When Captain Jack Sparrow asked "Why is the rum gone?" in Pirates of the Caribbean, we all knew where he was coming from. Even though swashbuckling sea adventures probably haven’t been part of our lives, the statement rings true: Rum is good, and when it’s gone, life gets a little less happy.
Whether it’s in a mojito, mai tai or piña colada, rum has a way of making us feel relaxed. Throw in a festive glass and an umbrella or plastic mermaid, and you’re basically oceanside. While there’s no denying those refreshing cocktails are enjoyable to drink, they’re also loaded with sugar and extra calories that are easy to lose track of. Plus, the tropical flavors can mask the star of the show: the rum itself.
You don’t have to be a pirate to enjoy sipping rum neat. In fact, there are a number of rums that deserve to be sipped sans mixers. From aged Venezuelan rums with banana undertones to Guatemalan varieties tasting of toasted wood, spice, and dried fruits, we’ve picked the 10 best sipping rums, so you can relax like you’re on a beach somewhere.
Zacapa XO ($120)
A blend of rums aged six to 25 years old in Guatemala, Ron Zacapa XO substitutes virgin sugar cane honey for molasses, which gives it a smoother texture. French oak barrels that previously held cognac age the liquor, giving it a complex taste. Expect a flavorful combination of toasted wood, spice, and dried fruit.
Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar
Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar ($60)
A smooth rum, Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar is double distilled and double matured in American white oak barrels that were once used for bourbon before filling Spanish sherry oak casks. The result? An aged, dry rum with hints of dried fruit and vanilla.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum ($43)
A leader in Venezuelan rums, Diplomatico ages 12 years. You’ll first detect the banana undertones but will later taste spice, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. Drink it over ice for the full effect.
Angostura 1919 Rum ($32)
Known for its bitters, the Angostura 1919 is the Angostura company’s answer to rum. Made in Trinidad and Tobago, the beverage offers a refined sweetness that smells of vanilla and caramel. Taste-wise, the rum will remind you of a Werther’s Original caramel lozenge.
Appleton Estate Extra 12
Appleton Estate Extra 12 Rum ($35)
The Appleton Estate in Jamaica is in a prime location for sugarcane growing, and it reflects in the liquor’s taste, which is bittersweet. Appleton Estate Extra 12 features delicate oak and molasses flavors. The distillery has crafted rum for more than 265 years, proving some things just get better with age.
Santa Teresa 1796
Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Rum ($45)
Following the solera process used by Spanish sherry producers, Venezuelan Santa Teresa 1796 rum is the first of its kind. The balanced taste combines dark wood and subtle hints of honey and leather. Whether you drink it on or off the rocks, you’ll be golden.
Parce 12 Year Old Straight Colombian Rum ($76)
A 12-year Colombian rum, Parce is aged in bourbon barrels. Initially, you’ll taste wood and caramel—stemming from its aging process. If you drink it on ice, you’ll gain more sweet and spicy tastes.
El Dorado 15
El Dorado Special Reserve 15 Year Old Rum ($57)
The green glass bottle of El Dorado 15 may mask the deep mahogany rum, but the rum’s flavor speaks for itself. With no burning sensation, the rum’s complex taste combines the fermented molasses with a spice mix similar to bourbon. The rich and strong liquor is truly a Guyana treasure.
Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole ($32)
Made in the French West Indies, Clément uses fresh sugar cane juice in the place of molasses in a way that’s similar to the Brazilian cachaça. Flavorwise, Clément tastes of grass, dusty orange, and vanilla. Clément offers soft rum for sipping.
Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos
Havana Club 7 Year Old Rum Anejo ($28)
No ice needed here. The Havana Club’s Añejo 7 Años tastes of wood, tobacco, and honey. Some even recommend pairing it with a Cuban cigar to stay true to the liquor’s roots.
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