Take that, gin lovers.
Among spirits lovers, whiskey has gotten a lot of the attention in recent years. But more and more great rums, made in the U.S. and imported from elsewhere, are ending up on shelves. Andrew Schaffer, a rum aficionado who works at my local wine shop, Appellation Wine & Spirits in Chelsea, told me that he thinks rum is, well, the next big thing.
We’d hate to miss the Next Big Thing, right? This time of year seems appropriate to check some rums out, given that rums are fundamentally a Caribbean and Latin American thing: somehow they work in hot, sticky weather.
Lining up two dozen of them, as I did, is a reminder that rum comes in many shades, from crystal clear to deep, dark brown. Whatever mood you’re in there’s probably a rum to suit it.
“White” or “silver” rums are similar to blanco tequilas--they are clear, often aged minimally in wood or not at all, and offering a milder, sweeter flavor. Hence they are often used as mixers. Martinique’s own Rhum J.M. Agricole Blanc 1L ($30), has a smoky, clean aspect, plus lots of berry and pepper flavors. Calling it a great mixer may seem like faint praise, but this would improve any cocktail it’s in.
Sometime we get a hankering for sweetness in the glass, and the Plantation Rum 20th Anniversary ($45) bottling from Barbados is just the ticket: sugar plus sophistication means a good time. There’s an intense coconut flavor to this deeply reddish-brown beauty, a touch of orange peel and a lot of dark chocolate, but it doesn’t cloy. It’s owned by the Maison Ferrand Cognac folks, and that figures, given the classy profile of this rum. A couple of ice cubes are all you need with this one.
Amber rums are often quite whiskey-like, and I became quite enamored by Twenty Boat Cape Cod Amber Rum ($35), from South Hollow Spirits in Truro, Massachusetts: it’s the first legal distillery on the Cape since Prohibition. The rum is aged partially in whiskey barrels, which helps account for the taste, but it’s quite mild—this is one spirit that doesn’t bite back. A pleasant, barely-sweet sip, with herbal and cigar box flavors, offers lots of complexity. (Come fall you can go for the Twenty Boat Hand-Crafted Spiced Rum, $30, which is piquant indeed, and best for autumnal punches and cocktails.) Also in the surprisingly mellow category is Don Q Gran Anjeo ($60), which, though not cheap, would be a great starter for someone in the rum category—it’s nicely restrained, with almonds and fruitcake notes.
The whole line of The Eldorado, distilled in Guyana by Demerara Distillers, is impressive; they make a couple dozen products, with a focus on super-premium, aged bottlings. Whiskey fans will be familiar with the tiered choices, listed by age, from three-year-old on up the ladder to 25-year-old. The Eldorado Cask Aged Eight-Year Old Rum ($18) is all butterscotch and Bananas Foster, and a good price point, given its smoothness. The Eldorado Special Reserve 25-Year-Old ($475) is the top of the line, memorable in its soft, pillow-like weight. It delivers a lovely salted caramel taste, with a long, long, long finish.
A splurge, to be sure. But maybe when it’s officially A Thing, will we be talking about how cheap the El Dorado 25-Year-Old used to be?