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When it comes to summery flavours, it’s rum that often features as a base ingredient, conjuring visions of sandy Caribbean beaches stretched out beneath a setting sun.
What rum should I choose for making cocktails?
Right now there’s a greater choice of rums available in the UK than ever before and while all manner of flavoured and spiced rums are crowding the marketplace, for classic cocktails it’s the more traditional white and dark rums you’re more likely to need.
Best rums at a glance:
- Best for making Mai Tai: Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve Rum, 43%
- Best for a daiquiri: Veritas White Rum, 47%
- Best for mojitos: Havana Club No 3 White Rum, 40%
- Best Rhum Agricole: Rhum Clément Ambre, 40%
- Best for a dark’n’stormy: Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Rum, 40%
- Best for caipirinhas: Yagura Organic Cachaça, 40%
- Best for a rum old fashioned: Bacardi Reserva 8 Year Old, 41.3%
- Best new rum: Eminente Reserva
- Best for sipping: Mount Gay XO triple Cask Blend, 43%
- Best for baking: Hawksbill Caribbean Spiced Rum 70cl
White, golden, or dark rum, which is right for my drink?
The colour of these rums is determined by a process of ageing and filtering.
- Those labelled ‘white’, ‘light’ or ‘silver’ will often be younger rums with a shorter time spent maturing in casks, or will have gone through a process of charcoal-filtering to remove colour
- rums gain golden hues from an increased time spent in barrels, while the
- darkest rums are often made from caramelised molasses before being aged in charred barrels, with caramel colouring added to some of the darkest drops.
With most cocktails it’s essential you get the right kind of rum for the job (you don’t want a crisp mojito clouded by the addition of a dark rum) so this list features some of the best rums you can find, with a popular serve selected for each that will show off its qualities.
Mix yourself some treats and let’s all hope for some Caribbean sunshine to help enjoy them at their best.
Consider one of these excellent drinks trolleys for holding your spirits
Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve Rum, 43%
Best for: Mai Tais
We find Appleton’s rums among the best value and most versatile around, and think they excel in partnership with the almond and orange flavours of a Mai Tai.
Unsurprising, seeing as the original Mai Tai recipe was devised to show off one of Appleton’s rums (albeit under the J Wray & Nephew name when it emerged in the 1940s).
Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve is a dark Jamaican rum that’s smooth enough to sip neat, has rich enough oak and spice flavours to shine in a cocktail, and some honeyed orange flavours of its own that harmonise with the other Mai Tai ingredients.
Veritas White Rum, 47%
Best for: a Daiquiri
Veritas is a drink that’s well worth getting acquainted with – a white rum that’s not only great in a myriad of cocktails but can also be enjoyed neat, and at a great price too.
It’s a blend of rums from Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden, Jamaica, that’s bottled at a punchy 47% allowing its full flavours to develop on the palate.
It has a depth of flavour with notes of green pepper, nut and charred pineapple that sing out loud in a daiquiri, while fresh grass and banana mingle with the zingy lime to add some bright colourful notes to the piece.
And that boozy punch it packs also helps it stand its ground among stronger flavours such as coke or ginger beer.
Havana Club No 3 White Rum, 40%
Best for: Mojitos
Havana Club’s bottles of white rum are among the most iconic in the world, visible on all the best bartender shelves.
Its smooth, light character – with hints of vanilla and nutty oak flavours – make it ideal in any number of cocktails that come under the heading ‘refreshing’, but we think it’s at its best in a mojito, the lime and minty mix that hails from Havana’s home country of Cuba.
The rum sits in the background, providing a subtle snap of flavoursome booze, while allowing the zing of mint and lime to work their refreshing magic.
Rhum Clément Ambre, 40%
Best: Rhum Agricole
If you’re looking for a style of rum with totally unique flavours then seek out those labelled ‘Agricole’. Unlike other rums that are made from sugar cane syrup or molasses, these rums are made from the cane juice, which often lends them fresh, grassy flavours (sugar cane is, after all, a grass) and is more affected by terroir.
Agrocioles are more common throughout French speaking parts of the Caribbean such as Haiti, and Martinique, and were originally made using similar methods to Cognac.
This rum has taken on a golden appearance from 12 months spent in oak and it contains a touch of woody spice alongside the light grassy and herby notes, with a hint of tangerine adding some extra interest. If you’re looking for cocktail inspiration to test out this rum then try out the simple (and boozy) Agricole-designed Ti Punch.
Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Rum, 40%
Best for: a Dark’n’Stormy
If you want to combine rum with ginger beer and call it a Dark ‘n’ Stormy then you’ll have to choose Black Seal, because Gosling’s have trademarked the Dark ‘n’ Stormy name.
Black Seal gets its brooding dark looks from ageing in charred oak casks and a touch of caramel colouring, with its treacly, butterscotch flavours being enriched with figgy fruit and spice notes.
The addition of ginger beer brings those flavours to life with effervescence and heat. Serve in a tall glass with ice and a slice of lime, and brace yourself for a storm of fine flavours.
Yagura Organic Cachaça, 40%
Best for: Caipirinhas
Brazil’s national beverage is a type of rum known as Cachaça or Aguardente de Cana that is produced, like rum agricoles, from sugar cane juice.
Yagura Cachaça has a history that stretches back to the late 19th century and is produced by the same family today.
The Cachaça inside Yagura’s striking blue bottle, the design of which was inspired by the wave patterns on Copacabana’s promenade, is organic and has spent five to six years resting in European oak barrels.
It makes the perfect Caipirinha, Brazil’s increasingly popular cocktail, made with Cachaça, sugar and lime.
There are lovely citrus floral notes, and hints of exotic spices, with a peppery kick that will stir you into samba action in no time.
Bacardi Reserva 8 Year Old, 41.3%
Best for: a Rum Old Fashioned
With a history stretching back to 1862 it’s no wonder that Bacardi features in the invention of numerous cocktails – the Daiquiri and Mojito are just two classics the brand lays claim to.
While it’s Bacardi’s white rums that are best known in cocktail circles, we’re crossing over to their dark side for this suggestion.
An Old Fashioned traditionally requires you to wheel out the whisky, but an alternative version using rum is also highly effective, and Bacardi’s 8 year old does the trick perfectly well.
It’s fresh and fragrant, rich and fruity, while lingering throughout are the kind of oak, spicy notes that will give your Old Fashioned just the right level of dark sophistication.
Eminente Reserva 7 Year Old, 41.3%
Best: new rum
Eminente is a recent rum launch from booze giant Moët Hennesey, expertly crafted in Cuba and packaged in one of the best bottles you’ll ever find, with textured glass inspired by crocodile skin.
The rum itself fully lives up to the packaging – a complex beast that makes an instant impression on the taste-buds with a myriad of rich fruity and spicy flavours.
It’s a blend of two different styles of Cuban rums, each aged for a minimum of 7 years, with ex-whisky barrels involved in the process, which bring out some coffee and tannin notes that would make it ideal for an Old Fashioned.
There’s also a dark caramel sweetness and hints of chocolate, along with some punchier spice, making it as good for sipping neat as it is in any number of rum-based cocktails.
Mount Gay XO triple Cask Blend, 43%
Best for: Sipping
The winner of The Whisky Exchange’s prestigious Rum of the Year 2020, this is a blend of rums from casks that have previously contained American whiskey, bourbon and cognac, aged between five and 17 years.
It’s every bit as complex as you might imagine from that combination, making it one to pore over and savour without other ingredients cluttering the mix.
It has a super smooth sippability and hits the mouth with an almost frothy creaminess.
The sweet caramel and vanilla spices sparkle on the tongue and tropical Barbadian fruits drenched in orange dance on the palate – there’s even a sophisticated dry finish to round things off.
Finest Caribbean Back Tot Rum, 46.2%
Best for: a shot of warmth
Although great in summery cocktails, a shot (or ‘tot’) of the right rum can also provide you with the kind of instant warmth that can banish any evening shivers.
Black Tot is most definitely the right kind, being a blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados in the style of those enjoyed by British Navy crews in the days before on-board boozing was stopped on 31 July 1970 (a date known as Black Tot Day)
This modern incarnation of the Navy’s favourite tipple is choc-full of stone fruit and spice notes, swirling around in a sea of rich molasses flavours. It’s smooth, without being syruppy sweet, and if it’s warming booze can see off a nautical chill then you’ll find it more than adept at adding some toasty comfort to sipping on land.
Hawksbill Caribbean Spiced Rum 70cl
Best for: using when baking
Understand us correctly here: when we say this is great for baking, it’s not damning with faint praise. This sweet, heady sipping spiced rum from Guyana and Trinidad makes for a gorgeous tipple, rich and easy.
But its flavourful spices and fruitiness - vanilla, raisin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and a splash of saltiness - make this ideal for combining with sweet treats. Drench a fruit cake in it, and it’ll help it sing. Rhum Baba? This is the drop for the job. Spirit-laced affogato? You catch our drift.
Fruity and satisfying, it’s likely to become a cupboard staple.