Not sure if you heard, it snowed in parts of the country a couple of days ago. It was unexpectedly intense, considering the mild winter so far, and needless to say, in some places, there was a run on cheese.
Whatever kind of weather’s hitting you at the moment, there’s a fair bet you might have preferred to get out of town—do one of those long-weekend jaunts people seem to do in movies, where Turks & Caicos subs in for the backyard sandbox the rest of us drink our wine in. But even if you can’t get there from here, you can drink there, while still here. Thus, our list of staycation booze: spirits produced with love and care and history in climates far warmer than our own. Yes, most of them are rum*, but a few are entirely unexpected, and all of them should have enough warmth and complexity to have you feeling like your finishing your third pulp mystery while your toes sit snugly in the sand.
*What’s in an “h”? For rum, a lot. Whereas “rum” is made with molasses, “rhum” is made with sugar-cane juice—meaning you’ll get more of a grassy earthiness swimming around all the delicious complexity.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Brugal Rum Extra Viejo
A far more affordable way to pretend you’re in Punta Cana, and a dryer rum than you might expect. Still rich with banana, brown sugar, chocolate, and dark dried fruit, it dries out on the finish. As good for mixing as sipping, and $25 makes for a cheap staycation.
SAINT LUCIA: St. Lucia 1931 Rum
St. Lucia Distiller’s anniversary rum, this is distilled in column and pot stills, aged in port and American bourbon casks, lush with vanilla, fig, and nectary sweetness that’s nicely balanced by dry oaky warmth (thanks to 7 to 12 years of aging in the warm Caribbean).
MARTINIQUE: Clément Vieux Rhum Agricole
Rhum Agricole is actually exclusive to Martinique (an AOC). Aged for just over four years (in French oak and charred bourbon), you get that rhum freshness (think orchard fruit, funky banana flavors) with notes of vanilla and spice from the oak.
GUATEMALA: Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera 23 Year – BEST VALUE OVERALL
For (sometimes) around $40, this may be the best buy, considering it’s solera aged and blended with a mix of 6 to 23 year-old rums (and, if you’re into that kind of thing, scored 97 points from the Beverage Tasting Institute). A rich rum, with plenty of spice and toast from the wood, with chewy tropical fruit, fudgy and nutty and perceptibly sweet.
PUERTO RICO: Ron del Barrilito Superior Especial 3 Star Rum
Rum from the oldest (also family-run) distillery in Puerto Rico. Smooth with some delicate smoke and pepper, and a slight fruitiness that comes off as more citrus-forward. Some caramel that dries out quickly (thanks in part to a high ABV), making this as good for mixing as sipping.
BRAZIL: Leblon Cachaça
Not only do we wish we were on the beaches of Brazil, we wish we were also in good enough shape to be on the beaches of Brazil. Until then, a nice, bottle of cachaça that’s actually named after a beach in Rio de Janiero. Like “rhum,” cachaça is made with cane juice, and with only a handful of months in the barrel, you’re left with a lot of fresher, lighter flavors—green pepperiness and subtly sweet tropical fruit.
HAWAII: Hawaiian Moonshine “Okolehao” – MOST UNEXPECTED STAYCATION
Yes, you think Hawaii tourism, you think overjuiced “Tiki” cocktails and paper umbrellas. But this no-bull moonshine comes from a late 18th Century recipe for “okolehao,” a distilled spirit made from the starchy root of the Ti plant. This bottle’s slightly different, what with some refinements in distilling in the last 200 years, very delicately sweet and surprisingly smoother—especially for a moonshine at 100 proof.
MEXICO: Herradura Reserva Port Cask Finish – BEST SPLURGE
Fate and finance say you can’t make it to Puerto Vallarta this year. At least not this quarter. Fine, but why not fight back with a nice splurge-worthy bottle of tequila, an anejo for sipping, or something completely different, like this. Port-cask finishing their reposado tequila gives this Herradura richer notes of dark fruit, salted caramel, and even chocolate lingering below the brighter citrus and green heat of the agave.
JAMAICA: Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Extra
A blend of copper pot-distilled rums aged between 12 and 18 years (the youngest age is the one on the label), the Appleton 12 Year is as good a marriage of husky heat and mellow-sweet complexity as you can get. Vanilla and spice from the oak with notes of citrus and chewy tropical fruit that linger well into a brisk, drying finish.