An overproof rum is exactly what its name implies: a rum bottled at a higher-than-normal proof. These spirits range from a tame 110-proof to a flame-inducing 151-proof, to anywhere in between. While you would think these rums are only for incendiary purposes or work as an alternative cleaner to Goo Gone, the category of spirits is actually quite drinkable and has a variety of uses behind the bar. Beyond flaming garnishes, the high octane spirit can be used as a heady float on top of a drink, or as a potent potable in tiki cocktails and tropical libations. If you’ve ever been curious about overproof rum but don’t know what to buy or how to use it, this guide will steer you in the right direction. Here, the six must-try overproof rums that bring the heat and flavor.
An iteration of Lemon Hart has been on the market since the early 1800s—it is the original overproof rum, after all. When tiki first came into existence in the 1930s, Lemon Hart 151 was the rum that Don the Beachcomber used for his Zombie. It had that quintessential demerara flavor and a brazen booziness that was unmatched. When it disappeared from shelves in 2014—owner Pernod Ricard decided it was too niche of a product—there was nothing like it until Hamilton 151 (see below) debuted. Recently rebranded and re-released, the new-old Lemon Hart 151 is made by Demerara Distillers in Guyana, is based on a “lost” recipe, and has a flavor akin to its replacement. While it lacks some of the je ne sais quoi of the original red-label Lemon Hart 151 (it’s a little sweeter and less fiery), it’s still a damn fine rum.
Hamilton 151 ($26)
When Lemon Hart 151 suddenly disappeared from the market, rum lovers worldwide had a collective freakout because there wasn’t anything that matched its dark, molasses-heavy booziness. To satiate the demand and fill the void, rum expert and importer Ed Hamilton released this overproof rum that shares his namesake. Sourced from Guyana’s Demerara Distillers, Hamilton 151 is just as big and dangerously boozy as its predecessor. On the palate, the spirit has notes of toffee, bananas foster, burnt demerara sugar and wet leaves. Extremely versatile in cocktails, Hamilton 151 has secured its place behind the bar.
This overproof rum has been produced since 1825 and is an intrinsic part of Jamaican drinking culture and tradition. Unaged and bottled at 126 proof, Wray and Nephew is vibrantly fresh and unabashedly boozy. Ripe with notes of banana and sugarcane, the rum has an abundance of funk (known as dunder in Jamaica). While it takes serious fortitude to drink it straight, this Jamaican spirit is an exceptional addition to traditional punches or any rum-based cocktail that needs an extra kick. Try it mixed with Ting, a Caribbean grapefruit soda, to drink it as the Jamaicans do.
This grassy, funky rum is a ruby in the rough and one of the most underappreciated spirits on this list. Made on the Caribbean island of Guadalupe (part of the French West Indies), this unique rum is viscous, velvety, bright and lively. There are notes of raw sugar cane, fresh dirt, damp jungles, green bananas, vanilla and lawn clippings. Only on the finish does the rum reveal its high octane alcoholic heat. We like to mix this vibrantly flavorful rum into bright citrus-y cocktails like Daiquiris and Mai Tais.
This new-ish release from Pusser’s is arguably their best rum to date and one of our favorite overproof rums to drink straight. Inspired by rums created for the British Royal Navy—which were part of sailors’ daily rations to prevent mutiny and keep scurvy at bay—Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof is bottled at a gentle 110 proof (the lowest proof at which gunpowder can still ignite if rum accidentally spills on it in a ship’s cargo hold). Pungently funky, this rum tastes wholly unique and is an absolute beast in the glass. On the palate, there are notes of molasses, guava, passion fruit, pipe tobacco, wet earth and raw green onion. The finish is long, tannic and drying, with a mouth-watering effect that warrants another sip. If you have to mix this into a cocktail, it is absolutely divine with a tannic black tea and sprig of fresh mint.
Dark and over the top delicious, the Plantation O.F.T.D Rum (Oh F*ck That’s Delicious) is a blend of rums from Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica. Formulated by the top rum aficionados in the world—including tiki-maestros Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29), Martin Cate (Smugglers Cove) and Paul McGee (Lost Lake)—the O.F.T.D rum is bottled at a whopping 138 proof (advertised as 69 percent ABV). One thing is for sure: This rum doesn’t hold back on the heat or the flavor. Behind the fiery tingle of alcohol lie notes of tropical fruit, overripe mango, burnt pineapple, crème brûlée, cacao and more funk than Parliament’s Give Up The Funk. It’s hands down one of the best overproof rums currently on the market, especially if you want to concoct wicked-strong tiki cocktails like the Zombie.