Rum is a unique spirit which has captured the hearts of connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Originating in the 17th-century Caribbean, rum has a rich and often tragic history. It’s made from either molasses, a by-product of sugar refining, or directly from sugarcane juice. The process of fermenting and distilling these sweet ingredients gives birth to a drink that ranges from light and fruity to dark and complex.

Whether you’re buying for yourself, or it’s a gift for a friend or loved one, the world of rum, with its vast number of styles, flavours, and regions can be a bit daunting. For that reason, we’ve put together a selection of fabulous rums to suit any budget.

The West Indies Distillery, Barbados

The West Indies Distillery, Barbados, home of Plantation rum

So just what is rum?

The production of rum varies greatly, depending on the region and the desired final product (see our fabulous Rum Guide for more information). In general, the process begins with the extraction of sugarcane juice or molasses, which is then fermented. The fermentation process is where the magic begins, as the natural yeasts or added cultures convert the sugars into alcohol. This alcohol is then distilled, a process that intensifies the flavour and increases the alcohol content. The distilled spirit can be bottled immediately as a light rum, or it can undergo a maturation process in oak barrels, resulting in darker rums with more complex flavours.

Rum’s versatility is one of its most appealing aspects. Light rums are perfect for cocktails, adding a sweet, smooth base without overpowering other flavours. Darker rums, aged in barrels, develop richer, deeper notes – think vanilla, caramel, and spice. All of that makes them ideal for sipping neat or on the rocks. Some premium rums are aged for many years, acquiring a complexity that rivals fine whiskies and Cognacs.

What are the main styles of rum?

There are several styles of rum, and each offers up its own unique flavour profile and character. The key influences are the choice of using either molasses or pure sugarcane juice, the type of still used, and then the use of oak, and the types of cask used in the maturation process.

Rhum Agricole

It all starts with sugar cane

White rum

White rums are characterised by their clear colour and light body. They are typically distilled in column stills, which results in a cleaner, milder flavour profile. These rums are often aged in stainless steel tanks, or for a very short period in oak barrels, and then filtered to remove any colour. The result is a subtle, versatile spirit, perfect for cocktails where the rum doesn’t need to do all that much alongside the other ingredients, like the classic Mojito or Daiquiri.

Gold or amber rum

Gold rums are aged longer than light rums, typically in charred oak barrels. This ageing process imparts a golden colour and a more pronounced flavour with smoother, richer nuances. But beware, many gold rums get their colour wholly or in part from the addition of caramel. Appearances can be deceptive but on the whole gold rums offer flavours like vanilla, almond, citrus, and caramel.

Dark rum

Dark rums are aged the longest and often feature heavily charred barrels, contributing to their deep colour and robust flavour though as with gold rums the flavour can also come from colouring. These rums are known for their pronounced molasses or caramel sweetness, coupled with complex notes of spice, tobacco, leather and fruit. Dark rums are excellent for sipping neat, on the rocks, and are also a key ingredient in richer cocktails and culinary recipes.

Spiced rum

Spiced rums , as the name suggests, are infused with spices and sometimes caramel. Common spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and vanilla, which provide a warm, aromatic complexity. These rums can vary in colour from gold to mahogany and are popular in flavourful cocktails or as a warming sipping spirit during the colder months. There are also so-called ‘botanical rums’ which are usually made with white rum, have less sugar added and have fresh, zingy flavour profiles that pair with tonic.

Rhum agricole

A distinct style originating from islands in the French Caribbean, such as Martinique, though it’s also made on Madeira, rhum agricole is made directly from sugarcane juice rather than molasses. This method results in a fresher, more vegetal and earthy flavour profile. Rhum agricole carries a grassy, herbal quality and is often enjoyed neat or in simple cocktails that showcase its unique character.

Flavoured rum

Flavoured rums are infused with natural or artificial flavours after the distillation process. Common flavours include coconut, pineapple, mango, and other tropical fruits. These rums are lower in alcohol content and are designed for easy drinking, often enjoyed over ice or in fruit-forward cocktails.

Rum by price

Rum pricing varies considerably based on several factors. Age plays a crucial role – older rums, which have undergone longer maturation, tend to be on the more expensive side of things. The methods of production and bottling also affect the cost. Small-batch or single-cask rums, as well as limited editions known for their distinct and unique character, often carry a higher price tag.

Budget-friendly rums

In the budget-friendly category, we focus on finding rums that defy their modest price tags. These rums are not just economical but stand out for their quality and versatility. They offer a delightful introduction to the world of rum, featuring subtler notes like gentle spice and crisp fruit. Perfect for mixing in cocktails, these rums prove that a great experience doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Six yummy rums you need to try

Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum

Pusser’s Blue Label

Havana Club Añejo 3 Year Old

Project #173 Black Cherry Rum

Mid-range Rums

Stepping up to the mid-range, we explore rums that offer a deeper level of refinement. These selections are typically aged longer, allowing for a more nuanced and complex flavour profile. You’ll find rums with a perfect balance of sweetness, oak, and spice, often with hints of caramel, vanilla, and tropical fruits. These rums are versatile enough to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a standout component in more intricate cocktails like the Rum Old Fashioned. They represent a harmonious blend of quality and value, making them a favourite among regular rum drinkers.

most wished bottles

Plantation XO Barbados 20th Anniversary

Ron Santiago de Cuba 12 Year Old Extra Añejo

Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva

Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23

High-end rums

At the premium and high-end spectrum, the focus shifts to exceptional craftsmanship, unique ageing processes, and rarity. These rums are often the result of careful selection, blending, and ageing in various types of barrels, including bourbon, sherry, or even things like Port casks. This category showcases rums with layers of complexity and a symphony of flavours – from rich molasses and dried fruits to sophisticated notes of leather, tobacco, and exotic spices. These rums are best appreciated when sipped slowly, allowing the connoisseur to savour every nuanced note. They are not just spirits; they are the embodiment of rum-making artistry, perfect for special occasions or as a gift for the discerning rum lover.


Caroni 22 Year Old (Master of Malt)

Appleton Estate 15 Year Old Black River Casks

Diplomático Single Vintage 2007

How we picked these rums

When selecting rums at the more budget-friendly end, the focus was on uncovering those exceptional bottles that punch above their price point, delivering depth and complexity without breaking the bank. These rums had to be more than just affordable… they needed to stand out for their flavour and versatility, demonstrating that high-quality rum doesn’t necessarily come with a high price tag.

For the mid-range category, the goal was to find rums that marked a step up in sophistication and refinement. We chose rums with intricate and nuanced flavour profiles, ideal for enjoying neat or for enhancing cocktails with a touch of elegance.

Moving to the high-end, premium rums, the emphasis shifted to the art of rum-making and the origins of the rums. We sought out rums that exemplified the diverse styles and regions of rum production, with ample ageing in oak barrels to develop complexity and richness. These selections were about more than just a remarkable taste experience; they were a celebration of the craft and heritage that go into creating an exceptional rum.