4 best rums in town, to sip neat or mix into cocktails
From luxurious bottles reserved for special occasions to newer brands that pack a punch, a look at the best rums for when you next fancy a tipple with a tropical twist.
Things are finally looking up for rum lovers. After earning the questionable reputation of being a ‘cheap party alcohol’, rum has redefined itself as a premium luxury alcohol, and is catching up to its dark spirit competitors—somewhat similar to what tequila is currently going through.
The Revival of Rum
Not so long ago, the only rums you could lay your hands on in India were the nostalgia-drenched Old Monk (it was the world’s largest selling dark rum until 2013) and Amrut Two Indies. This, while gin was kicking up a storm with multiple homegrown labels. But a rum resurrection of sorts is now brewing with young alcohol and beverage entrepreneurs venturing into premium rums that are not cloyingly sweet or unnecessarily spiked with additives.
The cocktail renaissance and introduction of spiced and flavoured variants have also helped the dark spirit. “The wind is blowing in the opposite direction for the rum market, which may be good news for India. Small batch craft rums have been doing really well. Ever since the pandemic, people have been shifting from their regular rums to premium rums, which is growing steadily. I believe rums will gain prominence in the coming year as consumers become more open to new experiences, resulting in a revolution in the industry,” says Kunal Patel, Managing Partner at Monika Enterprises, one of the biggest importers of foreign liquor in the country.
The growing popularity of the spirit even prompted Ritz Carlton, Bengaluru to launch RumBah—India’s first high-end lounge bar dedicated to rum in 2019.
The Right Way to Enjoy Rum
While undoubtedly delicious, rum can also be one of the most confusing spirits as it can be made in several different places and in several different ways (white, aged, agricole, black strap, spiced, and so on). “The overarching profile of rum is sweet, toasted sugar…a lot like caramel. Hence, it can be enjoyed just like whisky with a splash of water or ice. Some people tend to add a slice of lime to get a citrusy note to balance out the sweetness. However, a good quality, aged rum is best enjoyed neat in a small glass, warmed between the hands and sipped slowly and deliberately. Also, a rum based old fashioned has become a favourite for many,” says Sarath Nair, Bar Manager, Copitas, Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru. Pairing a good, aged rum with smoked kebabs, dark chocolate, mushrooms and gamey meats will elevate the experience further.
Whether you are looking for a rum to sip on the rocks, or as a base for rum cocktails, these are some of the best bottles to stock up on:
Diplomatico Ambassador Selection
This award-winning rum from Venezuela is made from molasses and sugarcane honey, and matured in once-used bourbon casks for a decade. It is then rested in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for two more years. “This one-of-a-kind rum has a complex flavour profile with cinnamon, nutmeg and toasted oak notes, as well as a long, pleasant finish. Enjoy it on the rocks, with nothing else added,” says Patel.
Segredo Aldeia Rum
This homegrown craft rum from the makers of Pumori Small Batch Gin and Woodburns Whisky is named after a mythical village in Goa famed for its rum. It is made using a combination of cane and jaggery. There are two variants to choose from—white rum and café rum. “Segredo Aldeia Café comes with lovely coffee notes and hints of toffee and vanilla. There is a slight whisper of tobacco and leather which makes it quite extraordinary,” says Nair.
Café makes a lovely sip on the rocks. The old world packaging evokes the bygone years of buccaneers, treasure and exploration.
Ron Zacapa XO Rum
This Guatemalan classic is a rum connoisseur's delight. It is made using sugarcane honey (fresh sugarcane juice is condensed and filtered) instead of the traditional molasses. “The Ron Zacapa XO Rum is aged in a solera system using a variety of barrels ranging in age from six to 23 years. The rum is then finished in ex-cognac barrels for an additional year. This results in a great balance of mature toasted oak, burnt caramel, dry-roasted nuts and orange peel,” says Mohan Barkola, Assistant Bar Manager at Tori.
The elegant decanter bottles holding the spirit are sure to add some serious glamour to your home bar as well. Note, the term "XO" is meaningless in the rum world, but is a reminder of the fact that cognac barrels were used.
The Real McCoy Rum
This is truly a great dark rum without added sweeteners, flavourings, perfumes or chemical stabilizers. The spirit is distilled in a rare combination of column and artisan pot stills, then aged in heavy char American oak ex-bourbon barrels. Expect layers of brown sugar, vanilla and even some mild smoky notes. It tastes perfect at all times—straight or mixed. After all, it's the Real McCoy!