I've been meaning to do this for some time now and, with the holiday party/gift giving season right around the corner, I figured now was as good a time as any. Those of you who know me know that I love my rum. Not only does it have a pleasant effect on a body after three or four, rum more than any other liquor has had the ability to trigger memories for me and take me back to some of the best times in my life.
Any type of guide to food or booze is going to be highly subjective based on the individual tastes of the reviewer. This guide, of course, is no different. However, when you consider the vast Nordic lakes of rum I've consumed over the past two and a half decades, you can rest assured that I won't steer you wrong and that you'll be pleased with my recommendations. Whether for yourself, or if you're looking for the perfect gift for a friend, consider my Top 10 list.
I've broken this down into a few sections. The first section is my Top 10 favorite rums. These are listed by distillery and not necessarily by label, so some brands may have more than one rum on the Top 10 list. These are all dark or amber rums meant to be consumed neat or on the rocks. I don't recommend mixing these rums with anything, but when an exceptional cocktail recipe calls for one of them I'll point that out.
Next come the spiced rums, then the flavored rums, then the overproof rums. And then there's the lagniappe. Lagniappe is a term we use down in New Orleans and it means "a little something extra". In this case, it's my recipe for Hot Buttered Rum. I've tried dozens of different recipes for Hot Buttered Rum over the years, and this one is the best by far. I can't think of a better winter cocktail, and your holiday parties are guaranteed to be a hit if you mix up a batch of this stuff.
I've even converted this guide to PDF format for those who'd like to print it out and take it to the liquor store with them. I do what I can for you guys. Just let me know if you want a copy of the PDF.
Without further ado, here is the distillation of my life's work:
Eddie's Top 10
- Gosling's - Goslings Black Seal Rum is far and away my favorite rum on the market. It hails from Bermuda, and the Gosling family has been working their magic there for over 200 years now. Black Seal is a dark, sweet rum with a bouquet like no other. I prefer mine on the rocks, though it's an easy rum to drink neat. The Dark 'N Stormy is a particularly good cocktail mixed with Black Seal rum and ginger beer. Note: ginger ale is not ginger beer, so make sure to use ginger beer if you're mixing a Dark 'N Stormy. I'm unable to get Gosling's in France, which is a minor tragedy for me, and I always load up a few gallons whenever I travel to the States.
Gosling's also offers a truly remarkable premium rum, and I would call it the best premium rum without hesitation. It was called Gosling's Family Reserve when it was first introduced, but now it goes by the name Old Rum. It's going to set you back $50-60 for a bottle, but it is so worth it. I won't even pour Old Rum over ice - it's that good. This is a rum I'd put up against any cognac and, as such, it is meant to be consumed neat. It is sweet and subtle, much lighter in color than Black Seal, and comes numbered, hand labeled, and packaged in its own wooden box, making it perfect for gift giving. If you're looking for a gift that really sets you apart from colleagues who all give the boss Johnny Walker Blue for the holidays, this is your go-to rum.
- Mount Gay - Mount Gay Eclipse rum is a staple in the Braverman household. Mount Gay comes from Barbados and could be the oldest rum label in the world. The company has been making their famous Eclipse rum since 1703. It is a light amber rum, I prefer it on the rocks, and you can really taste the sugar cane in it. It's bracing on the palate at first sip, without being obnoxious. I've actually been to the distillery in Barbados, and it's an impressive operation. Mount Gay is synonymous with yacht racing, so when I showed up wearing a trademark red Mount Gay racing hat they treated me like a king and left me to serve myself at their well-stocked bar. I was in rummy Heaven. If you must mix Mount Gay with something (and I really wish you wouldn't), mix it with equal parts orange juice to make a Bilgewater.
Mount Gay makes several other rums, most notably their Extra Old. Extra Old gets rave reviews but it's not one of my favorites. Guess I just love the original too much. Give it a try if you like, it's not bad, but on Barbados they call it Sugar Cane Brandy and it's probably better enjoyed as a brandy than a rum.
- Zaya - Zaya is a really special rum. Known among connoisseurs as a "synthetic" rum, it is perhaps the smoothest most mellow rum on the list. It's not synthetic in the sense that anything about it is artificial, synthetic simply means that it is blended (or synthesized) from a number of other top notch rums, much like scotch. Zaya is one of the more expensive rums on the list, around $60 a bottle the last time I bought it. Worth every penny. Truly. Very, very good rum. Note: this is another one to savor neat. Save the ice for something that needs mellowing.
- Cruzan - Cruzan is made in the Islands and is a great everyday rum. It has a pleasant, distinctive flavor, and you can't help but feel like you're down island when you're sipping a Cruzan on the rocks. It's medium-bodied and mellow with a bit of a kick.
Cruzan also makes another rum I like even better than the original and that is their Cruzan Blackstrap Rum. This is distilled from a heavy sugar cane molasses, has a heavier flavor, and most closely resembles Gosling's Black Seal rum in the glass. It is definitely dark, but doesn't fall into the bitter category like Myers, for example. Definitely give it a try.
- Clement - Okay, I'm not at all enamored with the junk that comes out of the French West Indies. The rhums I've had from Guadaloupe and Martinique have been almost universally bad. Clement is the rare exception, and boy is it ever. It's definitely for those who like a sweeter rum, but it's right up there with Zaya for flavor and drinkability. I would almost classify Clement as a dessert rum. It is definitely an excellent choice for an after-dinner cocktail.
- Pyrat - Pyrat is another blend and it is a very good one. I have to admit, I dismissed Pyrat originally as a cheap marketing ploy to capitalize on the surge in premium liquors. Whatever their motivation, the crew at Pyrat actually produced a damn good rum. Their XO Reserve is dark and complex and their Pistol distillation will appeal to those who like a lighter amber rum. Silly pirate marketing aside, this is one you should try.
- Bundaberg - Bundy is a very hard-to-find rum. Hailing from Australia, only about 3% of their yearly production makes it out to the Up Above. If you find it, buy it. Great molasses flavor, nice finish, and a good bit of bite to it.
- Flor de Cana - Flor de Cana is a Nicaraguan distillation. They offer several vintages, and each gets better with age, so to speak. They're all good, and some are excellent. I usually stick with the Black Label 5-year old rum, but they range from aged 4 years to aged 18 years.
- Barbancourt - Barbancourt is a Haitian rum and, like Flor de Cana, offers several different ages of rum. Oddly, the quality of the vintages skips around a bit. For example, their 4-year old rum is better than their 8-year old rum, but then the 12-year old is best of all. I like Barbancourt on the rocks, but I prefer a squeeze of lime in it.
- Pusser's - I couldn't make a Top Ten list without including the staple of the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Known as "Nelson's Blood" (after Lord Admiral Nelson, the British naval hero), Pusser's rum was served every day aboard British Royal Navy ships until 1979. Known for their distinctive decorative decanters, Pusser's is frankly not my favorite, but I'll drink it out of a sense of tradition at yacht races and what have you. While I'd never mix it 50/50 with water like the Royal Navy did, it is good over ice.
Spiced Rums (in order of preference)
Since spiced rums are used mostly for mixing, almost any spiced rum is as good as another, so you might as well buy the cheaper brands. The one standout in the group is Sailor Jerry, and it's the only one I'll drink on the rocks without mixing. I like the ocassional rum and coke, and all these rums are good for that:
- Sailor Jerry
- Captain Morgan
- Admiral Nelson - cheaper than the Captain, and outranks him to boot!
- Castillo Spiced
- Cruzan 9 - keep an eye on this one. I've never had it because it's brand new, but they're making a serious run at the spiced rum title and everything else they make is excellent.
I've never had much use for flavored rums. However, if you hollow out a pineapple, chop up the fruit, fill the husk with coconut rum, pour the fruit back in and let it marinate in the fridge overnight, you've got a breakfast of champions I'm here to tell you. Plus chicks dig it. Here's my top three:
- Malibu - the one that started it all
- Parrot Bay -- the Captain's foray into the coconut rum market
- Bacardi Limon - you would think this would be ideal for mixing a Cuba Libre, but sadly it's not.
The high-octane rums are known as overproof rums. They're also known as recipe rums because they're used for cooking almost as often as they're used in cocktails. They're always mixed because they taste like jet fuel (with one exception, below). If you're looking for some extra fireworks with your Bananas Foster or Cafe Brulot, these are the rums to use:
- Bacardi 151
- Wray & Nephew Over Proof
- Stroh - You really have to watch out for this stuff. It's made in Austria, is 160 proof, and is actually drinkable on its own. It will knock you on your ass, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. If you mix it with a frozen can of Bacardi Pina Colada Mix you will create a pink concoction that tastes like strawberry shortcake and will ruin anyone who drinks it. You've been warned.
Eddie's Killer Hot Buttered Rum
Perfect for those cold winter nights. Just be careful, these things sneak up on you. This makes enough for about a dozen cocktails.
- Stick of soft unsalted butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
Mix everything together in a bowl until well-blended and creamy. I usually like to let it set in the fridge for a couple hours to firm up. When you're ready for a drink, put two heaping tablespoons of the mix in a coffee mug. Fill halfway with dark rum (use something cheap like Castillo, as the batter will overpower the flavor of the rum). Fill to the brim with BOILING water (the rum in the mug will cool it instantly to a drinkable temperature) and mix.
mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from November 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.