Food & Drink

12 Best Dark Rums

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While white, spiced and gold rums certainly have their place on the bar, dark rum is the true sugar cane king. Distilled from demerara sugar or molasses, dark rum gets its color and rich, round flavors from time spent in oak. While dark rums can (and should) be mixed into a variety of cocktails, including, most famously, the Dark and Stormy, most bottlings are meant to be sipped straight—which means they need to be supremely delicious and expertly crafted. From bartender favorites like Gosling’s to tiki-classics like Lemon Hart 151, here are our favorite dark rums.

Gosling’s Black Seal ($20)

Distilled from molasses, this Bermudan dark rum has flavors of toffee and rich treacle, with a bitter, coffee finish. The self-appointed original Dark & Stormy rum is great on its own, but it truly shines when paired with fresh lime juice and peppery ginger beer.

El Dorado Original Dark Superior Rum ($14)

This Guyanese rum should be everyone’s go-to home bar staple. Cheap yet delicious, it’s rich and flavorful with a sharp, boozy finish. If you're a fan of tiki drinks then you need this spirit in your liquor arsenal.

Coruba Dark Rum ($18)

A full bodied dark rum distilled from molasses, this Jamaican spirit is loaded with baking spices and bitter chocolate flavors. Mix it with lighter rums (or agricoles) in layered, multi-rum cocktails like the Mai Tai, or add it to punches with tea and tropical fruits.

Cruzan Black Strap Rum $16

Like liquid pancakes and maple syrup, this dark rum from St. Croix is a very unique spirit. Without it, the Jungle Bird, a tiki-masterpiece that shouldn’t work but somehow does, would not exist. When mixing into drinks, make sure to use it sparingly; it can easily overpower other spirits and become the dominant flavor.

Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum ($33)

When this overproof rum suddenly disappeared from liquor stores and distributors nationwide, every rum lover and tikiphile panicked. Bars bought as many cases as possible, while at-home rum enthusiasts fought amongst themselves, snatching up every retail bottle on the shelves. When the rum was gone, it became the stuff of legends. In 2017, though, the rum gods smiled upon us with the rerelease of Lemon Hart 151. On the palate it’s dark and syrupy, with heavy funk and molasses flavors, and a finish of hot alcoholic heat. A must-have for tiki drinks, this spirit is required when making the original Zombie recipe.

Hamilton Demerara Rum ($26)

A blend of barrel-aged demerara rums, this Guyanese spirit from rum importer Ed Hamilton is a welcome addition to the dark rum market. Robustly flavored, with tastes of apricot, treacle and charred oak, it is just as good in a tropical libation as it is sipped straight out of a snifter.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva ($37)

This is the dark rum for Cognac and scotch drinkers. One of the finest spirits from South America, this Venezuelan rum is meant to be sipped slow—neat or on the rocks—and enjoyed. On the palate, there are notes of bitter cacao, cinnamon and burnt sugar with a long-lasting, mouth-coating finish.

Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum ($71)

This blend of Bermudan dark rums is aged until it achieves an extra dark, viscous complexity. Similar to a VSOP Cognac, it has bold aromatics, and is dense and rich on the palate. There are flavors of caramelized flan, burnt brown sugar, baking spice, vanilla oak and pipe tobacco.

Zacapa 23 $48

Made in Guatemala using the solera method of blending, this rich rum is a mix of cask-aged spirits ranging from 6 to 23 years. It has flourishes of stone fruit, raisins, and baking spices. The finish is sweet and spicy, with heavy wafts of vanilla and white pepper. While it can be used for stirred cocktails, it’s best sipped neat or with one large cube of ice.

Plantation Original Dark $30

Founded by French Cognac producer Maison Ferrand, Plantation’s rums are some of the best on the planet (their OFTD is a must try). What makes this bottling unique is the double-aging process. The rum is produced in Trinidad, barreled in American oak casks, and aged in the Caribbean climate. Then, the spirit travels to France where it is blended with 15-20 year-old Jamaican rums and aged again in French cellars. With flavors of dried pineapple, black pepper, clove and allspice, the funky rum has a warming finish of brown sugar, pepper and tropical fruit. It’s killer in a classic Daiquiri, and phenomenal layered with lighter rums in a Mai Tai or a Zombie.

Facundo Paraiso Rum ($280)

The “crown jewel” in the Bacardi Facundo collection, this ultra-luxe rum is aged up to 32 years in oak. Its name, meaning paradise, is a more than apt description of the spirit inside the bottle. On the palate the rum is rich and syrupy, with flavors of roasted walnut (think Nonino), tobacco and dark fruit chutney, with a long, creamy, oaky finish from its many years spent in a cask. Drink it neat, and reserve it only for special occasions like a birth, marriage or funeral for someone you really liked.


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