Any old rum might be fine for a fruity summer cocktail, but some rums are like fine whiskey: You really want to think twice about mixing them.
Such sipping rums are aged and often blended from rums aged for different lengths of time or in different conditions, taking on great character. Use a snifter, let them breathe for a few minutes, and add a couple drops of water to really open them up.
As with other fine aged products, the sky’s the limit on prices for limited varieties, but these six are excellent while not hitting your wallet with triple digits.
Matusalem Gran Reserva 15
$29.99 at TotalWine.com
A pioneer in solera aging, the distillery was founded in Cuba in 1872. This recipe is really the granddaddy of sipping rums, though now it’s made in the Dominican Republic. A touch of sugar (about 4.3 grams in a 750-milliliter bottle) and caramel notes round out the wood and buttery taste. One of the more affordable options as well.
Dos Maderas PX 5 + 5
$36.99 at TotalWine.com
A fascinating process: Light, refined rums from Barbados and full-bodied rums from Guyana are each aged in repurposed bourbon casks in the Caribbean for five years and carefully blended to be aged five more years in sherry casks in Spain. Let it breathe a bit, and the aroma is sweet vanilla. The first taste is sweet, and the dried fruit of sherry rises in for a pleasant finish.
Don Q Gran Reserva Añejo XO
$53.99 at TotalWine.com
This smooth premium blend from the family-owned Destilería Serrallés in Puerto Rico (since 1865) combines rums 9 to 12 years old, aged in American white oak barrels, with solera rums (a mix of rums up to 50 years old). A sweet oakiness comes through on the nose, but it’s a dry rum, mellow on the palate with hints of roasted nuts and baked apples.
Flor de Caña 18
$65.99 at TotalWine.com
Sustainably produced and fair-trade, Flor de Caña is the pride of Nicaragua. With no added sugar or colorings, their finest expression is aged in bourbon barrels and offers aromas of caramel and nuts, a palate that delivers vanilla, butterscotch, and spices, and a smooth finish.
Ten To One Caribbean Dark Rum
$48.99 at ShopTenToOne.com
Founded in 2019 by Trinidad-born Marc Farrell, Ten To One Rum is finding its way onto many short-lists of great rums. Their Caribbean Dark Rum has taken gold in an impressive list of competitions in the last two years. This blend of Barbados, Dominican, Jamaican, and Trinidadian rums is aged in former bourbon casks, and offers notes of banana, baked apple, and caramel on the nose, and vanilla, cedar, and whiskey on the palate with a clean, dry finish. There’s a lot going on here! (And try their White Rum before you mix it with anything. Neither rum has added sugar.)
$49.99 at Caskers.com
Brugal rum is a popular standby in the Caribbean, but especially in its home country, the Dominican Republic. Today, the master rum makers are the fifth generation of the founder’s family, and this blend, named for the year of the company’s founding, is a treasure. Double-aged in bourbon casks and then sherry casks, the rum offers up aromas of brown sugar, tobacco, and oak, while the palate delivers more of the same with a touch of cocoa and a medium mouthfeel. The flavor lingers in a warm but not burning finish.
Mount Gay XO Triple Cask
$65.99 at Flaviar.com
Founded in Barbados in 1703, this is the oldest operating rum distillery in the Americas. The rums blended here are aged in cognac, American whiskey, and bourbon casks. Expect a spicy aroma with oak, vanilla, and a faint whiff of whiskey. While dry, the palate offers the tiniest hint of sweetness, though no sugar is added, plus notes of molasses and oak, and a rising heat from the slightly greater alcohol level (43 percent). Whiskey lovers take note of this one.