Everything you might have heard about rum being the next hot spirit is true. Over the past five years, its sales have significantly cut into what once seemed like vodka’s seemingly insurmountable lead.
Why are rums shooting up the charts? One explanation is that it is a dynamic and diverse spirit with a “fun in the sun” image. Rums are made in exotic places in a broad range of styles—from clear and light-bodied to dark and full-flavored. It is also a spirit that adapts well to barrel aging. Its approachable taste profile means that there’s no learning curve necessary to enjoy rum. Rum is also relatively inexpensive, another advantage it enjoys over other spirit categories.
And then there’s rum’s romantic allure to consider. These tropical spirits are imbued with tantalizing aromas, rich palate-pleasing flavors and colorful backstories. The combination can be rather intoxicating.
A sterling example of how seductive rum can be is Papa’s Pilar Blonde, a world-class offering inspired by the legendary Ernest “Papa” Hemingway. The golden hued Blonde, 84 proof, is a blend of column-distilled rums distilled from slowly fermented cane molasses sourced from Florida, Central and Latin America and the Caribbean. The constituent spirits are Solera aged for 3-7 years in ex-bourbon barrels and port wine casks, after which they are blended together and finished in Spanish Sherry casks. The effect is mesmerizing.
Equally delectable is Papa’s Pilar Dark, 86 proof, a sophisticated spirit comprised of both column- and pot-distilled rums that are aged up to 24 years in the Solera. Graced with fetching bouquets and a broad array of sun-drenched flavors, both of the Papa’s Pilar Rums are fitting tributes to Hemingway’s thirst for adventure.
Not everyone can slip away and jaunt off to the Caribbean, but sipping a fine rum may be the next best thing. If you’re in need of a romance injection, try any of the following exotic gems. They’re our candidates for the hottest new romantic rums of 2014.
Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum — Although he’s internationally renown as a country music megastar, Kenny Chesney is quickly gaining a reputation as the creator of world-class rum. A lifelong devotee of the island lifestyle, Chesney set out to imbue the flavor of the Caribbean in Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum. The bouquet is all coconut and tropical fruit, while on the palate the flavor of the white rum is at the forefront, followed closely by a wave of coconut. The infused spices—clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and pimento—make their presence known on the long, luxurious finish.
Canne Royale Extra Old Rum — Made by master distiller Eeron Redhead at the East Caribbean Rum Company in Grenada, Cannes Royale Extra Old Rum is a blend of rums distilled from both molasses and fresh cane juice. The blend is aged in charred oak barrels for up to 8 years. During its long maturation process, the rum gradually absorbs the natural tannins in the wood rendering it a dark copper color and imbuing it with fruit and oaky flavors. Top notch.
Carta Vieja Ron Añejo — This value-laded dark rum has been made in Panama at the Central Industrial Chiricana distillery since 1915. The rum is a blend of spirits distilled from virgin sugar cane in a column still and aged in charred oak barrels between 6 to 8 years depending on conditions. It is a delectable rum with a velvety textured, medium-weight body and a boatload of semisweet flavors.
Don Pancho Origenes Reserva Especial — Master blender Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernández has been making rum for more than 50 years, the majority of which he was the Director of the Cuban Rum Industry. He now plies his trade at Las Cabras Distillery in the Herrera region of Panama. All-world Origenes Reserva Especial is made with molasses from cane grown on the property and aged for 18 years in charred American oak barrels. Perhaps if you’ve led an exemplary life you can also try the exquisite 30-year old version.
Don Q Gran Añejo —Back in the U.S. after a brief hiatus, Don Q Gran Añejo is a singular blend of rums aged from 6 to 12 years in American white oak. The blend then undergoes further maturation in sherry casks according to the Solera aging system, which the Spanish have made famous in the production of Sherry and Brandy de Jerez. When the rums have reached peak maturity, those selected for the Gran Añejo are rendered to 80 proof with spring water. It’s an alluring añejo that punches well above its weight class.
Kirk & Sweeney 12 Year Dominican Rum — Named for a Prohibition-era rum running schooner, Kirk & Sweeney is handcrafted in the Dominican Republic from locally grown sugarcane and matured for 12 years in charred, American white oak barrels. The 80-proof rum has a deep mahogany hue, a wafting bouquet of honey, coffee, cocoa and herbaceous cane aromas with subtle smoky notes and a palate featuring the barrel-induced flavors of vanilla, toffee, honey, dark chocolate, dried fruit and baking spices. The rum finishes long and flavorful.
One Barrel Rum — Produced since the mid-60s, One Barrel Rum is crafted in Belize by the Perdomo family at the Travellers Distillery. The dark rum is made from local molasses, slowly and naturally fermented and distilled in a three-column continuous still. During its one-year stay in wood, the rum develops a bouquet and flavor profile of tropical fruit, rain forest flora, baking spices, vanilla and raisins. It’s a heady mix, one that makes One Barrel a prime candidate for savoring neat.
Real McCoy Rum — The rum is an exact recreation of those produced by Captain Bill McCoy. The famed Prohibition rumrunner is better known as “The Real McCoy” because he only delivered top quality, undiluted liquor to the speakeasies of New York. The molasses-based rums are made at the same distillery used by Bill McCoy—the Foursquare Distillery on Barbados—and in the exact same manner. The range includes a 3-years old, 5-years old and 12-years old expressions. Prohibition never tasted so good.
Ron Millionario Reserva Especial — This sipping rum from the Amazon forest in Peru is made from locally grown sugar cane molasses. The distillery’s Glasgow-built, century old column stills produce clean aromatic rums that are aged in a Solera comprised of American white oak barrels and Sherry casks. The blend spends an average of 15 years in wood prior to being bottled.
Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum — Ex-Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar set out to create a silver rum brimming with flavor and style. The highly successful result is super-premium Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. Made on the island of Maui, Sammy’s is produced from locally grown sugarcane and distilled in a small, handmade pot still. The rum has a fruity, floral and herbaceous nose and the cane-derived flavors of fresh melon, red plums, zesty citrus and tangerines.
Tiburon Rum — A family-owned brand of premium dark rum is handcrafted in Belize at the Travellers Distillery. It’s a captivating blend of various molasses-based rums barrel-aged in ex-bourbon barrels for varying lengths of time. The finished blend reflects this diversity. It has a golden/amber hue, a velvety body and a vanilla, caramel and cinnamon nose. The finish is spicy warm and loaded with bakery-fresh flavors.
Zafra Master Reserve 21 Years Old — Zafra is another masterpiece created by distiller Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernández at the Las Cabras Distillery in Panama. The molasses-based, column-distilled rum is aged for 21 years in ex-bourbon barrels. During its stay in wood it develops a amber/copper hue and an enticing fruit and spice nose with notes of toasted oak. Its delicious palate is saturated with the flavors of vanilla, apricots, toffee, red cherries and molasses. Zafra is an ideal choice to sip and savor after dinner.
**Photo Courtesy of Privateer Rum