Rums of The CaribbeanJan 16, 2017
No Caribbean holiday is complete without enjoying some of the local rums and there certainly are plenty to choose from with each having its own unique subtle flavors and character. Nearly every island has numerous locally produced rums that range from white to heavy bodied dark ambers.
Recipes for each are closely guarded secrets with specific varieties of wood and aging techniques also adding to the ultimate resulting essence. Some are blended to be perfect for mixed drinks and cocktails while others virtually beg to be sipped straight to fully enjoy all they have to offer. As with wine aficionados, rum connoisseurs delight in the unique tastes of the individual spirits and use their own colorful jargon in their creative descriptions for each.
Rum is made from sugarcane juice or molasses and is generally accepted to have been first distilled on Caribbean sugarcane plantations in Barbados in the 17th century. Celebrated in literature and film as the drink of choice for pirates of days gone by, a daily ration of rum was also provided to sailors of the British Navy for over 300 years! This legendary practice was discontinued in 1970 to ensure the safety of their crews around modern mechanical equipment.
Below is an island-hopping introduction to some of the Caribbean’s finest rums along with a suggestion of an ideal local location to fully enjoy the experience.
English Harbour 1981 Rum – Aged 25 years in whisky and bourbon barrels, this rum gives off a woody, smoky aroma when it’s first cracked. It’s got a heavy taste of roasted nuts and fruit and finishes with some cinnamon-like flavors. Many consider this to be the best rum in the Caribbean.
Mount Gay Eclipse Gold – A great mixing rum, it has a slight banana and candied fruits taste with subtle flavors that also more than qualify it as sipping rum. The Eclipse is a traditional double-distilled rum, aged in white Kentucky oak barrels.
Traveller’s 1 Barrel Rum – Savor it while gently swaying in a hammock. Aromas of butterscotch, caramel and just a hint of maple syrup entice your nose before a smooth explosion of flavor in your mouth. It’s great on its own or mixed into cocktails.
Tortuga Citrus Honey – A perfect starter rum for first-time Caribbean travelers whose palates may not be used to the sweet nectar of the region. As the name implies, this rum has a sweet aftertaste and thus doesn't need to be mixed with anything.
Havana Club Añejo 15 Año – A must for adventurous travelers, a special process of blending and long aging in oak casks creates a smoothness that makes this rum easy and sometimes dangerous to drink.... it is 80% alcohol by volume! It’s very fruity with hints of banana, and is probably the strongest quality sipping rums in the Caribbean.
Ron Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar – Aged in American white oak barrels then Spanish sherry casks, the aroma mixes molasses, coffee and a subtle hint of raisin with spices and a hint of citrus. It is truly one of the smoothest rums on the market.
El Dorado Special Reserve 21 Year Old – World famous for its 300 year history, the oak aftertaste is intense for some (try some ice to lighten the effect if desired) due in large part to the two decades of aging in oak barrels, never a bad sign for a good sipping rum. Try it at the luxurious Aruwai White H2O Resort located on an island separating the Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers in Bartica, the gateway to the interior rain forest.
Rhum Barbancourt Estate Reserve – Aged 15 years, this is a true sipping rum. Citrus dominates the aroma while the palate has subtle hints of cinnamon and pepper.
Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old – Experience aromas of caramel, vanilla, candied orange peel and sweet almond that truly set it apart. Rumshave been made on the Appleton Estate for over 260 years, and the experience shows. You have a license to chill with one at the Golden Eye Resort, formerly Ian Fleming’s private island residence where in 1952 he wrote Casino Royale, the first of 13 books in the legendary James Bond series he wrote at this site.
Rhum Agricole Vieux Niesson – Rhum Agricole is a French term for cane juice rum, which sets this apart most of the other rums mentioned that are produced from molasses. It has a medium bright gold color with the aroma of ripe fruit and rich brown sugar aromatics. On the palate you get characters of citrus, ginger, caramel and vanilla.
Bacardi 8 – One of Puerto Rico’s best rums its aromas of nutmeg and vanilla will draw you deeper into the glass, where nuances of ginger, caramel and dried apricot dance on your palate. Aged for eight years in oak, it can rival a fine French Cognac. In 1830, Don Facundo Bacardí was credited as the first producer to purposely age rum in barrels to achieve a smooth texture.
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum – A truly exotic offering, this rum is excellent in a snifter or with your favorite mix. Flavors of clove, cinnamon and allspice – think fresh-baked Christmas cookies – play on your tongue.
Angostura Gran Anejo – This seven year old rum is from Angostura, well known for its rums and world famous Angostura Bitters. With a mahogany amber color, it features dried fruit aromas with lashings of vanilla and Christmas spices, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger making it rich, flavorsome and smooth on the palate.
Ode to Rum from "The Barbados Book" by Louis Lynch, 1964.
Ode to Rum
"The horse and mule live thirty years,
And nothing know of wine and beers.
The goat and sheep at thirty die
And never taste of scotch or rye,
The cow drinks water by the ton,
And at eighteen is nearly done.
The dog at fifteen cashes in
Without the aid of rum or gin,
The cat in milk and water soaks,
And then in twelve short years it croaks,
The modest, sober, bone dry hen
Lays eggs for nogs, then dies at ten.
All animals are strictly dry
They sinless live and swiftly die
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men
Survive for three score years and ten."