Beyond the Dark’n Stormy

by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits

Rum has warm weather written all over. Sunshine, beaches, boats. Even when you are just dreaming of being here, a nice rum drink can easily transport your mind and spirit. The history of rum and rum-running makes this spirit all the more enticing, alluring, and seductive.

Here is a quick rum run-down of four of our favorites: good-looking bottles that would be aesthetically pleasing on any home bar that contain excellent quality rum for mixing, sipping or gift-gifting.

El Dorado Demerara 3-year white rum…The word Demerara is well known in the rum connoisseurs world, but what exactly does this mean? Demerara is a county in Guyana with a rich history of rum production. While Guyana is located in South America, just east of Venezuela and Brazil to the south, it is culturally connected to the Caribbean region. Aptly named Demerara Distillers Ltd. has a strong reputation for outstanding quality and consistent production being the largest supplier of bulk Caribbean rum to Europe and North America.

The El Dorando brand made of Demerara rum is made from a blend of aged stocks on reserves with the youngest being no less than three years old. The rum is aged exclusively in American oak (read: used bourbon barrels) for a minimum of three years. It is then double filtered through natural charcoal to produce a clear, sparkling clean rum. While this may have the appearance of your average white rum, the tastes and aromas of this fine product are sure to exceed all expectations. Notes of coconut, vanilla, and citrus combine to create a harmonious balance of a well-crafted entry-level rum with a round, textured finish. Smooth and flavorful enough to be sipped on its own, this rum also brings outstanding character to the cocktail experience. The bottle itself is quite attractive as well, with a soft curve of the shoulders that leads down to a slightly flared bottom.

Kirk & Sweeney 12-year…This is the perfect rum for someone who wants to graduate to a sipping rum from a mixed rum drink. This rum is aged for twelve years in American oak casks. The color is a bright mahogany. This almost toffee-colored liquid smells of butterscotch candies and sugar cane syrup. It is rich and complex in the glass with scents of vanilla, oak spices and wet tobacco, which evolve over time in the glass as you allow it to sit for a few moments.

Crafted in the Dominican for a spirits company owned by the Sebastiani family, better known for their California wine company of over 100 years, Kirk and Sweeney was the name of a wooden schooner that was best known for smuggling rum from the Caribbean to the United States during Prohibition. As for the bottle design, there is a silkscreened nautical map of the main rum smuggling route from back in the day around the entire round pot shaped decanter. Bumbu Rum Company “The Original” …This ultra-premium rum has become popular based on its debut appearance in DJ Khaled’s music video, “I’m The One.” Crafted from top-quality sugarcane expertly selected from eight countries throughout the West Indies, it is made on the Caribbean island of Barbados: the original rum island, hence the tagline on this rum product. The rum is aged up to 15 years in once used Kentucky Bourbon barrels in order to achieve exceptional balance and smoothness, along with the richness and complexity expected from a Barbados distillery’s rum.

On the nose, Bumbu offers rich, complex aromas of vanilla, soft caramel, and toasted oak. The palate has notes of cinnamon, roasted nuts, and allspice perfectly blended to achieve a mild sweetness and light, smooth finish. The bottle is a work of art on its own. It is made of ultra-heavyweight glass bottle and adorned with a tarnished metal “X” in front with a map of the Caribbean across the back. This surely marks the spot on this full-bodied, exotic rum experience.

Don Papa Small Batch…Made by Bleeding Heart Rum Company, this small-batch Philippine rum was created on the fertile foothills of Mt. Kanlaon where the finest sugarcane is milled to produce sweet, rich molasses. Don Papa is inspired by and named in tribute to Papa Isio, the charismatic leader from the island of Negros in the Philippines, who was integral to the independence of the island during their revolution. Hence the colorful picture on the label is a picturesque rendition of this fearless leader and stands out from your average rum branding.

The rum uses the native noble cane from Southeast Asia, which is prized for its high sugar content and soft rinds. Juices are extracted and made into rich, sweet molasses, considered Don Papa’s “black gold.” It is aged for at least seven years in two kinds of casks: ex-bourbon barrels and proprietary sanded, toasted and roasted American oak casks. This helps bring out the natural color and added complexity to produce a dark, intense and richer style rum. The rum is then charcoal-filtered before being blended to perfection by a Master Blender, similar to Scotch, which leads to the consistency of the product year to year. Light and fruity on the nose, smooth and delicate on the palate, the light amber colored rum has a long, rich-textured finish and offers flavors of vanilla, honey, and candied fruits. This fine rum is fit for neat drinking and makes for an excellent gift due to its scarcity and limited availability.

As you sample each of these deliciously sweet rum offerings and being to envision your own version of The Rum Diaries, one thing is for certain… don’t forget the limes!