The anecdotal evidence is in, and I’m calling it now: Rum is the spirit of Summer 2013. There are some tremendous rums on the market these days, whether you’re serious connoisseur or just want to have a fun and frivolous beach party. There are ridiculously old rums, like the $5,000 Appleton 50-Year Jamaica Independence Reserve. There are rums with interesting flavors, like Lola Belle cherry-flavored rum. There are versatile rums that are just as enjoyable neat as they are in cocktails, like Cruzan Single Barrel, from St. Croix. There are new rums from the 310-year-old company that invented rum, like Mount Gay Black Barrel from Barbados. There are rums from nightlife entrepreneurs, such as Rande Gerber’s Caliche Rum. There are delicious, limited-edition luxury rums from the world’s biggest producers, such as Bacardi Reserva Limitada. I could go on, but for now, let’s add just one more to the list, the rum that convinced me that 2013 will be the most rum-soaked summer since 1703: Shellback Caribbean Rum.
I hadn’t heard of Shellback before, but apparently the Barbados-based distiller has been around for a while, producing both clear and spiced rum. (The name refers to the title given to a sailor who crosses the equator for the first time.) On Friday night, I opened a bottle of Shellback Spiced rum and poured a shot or so into a small, rounded tumbler. The first thing to hit me was the aroma, a gorgeous melange of 12 spices that transform the sugarcane-based spirit into something out of this world. My first sip was just as satisfying: a warming vanilla base with various flavors emerging and subsiding, one by one. First citrus, then banana, then cinnamon, ginger, and the slightest hint of pepper. As always, I jotted down a few notes, but they didn’t go far beyond the general. "Sweet, smooth, and satisfying. Buttery with a nice little spice on the tip. Just what you want to sip."
Which is what I did. I sipped, and closed my eyes, and conjured visions of beaches and palm trees, and thought about all the great rums I’ve had recently, realizing that they’re all coming together this summer. Sorry, tequila. I love you, but this summer belongs to rum. Pick up a bottle of Shellback for about $20, or hit a bar like Cienfuegos in New York and try a few different varieties. Whatever is your normal drink of choice–whiskey, vodka, gin–I can all but guarantee you’ll find a rum you like.
And when you do, raise a glass to what will certainly be the best summer of your life. Until next summer.