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The Eleven Finest American Rums to Sip Right Now On The Market

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The Eleven Finest American Rums to Sip Right Now On The Market

Rum often conjures images of the Caribbean, with its endless sugar cane fields, swaying palm trees, and countless coconuts. Rum may be made theoretically anywhere in the globe, but it has a strong link to North America, even if its spiritual essence is unmistakably tied to the islands.

Rum was the original spirit before bourbon and rye came along. The author of “Rum Curious,” Fred Minnick, claims that “North America was producing a tonne of rum in the 1700s.”

The states bordering the Gulf and New England were the primary locations for production. Although there was a distillery in the New York borough of Staten Island in 1664, according to Minnick, there is scant proof that it manufactured rum, despite the fact that the first North American rum distillery was on the island.

According to Maggie Smith, chief distiller for Massachusetts’ Privateer Rum, ships travelling from the Caribbean to the Northeast would utilise molasses for both ballast and trade. As a result of the War of 1812’s import duties, the slave trade triangle’s eventual abolition, and whiskey’s spectacular surge in popularity in the United States, the cane-based drink would soon be overshadowed. The phrase “rum runner” comes from the fact that it would be made again after Prohibition, albeit in a far inferior form.

Among the many artisan distilleries that have mushroomed in the last decade are North American rums, which are experiencing something of a renaissance because to the proliferation of labels from states as diverse as Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California. In his opinion, “American craft rum distillers are bringing a real sense of adventure when it comes to production,” said San Francisco’s Martin Cate, proprietor of Smuggler’s Cove. “There is a great deal of diversity in the raw materials, fermentation, distillation, and ageing processes because they are not tied to any one tradition.”

Our selection of the finest American rums currently available is presented here.

KōHana Kea Agricole Rum

The distinctive agricole rums made by KōHana Distillery, situated on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, are made from a single kind of sugar cane. Cate expresses her enjoyment of KōHana’s activities, particularly their dedication to preserving and honouring distinct Hawaiian heritage cane varieties. “The careful management of their cane and delicate distillation process allows for the distinct characteristics of each variety to shine through.”

“It’s incredible to taste how different the rums are from these canes,” said Emanuele Balestra, bar director for Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes, France. “This is rum in a whole new light.” The “Kea” white rum is a good place to start tasting rums since it is simple and has a grassy, earthy flavour with hints of banana and caramel. For a more refined experience, try it neat, but don’t be afraid to shake it up for a beautiful traditional Daiquiri.

Owney’s New York City Rum

The traditional Northeast-style rum Owney’s was produced by Brooklyn’s Noble Experiment and named for a rum runner from New York City during Prohibition. This silver rum has a dry, mineral-driven flavour profile and was made in a hybrid copper-pot-column still using non-GMO molasses without the use of additional sweeteners or colours. Bridget Firtle, creator of Noble Experiment, has stated that she aimed to produce a more “edgier” kind of rum. New York City managing partner Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch and Seaborne states, “Owneys is a fantastic rum to use with citrus-based cocktails such as a Daiquiri or an Old Fashioned variation using Velvet Falernum and cane syrup in lieu of sugar.” Both of these drinks use citrus fruits and are made with rum. “It tastes like a Jamaican rum thanks to its pot-still character.”

Montanya Oro

One feature that differentiates rum from the Caribbean from its North American counterparts is the 9,000-foot elevation of Montanya Distillery, a “high-altitude” rum produced near Crested Butte, Colorado. A more noticeable and gradual ageing process, impacting density, flavour, and colour, is associated with cooler and less humid conditions. Fermenting non-GMO cane sugar in well water drawn from the Colorado aquifer and distilled using traditional alembic pot stills is the process. A hint of honey is added to the golden rum before it is matured in repurposed Colorado whisky barrels. Wind power powers the distillery and tasting area, while biomass is recycled in the still boiler, among other eco-friendly manufacturing methods spearheaded by founders Brice and Karen Hoskin.

Koloa Rum

Koloa, a rum producer in Kaua’i, uses water filtered through volcanic rock to create a variety of flavours, including coconut, spiced, and chocolate. However, Bon Vivants’ Kyle Jones from the Bahamas prefers the two classics. “The Kaua’i white and dark are the ideal pours for me,” he adds of the tiki drinks offered at Bon Vivants. “The dark adds a beautiful subtle dark chocolate note, and the white has a clean, crisp raw cane flavour.” Rich coffee and baking spice undertones characterise the dark. Ideal for a Mai Tai or nightcap, it has a strong vanilla flavour.

Greenbar Distillery Spiced Rum

Two varieties of rum were concocted by the creative minds of Los Angeles’ Greenbar Distillery, where organic spirits and social reasons are just as valued as delicious alcohol. Fermented with white wine yeast and “micro-oxygenated” like many California wines, these rums blend classic distillation processes with contemporary winemaking procedures. In contrast to the spiced rum’s cinnamon, clove, vanilla, and California orange zest aromas, the unaged silver rum has a grassy, somewhat sweet flavour. Sustainable Harvest is an organisation that helps farmers, reduces slash-and-burn practices, and offsets the carbon footprint of rum lovers in rural Central American communities by planting indigenous shade trees. With every bottle purchased, Greenbar is able to plant one tree via Sustainable Harvest.

Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum

Unlike other American artisan distilleries, Wicked Dolphin uses sugar cane harvested in Florida and adds a dash of whimsical beachfront fun. After consuming an excessive amount of subpar drinks, founder JoAnn Elardo decided that Florida needed its very own pot-still pirate juice. In response, she established Cape Spirits in Cape Coral, which is now home to Wicked.

Although not all flavoured rums are bad, flavourings may make a big difference in how spirits connoisseurs perceive flavoured rums. This playful product is free of the typical slew of artificial flavours that give you the willies: After distillation with actual coconut water, Wicked Dolphin’s coconut rum is brought to proof, and it has less sugar than the common national brands.

Bayou Single Barrel Rum

“Rum is the original American spirit,” remarks Trey Litel, founder of Bayou. The Lacassine, Louisiana-based distillery Bayou uses local sugar cane and molasses to make its rum. According to Litel, no Caribbean island grows more sugar cane than Louisiana. We’ve been cultivating cane since 1750,” he explains. “This cane sugar is believed to be significantly different from that produced in the Caribbean, and it grows in this rich topsoil of the Mississippi.”

Bayou makes a variety of tempting rums, including the Single Barrel, using copper pot stills manufactured in the United States and a combination of raw sugar crystals and molasses. After spending 2.5 years in ex-bourbon barrels, this Single Barrel release finally unveils its spicy pepper and honey undertones, harmonising with the more traditional pineapple and banana flavours.

Privateer Navy Yard Rum

Since its 2011 founding, the award-winning Privateer distillery has expertly fused the traditions of American rum with those of modern artisan distillation. “It’s exciting to see the American rums come on the scene,” adds head distiller Maggie Campbell. “They have a tendency to be dry, with a clean distillation process, a somewhat linear palate, and a distinct flavour profile.”

If you want to elevate your Daiquiri to the next level, use one of Privateer’s white or amber rums. The most robust product, however, is Navy Yard, a barrel-proof rum made entirely of molasses that honours Privateer’s New England roots and has been matured in a single barrel. Balestra respects the distillery’s adherence to both the history and the technology of American rum. He notes that Maggie has always been innovative when it comes to ageing.

Humboldt Distillery Original Rum

The average American shopping for rum in a liquor store won’t know much about the story behind the bottle, including the origins of the sugarcane, the water source, the impact on the environment and local communities, etc., because distillers and wholesalers of spirits aren’t obligated to reveal much about the ingredients used to make their wares. Humboldt Distillery, located in northern California, is one of several American artisan distilleries that is far more open about its processes. The distillery makes two rums using organic sugarcane and pure water from a redwood forest watershed. A silky, well-rounded spirit with subtle hints of toffee and toasted oak emerges from their gold rum’s ageing in ex-bourbon barrels. The warm, woodsy flavours blend exquisitely with the mint and Champagne in an Old Cuban, but it’s also delicious in a Mai Tai or Daiquiri.

Richland Estate Old Georgia Rum

Richland Distilling crafts what Minnick deems “the best rum made in the U.S.” from sugar cane grown on their plantation. This rum is perfect for bourbon connoisseurs because to its lengthy fermentation process, distillation in open-fire alembic pot stills, and ageing in new oak barrels that have been well-charred. This cane-to-glass distillery does really provide a superbly made product, and Cate couldn’t agree more. Richland Rum from Georgia is his favourite, he says, adding, “they produce all their own cane syrup and then combine it with a really creative barrel programme that’s especially exciting.” True “single barrel” bottling is a brand emphasis, thus each batch varies somewhat due to the complexities of barrel ageing. However, first-time consumers may expect flavours of fruit, chocolate, and espresso. It pairs wonderfully with cigars.

Balcones Rum

American rum? I think so. Making this whiskey-esque rum was a departure for the Waco distillery, which is known for its whiskies. After being crafted from molasses and subjected to a double distillation in copper pot stills, it undergoes an ageing process in barrels crafted from a range of oak species (French, American, etc.) and toast levels. An initial whiff of the finished spirit reveals notes of oak and nuts, but as it rests in the glass, more traditional molasses smells emerge. The brown sugar and vanilla notes in this Bourbon will make any bourbon connoisseur feel at home. However, the characteristic rum flavour comes through in the fruity and rummy undertones. In a sophisticated Rum Old Fashioned, it adds depth and complexity; enjoy it plain or with a cube.

Decision Made

You shouldn’t miss a sip of any of these American rums. We highly recommend KōHana Kea (see on Total Wine) if you are trying to restrict your options. They have a really distinctive approach, and it shows in the rums they make. Prefer to remain on land? A classic New England bottling that captures the past and future of American rum, Privateer Navy Strength is a great choice (see on Total Wine).

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