With its roots in the 19th century, the Old Fashioned has survived the test of time. The cocktail is largely associated with whisky, although aged rum is an excellent alternative that is quickly gaining in popularity. Combining the complexity of a quality whisky with the inherent fruit notes found in this spirit, rum makes for a delicious Old Fashioned, especially if you play around with the type of sugar used to make the simple syrup (see below).
So what is the best rum for an Old Fashioned? You’ll definitely want something with a bit of age, as the richer, more complex characteristics of an aged rum work best when combined with the bitters and sugar. Higher alcohol bottlings also lend more viscosity and body, which can work in this drink’s favour.
It’s useful to be aware that age statements for rum are rarely as high as for whisky. But don’t take this as a sign of inferiority – in fact, it’s to do with the maturation process, which happens at a faster rate in the tropics. Also, age statements for rum are still not legislated, so there is the occasional anomaly where the truth has been stretched slightly…
With all this in mind, scroll down to see our recommendations for the best Old Fashioned rums.
How to make a rum Old Fashioned
- 60ml (2oz) aged rum
- 7.5ml (0.25oz) Demerara simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Squeeze of lime
Mix all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
Although dissolving a sugar cube is one way to add the sugar element to an Old Fashioned, an alternative way is to pre-make a simple syrup. Different sugars impart different characters, and a popular choice for the rum Old Fashioned is Demerara sugar as its subtle caramel flavour pairs incredibly well with the rich flavours and inherent sweet note of aged rum.
Making Demerara simple syrup sounds like a faff but is definitely worth five minutes of your time. Start with a ratio of 1:1 Demerara sugar to water in a saucepan, and stir to dissolve the sugar as you warm the liquid. I like to add a small piece of orange peel to the pan, which lends a citrus nuance to the syrup that shines when mixed into the cocktail.
Leave to cool in a jar and place in the fridge until it’s needed. It will last for around one week.
Top rums for an Old Fashioned
Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Aged
This rum from Venezuela is aged in a solera system, where casks containing various ages of rum are topped up with new spirit as some is drawn off for bottling. The oldest rum component is around 35 years old. Nutty, spicy, warming and smooth, with dried citrus peel overtones, this works really well in an Old Fashioned combined with the aromatic spices of the Angostura bitters and orange peel notes from the simple syrup and garnish. Alc 40%
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Another rum from Venezuela, aged for up to 12 years in whisky barrels. This has a surprising amount of sugar added, giving it a rich and rounded character. It features notes of candied orange peel, cinnamon, lime, citrus and caramelised nuts – making it a perfect match for a rum Old-Fashioned. Alc 40%
English Harbour Sherry Cask Finish
This column-still rum from Antigua is aged for five years in ex-bourbon barrels before spending a few months in former Oloroso sherry casks. Nutty, caramel notes are dominated by sweet oak, with flavours of citrus, spice, vanilla and a subtle hint of red fruit. Alc 46%
A Whisky Exchange exclusive, Diadem is a blended rum from pot and column stills, aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon and ex-Madeira casks. Warm, zingy notes of orange rind, dried fruit, clove and nut are followed by touches of banana and toffee on the mid-palate. It has really succulent, smooth flavours with a long, spicy finish and plenty of driving acidity. Just over 2,000 bottles available. Alc 60%
Black Tot Finest Caribbean
This blend recalls traditional navy rums, combining elegant Barbados rum with rich Guyanan rum and funky Jamaican rum. The result is a delicious, complex spirit capable of holding its own as well as giving backbone to cocktails. Its funky, juicy tropical notes are accompanied by rich coffee bean, spice and chocolate. Alc 46.2%
Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry
Owned by Cognac house Maison Ferrand, Plantation produces some exciting rums which are tropical-aged in ex-bourbon casks before transferring to France for further ageing in former Cognac casks. This superb blend of 100% pot-still Jamaican rums from Clarendon and Long Pond is full of caramelised orange peel, cigar and nut aromas, with crisp citrus overtones on the palate, accompanying fruity banoffee pie and pineapple flavours. Very dry and with great acidity. Alc 43%
Chairman’s Reserve The Forgotten Casks
In 2007 a fire ravaged the St Lucia Distillers distillery, and so precious casks of rum were stashed anywhere they could for temporary storage out of harm’s way. Some casks were forgotten, and only recently rediscovered. Deemed too old to be included in the Chairman’s Reserve blend, a special rum was released called Forgotten Casks. A blend of rums aged between six and 11 years, casks are now held back for the specific purpose of being used in the Forgotten Casks bottling. Notes of wood polish, orange peel, sweet spice, vanilla and coffee lead to a palate with notes of citrus and tropical fruit, wood, spice and tobacco. Alc 40%