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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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This is a rare bottling of Cooper's Finest Quality Demerara Rum from the 1950's and would look fantastic in any spirits collection.  More info
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This dark Jamaican rum was specially designed to compliment a fine cigar and was named Rum of the Year, receiving a Gold medal at the 2008 ISW spirits competition. Coruba is made for the Swiss-based...  More info
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Coruba is a delicious golden rum from Jamaica, distilled by the Rum Company Ltd in Kingston. It is aged in oak for 18 years before being bottled by hand.  More info
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A rare 1960s bottling of Courville Rhum. C'est magnifique!  More info
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Distilled at St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, Cruzan is the only distillery on the island. This is made with rums aged for up to 12 years, which are blended and allowed to marry for a further year...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
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Cruzan is a golden rum from St Croiz which is aged in oak barrels for up to twelve years. Cruzan have been making rum since the Eighteenth century as such they have truly perfected their craft...  More info
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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
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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
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Dictador 20 Year Old
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Aged in a Solera system for between 14 and 24 years, this delicious Colombian rum was made by the Dictador company. It is brought down to bottling strength with demineralised water slowly - drop by...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$78.88
Dictador Insolent XO
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The Dictador Insolent XO Rum is produced in Columbia and aged in a selection of casks - ex-bourbon, ex-Sherry and Port casks were used to create this sweet, spicy, mocha-rich rum.  More info
$124.31
A top notch white rum from Diplomático, this is a blend of rums aged up to six years. This is made with copper pot still rums and is charcoal filtered for greater clarity. Blanco Reserva was donned...  More info
$59.23
A single cask Panamanian rum from Don Jose. Bottled by Duncan Taylor, just 272 bottles were produced.  More info
$108.21
A white rum from Doorly's in Barbados. This is a fruity, aromatic white rum, great in cocktails.  More info
$42.17
This rum hails from the 1960s and is a fantastic little number. Be aware that the level of the rum has dropped to the shoulder of the bottle.  More info
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A very, very exciting special edition from El Dorado. This was distilled in 1980 and, by Jove, it's one of the most fantastic rums you'll ever try, aged for a whopping 25 years.  More info
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$539.35
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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)
$609.19
This is a honey and cream liqueur with a Caribbean rum base produced in the 1970s. This is both collectable and a great ingredient for an antique cocktail.  More info
$76.96
Elements 8 Spiced Rum
(70cl, 40%)
This tasty spiced rum was launched during the Summer for 2010. Elements 8 combines top quality dark rum with lovely Caribbean spices, as well as fruit and honey. This stuff is aged in bourbon barrels...  More info
$51.31
Single cask rum from the same distillery in Guyana that produces El Dorado? Heck. Yes. Please.  More info
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A 19 year old Demerara rum from Guyana, this was distilled at the Enmore Still in 1988 and bottled at 46% abv by Berry Bros. & Rudd.  More info
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ESA Fields White
(70cl, 40%)
A Bajan white rum, E.S.A.F is quite aromatic and made from the extract of sugar cane juice. The most popular rum in Barbados!  More info
A marvellous 9 year old rum from Fiji, bottled by top wine merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd. Expect oodles of creamy, fruity flavour.  More info
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A great fifteen year-old rum, Flor de Caña Centenario 21 is an awe-inspiring bottling, the Spirit Journal's F Paul Pacult rated this as one of the world's top ten spirits in 2003, quite an accolade!  More info
A bottling of Four Bells Guyanese rum from the 1990s.  More info
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Foursquare 1998
(70cl, 40%)
A single cask rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados (makers of a very successful spiced rum). This was distilled in 1998 and aged for 10 years in a bourbon cask (cask 2807) before bottling in...  More info

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