My impression of a rum drinker, until recently, had been somewhere between a swashbuckling pirate and Jimmy Buffet barefoot and singing to a crowd of people wearing parrots on their heads. On the handful of occasions that I dabbled in rum of any kind, it was mixed into some classic, fruity cocktail near the beach. But, over the last year or so, it was as if the spirit (as in rum) was sending me signals to try more of it.
The first one came from Master P, the rapper. Strange right? Remember Master P from the late 90s? I sure do, even his brief run in the NBA. He became wildly successful as a music producer and has a fearless entrepreneurial way about him. He stopped by the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits home office one day to pitch his Sugar Skull Rum. Admittedly, I had never tried it, but loved the bottle and logo which was a good start. I gave Master P my word that I would try his rum, specifically the coconut blend. Delicious for sipping over ice and if you’re a piña colada fan, this one is a can’t miss.
Tasting notes: Coconut flavor with hint of vanilla and a slight aroma of wild berries.
Rum consumption in the U.S. is down somewhat as of late () . At the same time, and we see this happening with other spirits, more and more people are willing to spend more to upgrade in quality. The good news for people who want to try different rums is you don’t have to spend a lot to find great flavors. The rums I’m referencing range in price from $10 to $47.
Several months after the Master P visit, some close friends and I rounded up in a Boston hotel room to, shall we say, pre-game a little before heading to the NCAA Tournament being played at the nearby arena. Also, a little strange. Anyway, my buddy randomly uncapped a bottle of Palms Spiced Rum he brought from Florida and mixed it with a splash of ginger beer over ice for some fantastic Dark & Stormies. (Side note: the plastic hotel cups were not a bad replacement for a tall glass.) I was hooked. Refreshing, easy cocktail and the Palms Rum mixed perfectly. I’ve used it more for mixing but judging by the reviews, it’s great for sipping neat or on the rocks.
Tasting notes: Deep amber color. Aromas of baked banana, nutmeg, clove and caramel. Full-flavored body leads to a sweet finish.
The third cue came from my brother-in-law who announced that he hooked up with a team to produce a new rum hitting stores soon. (More on that at a later date.) Anyway, it seemed inevitable that I had a lot more tasting to do in the rum game. So, I finally opened a favorite among Floridians called Papa’s Pilar. Ernest Hemingway fans will love the story behind it as the makers honored the adventurous author through the brand. Papa was Hemingway’s nickname and Pilar was the name of his boat. Papa’s has a blonde rum with a big fan base and a dark rum which is my pick. It’s blended in bourbon barrels, port wine casks and Spanish sherry casks. Rums in Papa’s dark blend have been aged for 24 years and made from sugar cane and molasses.
Tasting notes: The 24-year-old dark amber colored rum is sweet, mixed with earthy, vegetal tones. It's mouth-coating with hints of spice, bourbon, almonds and apricot. The finish is robust, exotic and full-bodied. The nose has complex notes of vanilla, cinnamon, dark Italian roast coffee and honey with hints of sherry and port.
Why stop at three when there are so many more out there to try?
El Dorada 15-year —The Beverage Institute gave this rum a 96 rating. Wow! It’s one of the Caribbean's premier-aged rums and winner of numerous gold medals going back over 20 years.
Tasting notes: Full nose packed with dark coffee, candied orange, almonds, dark chocolate, pepper and rich vanilla. Beautifully rounded palate with a great spread of flavors: grilled tropical fruit with smooth oaky spice – silky, vibrant and moderately full-bodied.
Vizcaya Cask 12 Dark Rum -- Aged for six years in oak barrels and then blended. Sings with a rich, complex bouquet; subtle notes of vanilla. The blend includes 18 and 21-year-old rums distilled from sugar cane juice, not molasses. Winner of Best in Show, Double Gold, 2011/12/13 (San Francisco World Spirits Competition).
Tasting notes: Almost candy like, baking spices, oak notes, caramel apple, toasted marshmallow, almond brittle, maple syrup.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum – This rum is produced in Venezuela and distilled from molasses in copper pot stills; then it’s aged in small oak casks for about 12 years before it’s bottled.
Tasting notes: Very chocolatey initially, like a chocolate sauce on dessert. Rich and full, bursting with the sweet toffee, fudge and tropical fruit flavors from the nose. The texture is very generous, rounded by the oak. Real mouthwatering depth of flavor here.
Plantation Rum Barbados 20th Anniversary -- The color of old mahogany, Plantation XO 20th Anniversary reveals a nose with exotic notes of sugarcane, oaky vanilla and toasted coconut, enhanced by more complex aromas of cocoa, candied orange and cigar box. To be enjoyed slowly, with or without a cigar.
Once you start building out your rum collection, you’ll be ready to make some of the all-time classic rum cocktails. From the rum and Coke (You don’t need the recipe do you?), to the daiquiri, mojito, and many more. Cheers!