2021 Summer Rum Round-Up
I've been meaning to write about some rums that were new to me and worth recommending for most of the summer. At this point there are enough of them that I decided to put them all in one post as opposed to a single post for each rum. It's not that they're unworthy of dedicated pages for each one, I just don't want to take 6 weeks to get the word out. Rums are always changing in flavor and blend. I've got bottles bought years apart that are quite different from one another with no indication of any change on the label. Additionally, rum varieties come and go. Any cocktail recipe that calls for a specific rum will undoubtedly require a substitute rum before it's old enough to be of drinking age!
This summer I was able to try a lot of "new to me" rums. A couple were standards that I was finally able to find in the wild, and some were pleasant surprises that I bought in order to try in a cocktail that called for it specifically. Not everything I tried made the cut, but I think these five (in no particular order) are worth your time & money.
Campesino Silver X
I read a profile about Campesino owner in a magazine. Unfortunately, I can't find the article so most of this is off of memory. Apologies if I got some of it wrong! Apparently, the owner became known for distilling rum using open dunder pits in Nicaragua. After some close calls with local banditos he decided to go legit and opened his company stateside in Birmingham, Alabama. They are part of the new breed of distillers that are very open about the process and what's in the bottle via labeling. The Silver X is a clear rum that is a blend of rums from Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago. The rums use open air fermentation and column distilled. Then they are aged 2-5 years in ex-bourbon barrels. The blend is then charcoal filtered to leave us with a clear 80 proof rum that has enough body to be truly great. This is a great rum for mixing that makes a delightful daiquiri. I also like the stopper type bottle closure. The taste is clean and dry without being neutral. I can't wait to try their Aged XIV...
Probitas White Blended Rum
Another of the honest bottle info brands, Probitas is a blended rum of world class pedigree. This rum is a blend of a column still rum from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and a double retort pot still rum from Jamaica's Hampden Distillery. With a start like that it's hard to go wrong! Given the pot still ingredients this does have a lot of body for a "clear" rum. However, it still mixes very well. The goal here was a recreation of the type of clear, non-Jamaican rums that launched the daquiri boom of the 1930's. I wasn't around so I'm not sure how close they came, but it does add a dimension to classic cocktails like the Hotel Nacional, and Daiquiri No. 1 that makes you think that their popularity may have been something more than "it doesn't taste like bathtub gin". More body than the Campesino Silver X but there's no Jamaican funk here despite the inclusion of the Hampden pot still portion.
Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black
Now if funk is what you're looking for, this Hamilton is the one for you. For those not familiar with Hamilton rums they are blended by Edward Hamilton of MinistryofRum.com fame. I doubt there is anyone that has spent more time studying Caribbean rums at each island's various distilleries than Ed Hamilton. This particular rum is a blend of two (one light, one heavy) from Jamaica's Worthy Park Distillery. On the nose this rum is full of esthers with overtones of overipe bananas and a bit of burnt rubber. This is a bold rum but it still mixes well in classic Tiki cocktails like the Zombie or newer tropical cocktails like the Jungle Bird. The only problem is how difficult it is to find Hamilton rums retail here in Tennessee.
When I first got into tropical cocktails I entered through the Beachbum Berry porthole. Beachbum's love and appreciation for Lemon Hart 151 had me believing that anything dark and overproof was a poor imitation of the once unavailable Lemon Hart. But, several of my cocktail books call for OFTD so I decided to give it a try. The OFTD stands for Old Fashioned Traditional Dark. This is a blend of rums from Barbados, Guyana, and Jamaica designed to mimic the overproof navy style rums produced in the Caribbean centuries ago. The list of consultants that chipped in their opinions on the blending reads like a who's who of tropical drinking - The Bum, Martin Cate, McFadyen, McGee...
This is a big tasting rum and at 138 proof a little goes a long way! Being a Plantation product I'm sure there's a bit of dosage in the blend but its not sweet (probably due to the 138 proof). This isn't a sipper but a great upgrade for anything calling for overproof rum if you don't want to use Lemon Hart 151 or are looking for a deeper flavor.
Rhum Barbancourt Pango Rhum
This rum was a luck find that has become my secret weapon. I only knew about it because it's used in the Nautilus Punch Bowl from the Trader Sam's menu at Disney. I happened to see it in a store near my office and at $9.99 it was a total impulse buy. Flavored rums are typically low on my list but this one is quite different. As opposed to the neutral alcohol with synthetic flavorings you typically get, this is a Haitian pot still rum that is aged in oak barrels. The resulting dark rum is then mixed with natural mango and pineapple along with a secret spice mix. Even with the added fruit, Pango is still bottled at 70 proof. This rum is good enough to sip on the rocks while offering a unique addition to any cocktail that is unlike any flavored rum I've ever had. It would be on my list if it was $30 as opposed to $10 - just don't tell Barbancourt (or my local store).