When, during 2003's first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, panicked pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) asks Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), "But, why is the rum gone," we all knew where he was coming from. Because rum is good. Really good. And when it’s gone, life just seems a little less happy.
Rum has a way of making us feel relaxed. Throw in tropical juices, a festive glass, and a cocktail umbrella, and you’re basically oceanside. But while the spirit is infinitely easy to swallow in popular rum-forward cocktails like mai tais, mojitos, and piña coladas, those quaffs also hide tons of sugar and empty calories. Such unnecessary additives only serve to mask the real star of the show: Rum itself.
No, you don’t have to be a pirate (or somewhere even remotely tropical) to sip rum neat (aka plain, with no ice). In fact, good rum deserves to be sipped sans mixers. From an aged Venezuelan rum with banana undertones to a Guatemalan variety tasting of toasted wood, spice, and dried fruits, here are the 10 best sipping rums to kick back and relax with, wherever you happen to be.
Smooth & Flavorful
A Guatemalan blend that's aged from six to 25 years, this rum substitutes virgin sugar cane honey with molasses, giving it a smoother texture. French oak barrels that previously held cognac age the liquor and add complexity. It's a flavorful combination of toasted wood, spice, and dried fruit.
Dry & Full-Bodied
This one's aged for up to 14 years, and twice-distilled in American white oak barrels (once used for bourbon) before being finished in Spanish-oak sherry casks. The result? A smooth yet dry rum with hints of chocolate, caramelized apples, and candied oranges.
Sweet & Fruity
An award-winning Venezuelan rum, the dark, golden Diplomático is aged up to 12 years. You’ll first detect its banana undertones and will later taste its spiciness and sweet, fruity flavors. It's an outstanding sipping rum for the price.
Known best for its concentrated bitter liqueur, the Angostura company also produces this award-winning spirit. Made in Trinidad and aged for a minimum of eight years in ex-bourbon barrels, this spirit offers a "peach-pie" sweetness that smells of vanilla and caramel. Taste-wise, this rum reminds us of a liquid version of Werther’s Original candy.
Bittersweet & Luscious
With its fertile, rugged terrain and warm sunshine, Jamaica's Appleton Estate is a terroir that's prime for sugarcane growing. As such, the country's main export (sugar) is reflected in this sipping rum's slightly bittersweet taste of orange peel, coffee, cream, and "funky molasses."
Smoky & Tangy
Following Spain's Solera method of producing sherry, this Venezuelan añejo, or aged, rum is the first of its kind to be aged from the ground up, via three stacked rows of barrels (varying from oldest to youngest rums) connected to one another, with the oldest on the bottom and the topmost being the youngest. Take liquid from the bottom and the void fills with younger rum—and vice versa. Thus, even the youngest and oldest of the rum barrels benefit from the total, and in this case 25-year, aging process. Santa Teresa's balanced taste combines smoked oak wood with subtle hints of honey and leather.
Rich & Complex
The Chicago-based spirits company Parce (meaning "good friend" in Colombian slang) brings in aged rum from Colombia (and ages it again in bourbon barrels) to create a 12-year-old blended rum that's highly sippable, indeed. Leather, vanilla, and a hint of cherries give way to a slight yet satisfying burn.
This rich, strong sipping rum that's a blend of rums aged between 15 and 25 years—and it's truly a South-American classic. Produced on the banks of Guyana's Demerara River, known for its eponymous light-brown cane sugar, this rum has a complex taste that combines fermented molasses with a smooth, oaky spice mix that's a bit similar to bourbon.
Soft & Mellow
Distilled and matured in Martinique, an island situated in the French West Indies, Clément rum uses fermented sugar cane juice in the place of molasses, in a manner similar to the production of Brazilian cachaça. Flavorwise, it's a soft rum perfect for sipping with notes of coconuts, bananas, and crème brûlée.
Dark & Aromatic
No ice needed here: Aged seven years, this classic dark-rum sipper tastes of tropical fruits, wood, tobacco, and honey. True to this liquor’s Havanan roots, experts often recommend pairing it with a good Cuban cigar.