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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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Old Salt Rum
(50cl, 42%)
The Old Salt Rum is the only rum to be produced in the United Kingdom and is made from a careful selection of molasses and raw sugar cane in Cambridge.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$49.98
A staggering overproof rum sourced from Trinidad and created by the Cognac Ferrand estate. This stuff is bottled at 73% abv and is aged in young bourbon casks before bottling.  More info
$55.51
SangSom
(70cl, 40%)
SangSom is a Thai rum that gained great popularity in the 1980's, thankfully it is once again beginning to get a lot more attention internationally. SangSom is made from sugar cane molasses and is...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$24.76
This is Matusalem's premium expression of Solera aged rum, the 23 Gran Reserva. The company was once based in Cuba, but have since moved to the Dominican Republic. They Solera age the majority of...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$98.16
A Grenadian rum. Not a Grenadine rum. Or a rum made from Grenadiers.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$60.52
An indulgent 15 year old rum from Ron Mulata, produced in Cuba, exclusively making use of their top quality Cuban cane syrup. It has been aged in 180 litre oak casks, which the distillers say give it...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$85.03
A Navy Strength edition of the classic Smith and Cross Jamaica rum, this stuff is beautiful for sipping neat, and works tremendously well with a couple of ice cubes and a squeeze of lime juice.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$49.74
A lovely spiced rum from Mauritius, Green Island Gold is fabulous in a Dirty Mojito!  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.0/5)
$40.85
Diplomático Reserva
(70cl, 40%)
A very good aged rum from Diplomático in Venezuela. This is mix of both potstill and column still rums. This was awarded a Gold Medal at the Rum Experience 2007 in London.  More info
$43.79
St Aubin Agricole Rhum Vanilla is a delicious, laid back rum combined with vanilla grown on the St Aubin plantations in Mauritius. The sugary addition from the vanilla makes this an excellent rum for...  More info
$42.38
Inner Circle Red Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Inner Circle is an Australian rum made using top quality sugar from Fiji. This is the red edition, that's right - red rum, we've taken quite a shining to it.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$31.46
This is a dark rum from Clarkes Court which is aged in ex-Bourbon casks to give it it's amber hue and oaky flavour.  More info
$45.82
Deadhead is a 6 year old rum in a bottle shaped like a shrunken head, known as a Tsantsa, a trophy kept from a defeated enemy. Unique doesn't even cut it, as far as this bottle goes. The rum itself is...  More info
$69.25
Panamanian rum from Rum Nation. Not Zombie Nation. That's something different.  More info
$144.99
The distillers behind Ron Mulata only use Cuban sugar cane syrup to produce their fantastic rum. They also only use 180 litre white oak barrels to age it. This expression, for example, spent 7 long...  More info
$34.37
A single cask Diamond pot-distilled rum. Now, that doesn't mean it was distilled from diamonds, because that would be quite hard. No, it means it comes from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana. After...  More info
$100.19
The Diamond distillery doesn't distil diamonds. No, they make something much better: rum! Duncan Taylor have bottled a single cask of their excellent 10 year old rum from Guyana, with an outturn of...  More info
$103.89
Ron Barceló Añejo
(70cl, 37.50%)
Lovely golden/dark rum from the Dominican Republic, Ron Barceló Añejo works well in cocktails, or on the rocks.  More info
$33.74
Pyrat Rum Cask 1623
(75cl, 40%)
Distilled on Anguilla, this is a very limited release rum, matured in oak for as much as 40 years! The decanter is made of hand-blown glass, and it comes in a handmade walnut case.  More info
$346.43
This is a bottle of Rhum Fantasia, produced by the Italian company Moretto in the 1970s and bottled at 40% abv.  More info
$187.47
A Jamaican rum, this was bottled at 50%. One of the earliest vintages of rum we've seen.  More info
$600.09
Stroh Inländer 80
(50cl, 80%)
Stroh 80 is an intense, fiery spiced rum from Austria, made with all kinds of spice extracts and essences. It is worth trying in warming hot chocolates, or in spicy cocktails such as the Jagertee.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.0/5)
$45.62
This superb reserve rum was distilled in Barbados in both traditional pot stills and column stills before a maturation in sherry and bourbon casks. After absorbing flavour and complexity from this...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$54.07
This is a delicious dark rum from Nicaragua, distilled there in column stills in 2001, after quite a short fermentation. It was then matured in bourbon casks and finished in Cognac casks before...  More info
$52.51
10 Cane Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A white rum created by Hennessy's Master Distiller, Jean Pineau. He created 10 Cane rum by applying the standards employed by Cognac makers. This is distilled from sugarcane as opposed to the usual...  More info
$48.55

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