By now, even the most casual rum drinker has noticed rum gaining traction both on the back bar and on retail shelves. In fact, there are bars devoted to rum—not just Tiki bars, but cocktail bars highlighting all that the rum world brings to the glass. But if you’re interested in adding a few rum bottles to your home bar to replicate some of these cocktails, you’ll need to do a bit of research first. As always, we’re happy to assist in this regard. However, the categorization of rum is confusing even to rum aficionados, let alone those looking to dip their toes into the rum world.
At the moment, rum is labeled and categorized according to its color. This is a poor way to distinguish the flavor of a bottle’s contents. For instance, if you compare Bacardí White Rum to Wray & Nephew you’ll see that they are both colorless. But if you expect the neutrality of the former when tasting the latter, you’ll be in for quite the surprise. Colorless rums can be neutral and light or they can be full-flavored and heavy, along with everything in between.
There is talk about changing the nomenclature of rum categories which are currently generally relegated to white/silver, gold and dark, along with aged and overproof. But unlike say cognac, tequila and bourbon, rum is made around the world. Therefore agreeing upon how to best do this is going to be difficult to say the least. Aside from the raw material (sugarcane juice for rhum agricole and cachaça, for instance), other things to consider are methods of production and aging. You can read about this more in depth in Martin Cate’s wonderful book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki.
Lightly Aged Rum
For our purposes here, we’ll focus on lightly aged rum distilled from molasses. Since many of our readers are familiar with how whiskey is distilled, thinking about rum in this same manner may help you get a grasp of the category. Like whiskey, rum may be column distilled, use a combination of pot still and column stills, or just a pot still. Our lightly aged rum listings are aged up to 4 years. Sometimes the color will be filtered out and sometimes color will be added—both legal practices, although some brands aren’t always upfront about this.
Lightly aged rum is great to have on hand when you’re wanting to mix up a batch of cocktails. It’s also affordable because of its age, or lack thereof. Here are a few to consider on your next trip to your favorite retailer. For sour cocktails such as the Daiquiri or a long drinks like the Mojito you might consider the column or combination column/pot distilled rums. Meanwhile, rum punches will benefit from the combination or pot distilled list. Your mileage may vary depending on your palate, but this is a good place to start.
Lightly Aged Rum: Column Distilled
Expect a light-bodied and fairly neutral/lighter flavor profile here.
Havana Club was first sold in 1934 by José Arechabala SA. The company was nationalized by the Cuban government in January of 1960 shortly after the revolution. This rum is aged in oak for three years before being charcoal-filtered for color removal. Havana Club 3 Year is “made for Mojitos” according to its producer, but has also played the starring role in countless Daiquiris. Note: this is not currently available in the US.
This popular Puerto Rican light rum spends 1.5 to 5 years in American white oak barrels. It’s then filtered multiple times to remove color and sediment. Cristal is the base rum for Don Q’s wide variety of offerings.
Like many rum bottlers, this once held an age statement, but the number “4” is a representation figure and not a statement of age. It is aged for an undisclosed amount of time in Nicaragua where it is produced. “Oro” is Spanish for gold and this name reflects the color of the rum. It is bottled at 80 proof.
This rum is a blend of light and dark rums distilled in a five column continuous still. The rum is aged for at least three years in ex-bourbon barrels before it is filtered twice through charcoal in order to remove all the color.
Distilled in St. Croix, Cruzan’s Aged Dark is a blend of rums made from imported molasses in a five-column still. It is aged in charred American oak for 2-4 years and is bottled at 80 proof.
Lightly Aged Rum: Combination of Pot and Column Stills
The rum flavor will be a bit more pronounced here with a medium-bodied weight.
Banks Rum is named for the botanist Sir Joseph Banks, an adventurer who sailed with Captain Cook in the mid 18th century. The 5 Island blend is composed of 21 rums from 5 different islands: Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Java, each lending their own unique style, flavors and character. The final formula was created by Master Blender Arnaud de Trabuc, who uses a combination of pot-stilled and column-stilled rums, charcoal filtered for clarity.
The first-ever white rum from Plantation is named for three rum-producing “stars” of the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. The blend features unaged rums from Barbados and Jamaica, a 3-year-old rum from Trinidad and a 12-year Jamaican rum. Each rum brings its respective island’s distinctive flavors and characteristics to the blend, from the lighter, refined Trinidadian rum to the funkier, full-bodied Jamaican rums. Any color from the aging process has been removed via carbon filtration before bottling.
This rum is a blend of Caribbean rums with eighty percent coming from Trinidad’s Angostura Distillery. The remainder of the blend is made from several Jamaican distilleries. Although labeled a three-year-old rum, significantly older rums are found in the blend alongside unaged rum, so “three years” is more accurately an average age. Before bottling it’s lightly charcoal-filtered to remove coloring.
This white rum has been filtered through natural charcoal twice for clarity and purity. It is aged for a minimum of 3 years in 45-gallon ex-bourbon oak casks and bottled at 40% ABV.
Mount Gay Eclipse was named to honor the unique occurrence of both the passing of Halley’s Comet and a solar eclipse occurring in the year of 1910. Eclipse is double-distilled from rich sugarcane molasses, fermented for 72 hours with proprietary house yeast, and is aged in ex-bourbon and used whiskey barrels for up to two years.
Lightly Aged Rum: Pot Distilled
These pot distilled rums will be full-flavored and full bodied.
Bayou Select Rum starts with Louisiana-grown sugarcane distilled twice in copper pot-stills in Lacassine, LA. Prior to bottling, it’s aged in ex-bourbon barrels for up to three years. The Bayou line of rums also includes Spiced and White expressions among other aged expressions.
New Orleans rum producer Roulaison Distilling launched its rum portfolio at the end of 2016. Incidentally, Roulaison is the French-Creole term used for the sugarcane harvest. The distillery focuses on a pre-industrial style of rum, with small batch alembic pot still distillation. The brand also uses 100% Louisiana molasses. The flagship white rum is bottled at 44% ABV.
Jamaica’s Worthy Park is the newest Jamaican distillery, with a modern facility built circa 2005. In addition to exporting bulk rums, the distillery also offers the Rum-Bar branded rums in the Jamaican market. The distillery is also a 100% pot-still operation. Notably, the distillery sources molasses from its own sugar mill less than a mile away. The Rum-Bar Gold is aged at least four years in ex-bourbon barrels.
One of the most beloved rums in the mixology and Tiki communities, Smith & Cross is revered for bringing back the funky, high-hogo style of rum that had been sadly absent for many years. Distilled at the Hampden distillery in Jamaica, it’s a blend of two styles of pot-distilled rum—Plummer and Wedderburn—which fall at different points on the funkiness scale. Its gold color implies more aging than you might expect. The oldest rum here is three years, and most are far younger.
This Rhode Island rum is made with distilled blackstrap molasses before aging at least two years in oak barrels. The distillers of Newport Distilling Co. researched the archives of the Newport Historical Society for recipes and traditional distilling methods and applied this information to the creation of their rum.
Looking to grab your own bottle of lightly aged rum?
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