Let’s face it, a lot of our preconceived notions about spirits are shaped by our youth. We chugged whatever was served at friends’ parties and bought the cheapest liquor at dive bars. That’s why a lot of people still associate rum with certain shall-not-be named varieties of spiced, sweetened, flavored rums. These are the kind of syrupy, hangover-inducing liquids that produce prom night nightmares.
“For certain markets, rum seems to be a misunderstood spirit that often gets a bad reputation because of its association to a lot of poorly made sugary concoctions,” says Eduard Baland, “rummelier” and mixologist at Zemi Beach House in Anguilla. “Personally, I’ll use young rum in a cocktail and enjoy aged ones on their own.”
We’re all adults here. It’s time to reconsider rum. It’s actually one of the more exciting spirits categories of the moment. That’s because rum is a pretty free-wheeling category. If you walk into a liquor store in America and pick up a bottle of bourbon, there are rules about how it’s made in order to be classified as such (it’s the same legal restrictions that mean Champagne can only be from the Champagne region of France). Bourbon must be made of at least 51 percent corn; aged in new, charred oak container; and be crafted in the U.S. There are also a number of rules on how they distill and bottle it.
Rum, on the other hand, has none of these stipulations. It’s the Wild West spirit, a place for experimentation, a place for craft. And while “craft” is by and large a pretty nebulous term, we’re using it here to refer to spirits that push the envelope, spirits that have smaller production runs than the big boys of rum, and spirits that are out to prove once and for all that a good rum can—and should—stand alongside the best whiskeys, vodkas, and gins. Here are 11 worth taking a look at.
1. Kiyomi Japanese Rum
Bartenders from coast to coast love this Japanese rum. Kiyomi makes it from local cane molasses on the tropical island of Okinawa. “It has hints of smoked bamboo, pineapple rind and lac her, which makes it very clean and clear,” says Daniel Delgado, food and beverage manager at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. “It also has these really special white pepper notes that make any exotic cocktail truly one of a kind, like a Cuba libre.”[$38.99; bbcspirits.com]
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