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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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A 1998 vintage Rhum Agricole from J. Bally, a producer in Martinique.  More info
$93.29
Let me introduce my good friend Ron (rum in Spanish). This one litre bottling of Bacardi Superior rum comes from the 1990s.  More info
$122.24
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
$36.67
Bacardi Superior 1.5l
(150cl, 37.50%)
A magnum of the classic Carta Blanca white rum from Bacardi. First created by Don Facundo Bacardi, a Spaniard who travelled to Cuba as a teenager.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$82.05
Single cask pot-distilled rum, all the way from Fiji. It doesn't get much more exotic than that! Produced by the South Pacific Distillery in 2003, it matured in cask 18 for 10 years until it was...  More info
$112.82
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
$40.25
Rhum J.M White
(70cl, 50%)
A white Rhum Agricole from Martinique. Rhum JM offers an intense aroma of pepper, floral notes and tropical fruit, with a sweet, warming palate with loads of flavour.  More info
$59.66
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
$45.30
Appleton Estate created this as a great mixing rum. Classic White was a Gold Medal winner at the 1998 International Wine and Spirits Competition.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.0/5)
$28.20
This is a white rum from Diplomático which is a blend of rums up to six years old that have been distilled in copper pot stills then filtered through charcoal. This is a truly premium product.  More info
$46.18
Bacardi Superior
(70cl, 37.50%)
Let us introduce the world's most popular spirit… No backbar is complete without the classic white rum Bacardi Carta Blanca, originally produced in Cuba - at the first distillery there was a colony of...  More info
$28.78
Angostura Reserva
(70cl, 37.50%)
3 year old white rum from Trinidad, this is distilled in Angostura's 5-column still, and is aged in American oak bourbon barrels.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$34.36
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
$57.06
A fascinating single cask rum distilled at the Uitvlught distillery in Guyana. It was matured for 16 years and bottled by Duncan Taylor in February 2014.  More info
$135.60
Sagatiba Pura Silver
(70cl, 38%)
Sagatiba means "The Infinite Saga", this is an unaged cachaça, the Beverage Testing Institute rated this "Exceptional", awarding it 91 points.  More info
$33.09
This is a 2003 vintage from the Plantation range, distilled in column stills in Grenada and aged in bourbon casks. It was then taken to France where it was aged in Cognac Ferrand casks...  More info
$60.42
Flying Dutchman White Rum is made with pure cane molasses and may be the first ever European rum! This triple-distilled white rum has been aged for 6 months in oak casks and won a Silver Medal at the...  More info
$43.97
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
$46.21
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
$36.94
As experts in making eau-de-vie and capturing the spirit of the fresh fruit in their drinks, St. George Spirits have expanded their horizons on what they can extract cracking flavours from, to the...  More info
$84.46
Sunset Light Rum SLR
(75cl, 40%)
A white rum distilled on the island of Saint Vincent. Sunset SLR was created in 1998, and it has a light, delicate flavour that works well in cocktails.  More info
$32.27
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
$54.33
A blended rum from 2001 - bottled by Duncan Taylor.  More info
$104.31
Guyana once had a rather bustling distillery community back in the day, but those days have sadly passed. However, don't be sad for too long, as Berry Bros. & Rudd can still get their hands on...  More info
$109.40
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)
$45.81
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