fresh lime juice).  More info
$31.64
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