While it’s among the most mixable of spirits, some of today’s finest rums have enough character to stand on their own. Established in Barbados in 1703, Mount Gay is the oldest brand of rum still in existence, and Mount Gay Eclipse Silver ($18) is a delicious and affordable introduction to the category, with bracing notes of peppermint and a citrus finish.
Mount Gay Extra Old ($50) is a blend of spirits aged 8 to 15 years that has a rich, oaky bouquet and a luxurious mix of vanilla, cinnamon, and grapefruit flavors. The Dominican Republic’s Brugal distillery goes back a mere 123 years, just enough time to perfect the workmanlike Brugal Añejo ($20), a mildly sweet amber-colored rum with a port-like aroma and notes of apple and chocolate. Straight out of Guatemala, the excellent Ron Zacapa XO ($100) is a smooth, dark, smoky spirit with hints of birch and ginger. Bacardi, the Cuban-born company that now distills its sunny spirits in Puerto Rico, has a rum for every occasion, but of particular note is the newly-released Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110), which is made from rums that have mellowed in lightly charred American white oak casks. Eminently sippable, it’s as smooth as silk and has an almost Scotch-like mouthfeel, with notes of lemon, orange, and Nilla Wafers. Most rum is made from molasses, but a handful are produced directly from fresh sugar cane juice, which imparts a subtlety to its Caribbean flavors. Trinidad’s 10 Cane ($30) adds just a touch of extra old rum to its sugar cane spirit to make it more versatile in cocktails, but it’s no slouch on its own, with a light golden color and pleasant vanilla flavor. Yet the ultimate expression of rhum agricole comes out of Martinique, whose Rhum Clément distillery produces some amazingly smooth and rounded rums. Clément Première Canne ($32) is simply sublime, with a sandalwood aroma, vanilla, coconut, and citrus flavors, and a silky finish. Which way to the beach?