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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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Dzama 3 Year Old Rhum
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Flor de Caña recommend this gold 4 year old rum as a mixing product. It was awarded a Best in Class at the 2005 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.  More info
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A young, light rum from Green Island, a great producer of rum in Mauritius. This is distilled from molasses in a four column still, and the rum in the bottle is aged for between 3 and 5 years in oak...  More info
$41.78
A delicious dark rum from Ron Pampero, this is made in continuous stills in Venezuela. It's full, rich and very fruity.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$57.09
Produced in Trinidad and Tobago, this is a youthful blend of young dark rums aged in bourbon casks and bottled by the Plantation company. A light, elegant spirit.  More info
$33.62
Deep, intense rum from Venezuelan producer Pampero. Superb sipping rum.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (3.5/5)
$33.58
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
$280.69
Made in St David's in Grenada, Westerhall Estate 12 Degrees Clear is a light rum with just a hint of sweetness. It was distilled twice in copper pot-stills before a two year maturation in plain oak...  More info
$40.55
A delicious blend of rums from the Caribbean, Rebellion Premium Black is bottled in The Netherlands. This is a lovely dark rum with a superb cocoa-rich palate.  More info
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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
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Plantation 3 Stars is a crisp, tasty white rum made by blending spirit produced in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados. Some of the rums in the blend are aged, though their colour is removed via a process...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
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This is a light and mellow, gold medal winning white rum from Clarkes Court.  More info
$40.22
A tangy, punchy white rhum agricole made in Martinique by the legendary Trois Rivières. Loads of flavour here, this works really well in white rum cocktails such as a Daiquiri of a Mojito.  More info
$56.84
A premium Columbian Solera rum from Dictador, complete with their European design and Japanese bottles. This XO release is aged in the finest oak casks and brought down to 40% abv with demineralised...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
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Añejo Especial is made from oak aged aguardientes. It is a great everyday Cuban rum, that works well in cocktails.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
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Independently bottled single barrel rum! Yum yum yum! This was distilled in 2000 by the West India Distillers in Barbados. It matured in a single bourbon barrel until it was bottled by Svenska...  More info
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This single barrel rum is quite the globe trotter. It was distilled in Jamaica at the Hampden Distillery in 2000 and matured in a bourbon barrel. In 2013, it was bottled by Svenska Eldvatten in...  More info
$136.77
Westerhall Superb Light Rum, made in Grenada, in the West Indies, and it's, well, superb!  More info
$44.40
Flamboyant Vieux Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Produced in Mauritius, Flamboyant Vieux Rum is a blended expression that has been aged in oak casks for 7 years in ex-bourbon barrels before being bottled. The rum gets its name from the tree on the...  More info
$53.13
Admiral Benbow Navy Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
This was named after the legendary Admiral John Benbow who served in the Royal Navy from 1678 to 1702. It's a rich navy-style rum and it works very well in cocktails or with mixers.  More info
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