As the year draws to a frosty festive close, our thoughts are most likely turning to the warming, restorative qualities of a well-stocked drinks cabinet – and the myriad flavours within.
Cognac, brandy, whisky – and fortified wines such as Port and Sherry – tend to be thrust into the spotlight in December. But rum, in its various guises, can transport us to warmer times and exotic locations. That makes it a perfect tipple for fireside sipping, as well as offering rich complexity to Christmas-themed cocktails.
The dark rum category has grown substantially over the past 18 months. Retailers and bars are seeing a new breed of enthusiast looking to make rum their speciality, given its wide-reaching flavour profile. Choices range from more traditional Caribbean styles to a host of incredible, often innovative bottlings from diverse locations around the world.
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Similarly, the world of spiced rum has begun to take some truly exotic twists and turns. New flavour combinations and innovative cask finishes are giving us even more reasons to choose a rum for Christmas over the more traditional brandies and whiskies, with which we have avidly warmed our cockles with previously.
Below are my favourite festive picks, which should make any discerning rum drinker purr with delight.
Best rums for Christmas
Appleton Estate Black River Casks 15 Year Old
For the Considered Sipper
This bold, rich and hugely complex Jamaican rum is inspired by the Black River, an integral source of water in Jamaica’s rum-making history. Weighty notes of toasted coffee beans, thick molasses and candied, zesty orange peel make this perfect for settling in with by the fireside. Alcohol 43%
Belgrove Hazelnut Rum
For the Cocktail Enthusiast
A single origin Demerara rum from Guyana, infused with toasted hazelnuts, vanilla and cocoa to give this a broad, expressive and deliciously moreish flavour. It works well in an Old Fashioned, Espresso Martini or Manhattan-style cocktail. Alc 40%
For the Trend Setter
Clairin is the name on every spirits-writer’s lips right now. It’s an ‘agricole’ style of rum – meaning it is made from sugar cane juice, rather than molasses – that’s produced exclusively in Haiti. Expect to find a really distinct, savoury, almost herbal/grassy character here, alongside notes of crisp green apple, pine, mint and roasted root vegetables. Alc 49.5%
For the Daiquiri Lover
Hailing from Venezuela, Planas is undoubtedly one of the smoothest, most complex white rums out there, thanks to being aged in oak for six years, before having the colour filtered out. It brings a new depth to a classic Daiquiri, working beautifully with the citrus-sweet notes. Alc 47%
Eminente Reserva 7 Year Old
For the No-Nonsense-Classic Rum Lover
A wonderfully full-bodied, well textured Cuban rum, which is packed with classic dark rum characteristics. Think roasted coffee, dates, layers of vanilla, fresh ginger, citrus fruit and a waft of smoke on the finish. Exceptional. Alc 41.3%
Forsyths WPE White Rum 2017 Habitation Velier
For The Overproof Fanatic
A deliciously high-proof, high-ester pot-still rum from Jamaica’s Worthy Park distillery. This vintage is very fruity, with punchy, funky molasses notes and a bright, almost savoury finish – largely thanks to the three month fermentation process bringing huge depth and character. Alc 57%
Hampden Estate 8 Year Old
For the True Connoisseur
If you’re looking for a rum to rival some of the very best single malt whiskies, then this is truly it. Hampden has set itself apart in the world of high-end, connoisseur-led rums. Its flavour profile is bold, dry and highly complex at first, full of liquorice and woody spice, which leads into a surprising and delicious tropical fruitiness, full of mango, vanilla and a touch of passion fruit. Outstanding. Alc 46%
Old Mother Hunt Coffee & Chocolate Rum
For the Dessert Lover
A perfect pairing for a chocolate trifle or even the humble Christmas pudding. Old Mother Hunt, based in Scotland, has seasoned its rum with ethically sourced coffee and cocoa beans, which bring a darker, richer distinctly after-dinner vibe to your glass. Alc 40%
Plantation Pineapple Rum Stiggins’ Fancy Smoky Formula
For the Thrill-Seeker
First created in 2014 exclusively for the Tales Of The Cocktail event in New Orleans, by Master Distiller Alexandre Gabriel and drinks historian, Dave Wondrich. Word soon spread about this spectacular rum, which infuses toasted, roast Victoria pineapple into a blend of Bajan, Jamaican and Trinidad rum. This ‘Smoky’ version is further finished in peated Irish whiskey casks from the Teeling distillery in Dublin. Alc 40%
Trash & Treasure Spiced Botanical Rum
For the Spice Lover
Created by the exceptionally clever minds behind Warner’s gin in Northamptonshire, this spiced rum is infused with sustainable ingredients, which would have otherwise been wasted. They include overripe banana, discarded citrus peels and toasted dandelion root, which brings a distinctly cinnamon-like note to the flavour. Alc 40%