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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 half bottle of the very popular Captain Morgan Original - a blend of dark rums sourced from Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica, all of which are aged in oak casks for up to seven years.  More info
$15.95
A blend of Demerara rums, intended for mixing purposes.  More info
$16.81
Bacardi Superior 35cl
(35cl, 37.50%)
A half bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca. A great mixer, very versatile and well suited to a refreshing Daiquiri!  More info
$17.58
A blended rum with spirit from Guyana and Barbados and a seal of approval winner at the 1997 International Spirits Challenge.  More info
$21.51
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
User Rating:  Rating (0.5/5)
$21.64
Vat 19 Golden Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
A beautiful, easy-drinking 3 year old golden rum produced in Trinidad by Trinidad Distillers. Smooth and quaffable, Vat 19 is a great cocktail spirit...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$22.88
Glen's Dark Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
Glen's Dark Rum. Yep. All the way from the West Indies.  More info
$26.60
Made in Kingston, Jamaica, Appleton Estate Classic White rum is exactly that; a classic white rum. Perfect for mixing, it wouldn't go amiss in a Yellow Submarine or a traditional mojito.  More info
$26.65
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 (3.5/5)
$26.65
Ron Calados Dark Rum
(70cl, 37.70%)
Made from Caribbean rum, Ron Calados dark rum is a value for money mixing product.  More info
$26.65
Glen's White Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
This is a white rum from the West Indies, perfect for mixing in cocktails or serving over ice with a slice of lime.  More info
$26.79
SangSom
(70cl, 40%)
SangSom is a Thai rum that gained great popularity in the 1980's, thankfully it is once again beginning to get a lot more attention internationally. SangSom is made from sugar cane molasses and is...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$26.82
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
$26.82
Santa Teresa Claro
(70cl, 40%)
A Venezuelan white rum aged in American white oak for around 3 years. Santa Teresa Claro offers plenty of fruity notes, and is great in cocktails.  More info
$27.02
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
$27.19
Cockspur Five Star
(70cl, 37.50%)
A Bajan rum aged in American white oak barrels before blending. Cockspur is buttery and spicy.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (2.0/5)
$27.19
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
$27.69
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)
$27.69
Lamb's Navy Rum
(70cl, 40%)
Lamb's rum is a very good value for money Navy rum made with rums from Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$27.84
Havana Club Añejo Blanco
(70cl, 37.50%)
Añejo Blanco is a splendid mixing rum. The spirit was aged for 18 months in 180 litre barrels. Described by Havana Club's Primer Maestro Romero, Don José Navarro, as "The whitest of all aged rums, the...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$27.90
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
User Rating:  Rating (4.0/5)
$28.86
Ron Pampero Blanco Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
A crisp, fruity white rum produced in Venezuela by Ron Pampero. Aged for at least 2 years (as is the law in the country for all rum), this is a smooth, premium spirit which works well in cocktails, or...  More info
$29.28
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)
$29.38
O.V.D. Demerara Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A dark Demerara rum from Guyana. This was aged in oak casks and has a sweet, creamy flavour.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (4.5/5)
$29.78
Watson's Demerara Rum
(70cl, 40%)
A blend of Demerara rums from Guyana. The rums are matured in Guyana before blending.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (5.0/5)
$30.02
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