5 Underrated Rums To Have On Your Radar

Food & Drink

The rum category is finally receiving the attention it deserves. In the US, the category grew 4% over 2020 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 5.2% by 2027. Major players saw significant growth — Malibu grew 20.7% and Bacardi, 8.5%.

Yes, rum is an excellent base for rums and cokes and daiquiris. But the main driver of rum’s change of pace? Premiumization.

The American market tends to prefer whiskey and Cognac for sipping. Now, drinkers are growing wise to rum’s premium potential — according to the Distilled Spirits Council, rum accounted for $2.3 billion in sales in 2019, with the ultra-premium rum category growing more than 6% year over year. Future Market Insights’ report Premium Alcoholic Beverages Market Outlook (2022-2032) projected that the overall premium alcohol market will be worth $1.7 trillion by 2032.

Rum fans already know this of course. Every year, rum enthusiasts descend on the Caribbean for either of two events, the newly minted Bonaire Rum Week, or the Caribbean Rum Awards in St. Barth’s. Producers put out their best, show their wares, and generally celebrate the category. Said producers range widely, from Martinique rums bloomed at the base of a volcano to Bonaire rums with a focus on local ingredients.

Looking to dig into the premium rum category? These smaller producers highlight the diversity of the category.

Clifton Estate Rum

While the concept of spiced rum may have you thinking Captain Morgan’s, this orange spiced rum from Nevis is anything but. The two-year-old dark rum is crafted in small batches, subtly sweetened with honey, orange and spices for a wildly smooth and slightly spicy rum that isn’t overly saccharine. Sip it on its own, or add a splash of coconut water.

Rom Rincon

Bonaire draws mainly beachgoers and scuba enthusiasts, but travelers should add a stop at the island’s only distillery. While many distilleries opt for sugarcane or molasses, Rincon leans on a highly local ingredient: cactus. Head distiller Eric Gietman spent time working in Europe before ending up in Bonaire. His base rum is slightly spiced, with beautiful vanilla undertones that make for a wickedly good rum and coke, though the higher-end ages options showcase the versatility of cactus.

Distribution is still relatively limited, but it’s well worth picking up a bottle if you see it.

Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum

Generally, coconut rums are relatively saccharine, crafted by adding coconut flavoring to a rum base. Typically, these bottles are sickly sweet and hangover inducing. This is anything but: flavored with 100% toasted coconut, honey and ground spices. It’s marshmallow-y and mellow, highly sippable, and at 70 proof — not particularly low octane. If flavored rums aren’t on your radar, this one certainly should be.

San Juan Artisan Distillers

In Puerto Rico, Pepe Alvarez commands the island’s first Agricole rhum — a grassy, almost vegetal rhum that calls for a sugar cane base over molasses — distillery with a keen focus on agriculture. Alvarez growing all his sugar cane and working closely with the land to produce the spirit.

The distillery started in 2009 as an homage to the island’s sugar cane history. In 2017, Hurricane Maria wiped out the majority of his crops. So he paused on his higher end rums to focus on bright young agricoles and infused rhums to recoup costs as he rebuilt the distillery. (When he was cleaning, Alvarez found three nails, or tres clavos.)

The Tres Clavos agricoles are gorgeous, but in 2020, Alvarez finally launched Ron Pepon — a higher end line of sugar cane-based agricole rhums distilled in French copper pot stills.

Rhum Depaz

This distillery is situated right on the slopes of Mont Pelee, a volcano that crowns the island of Martinique. Prior to 1902, there were dozens of distilleries that dotted the slopes. But on May 8th of that year, the volcano erupted, decimating the island’s distilleries and killing over 30,000 residents. At the time, a future distiller Victor Depaz was a student in Paris. While his entire family perished in the eruption, he came back to the island and purchased over 1,000 acres on the island, rebuilding the distillery on the ashen slopes in an effort to reclaim history out of tragedy.

Now, it’s the only distillery on the mountain, dedicated to making traditional Creole rums that show off the terroir of Martinique. Their focus is agricole-style rhums, distilled via French-style column stills and aged in wood from French forests. A white Agricole drinks beautifully, though their higher-aged expressions are marvelous and wildly compelling — wonderful examples of the vastness of Agricole.

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