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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 bottle of Myers’s Planters’ Punch Rum, produced at the dawn of the '80s in 1981. A very enjoyable blend of Jamaican rums created all the way back in 1879.  More info
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Captain Morgan Carta Blanca produced in the 1960s, back when the Captain was wearing ridiculous trousers and dancing to psychedelic renditions of sea-shanties.

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The Captain doesn't just love dark rum and spiced rum. Back in the 1970s, he also had a hankering for white rum, as evident by this rare bottle of Captain Morgan Carta Blanca, which has been kept in...  More info
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An 1970s bottle of Bardinet Rhum Negrita, a blend of West and East Indies rums bottled by the French distillers. Rare, collectible and in good condition.  More info
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This collectible bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca white rum was produced in the power-suited, big-haired decade known as the 1980s. Heady days indeed.  More info
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An old, rare bottle of Australian Rum, produced by Filippo Zanelli all the way back between 1949 and 1959. However, it was produced in Italy, Bologna to be exact, which is quite far away from...  More info
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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
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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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White Jamaican rum, made by Burke's in the 1990s. In great condition, it still even has the straw tied around it - a collectible piece.  More info
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Bacardi Carta de Oro from the 1970s, in a 100cl bottle no less! A rather large and rare antique from over 30 years ago. If you're looking for a way to add something a little different and flavoursome...  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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Produced in the 1960s, this is a rare bottle of Rhum St. Gilles, a brand which is no longer with us. Interestingly, it was bottled by Stock, a well known (in their day) Italian liqueur maker.

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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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A Duncan Taylor bottling of single cask rum from the Bellevue distillery in Guadeloupe. It was distilled in March 1998 and bottled in February 2014 with an outturn of 213 bottles of 15 year old rum...  More info
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This is a blanc rhum agricole from the Rhum Bielle, located on the small island of Marie-Galante, located just south of Guadeloupe. It's been bottled at 59% ABV, preserving its intense, grassy and...  More info
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All the way from gorgeous Trinidad comes this 1999 vintage rum, distilled by Caroni and bottled by Mezan. Independently bottled rum isn't a regular sight on these shores, so it's always a treat when...  More info
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Part of the Mezan range of single distillery rum, this 1999 vintage rum from Panama comes from the Distilleria Don Jose, which was founded in 1936. They also make the Ron Abuelo brand of Panamanian...  More info
$64.82
A Duncan Taylor bottling of St. Lucia single cask pot still rum. It came into this universe in September 2002 and spent 11 years maturing in an oak cask until February 2014. A release of 226 bottles.  More info
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The label for this bottling of Rivers Royale Grenadian Rum claims that it is a "Slightly Overproof Rum". Sitting at an eye-watering 75% ABV, we'd have to agree! It was produced at the River Antoine...  More info
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A special edition rum from St Lucia Distillers, named after the year that the Dennery Distillery was founded in St. Lucia. In 1972, the Dennery Distillery merged with another to form St. Lucia...  More info
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Classic white rum from Dominican producers, Brugal, which is aged for at least one year to mellow out some of the overly intense qualities of rum straight from the still. This tasty rum is no stranger...  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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This is a bottling of 11 year old rum from Panama in Central America. After it matured in oak for 11 years, developing rich wells of spice and golden syrup notes, Berry Bros. & Rudd decided it was...  More info
$82.28
An ancient bottle of Spanish rum produced in the 1950s which appears to have wax at the bottom and some sticks stuck in it for potentially decorative effect. We don't recommend that you drink or even...  More info
$347.52
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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