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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.

Wood's 100 Old Navy Rum - 1980s

70cl, 57%
Wood's

A 70cl bottling of Wood's 100 Old Navy Rum from the 1980s. A classic brand that features a chap with an incredibly stylish beard on the label. He genuinely wouldn't look out of place in some of the…  More info

Wood's 100 Old Navy Rum - 1980s
$199.48

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
$299.22

Snakepit Venom Rum

70cl, 65%
Snakepit

A high-strength spiced rum from North West Spirits, made with a blend of aged Caribbean rums blended with a selection of secret spices. Ought to be able to make quite an impression in your mixed…  More info

Snakepit Venom Rum
$58.71

Dunedin Golden Rum

70cl, 43%
Strathearn

Scotland's Strathearn distillery continues to offer up new and exciting tipples - this time, the distillers have tried their hands at making a golden rum! Not only does this mean you can make a…  More info

Dunedin Golden Rum
$39.84

Fine Cuban Rum 2003 - Sherry Finish (Bristol Spirits)

70cl, 43%
Bristol Spirits

A 2003 vintage rum all the way from Cuba, independently bottled by Bristol Spirits in 2016 after a finishing period in sherry casks. We do love these Bristol Spirits rums indeed!  More info

Fine Cuban Rum 2003 - Sherry Finish (Bristol Spirits)
$129.61

Westerhall No.2 Rum

70cl, 37.5%
Westerhall

A great value-for-money white rum from the Westerhall Estate in Grenada, tying into their number-based expression style bottlings. Suitable for use in all manner of cocktails and mixed drinks.  More info

Westerhall No.2 Rum
$24.96

Ron Botran Añejo 8

70cl, 40%
Botran

An entry-level expression from the Ron Botran Añejo range, produced in Guatemala and aged in a Solera system, resulting in a richly flavoursome expression.  More info

Ron Botran Añejo 8
$29.87

Ron Botran Añejo 15

70cl, 40%
Botran

A particularly impressive and good value-for-money Guatemalan rum from the Ron Botran, matured in a Solera system. Rather rich and full-bodied, with a deft balance between sweetness and spice.  More info

Ron Botran Añejo 15
$38.73

Matusalem Añejo

70cl, 38%
Matusalem

Dominican rum from the Matusalem, boasting a wealth of caramel and dark fruit deliciousness. Matusalem was once based in Cuba, but following the Castro revolution, it moved to the Dominican Republic.…  More info

Matusalem Añejo
$26.54

Oksen Gousse de Vanille Entière

70cl, 40%
Famille Oksen

From Famille Oksen in France (they're based rather near Bordeaux) comes a spiced rum made by macerating entire vanilla pods in rhum agricole from Martinique. Enjoyably sweet and full-flavoured.  More info

Oksen Gousse de Vanille Entière
$28.78

Oksen Bâton De Cannelle Entier

70cl, 40%
Famille Oksen

A spiced rum from French producer, Oksen. It's based around a rhum agricole distilled on Martinique, and this particular expression has been complemented by macerating entire cinnamon sticks in the…  More info

Oksen Bâton De Cannelle Entier
$28.78

Last Ward 2007 - Habitation Velier

70cl, 59%
Mount Gay

An intriguing release Italian indie bottler Velier, featuring rum distilled in 2007 at Mount Gay - but not originally for the Mount Gay brand. It was going to be part of Mount Gilboa series of…  More info

Last Ward 2007 - Habitation Velier
$127.44

Mount Gay Eclipse - 1980s

75cl, 44%
Mount Gay

A rare bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse rum, produced in Barbados back in the 1980s. Collectible stuff - always fascinating to see the differences in packaging and flavour profile of these antique bottles…  More info

Mount Gay Eclipse - 1980s
$159.58

Trois Rivières Millesime 1980

70cl, 45%
Trois Rivieres

Very, very old Martinican rhum agricole from Trois Rivières, distilled all the way back in 1980! To mark the occasion (properly old rhum agricole deserves a celebration!), they enlisted famed French…  More info

Trois Rivières Millesime 1980
$2,216.37

Jah45 Silver Rum

70cl, 40%
Jah45

A white rum from the Jah45 range, made using a blend of rums from various Jamaican distilleries. Inspiration for this one comes from the eclectic music scene of Kingston, Jamaica.  More info

Jah45 Silver Rum
$23.33

Rhum Bologne (35cl) - 1980s

35cl, 50%
Distillerie Rhum Bologne

From the Bologna distillery in Guadeloupe comes a rhum agricole produced sometime in the 1980s. It features a rather lovely little ship on the label. Pleasing. This bottle was part of a private…  More info

Rhum Bologne (35cl) - 1980s
$79.79

Nicaragua 17 Year Old 2000 - The Nectar of the Daily Drams

70cl, 48.2%
The Nectar

17 year old rum from Nicaragua, bottled by Belgian bottler The Nectar. This was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2017 at 48.2% ABV.  More info

Nicaragua 17 Year Old 2000 - The Nectar of the Daily Drams
$112.98

J Wray and Nephew White Overproof - 1970s

75cl, 0%
J Wray and Nephew

Overproof white rum from J Wray and Nephew in Jamaica, produced back in the 1970s. A very cool collectible bottle for spirits enthusiasts, which also shows off how the label design for J Wray and…  More info

J Wray and Nephew White Overproof - 1970s
$239.37

Cockspur Five Star Rum - 1990s

75cl, 43%
Cockspur

Cockspur Five Star Rum, produced in Barbados back in the 1990s. At first glace, it looks like the chicken on the label is wearing cowboy boots with spurs on them, which would be a wonderful…  More info

Cockspur Five Star Rum - 1990s
$132.99

Bacardi Carta Blanca (75cl) - 1980s

75cl, 37.5%
Bacardi

Would like a 1980s edition of the classic Bacardi rum, but think 40% ABV is a little steep? Then this 37.5% ABV bottling is absolutely perfect for you - what are you waiting for? This bottle…  More info

Bacardi Carta Blanca (75cl) - 1980s
$159.58

FAIR. Muscovado Rum

70cl, 55%
FAIR.

An intriguing from from the FAIR. range, produced using Muscovado sugar all the way from Mauritius and distilled in Charente, France. As with all FAIR. spirits, this has been made using Fair Trade…  More info

FAIR. Muscovado Rum
$47.17

Rhum J.M Vintage 2004

70cl, 44.3%
Rhum J.M

A 2004 vintage agricole rhum from Martinican distillers Rhum J.M, this release was created using its signature sugar cane, distinctive because it grows on a 28-degree slope in the rich volcanic soil…  More info

Rhum J.M Vintage 2004
$109.74

Ron Cubay Carta Blanca Extra Viejo

70cl, 40%
Ron Cubay

This intriguing release from Ron Cubay combines the richness of long-aged dark rums with the freshness and vibrancy of top-notch white rum within one expression. The features reserve spirits from…  More info

Ron Cubay Carta Blanca Extra Viejo
1
$130.88

MOKO 8 Year Old Rum

70cl, 42%
MOKO

The entry-level release from MOKO Rum, a brand relaunched in 2017 after if disappeared from shelves in the 1960s. It was created by descendants of MOKO Rum's original founders, and distilled in…  More info

MOKO 8 Year Old Rum
$55.35

MOKO 20 Year Old Rum

70cl, 42%
MOKO

Back in the latter-half of the 1800s, MOKO Rum was created by Ernest and Maurice Lasserre, and it was rather well-loved indeed. However, the brand disappeared during the 1960s. In 2017, decedents of…  More info

MOKO 20 Year Old Rum
$88.60

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