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The Best Aged Rums to Buy Right Now

The Best Aged Rums to Buy Right Now

If you’re looking for a rum to sip, an aged rum—often referred to as dark rum—is what you want. The flavor profiles can vary widely, but most offer soft brown sugar, caramel or toffee tones, perhaps enlivened with hints of tropical fruit or spice.

What Is Aged Rum?

In general, aged rum is made from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, cane sugar or cane sugar byproducts (most commonly molasses), which is fermented, distilled and aged in oak barrels for months or years.

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In general aging rum in barrels adds aroma, flavor and color, as well as tannins. In addition, many rum makers use barrels that previously held other spirits or fortified wines (bourbon, Sherry, etc.), which can add additional nuances to the rum. Finally, some producers deliberately char or toast the interior of barrels, which can also add layers of aroma and flavor.

How Old Is Aged Rum?

It depends. Aged rum is made all around the world, using varying production methods and yielding an extremely wide range of styles. Many rum bottlings contain blends of various ages; single-vintage rums are relatively rare. It’s also important to note the climate where the rum is aged. For example, rum aged in warm equatorial climates (like the Caribbean) ages faster than a spirit in a cold climate. In other words, two rums of the same age can mature very differently depending on where they are made.

Further, age statements on bottles can be confusing. Some countries mandate that rum needs to rest in oak a minimum number of years in order to call it “aged.” For example, Puerto Rico requires one year of aging, while Venezuela requires two years. Other nations, such as Barbados and Jamaica, specify that age statements refer to the youngest rum in the bottle, and still others use an average age. Meanwhile, solera, or fractional aging statements, typically refer to the oldest rum in the bottle. It’s entirely possible for a single bottle to contain rums spanning from three to 30 years of age.

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Adding yet another layer of complication to the title, some countries use terms that suggest age, even if strict aging guidelines aren’t enforced, such as XO, Extra Old, Añejo (a Spanish word that means “aged), etc.

That said, many experts consider “lightly aged” rums to span about one to four years old; “aged” rums to span five to 14 years old; and “long aged” rums as 15 years old and longer. However, those are not hard-and-fast categories.

To help break through the complicated verbiage—and widely varying rules—we’ve rounded up some of the most impressive bottles we’ve sampled in recent years. From highly-rated rhum agricole and novelty picks to splurge-worthy selections, consider adding the following aged rums to your liquor cabinet.

Best Multi-Region Aged Rum

Best Aged Rhum Agricole

Best Splurge Aged Rum

Appleton Estate 21 Years Old Rum

Deep amber in the glass, this sipping rum offers tones of fudge, and hazelnut on the nose. The supersoft palate brings flavors of brown sugar and toffee accented with orange peel and clove, winding into an extraordinarily long exhale tinged with espresso, dusty cocoa and allspice. Aged for a minimum of 21 years. Rare Limited Edition. 97 Points — K.N.


Best Budget Aged Rum ($25)

Best Overproof Aged Rum

Hampden Estate Great House 22

Look for a honey hue and complex aroma that melds nuanced smoke and funk, tropical and stone fruit. Of note, this is an overproof spirit, bringing both flavor and fire. Ripe and cooked banana drizzled with honey fades into a long, drying finish with nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, and a fleeting peanut note. 95 Points — K.N. 

$ Varies

Best American Aged Rum

Kuleana Hokulei Rum

Made with a blend of seven aged rums from 18 months to 18 years, including a portion of Hawaiian rum agricole made by Kuleana Rum Works. The end result is a mild vanilla and coconut fragrance and plenty of brown sugar flavor entwined with toasted coconut, almond and golden raisin, leading into a warming clove- and ginger-laced finish. 92 Points — K.N.

$ Varies
Reserve Bar

Best Novelty Aged Rum

Goslings Spirited Seas Ocean Aged Bermuda Rum

This is a blend of dark Bermuda rums, aged in ex-bourbon casks and loaded on to the M.V. Oleander , where it’s aged at sea over 80 Atlantic crossings between the U.S. and Bermuda. All that rocking on the sip has created a ruddy hue and rich caramel aroma. The plush palate shows plenty of caramel, milk chocolate and hazelnut, plus a fleeting hint of red fruit and cinnamon heat to finish. 91 Points — K.N. 

$ Varies
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What Is the Difference Between Aged Rum and White Rum?

White rums are usually clear or light-hued. That may be because they are unaged, or they may be aged and then filtered for clarity. While this is not a hard rule, many white rums are aged around one to four years. Meanwhile, aged rums are rested in oak for months or years—generally longer than most white rums—and acquire deep aromas and flavors as a result, as well as an amber hue. Some producers add caramel color and flavoring to make rums appear longer-aged.

Aged rums are usually older than white rums, but that’s not always true, and many rum bottlings contain blends of various ages.

What Is the Difference Between Aged Rum and Gold Rum?

“Gold” refers to the color and is not an age statement. Some golden-hued rums acquire a light tint because they have been aging in casks that have been used multiple times and have less color to impart. Other bottles are labeled as “gold” rum, but may be unaged rums with caramel coloring.

What Is the Difference Between Aged Rum and Black Rum?

Black rum tends to have little age and is given a notably dark hue thanks to caramel coloring and/or molasses. Also called blackstrap rum, some bartenders use this style as a dramatic float atop a drink or to add molasses-y flavor.

What Is the Difference Between Aged Rum and Spiced Rum?

Spiced rum is flavored with spices, often including vanilla, and frequently sweetened as well. Some are made with a base of aged rum, while others have coloring added.

What Is the Best Way to Enjoy Aged Rum?

Aged rum can be delightful to sip on its own, or with a cube of ice. However, aged rum also works well in cocktails, from tropical drinks like the Mai Tai to classics like a rum-based Old Fashioned or Kingston Negroni.

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