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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, and results in a spirit typically around 40-50% ABV, or higher in the case of overproof rum. 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.

1968 Portsmouth White Rum

70cl, 41%
Portsmouth Distillery

Portsmouth Distillery, based at Fort Cumberland, was established in 2018 by ex Naval officers Vince Noyce and Giles Collighan, who shared a mutual love of rum. They have put that affection for the…  More info

1968 Portsmouth White Rum
$34.31

Guadeloupe 2013 - Transcontinental Rum Line (La Maison Du Whisky)

70cl, 43%
La Maison du Whisky

From La Maison du Whisky's Transcontinental Rum Line range comes this bottling of Guadeloupe rum. A traditional vintage rum made with molasses and distilled in 2013, this version was aged first in…  More info

Guadeloupe 2013 - Transcontinental Rum Line (La Maison Du Whisky)
$60.02

Clairin Communal

70cl, 43%
Distillerie Chelo

Similar to white agricole rums, Clairin is the most popular drink in the remotest regions of Haiti. This is a blend of the four Clairins from the four communes of Cavaillon, Barraderes, Pignon and St…  More info

Clairin Communal
$39.64

Chairman's Reserve White Label

70cl, 43%
St. Lucia Distillers

Saint Lucia Distillers, the owner of Charmain's Reserve, distilled, blended and bottled this white rum on the Caribbean island nation. Unusually for a white rum, it was aged like the rest of…  More info

Chairman's Reserve White Label
$26.74

Jamaica 2005 - 1423 Single Barrel Selection

70cl, 58.6%
1423

Independently bottled rum from an undisclosed Jamaican distillery, released for the Single Barrel Selection by Danish bottlers 1423. It's a pot still rum that was distilled back in 2005 and bottled…  More info

Jamaica 2005 - 1423 Single Barrel Selection
$107.14

Foursquare 8 Year Old - Cane Island

70cl, 43%
Foursquare

Another tasty indie bottling of rum from far off lands by Cane Island. This time they've sourced a rum from Foursquare in Barbados, which was made with spirit from the distillery's column and pot…  More info

Foursquare 8 Year Old - Cane Island
$48.86

Distillerie De Paris Galabé Rum

50cl, 43%
Distillerie De Paris

From the first distillery to open in Paris in over a century comes a handcrafted rhum made from galabé. This is sugar cane juice from the island of Reunion, which has been distilled in Paris.  More info

Distillerie De Paris Galabé Rum
1
$63.20

Böhler Inländer Rum - 1960s

100cl, 80%
Bohler

A 1960s bottle of high strength (and we mean it) Austrian rum, produced by Böhler. This stuff was bottled at a massive 80% ABV, presumably in the style of another popular Austrian rum... This…  More info

Böhler Inländer Rum - 1960s
$257.27

Oxenham 85th Anniversary Rhum

70cl, 42%
Bougainville

A celebratory rhum agricole from Mauritian producer, Oxenham. This handsome decanter was produced in honour of the company's 85th anniversary, and features a spirit made from pure sugar cane juice…  More info

Oxenham 85th Anniversary Rhum
$163.55

Bougainville VSOP Rum

70cl, 40%
Bougainville

From the Oxenham Craft Distillery on the island of Mauritius is a Rum VSOP that was created using the same base spirit that the brand has used to produce its white rum, which is diluted and matured…  More info

Bougainville VSOP Rum
$41.56

Rhum Depaz Vieux Agricole

70cl, 45%
Depaz

This Rhum Vieux Agricole from Depaz was distilled in Martinique (using pressed sugar cane juice rather than molasses) and aged for a least three years before it was bottled at 45% ABV.  More info

Rhum Depaz Vieux Agricole
$42.31

Tunel Capitán Huk Rum - 1990s

100cl, 37.5%
Tunel

We misread the label the first time we saw this bottle, thought it was called 'Tunnel Captain Hulk' and imagined a story about the popular comic book character becoming the ruler of an underground…  More info

Tunel Capitán Huk Rum - 1990s
$173.66

Bacardi Carta de Oro (20cl) - 1980s

20cl, 40%
Bacardi

An antique 20cl bottle of Bacardi Carta de Oro rum thought to date from the 1980s, produced in Puerto Rico. This bottle was part of a private collection - if you'd like more detailed photos just…  More info

Bacardi Carta de Oro (20cl) - 1980s
$51.45

Ron Magüey Blanco - 1960s

100cl, 40%
Ron Magüey

This white rum was distilled by Ron Magüey sometime in the 1960s, which makes it two things: 1) Very old. I don't want anyone born in the 1960s to be offended by that statement. But as a spirit,…  More info

Ron Magüey Blanco - 1960s
$308.72

Ron Cumarey Blanco - 1960s

100cl, 40%
Ron Cumarey

A 1960s bottling of Ron Cumarey Blanco. Interestingly, the label has been styled to look very similar to another very well-known rum, which continues to be produced today... Please note that the…  More info

Ron Cumarey Blanco - 1960s
$257.27

Gunroom 2 Ports Rum

70cl, 40%
Gunroom

From the Gunroom range 2 Ports Rum, a blend of rum from Trinidad with an age between 2-5 years and a minor portion of unaged Jamaican pot still rum - hence two ports. It's sublime in Daiquiris...  More info

Gunroom 2 Ports Rum
$28.89

Ron Cubaney Solera Reserva Tesoro

70cl, 38%
Ron Cubaney

Superb rum from the Dominican Republic, matured in a solera system and bottled at 38% ABV. Terrific stuff from the top end of the Ron Cubaney range.  More info

Ron Cubaney Solera Reserva Tesoro
$53.54

Ron Cubaney Reserva

70cl, 38%
Ron Cubaney

Solera-aged rum from the Dominican Republic from Ron Cubaney, a brand which started out in Cuba (which you might have guessed from the name). However, following post-revolution unrest, the brand…  More info

Ron Cubaney Reserva
$37.46

Ron Cubaney Estupendo

70cl, 38%
Ron Cubaney

This expression from the Ron Cubaney range is titled Estupendo, which means "great" in Spanish. As you might expect, it is indeed a great solera-aged rum from the Dominican Republic.  More info

Ron Cubaney Estupendo
$36.75

Ron Cubaney Magnifico

70cl, 38%
Ron Cubaney

The Ron Cubaney range is home to a selection of solera-aged rums - just like this magnificent expression, aptly named "Magnifico". These rums are produced in the Dominican Republic, though the brand…  More info

Ron Cubaney Magnifico
$32.11

Ron Cubaney Añejo Especial

70cl, 38%
Ron Cubaney

The entry-level expression from the Ron Cubaney rum range. The brand has its roots in Cuba, but moved to the Dominican Republic post-revolution - the distillers did keep some elements of Cuban rum in…  More info

Ron Cubaney Añejo Especial
$22.46

Embargo Añejo Exquisito

70cl, 40%
Embargo

From the Embargo range comes the Añejo Exquisito rum, which is crafted using a combination of rums (and a rhum agricole) from Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Martinique and Cuba. A lighter, subtly…  More info

Embargo Añejo Exquisito
$30.50

Over The World 2017 Edition - Samaroli

70cl, 45%
Samaroli

A blended rum from Italian bottler Samaroli, released in 2017. As ever, Samaroli have given this expression a fantastic label, which goes very well with the fantastic spirit within the bottle.  More info

Over The World 2017 Edition - Samaroli
$214.33

Lamb's Navy Rum (20cl) - 1980s

20cl, 40%
Lamb's

This is a 20cl bottling of the classic Lamb's Navy Rum, made with a blend of spirits from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad, bottled all the way back in the 1980s. This bottle was part of a…  More info

Lamb's Navy Rum (20cl) - 1980s
$38.59

Bacardi Carta Blanca (1.13L) - 1970s

113cl, 40%
Bacardi

This is a large (and awkwardly specifically sized) bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca, produced all the way back in the 1970s, holding 1.13 litres of the classic white rum. This bottle was part of a…  More info

Bacardi Carta Blanca (1.13L) - 1970s
$289.43

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