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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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The best-selling high proof rum in the world. 90% of rum sales in Jamaica are of Wray and Nephew. Overproof is a very potent spirit indeed!  More info
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A white rum from the Martinique. This J Bally Blanc was distilled from fresh sugar cane juice in the rhum agricole style.  More info
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A 1998 vintage Rhum Agricole from J. Bally, a producer in Martinique.  More info
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12 year old Jamaican rum, as bottled by the talented chaps at Berry Bros. & Rudd. Perfect for slowly sipping on a sunny afternoon.  More info
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Superb Trinidad Light Rum, blended and bottled by Keith Abbott LTD in the 1970s. Rather rare, if a bit plainly decorated.  More info
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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
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L'amitié White Rum
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What type of ship is the friendliest? A friendship!

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La Hechicera is Spanish for "the enchantress"... This rum was made in Colombia and is Solera-aged rum aged for between 12 and 21 years in bourbon barrels. Very good indeed.  More info
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La Mauny 1749 Ambré is an aged Rhum Agricole from Martinique, an island in the Caribbean. 1749 Ambré is matured for at least 12 months before it is bottled.  More info
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Looking to take the first step into Rhum Agricole, a rum made with the juice of freshly squeezed sugar cane, but don't know where to start? This Blanc Rhum Agricole from La Mauny would make a great...  More info
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Made with a blend of 6 rums which have been aged between 8 and 30 years in a mix of new oak and ex-bourbon casks, La Mauny Extra Rubis is an extraordinary premium rum. It was produced in Martinique, a...  More info
$275.36
Lamb's Navy Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Lamb's rum is a very good value for money Navy rum made with rums from Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.  More info
$28.51
Lamb's Navy Rum 1.5l
(150cl, 40%)
Lamb's is a classic rum blended from 18 different pot still rums from the Caribbean. The result is a rich, oaky Navy rum.  More info
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This is a bottle of Lamb's Demerara Navy Rum, a rare style of their excellent rum, based on oak-aged spirit distilled in Guyana, which is where the Demerara River flows. This bottle is bigger than...  More info
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This is a rare Lamb's Navy Rum Decanter, produced in the 1980s. Like almost everything from Lamb's, this has plenty of maritime influence to it, not just in the style of rum, but the decanter's design...  More info
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13 year old single cask rum produced by the Long Pond distillery and bottled by Duncan Taylor. The rums from Long Pond are usually used in blending rather than released by themselves, so this is...  More info
$103.14
This is a bottle of Lopez Hermanos Ron Guarani, a white rum which was produced in the 1970s in Malaga, Spain. I've been to Malaga. It's very nice. Didn't see any of this rum, though. Maybe if I went...  More info
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An interesting blend of rum made with sugar cane juice and rum made with molasses, which is then aged for 10 years in oak barrels. A Mexican spirit, the "Los Valientes" rum comes from the phrase...  More info
$39.01
A beautifully presented 12 year old Martinique rhum agricole (made from cane juice) from Rum Nation. Wicked skills.  More info
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A Dominican rum, distilled in continuous stills and matured for an average of a decade using the solera system, the brand was started in Cuba in 1872, though eventually it emigrated, following the...  More info
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This was first produced in Santiago de Cuba over 130 years ago. It is aged using the Solera process, so on average the rums contained herein are 15 years old.  More info
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Matusalem Platino Rum
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A triple distilled white rum, aged using the solera method in the Dominican Republic. Matusalem Platino is crisp, clean and tangy, and works beautifully in cocktails.  More info
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A seven year old 'Solera' rum from Dominican producer Matusalem. Great in cocktails, but more than good enough to be sipped.  More info
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Medford Rum
(75cl, 40%)
New England used to be rather renowned for its rum, with rum from Medford being well regarded to the point of it becoming somewhat of a "thing". Though this was a long time ago, GrandTen Distilling in...  More info
$78.25
This is a blend of casks from two distilleries in Jamaica: Monymusk and Hampden. The latter distillery has Scottish roots, and is one of the oldest sugar plantations in the country. It has always been...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$44.44
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