The Caribbean is the world center for rum production, with many islands making their own brands and styles of rum. Dozens of rum companies operate throughout the islands. Although larger, mainstream brands like Bacardi, Captain Morgan, and Mount Gay are available on every island, you may have to look harder for the smaller brands. But many of the smaller operations have distilleries where you can tour and taste.
The best-quality rums are dark, aged rums meant for sipping, priced from $30 to $700 a bottle. For excellent sipping rum at the lower end of the spectrum, try Appleton or Rhum Barbancourt. For mixed drinks, use clear or golden-colored rums that are less expensive and pair well with fruit juices or cola. Spiced and flavored rums are also popular in cocktails. Here are some of the best rums you’ll encounter at an island bar:
Appleton Estate, Jamaica
The Estate VX is an amber-colored rum with subtle brown sugar aromas and a smooth, toasted honey finish. Excellent mixer for classic cocktails. Visit the distillery.
Bacardi, Bermuda and Puerto Rico
Superior is a clear, mild rum with subtle hints of vanilla and fresh fruits. It is smooth and light on the palate. Best in mixed drinks. Visit the PR disillery.
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Captain Morgan, Puerto Rico
Its Black Label Jamaica Rum is dark, rich, and smooth, with strong notes of vanilla. Sip it iced, or with a splash of water.
Clarke’s Court, Grenada
The Original White is clear with a touch of sweetness and a hint of heat, best used as a mixer.
Cruzan, Virgin Islands
Less strong and sweet than most rums, the White Rum is smooth, and best suited for mixing. Visit the distillery.
Havana Club, Cuba
The Añejo 3 Años is deceiving—light in color and body and delicate in flavor. It is a nice rum to sip neat. Visit the distillery.
Mount Gay Rum, Barbados
Eclipse, the brand’s flagship rum, has a golden color with a butterscotch caramel nose and sweet taste on the palate with mouth-warming flavor. Visit the distillery.
Pusser’s, British Virgin Islands
Self-described as "the single malt of rum," the aged 15-year variety boasts notes of cinnamon, woody spice, and citrus. A good sipping rum.
Rhum Barbancourt, Haiti
Aged 15-years, this premium dark rum is distilled twice in copper pot stills and often called the "Cognac of Rum." Sip it neat.
Ron Barceló, Dominican Republic
The Añejo is dark copper in color, with a rich flavor, while the aged Imperial boasts notes of toffee on the nose, and a buttery smooth finish.
Shillingford Estates, Dominica
Its most popular product, Macoucherie Spiced is a blend of rum, the bark of the Bois Bande tree, and spices.
Photo Credits: Rum glass with sugar cane by fcafotodigital / istockphoto, Appleton Estates rum bottle by Nebrot / wikipedia, Cruzan rum barrel by moresheth / flickr