Underrated Rum Regions to ExploreBy Matt Strickland
For many people, Bacardi is their first contact with the rum category. As your rum education continues, you might find yourself venturing farther afield to the funky hogo rums of Jamaica, or maybe the heavier marks of Guyana. Perhaps a purchase made with curiosity leads to an affection for the varied rums from Barbados or Martinique. It’s a big rummy world out there, but there’s more to it than most people realize. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the more unsung rum regions out there and why their bottlings are worth your drinking dollar.
Saint Lucia is a small island nation in the Caribbean located south of Martinique and northwest of Barbados. The bulk of the rum produced on the island is made by Saint Lucia Distillers Ltd which produces a few different labels including the Chairman’s Reserve and Admiral Rodney lines. Independent bottlers like Ed Hamilton and Plantation have also made good use of SLD stocks to release some truly outstanding rums on the market. Saint Lucia rums are produced using both molasses and sugar cane juice. Moreover, they are distilled on several different pot and column stills. The sheer variety of the rums on offer is subsequently staggering.
SLD’s Chairman’s Reserve Original is a blend of pot and column distillates, separately matured in ex-bourbon casks for an average blend age of five years. The resulting rum is beautifully layered with bananas, chocolate, vanilla and cooked fruits all sitting atop a balanced sweetness.
Need something bigger? Check out the Cask Strength release of Hamilton Saint Lucia Pot Still Rum. This is a bruiser of a rum with a complex nose. Notes of eucalyptus, oak, tobacco and tropical fruit waft out of the glass, giving way to a massive palate full of oak, dark chocolate and saline notes.
Not all rums are made in the Caribbean. The South Pacific island of Fiji, located just a few thousand kilometers east of Australia, is known to produce some utterly fantastic rums. Unfortunately, many of these rums never make it to North American shores. Thankfully, that is starting to change with Plantation Rum’s recent Isle of Fiji releases.
Produced from sugar cane grown in Fiji, these rums are blends of pot and column still distillates. Then they’re aged for a minimum of two years before a further maturation in cognac casks. The rums bring forward flavors of molasses, nutmeg and spices coupled with chocolate notes, apples and pear. These bottlings will make a unique addition to any rum-o-phile’s collection.
Rum regions don’t have to be limited to an island nation, or even a place that is generally warm and sunny. Provided the distiller can get their mitts on quality sugar cane or molasses, rum can be made virtually anywhere. Perhaps the most surprising locale where the universal rum theory is being tested is Scotland. Yes, the land of malt whisky is producing rum and as it turns out, the Scots are damn good at it.
Dark Matter Distillers opened its doors in 2015 in the town of Banchory, Scotland just west of Aberdeen. The flagship product is a spiced rum that uses fresh ginger, Thai green peppercorns, allspice and Indonesian long pepper. This rum is richly spiced with notes of molasses and toffee.
Matugga Distillers, located in Livingston, Scotland is the passion project of husband-and-wife Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa. They make a few different rums including a lightly aged golden rum with notes of tropical fruit, oak and raisins. The distillery also produces a spiced rum using a Masala chai blend of black tea, ginger and Scottish honey.
If we travel to Mexico and go looking for a drink, many folks will naturally gravitate towards a tequila or artisanal mezcal. However, Mexico also produces some excellent rum. Mexican rum distillers produce a wide array of styles from heavy traditional molasses rums to funky and vegetal sugar cane juice rums similar to those from Martinique.
Perhaps the most notable Mexican rum is Paranubes Rum, produced in Oaxaca. This white rum is made from 100% sugarcane juice grown without pesticides or fertilizers on the master distiller’s farm. The juice is wild yeast fermented and distilled to bottle strength at 54% ABV. It is slightly funky and vegetal, not unlike a traditional cachaça and shines beautifully on its own or in cocktails.
This is just a small sampling of the many off-radar rum regions worth exploring. Good rum can come from anywhere and there are exquisite expressions pouring out of the United States (Privateer and Montanya), Nicaragua (Flor de Caña), Venezuela (Diplomático), Panama (Ron Abuelo) and so many more.
The world of rum is truly vast in scope and flavor. You could try for years to taste everything the category has to offer, and you would still find new things to discover and rum regions left uncharted. Few spirits offer as many sensory globetrotting opportunities as rum. And all it takes is a glass and a few friends to share the journey with.
Ready to explore some more rum regions?
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