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The best rums for whisky lovers: six to try

The rum category is flourishing, with premium expressions now capturing the interest of whisky enthusiasts. But if you're a Scotch or bourbon fan, where should you start? Tyler Zielinski asks the experts for their recommendations.

Rum is a spirit that’s often terribly misunderstood. It’s commonly labeled as ‘too sweet’ by imbibers who’ve been scarred by the sugar-dosed bottles that dominated the mainstream market for decades.

But, now, rum is booming like never before, with sales of premium rums soaring. Avid spirits enthusiasts – and whisky lovers in particular – are realising that not all rums deserve to be drowned in a glass of Coca-Cola.

‘Today’s rums are being valued in the same way as other renowned spirits,’ says Ian Burrell, the world’s only global ambassador for the rum category, and co-founder of Equiano Rum. ‘Years ago, spirit enthusiasts saw rum as a cheap spirit to mix with other beverages. But now, it is understood that rums can be sipped neat and savoured.’

At their fundamental core, aged rum and whisky aren’t too dissimilar. Both spirits are made from a fermented raw material (grain for whisky, and sugarcane or a sugarcane byproduct for rum). They’re both distilled via either a column or pot still (many rums are a blend of both). Finally both are aged in barrels – with a majority of rums actually aged in ex-bourbon casks, an ageing method familiar to Scotch whisky drinkers.

While it’s easy to get caught-up in the minutiae of rum (such as its classification issues and regional nuances of production), it’s those small similarities – and the premiumisation of the category – that have piqued the interest of whisky enthusiasts.

Adventures in taste

‘Getting people to try premium rums is taking them on a journey,’ says Dawn Davies MW, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange. ‘I find out what the consumer enjoys in spirits and then find a rum that suits their palate. For example, if you are a hardcore Laphroaig or Lagavulin fan, I might lead you to Jamaica – a region known for its robust, high-ester rums – or another distillery with a bit of funk. For the sherried whisky fanatic, Barbados, or even Guyana, might suit your fancy. I believe there is a rum for everyone. It’s just about getting enthusiasts to taste the best liquids.’

Spirits educator Gergő Muráth agrees that rum’s diversity is a draw. A rum expert and also UK brand ambassador for Four Roses Distillery, he explains: ‘For whisky enthusiasts that are open to trying rum, I’d start by pointing out the wealth of different styles, origins, production methods and flavour profiles in rum, corresponding to the many regional and sub-regional styles of whisky.’

Are you a whisky lover ready to dip your toes into a world of spirits produced in some of the most beautiful places on the planet? If so, we’ve asked a few rum experts to recommend the best bottles for you…

The best rums for whisky lovers

Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rare Casks

Recommended by Dawn Davies MW

‘This bottling is ideal for enthusiasts who are just getting into rum. Expect that classic note of freshly peeled oranges, with nutmeg, baked apples and a touch of banana. Plus cedar wood, orange and a hint of almond on the palate.’ Alcohol 43%

Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve 2021

Recommended by Dawn Davies MW

‘This bottling is a blend of rums aged between nine and 24 years from various distilleries around the world – all of which are detailed on the label. Expect aromas of ripe banana, roasted pineapple and leather, with a round, velvety texture on the palate, alongside hints of warming spices and nuts.’ Alc 54.4%

Equiano Original

Recommended by Ian Burrell

‘Equiano Original is an elegant blend of aged rums from Barbados and Mauritius – the first of its kind. It’s medium-bodied with notes of toffee, butterscotch and dried fruits. It’s a flavoursome rum without additives, and is ideal for the blended whisky drinker.’ Alc 43%

Hampden Estate 46 Pure Single Jamaican Rum

Recommended by Ian Burrell

‘For enthusiasts who enjoy a peaty Scotch whisky, try Jamaican rums like Hampden Estate. It is aged for a minimum of eight years, in a tropical climate. This terroir produces an exceptional flavour profile in a short period of time, yielding notes of banana, cinnamon and vanilla.’ Alc 46%

The Real McCoy 12 Year Old

Recommended by Gergő Muráth

‘For bourbon fans and lovers of rich, heavily cask-influenced Scottish whiskies, The Real McCoy 12 is perfect. It has lots of barrel char, vanilla, coconut, cigar tobacco, dark chocolate and a dry, complex, woody finish.’ Alc 40%

Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

Recommended by Gergő Muráth

‘For fans of Irish pot still whiskies and Speyside malts, this bottling presents both the spiciness and fruitiness that characterises those styles. Big flavours of tropical fruit, milk chocolate, black tea tannins and an unctuous mouthfeel with an extremely long finish.’ Alc 45%

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Best sipping rums: eight to try

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