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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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Myer's Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A dark rum that works well in cocktails, Myer's Rum is a Jamaican rum named after Fred L Myers who created that brand in 1879. It is a blend of 9 different rums.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$33.38
A top quality 12 year old rum from the Nicaraguan producer, Flor de Caña. This is fine sipping rum, with flavours like toffee apple and buttery vanilla. We love it.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$66.53
Bottled at a high proof, this is a delicious spiced rum which was produced in Grenada by the Clarkes Court company. Very good indeed.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$53.66
St Nicholas Abbey in Barbados won Best Distillery at Rumfest 2012, whilst this rare single cask 15 year old offering won a Gold at the Rum Masters.  More info
$272.96
Santa Teresa 1796 is a blend of Venezuelan rums, vatted using the solera system, blended from rums aged between 8 and 12 years of age. After blending it is aged for a further year in bourbon barrels...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$70.87
This was distilled in column stills in Guatemala before a three year maturation in bourbon barrels. It was then transported to Cognac Ferrand in France for a four month finish in Cognac casks...  More info
$45.79
Bacardi 8 Year Old
(70cl, 40%)
Bacardi's premium rum release, the 8 year old is blended with rums aged for between 8 and 16 years.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$45.27
This spirit from Ron Millonario is a beautifully packaged solera-aged rum from Peru. Distilled in column stills, it comes packaged in a woven-covered bottle and it was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2009...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$70.37
Old Grog
(70cl, 40%)
Old Grog takes it's name for from the rum shipped from Grenada to England for King George III. This rum was labelled Georgius Rex Old Grenada and the abbreviation was taken to name this golden rum.  More info
$49.88
Skipper Demerara Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A delicious dark rum distilled in Guyana, Skipper was launched in 1930 and it still has the same label! A rich, thick spirit which works brilliantly well in cocktails, or with cola and a squeeze of...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$29.04
Botran Reserva
(70cl, 40%)
Botran Reserva is a delicious Guatemalan rum aged for between 5 and 14 years. Made from the best virgin sugar honey, this rum is aged in a Solera system in a mix of bourbon, port and sherry casks.  More info
$59.87
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
$46.67
A 12 year old dark rum from Ron Abuelo of Panama. They age their rum in whiskey barrels, which adds a distinct vanilla sweetnses. This 12 year old was launched in 2009, and is elegant, slightly smoky...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$54.88
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
$42.76
A well-aged Antiguan rum, blended from rums aged between 10 and 25 years. This was matured in bourbon barrels.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$144.05
A top quality rum hand selected by the master blender from select casks at Angostura. This is matured in American oak bourbon barrels for at least 12 years when it is blended and re-casked. It offers...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$80.75
A glass buccaner's pistol full of Mocambo Mexican rum! Produced in Cordoba, this is the perfect gift for the pirate in your life.  More info
$39.11
Watson's Trawler Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Navy style dark rum made using spirit from Barbados and Guyana, aged in their countries of origin.  More info
$29.04
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
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$44.13
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)
$67.73
A 7 year old Cuban rum, awarded gold medals at the Chicago World Spirits Championship in both 1995 and 1997. This was "añejo" the first Havana Club expression intended for sipping. Also makes a...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$39.31
Jack Iron is a light-coloured, overproof rum from the Westerhall Estate in St David's, Grenada. It is made to a secret recipe and is intended as a mixing rum.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$70.37
This St Lucian rum is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and is famed for its smoothness. The rum is named after
Georges Brydges Rodney, a British naval officer, famous for his tactical acumen, who fought...  More info
$66.26
Dictador 20 Year Old
(70cl, 40%)
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)
$82.85
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
$64.11
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