Wednesday, August 16, is National Rum Day. If you are a die-hard whiskey drinker, your first thought may be something along the lines of, “Who cares?” Well, maybe it’s time to give rum a chance, especially the dark, aged, complex rums that should appeal to lovers of brown spirits. Even esteemed whiskey writer Fred Minnick decided to give rum a chance with his latest book, Rum Curious.
Many, if not all, of these rums are aged in ex-bourbon barrels, which may be a selling point for whiskey snobs. Also, you can substitute aged rum into any classic whiskey cocktail – Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Sazerac – and you will be pleasantly surprised at how the flavors play together, offering a refreshing and surprisingly good take on a standard. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, that’s okay – these rums are meant to be enjoyed neat, or maybe with an ice cube, in much the same way that a good whiskey is. While Latin America and the Caribbean are still the epicenter of rum distilling, these days you can also find decent rum produced in some unlikely areas around the country (Cape Cod’s South Hollow Spirits, for example) and countries like the Philippines.
Here are some worthy aged rums to sip on this National Rum Day.
Mount Gay XO
This limited edition rum is the first ever cask strength expression from Barbados’ Mount Gay distillery. Only 3,000 bottles were released last fall, in celebration of a half century of Barbadian independence. This is a strong, bold, sipping rum, clocking in at a hefty 63% ABV. It’s not cheap at $185 per bottle, but it’s definitely a nice entrance into rum for the dedicated whiskey drinker.
Don Papa No. 7
Don Papa is newly available in the U.S. This Filipino rum is sweet, and the first thing that hits you when you take a whiff is an intense burst of butterscotch and rock candy. The seven-year-old expression is affordable at about $40 per bottle, and will do just fine in any traditional dark rum cocktail.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Venezuela is going through some serious turmoil at the moment, and Trump is issuing weird, vague threats along with his usual crazy. So if you’re thinking about the Venezuelan people’s well being at the moment, go ahead and try a dram of Diplomatico’s Reserva Exclusiva. This midrange rum ($40) is aged for up to 12 years in bourbon and malt whisky barrels. It has a lovely deep amber color, and is wonderfully mild with just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of honey.
Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend
This tasty Jamaican rum was created by Joy Spence in celebration of her 20 years as the master blender for Appleton Estate. It’s a blend of rum that is at least a quarter century old, and is one of the most whiskey-like rums of the bunch. But make no mistake; this $250 bottle of rum won’t be mistaken for bourbon, with its orange and caramel bursts and long, smooth finish.
Flor de Cana Centenario 18
This rum is part of the Nicaraguan distillery’s ultra premium collection. It’s aged for 18 years in American oak, and is a relative bargain at only $49.99 for a bottle. Look for notes of banana, oak, and coconut here – and definitely try this one on its own.