Every drinker has their own idea of which is the best rum. You may prefer a brand like Mount Gay or Havana Club while your friend enjoys Appleton Estate or Ron Matusalem. Others will pour nothing other than Bacardi because it's what they've been drinking for years.
Rum is made worldwide and, while the Caribbean is best known for its rum, there are fantastic brands produced elsewhere. It's a diverse category of liquor with many great brands, labels, and styles available. When you're looking for something new to mix into your favorite rum cocktails, you will find endless options. Where do you begin? Let's explore some of the possibilities within light, gold, aged, dark, high-proof, and flavored rums.
01 of 08
Prioritizing Rum in Your Bar
There are many varieties of rum that can be used to make cocktails. Which you choose will largely depend on the type of drinks you enjoy and that may change as you discover new drink recipes.
- Generally, it's best to have two types of rum. Stock your bar with a quality light rum and either a gold or aged rum, as these are versatile enough to handle the majority of cocktails.
- Dark rums are used occasionally. In some cocktails, it complements light rum, and in others, it is the feature, so this would be a secondary priority.
- Flavored rums, including spiced rum and coconut rum, are not as essential. They are used in specific cocktails and can become a substitute for other rums when you want to add more flavor.
02 of 08
Exploring Brands of Rum
When compared to some other distilled spirits, rum is relatively inexpensive. There are high-priced bottles out there, but most are affordable for the average drinker. This means that you can explore brands without going broke. Don't overlook unknown brands, and be sure to check out craft distilleries. You can make some fascinating discoveries by picking up a new-to-you bottle.
This guide is intended to give you a general idea of what to expect when buying rum. It is impossible to list every brand and label or keep up with portfolio changes and newly released rums.
The price ranges are for the standard 750-milliliter bottles, and the actual price will vary and fluctuate. Some of the more popular offerings are available in 1-liter bottles or larger, which can save money if you really like the rum. Don't worry about shelf life; even open bottles of rum will be good for years when stored properly.
03 of 08
Light Rum Brands
Light rum will be your first choice for most rum cocktails, including favorites like the mojito. It has a sweet, neutral taste that pairs well with almost any flavor, and its clear color doesn't affect the drink's appearance.
There are many quality light rums available, and most are very reasonably priced. While it's easy to grab a bottle you're familiar with, try to look beyond the big brand names like Bacardi. You may find that some of the lesser-known brands are superior in taste and mixability.
- Bacardi Silver - Puerto Rico
- Barton White - Virgin Islands
- Castillo White - Puerto Rico
- Fernandes White - Trinidad
- Flor de Caña 4 Year Old White - Nicaragua
- Myers Original Platinum - Jamaica
- Ron Castillo White - Puerto Rico
- Angostura Old Oak White - Trinidad
- Appleton Estate White - Jamaica
- Rhum Barbancourt White - Haiti
- Ron Matusalem Platino - Dominican Republic
- Wray & Nephew White Overproof - Jamaica
- El Dorado White - Guyana
$30 and Up
- Oronoco Fazenda Reserva - Brazil
- Papagayo Organic White - Paraguay
- Rhum Clement Premiére Canne - Martinique
- Tommy Bahama White Sand - Barbados
- Starr Ultra Superior Light - Mauritius
04 of 08
Gold and Aged Rum Brands
Due to rum's global production, there are no set standards that define styles of rum. This can lead to some difficult choices, particularly when it comes to aged or gold rums.
Read the label on gold-colored rums to learn a bit about their production (not all are revealing, however). Some gold rums are blends of rums of various ages, and others are straight rum aged for a specific amount of time. Typical among cheaper bottles, you'll also encounter rum that's blended with other spirits and some that contain artificial colors to give them the amber color.
It's common to pay more for an older rum, but climate plays a large role in aging times. For instance, the Caribbean's warm, humid climate can make a rum in just a few years that tastes similar to an American rum that has been aged for a decade or more. Like whiskey, when a blended rum states a year on the label, it refers to the youngest rum in the blend.
- Appleton Estate Special Gold - Jamaica
- Bacardi Gold - Puerto Rico
- Palo Viejo Gold - Puerto Rico
- Fernandes 19 Gold - Trinidad
- Ron Castillo Gold - Puerto Rico
- Ronrico Gold - Puerto Rico
- Appleton Estate VX - Jamaica
- Brugal Anejo Rum - Dominican Republic
- Goslings Bermuda Gold - Bermuda
- Havana Club 3 Años - Cuba
- Mount Gay Eclipse - Jamaica
- The Old Mill Gold - Virgin Islands
- Plantation Rum Grande Réserve - Barbados
- Rhum Barbancourt 3-Star 4 year - Haiti
- Tortuga Gold - Cayman Islands
$30 and Up
Continue to 5 of 8 below.
- Pusser's 15 Year Old - Guyana
- Rhum Barbancourt 15 year - Haiti
- Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva- Dominican Republic
- Sea Wynde - Jamaica
05 of 08
Dark Rum Brands
There are two styles within the dark rum category. One includes rums aged in charred oak for a long period of time. These tend to be more expensive and among the best rums you will find. The other is rum distilled from the darkest molasses. Often called black strap rum, these rums are very rich, thick, and quite interesting.
The aged dark rums are used in a number of cocktails. In drinks like the mai tai, dark rum is floated on top of the finished drink. A few cocktails were also designed for a particular dark rum. The dark 'n stormy, for instance, was made to showcase Goslings Black Seal.
- Angostura Dark 5 Year - Trinidad
- Coruba Dark - Jamaica
- Cruzan Estate Dark 2 Year - St. Croix
- Cruzan Black Strap - St. Croix
- Diplomatico Añejo - Venezuela
- Ron Abuelo Añejo - Panama
- Whaler's Dark - United States
- Bacardi Reserva Ocho - Puerto Rico
- Pusser's British Navy Dark - Trinidad
- Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star 8 Year - Haiti
- Myers's Original Dark - Jamaica
- Goslings Black Seal - Bermuda
$30 and Up
- Angostura 1824 12 Year - Trinidad
- Mount Gay Extra Old - Barbados
- Flor de Cana Centenario 21 Year - Nicaragua
- Pusser's British Navy Gunpowder Proof - Guyana
- Pyrat XO Reserve Planters Gold - Anguilla
- Pampero Rum Aniversario - Venezuela
- Rogue Dark - United States
- Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Year - Guatemala
- Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year - Trinidad
Luxury at Over $100
- Appleton Estate 21 Year - Jamaica
- Pyrat Cask 1623 - Anguilla
06 of 08
151-Proof Rum Brands
Most rum is bottled at 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 80 proof), though some reach into the 90 proof range. There's a special set of rums that are even stronger. Known as high-proof or overproof rum, these typically weigh in at a very strong 151 proof (75.5 percent ABV). These rums are too strong to drink on their own, and there's a risk of alcohol poisoning if you do so. However, high-proof rum gives cocktails a noticeable kick and is popularly used when lighting drinks on fire.
Very few brands make 151 rum. Bacardi 151 was popular for a number of years, but that has been discontinued and you'll need to use a substitute in recipes that call for it. You may have to search to find one of these, though Cruzan 151 is one of the more widely distributed options.
- Cruzan 151 - St. Croix
- Don Q 151 - Puerto Rico
- El Dorado Diamond Reserve 151 - Guyana
- Goslings Black Seal 151 - Bermuda
- Hamilton 151 Demerara - Guyana
- Largo Bay 151 Gold - Barbados
- Lemon Hart 151 - Guyana
- RonDiaz 151 Gold - United States
- Stark Spirits California Silver 151 - United States
- Trader Vic's 151 - Caribbean
07 of 08
Spiced Rum Brands
Spiced rum is a flavored rum that is in its own category. Though the spice blends vary from brand to brand, it typically includes allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, peppercorn, orange peel, and vanilla. It adds an interesting flavor to drinks, and spiced rums are featured in several popular cocktails, including the famous cable car.
Spiced rum tends to be inexpensive, and some drinkers really enjoy it while others do not. If you have digestive issues like heartburn or acid reflux, it is probably best to avoid them as they can irritate the condition.
- Admiral Nelson Premium Spiced and 101-Proof - United States
- Brinley Gold Shipwreck - St. Kitts
- Captain Morgan Original Spiced - U.S. Virgin Islands
- Castillo Spiced - Puerto Rico
- Cruzan 9 Spiced - St. Croix
- Kilo Kai - Curaçao
- Lieutenant Dan - Caribbean
- Montecristo Spiced- Guatemala
- Sailor Jerry's Spiced Navy - Virgin Islands
- Trader Vic's Spiced - Caribbean
- VooDoo Spiced - Virgin Islands
08 of 08
Flavored Rum Brands
Flavored rums typically take on the flavor of tropical fruits and can be great additions to simple mixed drinks and tropical cocktails. Many drink recipes call for a specific flavored rum; coconut rum and mango rum are the most popular.
There can be a significant difference in flavored rums. Some brands do a natural infusion of flavors, while others opt for artificial flavors. Commonly, producers add sugars to sweeten the rum, making it similar to a liqueur and lowering the strength (the average is 30 percent ABV, 60 proof). Just like all rum, the lack of regulations and disclosures should make the flavored rum drinker more cautious when shopping.
If you want to guarantee the quality of your flavored rum, try infusing it yourself. Light rum is an ideal candidate for homemade infusions.
- Bacardi: coconut, dragonberry, lemon, lime, mango, orange, peach, pineapple, raspberry, tropical fruit
- Brinley Gold Shipwreck: coconut, coffee, lime, mango, vanilla
- Cruzan: banana, black cherry, citrus, coconut, key lime, guava, mango, passion fruit, peach, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, tropical fruit, vanilla
- Malibu: banana, coconut, mango, passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry, watermelon
- Parrot Bay: coconut, key lime, mango, passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry
- Trader Vic's: coconut, lemon-lime