Rum – liquid gold made all around the world. Speaking of gold rum, also known as amber rum, that’s a favourite for us and many of you. Lovely in a Mai Tai. Refreshing in a Mojito. Delightful in a Rum Espresso Martini (trust me on that one). It’s a spirit with history, culture, personality and taste. 

But what is the “best” gold rum? Well, that can vary based on personal taste preferences. It depends on what you look for in a rum. But there are gold rums which are frequently recommended for their quality and flavour. So let’s take a look at some of the finer examples and take a deeper dive into the shimmering lake of gold rum to see what it’s all about. 

Glass of cognac on the vintage barrel

Gold rum can get its colour from the cask

What makes rum gold?

Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses or sugarcane juice, through fermentation and distillation. It is often aged in barrels, a process that ‘matures’ the spirit, developing its flavour and smoothing its harsher edges. You can expect notes like vanilla, caramel, coconut, spice, and tannins to be extracted by the spirit from the barrel. The type of barrel used will impact what flavours exist in the wood. If the barrel previously contained bourbon or sherry then the spirit will take on the characteristics of those drinks (toasty caramel and vanilla for bourbon, Christmas cake spice and dried fruit for sherry). If the rum is made in a hotter climate, for instance, the Caribbean, the maturation is accelerated and the interaction is increased. 

The cask also gives the spirit colour. Before rum or whisky or brandy go into a cask, they’re clear spirits. They look like vodka. It’s not just flavour that’s extracted from the wood, but colour too. It’s a bit like a tea bag in a cup of hot water. However, not all gold rums get their colour purely from cask maturation. The use of additional colouring, for example, a caramel colouring like E150a, is permitted to be used in many rum-producing regions. A clear or lighter rum can be given the appearance of a gold rum without ever touching or cask or having only spent a short amount of time in one.

Rum is often split by colour into white rum, gold rum and dark rum. Most people learn to separate rum this way and you can see on our site that’s how we’ve categorised the spirit. But it’s by no means a perfect system. The use of caramel colour means that a rum’s appearance can be deceptive. It’s the same principle as using food colouring. You can learn more about this in our Different types of rum guide. 

What does gold rum taste like?

Typically you can expect a gold rum to have a rich, sweet flavour profile. When done right, it can provide a balance of the lighter, fresher notes of white rum with the deeper, more mature characteristics of dark rum. Here are some key flavour notes you might experience when tasting gold rum:

Vanilla: The most classic note associated with maturation as oak is full of lovely vanillins. Often gold rums are full of vanilla.

Caramel/toffee/butterscotch: Ageing in barrels also gives gold rum a smooth, sweet, and creamy taste reminiscent of caramel, toffee, or butterscotch.

Spice: Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice… any or all of these can be found in gold rum, adding warmth and complexity to the flavour.

Fruit: Tropical fruit is a common rum flavour. Think banana, pineapple, or citrus, providing a fresh and vibrant aspect.

Oak: Of course, one note the ageing process is guaranteed to impart is some oakiness. Because it’s oak, after all. This could be the smoky oak char, the tannic oak spice, or a savoury woody character, all of which contribute to the overall depth and character of the rum.

Homemade Mai Tai Cocktail

Perhaps the ultimate cocktail for Jamaican rum, the Mai Tai

How to enjoy gold rum

Gold rum can be enjoyed in various ways. Yours truly will often sip it neat and that’s the traditional manner gold rum is served. Sipping gold rum neat means you can fully appreciate the complex flavours and aromas. The finest gold rums can compete with any aged spirit, from single malt Scotch whisky to Cognac. Pour a measure of gold rum into a glass and let it rest for a moment to let the aromas develop before taking small sips. Particularly when the weather is warmer, gold rum is also enjoyed on the rocks.  Adding a few ice cubes to your gold rum can mellow its intensity as the ice melts and slightly dilutes the rum. It’s very refreshing, just make sure you use good-quality ice (yes, that’s a thing).

Gold rum is also a versatile base for many classic and contemporary cocktails. Think the Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Mojito, Rum Punch… whatever your rum cocktail needs, a good gold rum should do the trick. That includes twists on cocktails that aren’t usually made with rum. I’ve already talked about the Rum Espresso Martini, while a Rum Old Fashioned can be delicious. Or you can simply pair it with coke, ginger ale, or tonic water. That’s right, you can make a Rum and Tonic. Not that there’s anything wrong with the classic Rum and Coke. 

Gold rum can also be used in cooking and baking, whether you’re marinating meat in rum, incorporating gold rum into the batter of a cake mixture, or using it to make a sauce to drizzle over dinner or desserts. Rum-glazed shrimp, rum cake, rum sauce…  The world is your oyster. 

Best rum for a Mai Tai 

The Mai Tai is a classic rum-based cocktail, synonymous with tiki culture and tropical vibes. It was created in the 1940s and its origin is often attributed to Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, although there is some debate about this, with Donn Beach (also known as Don the Beachcomber) also being credited by some. The name “Mai Tai” comes from the Tahitian phrase “Maita’i roa ae,” which means “out of this world” or “the best.” The story goes that Trader Vic created the drink for some Tahitian friends, and upon tasting it, they exclaimed “Maita’i roa ae!” 

The classic Mai Tai combines a mix of rums with citrus and almond flavours. Over the years, the Mai Tai has seen many variations. Some popular ones include the Fruit Mai Tai (where fruit juices are added) or the Frozen Mai Tai. However you make it, the Mai Tai is a beloved drink for good reason. There’s a great gold rum Mai Tai recipe on our Rum Cocktails page from our Rum Guides.

Bottles of Mount Gay rum on a bar by the beach

What is the best gold rum? Our top picks

Mount Gay Eclipse Rum 70cl (Barbados)

Known for its balance and smoothness, this rum features notes of vanilla, almond, and banana, with a smoky finish. It’s a versatile rum, great for both sipping and mixing.

Appleton Estate Signature Rum 70cl (Jamaica)

This is a complex rum with a luxurious texture, offering flavours of spice, nutmeg, vanilla, and a hint of orange peel. It’s well-regarded for its depth and richness.

El Dorado 5 Year Old Gold Rum 70cl (Guyana)

Aged in bourbon oak barrels, this rum is praised for its sophisticated profile of tropical fruits, spice, and honey. It’s a great choice for sipping neat or in cocktails.

Havana Club Añejo Especial Rum 70cl (Cuba)

Smooth and mellow, with hints of vanilla, oak, and almond, Havana Club Añejo Especial is popular in mixed drinks and is a good budget-friendly choice.

Chamarel Premium Gold Rum 70cl (Mauritius)

A Mauritian gold rum from the Rhumerie de Chamarel made from pure cane juice, for more of the Agricole vibe. Proves how versatile and complex gold rum can be.

Cape Cornwall Gold Rum 70cl (Caribbean blend)

A base of aged Caribbean rum has been blended with Cornish water for this one, so there are lots of chocolatey notes among the fresher, grassy flavours. Perfect with ginger beer and the like.

Tanduay Gold Asian Rum 70cl (Phillipines) 

From one of the world’s biggest-selling rum brands. Enjoyably fruit-forward, with plenty of warming spice to offer a welcome juxtaposition.