Spiced rum is the pariah of rum enthusiasts and the joy of casual Rum and Coke drinkers. It’s easy to understand why. The big, spice-enhanced flavors characteristic of the style can overpower the natural characteristics of good rum. At the same time, those bold notes enliven otherwise simple highballs.
Even spiced rum haters can find a bottle they like if they look hard enough — and if they use the rum right. Big allspice and vanilla easily blend into simple cocktails, and some spice can be nice on the rocks in the right situations.
When talking to rum experts and fans about spiced rum, the near-universal response was to find a better rum. Faith, the woman behind the Instagram account BarFaith, went so far as to call it “the taboo product of rum enthusiasts.” Still, everyone was able to name a couple brands they could get behind (or to simply make your own spiced rum to your taste).
Here are top bottles you should try and how to use them, even (and especially) if you don’t consider yourself a fan of the category.
Produced on St. Lucia, Chairman’s Reserve is a world-class rum infused with local spices and fruit. Coconut, allspice, clove, and vanilla are readily apparent, as are lemon and orange. A Caribbean bark called Richeria Grandis is thrown in as well to add an extra kick. Chairman’s Reserve is aged in used Kentucky bourbon barrels, setting it apart from many of its contemporaries.
Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced
This three-year-old Puerto Rican rum has big vanilla flavors up front and a lingering, clean, and true rum taste at the finish. The alcohol is an apparent back note at 45 percent alcohol by volume, but this is still a spiced rum that you can be perfectly content sipping over a large ice cube. While Don Q’s unaged and dark rums get most of the attention, its Oak Barrel Spiced bottle is an excellent category option.
Sugar Island Spiced Rum
Sugar Island stays true to its name. Expected notes of vanilla and cinnamon are present, as is a slight powdered sugar sweetness. It’s a mixing rum perfect for a Highball with a spicy ginger soda to balance it out.
If there’s such thing as a classic spiced rum, it’s Sailor Jerry. It’s named after the well-known Hawaiian tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, who designed the now iconic ukulele-playing Sailor Jerry logo. It has a subtle bubblegum sweetness at first sniff, followed by vanilla notes. A savory, barrel-aged quality rounds it out. Sailor Jerry is a standby option for cola or anything black-cherry-flavored.
Bayou Spiced Rum
Bayou Spiced Rum is an American rum produced in Louisiana with state-grown sugarcane. Mellowed-out vanilla, allspice, and cinnamon keep the rum lively. Barrel notes keep the sweetness from becoming overpowering. The spices are inspired by Creole baking, making it a nice mixing rum for when you want something different from your typical Rum and Coke.