Aged Rum

Gold, Amber,  Jamaican, Dark

Overview

Aged rum is an extremely broad term referring to any rum that has spent time in a barrel and has color. The different categories aren't defined by specific age, usually just general color: gold, amber, dark. Darker color generally correlates to older rum and stronger barrel flavors, but many rums have coloring added, especially the darkest ones, so it can be hard to tell.  Like the white rum page, this page only deals will molasses based aged rums. Aged cane juiced based agricole rhums are covered their own page.
 

The outlier on this page is Jamaican rum, which is known for a heavier and robust style.  It has it's own section because it will sometimes be called for specifically in a cocktail recipe.  

 

Of course, there's more to an aged rum than just it's age and color. The style of production will have a huge impact. Across the page is a brief summary of the different types of rum-making traditions and where they are practiced.  To go more in depth on this topic check out "How Rum is Made" on the rum main page.

 

These sections below will reflect how they'll be labeled or referred to at the store and in recipes.  So while it's not a perfect system, it's a good way to start navigating the aged rum world.  One final note, whenever a cocktail calls broadly for "aged rum" what you use is up to you, the bartender. Generally, I'd go with an amber.  

The Rum Traditions -

 

  • English: Heavy, earthy, spicy and, at times, funky - Jamaican rum is the best example, it's also traditional in Barbados, British Guyana around the demerara river (also called demerara rum), Bermuda, St. Lucia, Antigua and the Virgin Islands.

  • French: Grassy, vegetal and funky, yet bright. - Agricole rhum, primarily made on Martinique, Haiti, Guadeloupe and Réunion and Cachaça (Brazil) are the primary examples. These have their own page.

  • Spanish: Light, clean, crisp and slightly fruity -  The most common and popular style today. Made in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Coast Rica and Ecuador.

Gold/Amber Rum

These are rums that have been lightly to moderately aged. Sometimes you’ll also see them labeled as “añejo.” The color ranges from golden straw to a deep reddish amber. 

 

Gold rums are only aged a couple years at most, they're essentially aged white rums before being filtered (and some of them are just artifically colored) so they will have some of the clean, fruity notes of a white rum, but with more vanilla and spice flavors from the barrel. 

 

As rums get older they turn to deep amber and those lighter notes give way to more overt barrel flavors of vanilla, toffee and coconut. These rums veer into bourbon and brandy territory, especially those made in the Spanish style, and many of them are wonderful all by themsevles.   Amber is the broadest style of aged rum, unless a rum specfically fits into one of the other cateogries it can be considered an amber, and there's plenty of overlap.  I find these to be more versatile in cocktails than gold rum.   That's why all the brands I've recommended here are ambers. 

 

 

Recommended Brands:

  • Diplomatico Añejo (Venezuela) - Great amber rum and the best bang for your buck.

  • El Dorado 5 & 8 (Guyana) - As always with El Dorado rums, these are well priced, cocktail freidnly and delicious.

  • Angostura 5 (Trinidad)

  • Ron Del Barrilito 2 Star and 3 Star (Puerto Rico) - A favorite.  Along with the brown sugar with a nice astingency and dried fruit.

  • Bacardi 8 (Puerto Rico/Mexico) - Great for mixing and easy to find.

  • Plantation Barbados 5 year - Oh mama. One of my favorite all time sipping rums.

Dark Rum

These rums range from deep amber to jet black. This coloring comes from heavy aging and often also coloring, particularly with the darkest ones.   They are usually very full bodied, with an almost syrupy texture. They typically are very  smooth with rich flavors of molasses, baking spice and dried fruit.  The best among them can begin to resemble XO Cognac, sometimes it’s even hard to tell the difference.  Though while many are rich and intense, others just have a lot of added coloring and are relatively light tasting.  Just a reminder, as I’ve said before, there isn’t really anything wrong with coloring, and it’s widespread across most spirits.

 

Like all other well aged spirits, the best of them are delectable when sipped straight and shine in spirit forward cocktails. Of course, since rum and citrus are impossible to separate, they can also be used in tropical and refreshing cocktails as well.

 

 

 

Recommended Brands:

  • Goslings Black Seal Rum (Bermuda) - Perhaps not as refined as some of the upper tier darks.  But with an excellent price point and being the official base of the Dark and Stormy, it deserves respect.

  • Cruzan Black Strap - (U.S. Virgin Islands) - Rich, with a distinct maple-y flavor.  Many bartenders use this a modifer, because it's flavors are so specific.

  • Pusser’s (British Virgin Islands) - Another legendary brand that's both excellent and well priced. The official base of the Painkiller cocktail.

  • El Dorado 12 & 15 (Guyana) - Both outstanding and exemplary expression of this category. The 15 is a bit sweeter and richer than the 12 year.

  • Ron Zacapa (Guatemala) - This is the rum that opened my eyes to what rum can be.  It is aged in a Solera style going back 23 years, though most of it is an average of 6-8 years. 

Jamaican Rum

Jamaican rums are the best example the old English style rums. They have robust, spicy and earthy flavors.  The best word to describe them is funky, but in the absolute best way.  As with all rum varities, this style can be made anywhere, but Jamaica is the most widely known for it.  Today Jamaican brands are relatively mild, but the more intense ones can be an aquired taste.  But it is well worth the effort.  Jamaican rums are one of my favorite ways to add depth and complexity to an otherwise run of the mill cocktail.

 

Jamaica makes both aged and unaged rums (see the note to the right), when specifically called for in a cocktail recipe, it generally means an aged, or amber, Jamaican rum - which is why it's included on the aged rum page.  But it should be noted that the most popular rum in Jamaica is Wray and Nephew White Overproof, which is a clear, unaged rum that's very funky and bottled at whopping 62.8% ABV.

 

Jamaican rum is called for many classic cocktails, including some early Mint Julep recipes, the Philadelphia Fish House Punch and flagship tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai.

Recommended Brands: These are listed in order of funkiness, from mildest to most intense/

 

  • Coruba Dark - Rich, round, with big notes of brown sugar and molasses.  Almost no funk but a touch of earthiness . Great for general rum mixing, Jamaican or otherwise.

  • Appleton  - They have three tiers: Signature Blend, Reserve Blend and Rare Blend (formerly 12 year) - They take on more barrel flavors as they go up.   The Signature is my choice for a stock Jamaican rum.

  • Denizen Merchant Reserve - This is a departure.  It's a blend of Jamaican and Agricole rhums.  So it's got a nice spicy funk, with some added grassiness. Excellent and extrememly well priced. 

 

  • Plantation Jamaica 2001 - Another winner from the folks at Pierre Ferrand/Plantation. A bit funkier than Appleton great balance of spicy funk, molasses and oak.  

  • Smith and Cross - This is Jamaican rum firing on all cylinders. It is 100% pot-distilled, bottled at 114 proof and axtremely spicy and funky.  Since it's so intesne on its own, I find it's best used in smaller quantities, which I do all the time. This is one of my an indespensible ingredients.  I always put a little in my Rum Old Fashioneds.

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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