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10 best rums: Spiced, dark and white tropical tipples

Made for sipping neat or creating a cocktail, these spirits are all-year-round crowd pleasers

Ed Cumming
Wednesday 19 January 2022 09:13
<p>Thousands of artisanal distilleries now offer innovative rums from around the world</p>

Thousands of artisanal distilleries now offer innovative rums from around the world

Rum remains a misunderstood and underused spirit in Britain. Many drinkers still associate it with cheap cocktails on teenage nights out, or sickly sweet holiday drinks.

At the other end of the spectrum, rum is perennially overlooked as a sipping drink in favour of cognac or whisky or brandy. Few think to uncork a rum for a nightcap, yet connoisseurs know that when rum is done right, not many drinks can match it for depth, variety or smoothness.

Rum combines the depth and sophistication of whisky with the glamour and history of the Caribbean: it’s a drink of pirates and admirals and revolutionaries, reggae and reggaeton.

What’s more, in recent years the market has expanded greatly, with thousands of artisanal distilleries offering innovative rums from all over the world. But with more choice than ever, which one is the best?

How we tested

Rum cocktails are still a cornerstone of every drinker’s arsenal, so from daiquiris to dark and stormies, we tried these as the base of countless drinks. There’s a rum for every palate, and one for every rum-based drink, so we’ve assessed the best for each situation, at a range of prices, so you can make sure you’re never getting a “rum” deal. Salud!

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The best rums for 2022 are:

Ron Zacapa 23

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

This glorious aged rum, now distributed by Diageo, has won several big prizes, and now it’s our best buy too. Hailing from Guatemala in central America, the “23" refers to the age of some of the rums that are blended together to make each bottle. It’s a rich, smooth, full-bodied rum with deep flavours of vanilla, citrus fruit and chocolate that earns a place in every drinks cabinet.

Havana Club anejo especial

Best: All-rounder

Rating: 8/10

Every rum cupboard needs something from Cuba, and Havana Club is the iconic Cuban rum brand. For fine sipping there are more aged versions, but for a widely available, smooth dark rum that tastes good on its own or as the base for cocktails – try a dark and stormy or a Cuba libre – it’s hard to beat this classic.

Aldi old hopking dark rum

Best: Budget rum

Rating: 7/10

Once again the German supermarkets come up trumps when it comes to a value option. Aldi’s old hopking rum is an expert blend of vanilla, caramel and coffee, drinkable on its own or in cocktails, and available at a price that means you can make grog for the whole ship’s company.

Equiano rum

Best: For a daiquiri

Rating: 9/10

Named after the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, this African-Caribbean crossover is a blend of liquids from Barbados and Mauritius, brought together in bourbon casks. Its chocolate and oak flavours add depth to the classic Cuban rum cocktail. Hemingway would approve. What’s more, five per cent of profits go to equality charities around the world, so you can kick back with a clear conscience.

Dead Man’s Fingers spiced rum

Best: Spiced rum

Rating: 7/10

Spiced rum is traditionally the poor cousin to the good stuff, with spices used to mask the inferior flavour, but it needn’t be the case. Drawing on Cornwall’s history of smugglers and pirates, Dead Man’s Fingers – made by the owners of a seafood shack in St Ives – blends rums from the Caribbean to create a range of potently flavoured rums. This spiced version has notes of vanilla, citrus, spice, nutmeg and vanilla. Enjoy on its own or as the basis for ice-cold cocktails with plenty of fresh lime.

Aldi cassario black spiced with rum

Best: Budget spiced rum

Rating: 7/10

Aldi’s spiced rums have won plenty of awards, offering exceptional value. Although it’s not a pure rum, this is a rum-based drink with a similar richness of vanilla, spices, citrus and coffee flavours. At around £15, it offers a superior experience for a fraction of the cost of other premium drinks.

Diplomatico rum

Best: For an old fashioned

Rating: 9/10

Hailing from Venezuela, Diplomatico is a firm favourite among rum connoisseurs. It has delicious sweetness and lightness, which means that although Old Fashioneds are traditionally made with bourbon – or even gin – Diplomatico works a treat.

Flor de Cana 4 extra seco

Best: For mojitos

Rating: 8/10

This dry, clear light rum is the perfect base for one of the quintessential rum cocktails, the mojito, with enough pep to give depth to the flavours beneath the drink’s sugar, lime and mint notes. Alternatively, it goes perfectly well with other mixers.  The spirit of summer, bottled.

Bacardi superior, Carta Blanca

Best: Rum for entertaining

Rating: 7/10

For all that there are dozens of small-scale artisanal rum producers, sometimes you don’t need to go fancy to have a good time. When you need to pep up a house party, Bacardi is the classic base for a daiquiri, mojito or other cocktails, with a clear, smooth flavour.

Mount Gay eclipse

Best: For rum punch

Rating: 8/10

No list of rums would be complete without an appearance from Mount Gay, and what better expression of the classic Barbados rum than a classic rum punch? As the ancient recipe goes: one of sour (lime juice), two of sweet (sugar syrup), three of strong (rum), four of weak (water). Add a dash of angostura bitters and some nutmeg to taste and you can be on a Caribbean holiday in minutes. Remember, your living room is always on the green list.

The verdict: Rums

Everyone should have a decent sipping rum at home, something cooler than whiskey or brandy to offer after dinner. Tastes will vary as much as they do with other spirits. It’s not the cheapest rum on the market, but Ron Zacapa 23 ticks all the boxes, a dark, deep, balanced drink that will convert the staunchest rum refuseniks.

For a mid-range classic dark rum, look no further than Havana Club anejo especial, smooth enough to drink on its own but also not so fancy you’ll feel guilty mixing it. At the other end of the market, Aldi continues the low-cost German supermarkets’ keen eye for great value in drinks. Its wines and whiskeys routinely win awards against rums twice as expensive, and rum is no exception.

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