Summer is the time of year when we consume rum with abandon. From rum and coke to piña coladas, rum is definitely a key ingredient to the season. But while lots of summer cocktails include this delicious spirit, there is a whole different side to rum that you’re missing out on if you’re just consuming the white rum meant for mixing. We’re talking about sipping rums, and they’ll elevate your summer experience to a whole new level.
Sipping rums are exactly what they sound like – rums that are easy to drink slowly sans mixers. They owe their maturity to barrel aging, and they’re a world away from the cheap stuff you downed at your college pirate party. While sipping rums can obviously stand to be consumed neat, their complexity and spice can easily be accentuated with a squeeze of lime, a bit of ice or even a splash of soda water or bitters. So, the choice is yours: sip one of these rums, or enjoy them with a twist. Life is full of hard decisions. No matter which option you choose, rum’s tropical taste will transport you from your humid surroundings to a sun-drenched, breezy beach. At least, that’s what you’ll be telling yourself two or three rums in.
Famed bitters producer Angostura also crafts this lovely Trinidadian rum. Aged for at least 12 years, Angostura 1824 is full of sweetness. You’ll get typical oak flavors like vanilla, molasses, and honey, but there’s also a floral touch that prevents this medium bodied rum from being too cloying. Plus, the palate gives way to dryer notes like leather and smoke.
This rum is a bit pricy (upwards of $120 a bottle), but well worth it. As is the case with many aged rums, Ron Abuelo Centuria is made via the solera aging method, where the rum is aged through a series of barrels. As the rum travels from barrel to barrel, no one barrel is ever fully emptied. Therefore, the newer rum picks up the age and complexity of older rum with which it’s blended. Centuria contains rums aged up to thirty years, and it shows. This smooth, toffee-rich rum has such a soft mouthfeel, even those who normally fear sipping straight liquor will be surprised by its gentleness.
3. Zacapa XO BEST OVERALL
Zacapa XO is aged in Cognac barrels, giving it a deep, delectable wine richness. You’ll get oaky sweetness on the nose, but a sip of this super aged rum (this stuff spends 25 years in wood) gives way to dried fruit, jam, spice, and honey. Despite its intense flavor profile, XO is remarkably flexible, so sip it with everything from haute Mexican cuisine to take out. While XO is a luxurious rum, it’s definitely accessible, which is why this extra añejo earns its place as best overall sipping rum.
4. Myers’s Original Dark
Myers’s is a Jamaican rum that’s perfect for relaxing. While it’s definitely palatable enough to be considered a sipping rum, where Myers’s truly shines is smack in the middle of a cocktail. It has a nice, easy sweetness that mingles well with fruit juices and dry ingredients. Myers’s is an agreeable bottle to have on deck when you need to make a dozen rum and sodas for your island-themed summer party, because it has enough tang to blend will with mixers as opposed to hiding behind them.
This rum is on the drier side, so don’t expect heavy caramel, vanilla, and molasses like some of the other picks on this list. Instead, you’ll get woodsiness, leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate. If you need a break from the brown sugar succulence of some of the other rums here, reach for a dram of Santa Teresa 1796.
6. Dos Maderas 3+5 BEST ON A BUDGET
This is a spunky rum. If you’re into younger bourbons or reposado tequilas, Dos Maderas 3+5 is the bottle for you. You’ll pick up on plenty of sherry notes, plus some nuttiness. Oaky sweet flavors like vanilla and butterscotch round out the assertive tastes to give you a balanced, inexpensive sipping rum. At around $33 a bottle, Does Maderas 3+5 tastes like the high life half-priced.
Aged for 12 years, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is a definite treat. This Venezuelan rum combines round flavors like chocolate, cake, and caramel with rich banana and orange rind. Look out for clove, cinnamon, and spicy ginger as well. Diplomático is layered: it has fudge sweetness, herbaceous complexity, and earthy fruit. We recommend capping off your meal (or rum tasting flight) with a bit of Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva.