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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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Brugal Extra Viejo
(70cl, 38%)
An extra-aged rum from very highly respected Dominican producer Brugal.  More info
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Westerhall White Jack form Grenada is a 70% abv rum, winner of The Spirits Business Rum Gold Award 2011.  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
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Westerhall Superb Light Rum, made in Grenada, in the West Indies, and it's, well, superb!  More info
$35.67
A blend of rums of at least 5 years of age, matured in smaller barrels before marriage in cask. Appleton Estate V/X offers a wonderfully rich nose, lots of buttery sweetness.  More info
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$31.99
Inner Circle Red Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Inner Circle is an Australian rum made using top quality sugar from Fiji. This is the red edition, that's right - red rum, we've taken quite a shining to it.  More info
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$33.40
Panamanian rum from top bottler Rum Nation. Superb stuff.  More info
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Rhum J.M Gold
(70cl, 50%)
Rhum agricole from Martinique, aged in oak casks for at least 12 months.  More info
$67.02
Smatt's Silver Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Perhaps the first 'super-premium' white rum from Jamaican producer Smatt. Think Grey Goose Vodka, Junipero Gin - that kind of super-premium. Jolly nice.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$72.59
Botran Solera 1893
(70cl, 40%)
A beautiful dark rum from Guatemala. Botran Solera 1893 is aged for around 5 to 18 years using the Solera method in casks that previously held sherry, port and bourbon. The rum itself is distilled...  More info
$75.40
A handsomely packaged, beautiful little rum from El Dorado (one of our all-time favourites when it comes to Rum). This 5 year old Gold rum is fruity, rich and intensely buttery, and we have a feeling...  More info
$40.80
Delicious rum from Trinidad which, like a lot world-travellers, spent some time in France. Unlike other globe-trotters, who probably spent their time in France looking at pretty pictures in the...  More info
$73.86
Daily Tots were issued by the Royal Navy for hundred of years, up until July 1970 when they were removed. Ancient Mariner was made with the rum used by the Royal Navy in mind. To revive the classic...  More info
$59.22
El Dorado 8 Year Old
(70cl, 40%)
A more recent part of the El Dorado range, this is aged in bourbon barrels and offers a heavier body than the 5 year old, but still not as heavy as the 12 and 15, making this a great mixing rum...  More info
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Mount Gay Eclipse
(70cl, 40%)
Distilled in Barbados, this expression from Mount Gay was named for the 'double phenomenon' of a total solar eclipse and the passage of Halley's comet in 1910.  More info
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$30.48
Elements 8 Cacao Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A premium St. Lucian rum infused with criollo cacao beans, which would work well in a variety of cocktails.  More info
$51.26
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
$54.22
Sailor Jerry
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A spiced rum created by the famed tattoo artist 'Sailor Jerry' Collins. This is perhaps our favourite spiced rum, makes an incredible spiced mojito! The recipe was recently changed, and made slightly...  More info
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Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve was originally just that, a rum reserved for the family! Luckily for us the Seale family, five generations of whom have produced rum at the Foursquare distillery, chose to...  More info
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Bacardi Reserva
(70cl, 40%)
This is a fairly rare golden rum from, veteran rum producer Bacardi. This rum has been aged in oak casks and has been charcoal filtered.  More info
$59.14
A white rum from the St Nicholas Abbey distillery in Barbados. Winner of the Bronze Medal at the 2012 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, the highest medal awarded in its category.  More info
$67.02
A staggering overproof rum sourced from Trinidad and created by the Cognac Ferrand estate. This stuff is bottled at 73% abv and is aged in young bourbon casks before bottling.  More info
$56.19
Rhum St Barth Cool
(70cl, 50%)
This white rum is bottled at 50% abv let has a smooth and deliciously sweet flavour to it that can be added to a variety of punches and cocktails.  More info
$79.66
An award winning rum; this took a silver at the 2006 and 2007 International Wine and Spirits Competitions. This also attained a Gold at the International Review of Spirits. A great mixing rum, very...  More info
$33.47
Spiced rum from Saint Lucia. Impressively, it was the only spiced or flavoured rum to receive a Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2013.  More info
$34.70
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