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Best rums for summer: 10 to try

Get set for the sunshine with this selection of new rum releases and bottles that are ideal for mixing up refreshing seasonal cocktails. Julie Sheppard recommends a range of light, dark and spiced rums to try.

Rum is on a roll. The latest industry figures show that sales are increasing globally and more people than ever are mixing up rum cocktails at home. There’s good reason for this: rum is one of the most diverse spirits categories out there, with a range of styles to suit every taste. And as demand is increasing, producers are upping their game, releasing new expressions and premium products to quench our thirst.

Released in June, the Rum Global Market Report 2023 by the Business Research Company showed that the global rum category is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 4.8% this year, up to US$14.35bn from US$13.69bn in 2022. The report predicts the the category could be worth US$17.68bn by 2027.

Meanwhile research conducted by Bacardí earlier this year showed that over a quarter of us in the UK are opting for a rum cocktail instead of beer this summer. Out of 2,011 respondents surveyed in May, 29% preferred rum cocktails. A Piña Colada was the number one choice, followed by Sex on the Beach and a minty Mojito.

In the mix

If you’re a novice and want to have a go at making your own rum cocktails at home this summer, drinks expert Laura Foster recommends keeping things simple and starting with two bottles: one light and one dark.

‘For mixing rum cocktails at home, you can make most drinks with two variants in your drinks cabinet. First up is a decent, unaged rum that offers complexity, which will be the foundation for your Daiquiris, Mojitos, Cuba Libres and Piña Coladas,’ she says. ‘Next, you need an aged rum for your stirred, more serious drinks.’

Beyond the basics there’s a whole world of tropical Tiki cocktails to explore. These are the drinks that remind you of summer holidays and sundowners on the beach. Try a simple Dark N Stormy, with ginger beer and lime, or a delicious Mai Tai. Rum punches are also a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and easy to mix in large batches for parties.

New launches

If you’re a more serious rum drinker or collector, the latest round of summer releases will be of interest. The newest recruit to the range from Cuban brand Havana Club is an exclusive small-batch bottling for The Whisky Exchange (see below).

Meanwhile in Jamaica, Appleton Estate’s Master Blender Joy Spencer has been delving into the archives to recreate the discontinued J Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old, famed for its use in the first-ever Mai Tai cocktail. The result is Appleton Estate 17 Year Old Legend, a complex and collectable limited-edition, selling for a cool £500. See below for more details.

‘This project has been years in the making and truly one of the most challenging of my career,’ says Spence. ‘In carefully re-creating the beautiful taste profile of the original rum, we’ve created an expression that is a tribute both to our own heritage, and to the heritage of the classic cocktail craft.’

But whether you’re a connoisseur or a newcomer to rum, the choices below should give you some inspiration for happy summer sipping.

Hand holding a rum cocktail on a bar

Photo by Jia Jia Shum/Unsplash

Best rums for summer: 10 to try

8Track Spiced Rum

Cornish company Upbeat Spirits supports the UK’s independent music scene with events in small venues. Its first release is a sustainably sourced blend of rums from Guyana and Barbados, spiced with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and Seville oranges. Bursting with fruity orange notes on the nose and palate, it’s a light, easygoing style, perked up with fiery fresh ginger hits and dark clove undertones. Good value and great in a Dark N Stormy with ginger beer and lime. Alcohol 37.5%

Appleton Estate 17 Year Old Legend

Top Jamaican rum producer Appleton Estate has launched this rare bottling that pays homage to the discontinued J Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old, famed for its use in the first-ever Mai Tai cocktail. Appleton Estate 17 Year Old Legend was created by Appleton’s Master Blender Joy Spence. She referenced original archived manuscripts and formulas, using four very rare distillates to best replicate the taste profile of the legendary blend crafted by J Wray & Nephew on the estate in the 1940s. Velvety, complex and rich, it captures the smoky orange top notes that distinguished the original, layered with rich caramelised banana, ripe pear, oak, moist fruit cake, nuts, dates and distinctive green herbaceous notes, with an intense, lingering finish. Only 1,500 bottles produced, with 180 available in the UK – and at £500 a bottle, it’s one for the dedicated rum collectors. Alc 49%

Barceló Organic Rum

Based in the Dominican Republic, Ron Barceló is a certified carbon-neutral rum producer. The latest addition to its range, Barceló Organic Rum, is the first Dominican organic rum; it’s made from fresh sugar-cane juice, extracted from 150ha of organically farmed sugar cane and aged in US oak. Satisfying, mellow fruity aromas – banana and cherry – plus fruit cake, cocoa and a hit of pink peppercorns. The rich and velvety palate is layered with tropical fruit, caramel, Madeira cake and dried ginger, with darker hints of tobacco and chocolate on the finish. Try it in a Rum Old Fashioned. Alc 37.5%

Don Q Double Cask Finish Cognac

Launched in May and available at Ocado, this dark rum is one of two new limited releases from Puerto Rican rum brand Don Q. It’s aged in American white oak barrels for five to eight years, then finished for an additional two years in Cognac casks. Enticing aromas of rich tropical fruit, dried fruit, honey, banana toffee and subtle spicy oak. Complex palate: layers of dried fruit, mango, marmalade, leather and lots of dusty brown spice mingle with sweet oak, with Cognac character appearing on the dry finish. A rum to sip and savour. Only 1,800 bottles produced. Alc 49.6%

Equiano Light

The world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum is a blend of fresh unaged sugar cane juice rum from Grays Distillery in Mauritius and three-year-old molasses rum from Foursquare distillery in Barbados. It’s named in honour of Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave and a prominent abolitionist in the 18th century. A percentage of company profits goes to the charitable Equiano Rum Co Foundation, currently supporting Anti-Slavery International. A very light and subtle palate, with lovely freshness. Carries its alcohol lightly – perfect for summer serves. Grassy, creamy, with vanilla, and a spicy note on the finish. Try it in a citrussy Daiquiri. Alc 43%

Havana Club 11 Year Old Small Batch

Blended by Maestro del Ron Cubano Asbel Morales, this new rum was bottled at cask strength – a first for Havana Club. It’s available exclusively at The Whisky Exchange, which is also the first time the brand has created a rum for one specific retailer. It’s one for slow sipping, as you enjoy the aromas of ripe orange, stone fruit, dried mango and orange peel, layered with mellow oak spice. On the palate you’ll find rich dried fruits, marzipan, wild flower honey and cinnamon, with a very long, spicy finish. Alc 50%

Takamaka Pti Lakaz

Produced on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles, Takamaka rums showcase different production techniques, making use of both molasses and cane sugar rums, and pot- and column-distillation, with ageing in a variety of casks. Pti Lakaz is a blend of two Seychelles rums – a pot-distilled cane rum matured in three types of oak and a molasses rum rested in ex-bourbon casks – with an eight-year-old molasses rum from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. It kicks off with a nose of spice, toffee and tropical fruit. Rich and rounded, with mellow brown spices, malted milk biscuits, Madeira cake, bananas, caramel and ripe tropical fruit, and a long, spicy finish. Perfect for a fruity rum punch. Alc 45.1%

That Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Distillery #9 Fiji

The Boutique-y boys bottle unusual casks from around the world, including rarities and closed distilleries. Their rums are always interesting and reliably excellent quality – and the latest range, released in May, is no exception. As usual, the bottlings aren’t classified by colour, but by production method, distillery and origin. This characterful pot-still rum comes from an unnamed distillery on the South Pacific island of Fiji. Layered and complex, with signature spiciness, roasted pineapple, banana toffee, fresh mango, vanilla pod, star anise, grassiness, white pepper, banana leaf and even hints of florality. A joy for the rum geeks. Alc 52.2%

Rhum JM White

This is an agricole, a distinctive style of rum made from sugarcane (rather than molasses) that’s typical to the French-speaking islands of the Caribbean – in this case Martinique, where the style was invented – hence it’s labelled rhum. Agricoles have a trademark grassy character, which you’ll find here alongside bright lime citrus, floral and tropical notes, plus white pepper spice. I love this in a Mojito. Alc 50%

Veritas White Rum

Two of rum’s most respected names have joined forces to make this versatile light mixing rum. A blend of pot-still spirit from Hampden in Jamaica and column-still rum from Foursquare in Barbados, Veritas kicks off with notes of banana caramel, pineapple and vanilla. Smooth palate with pineapple and pineapple leaf, fresh banana, pear and a touch of butterscotch. One of my favourite rums for a Daiquiri. Alc 47%

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