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What does rum mean to you? For a lot of folks it’s the charcoal-filtered column still stuff that’s almost vodka-like in its light flavor. To others, it’s a barrel-aged rum with oaky notes reminiscent of a whiskey or a Cognac. And to hardcore aficionados, it can be a high-proof cane juice distillate with powerful earthy and vegetal notes and an aroma that fills the room as soon as the bottle is opened. Rum has, by far, the widest flavor profile of any spirit, and the variety of rums available is staggering—and often confusing. So we wanted to cut through the clutter to recommend the best rums out there, both sippers and mixers. You may not like all the wildly divergent styles featured here, but there’s something here for every kind of rum drinker.
Our Best Rum Selections
- Best Overall Rum: Appleton Estate 21 Year Old
- Best White Rum: Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum
- Best Spiced Rum: Canerock
- Best Flavored Rum: Arhumatic Passiflora Eduli
- Best World Rum: Holmes Cay South Africa Mhoba 2017
- Best Splurge Rum: Black Tot Last Consignment
- Best Aged Agricole Rum: Rhum J.M. XO
- Best Un-Aged Agricole Rum: Clairin Sajous
- Best Rum Under $50: Smith & Cross Pure Pot Still
- Best Overproof Rum: Diamond Reserve 151 Demerara Rum
- Best 80-Proof Rum: Admiral Rodney HMS Formidable
- Best Cask-Finished Rum: Mount Gay Master Blender Collection: Madeira Cask Finish
- Best White Rum for Cocktails: Ten To One White Rum
- Best Aged Rum for Cocktails: R.L. Seale’s 12 Year Old Rum
Best Overall Rum
Jamaica is known for its funky, powerful, high-ester pot still rums, but it’s also known for Appleton, one of the world’s best known rum brands, which celebrates its 275th anniversary in 2024. Appleton is not a stereotypical Jamaican funk monster—rather, it’s pure elegance. Appleton “tops off” its rums, consolidating barrels from the same batch as liquid evaporates in the tropical heat, so the finished product isn’t overly oaky even after decades of aging. The proof is in the drinking, a near-perfect mélange of brown sugar, baking spices, orange peel, a touch of rancio and enough dry oak to balance everything out. Expertly crafted by legendary master blender Joy Spence, and bottled at 43 percent ABV, this may not be for thrill seekers, but it’s an undeniably great rum that can convert whiskey fans and bring a smile to the face of any rum connoisseur.
Best White Rum
Most “light” or “white” rums are actually aged and then the color is filtered out. Wray & Nephew, on the other hand, has never seen the inside of a barrel. This is the unofficial national spirit of Jamaica and with good reason. At 126 proof and lacking barrel aging, it shouldn’t be a great sipper, but ask any of the millions of satisfied customers who’ve enjoyed it with a couple of ice cubes and a twist of lime to make a sweltering tropical day a little more bearable. Dry grassiness gives way to sweet notes of vanilla, coconut, banana and molasses, with just a hint of vegetal funk. The flavor and its high proof make it a marvelous mixer, too. Use it in a Daiquiri, sub it out for gin in a Kingston Negroni, put it in a punch, or drink it the way Jamaicans do, with grapefruit soda.
Best Spiced Rum
The only “spice” evident in most spiced rums is vanilla, which comes from vanilla beans and/or copious amounts of added sugar. But Canerock, made by Maison Ferrand—which produces the Plantation Rum line—is quite unlike any other spiced rum, starting with the base spirit. A blend of aged Jamaican rums from the Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks is quite flavorful even apart from the spices, which include coconut and Jamaican wild ginger. The entire mélange is discernible, along with the funky, slightly fruity rum underpinning it. Weird and compelling.
Best Flavored Rum
The knock on most flavored rums is that they taste artificial, like a food scientist’s idea of a specific flavor rather than the flavor itself. You won’t find that problem with Arhumatic’s flavored expressions because you can literally see what goes into them. It starts out with rhum agricole from Guadeloupe and then infuse it with various fruits and herbs—in this case passion fruit and vanilla—and cane sugar syrup. Bottled at 29 percent ABV, the color and the flavor come entirely from the infused ingredients. And since it’s not strained you can actually see the pulp and the seeds in the bottle. It tastes about as good as it sounds, and while it’s a delight in cocktails, a more unadulterated approach—in a highball with soda or on the rocks—is even better.
Best World Rum
The Mhoba distillery, founded by a sugarcane farmer from Mpumalanga in South Africa, has been making waves globally, even though it’s been producing rum for less than a decade. This is the first Mhoba expression—and the first South African rum, period—to make it to the States, courtesy of Holmes Cay, a small independent bottler with a knack for finding excellent rums and bottling them at cask strength. This is a cane juice-based rum, aged for four years in African whisky casks. Unlike many rhums agricole, it’s quite approachable, with notes tropical fruit and fennel along with hints of mint and smoke. At 118 proof, this is a surprisingly easy and delightful sipper, either neat or on the rocks.
Best Splurge Rum
Rum with a naval history chaser, this is the actual rum rationed out to British seamen in the Royal Navy until 1970, when the practice was sadly abolished. This is a unique blend, consisting of—we think—Guyanese and Trinidadian rums, with smaller amounts from Barbados and Australia, vatted together in industrial-sized quantities for a couple of years and then “bottled” in barrels or stone flagons. Since the vats were never emptied completely, there’s some pretty old rum in the blend, of unknown provenance. But the important thing is that it tastes delicious—not exactly refined, but strong and powerful, with dark chocolate, molasses, caramel and a meatiness particular to Guyanese rum. It’s not cheap, but it’s a small miracle that it still exists at all, and it’s a perfect splurge for a special occasion—you can even get your bottle engraved.
Best Aged Agricole Rum
J.M rhums (spelled with the h added to signify that it’s distilled from pressed sugarcane juice rather than its by-product, molasses) have been around for more than 150 years, but while it’s highly regarded, it often seems like it’s taken for granted next to other, higher-profile brands. Which is a shame, because this is a gorgeous, near-perfect rum—er, rhum. Aged at least six years in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 45 percent ABV, it lacks the intensity of some agricoles, but makes up for it with a beautiful balance of mellow dark fruit and chocolate notes along with spices like cinnamon and clove, and of course the herbal and grassy notes for which chums agricole are known. A great introduction to the category for newbies, and a most enjoyable sipper for everyone else.
Best Un-Aged Agricole Rum
Haiti’s un-aged agricole-style rums are likely the closest we’ll come to knowing what rum tasted like 200 years ago. There are literally hundreds of distillers making rum in minuscule batches, using locally sourced sugarcane, spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast, and distillation in homemade pot stills. And until the last decade or so, they were barely known outside Haiti. That is, until Luca Gargano of La Maison & Velier toured Haiti and sampled hundreds of clairins, tapping a few favorites to ramp up production enough to bring them to a wider market. You won’t find a clairin that’s not worth trying, but Sajous, named for distiller Michel Sajous, is a delight, with grassy, herbaceous notes accompanied by an almost savory brininess, along with citrus and mineral notes. Not for everyone, but everyone should try it at least once.
Best Rum Under $50
Most of the rums on the cheaper end of the spectrum are spiced concoctions or weak, 80-proof bottlings that often taste closer to vodka than rum. This is a glorious exception. A blend of rums from several different (mostly unnamed) distilleries, this 114-proof behemoth is a great starting point for Jamaican pot still rum in all its funky, vegetal, earthy glory—think of it as the rum equivalent of smoky and peaty Islay whiskies. Connoisseurs will wax rhapsodic about other pot still expressions from Jamaica, but there are no better bargains in the category, and this has the added advantage of being fairly easy to find.
Best Overproof Rum
The Diamond distillery in Guyana is a wild and unique place, with a collection of stills that includes the last operational double wooden pot still anywhere in the world. That still was used, in part, to make this extraordinary rum. 151s have generally been used for flambéing or to add some alcoholic whomp to cocktails, but Diamond Reserve adds quite a refined flavor, thanks to one to two years of aging in ex-bourbon barrels and the addition of caramel coloring, which gives it both a dark amber hue and rounds off the sharper boozy edges. Dark chocolate, baking spices and dried berry notes add an extra dimension of flavor to classic tiki cocktails of all stripes.
Best 80-Proof Rum
The vast majority of 80-proof (40 percent ABV) rums are either flavor-deficient and watered down or adulterated with so many additives that they’re more science experiments than proper rums. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the rule, most notably this expression from St. Lucia. It’s column distilled—traditionally a way to produce lighter rums—but method of distillation and nine to 12 years of aging in ex-bourbon barrels makes for a robust, flavorful mélange of cocoa, honey, vanilla and baking spices, with a dry, oaky finish reminiscent of a bourbon. A perfect after-dinner sipper that won’t lay you low after a dram or two.
Best Cask-Finished Rum
The Master Blender Collection launched in 2018 as a limited-edition annual release which allowed Mount Gay’s master blender (the now-retired Allan Smith at the time; today it’s the renowned Trudiann Branker) to mess around with the classic blends of pot and column stills, as well as experiment with various cask finishes. The fifth release in the series finds Branker using 100 percent column still rum finished in Madeira wine casks for six years. The lighter-flavored rum really helps the Madeira flavors—tart citrus, bright grape, an almost savory touch of honey—really shine.
Best White Rum for Cocktails
This blend walks a fine line—straightforward enough for imbibers just looking for something to throw in a mojito, but interesting enough to appeal to sophisticates who enjoy more complexity in their cocktails. “White” doesn’t necessarily mean un-aged in this case—it’s a blend of Dominican column still rum and Jamaican pot still rum which seems to be aged in ex-bourbon barrels and then filtered to remove the color. The blend is light and easy to drink, (some might call it “smooth”), with dominant notes of tropical fruits like banana and pineapple, but the Jamaican rum brings a light earthy funk to the mix. Bottled at a healthy 45 percent ABV, the blend makes a terrific Daiquiri, which is really the litmus test for a rum—but it goes well with everything from coconut water to elaborate tiki-style mixers.
Best Aged Rum for Cocktails
Richard Seale runs the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, whose Exceptional Cask Series includes some of the most critically lauded and sought-after rums of the last decade. Those bottles are pricey and rare enough that you’d never consider using them in a cocktail, but Seale’s 12 Year Old is a more utilitarian, slightly lower proof (46 percent ABV), but also terrific Foursquare expression. Aged entirely in ex-bourbon barrels, it’s a classic, straightforward Barbados rum with notes of oak, tropical fruit, walnuts and coconut. It’s a nifty sipper, but it’s versatile enough—and affordable enough—to shine in cocktails from rum Old Fashioneds to Mai Tais.
What are the different styles of rum?
The cliché is that rum is the “wild West” of spirits because there are so few rules regulating how it’s made. To a certain extent, that’s true, although there can be quite stringent rules depending on the country. Regardless of where or how it’s made, rum must be distilled from sugarcane—either the juice extracted from the pressed sugarcane stalks; cane syrup, which is the juice boiled down to remove some of the water; or molasses, a sugarcane by-product. The vast majority of rums are distilled from molasses. Rum can be aged or un-aged, and there’s a seemingly endless variety of flavor profiles to explore.
Why are some rums spelled “rhum”?
Rhum generally refers to rhum agricole, rums distilled from cane juice that are only allowed to be made in authorized areas of the French islands, notably Martinique and Guadeloupe. These rums require an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) to be designated a rhum agricole. There are many agricole-style rums distilled from cane juice made all over the world, but they lack the AOC designation.
How should you drink rum?
Rum is often thought of as something to put into sugary or frozen cocktails, and of course there are plenty of rums out there that are made for mixing. But a good rum—especially a good aged rum—can be sipped in the same way as a whisky or a Cognac, using the same glassware. Some aged rums can also be subbed out for whiskey in cocktails like Manhattans or Old Fashioneds. Un-aged rums can be more rough-hewn and challenging, but they can also be worthy sippers. That said, the best way to drink rum is… any way you enjoy it. Neat, on the rocks, in a rum & cola or a Daiquiri, there’s no “wrong” way to drink rum, unless you’re pouring it into your nose instead of your mouth.
Why are some rums sweeter than others?
The sweetness of a rum can depend on how it’s distilled and aged. Rum aged in a charred ex-bourbon barrel, for instance, can pick up a lot of flavor from the sugars naturally occurring in the barrel. This can also apply to “light” rums, which are barrel-aged and then filtered to remove the color (and some of the flavor). Other rums, however, namely those produced in Latin America, traditionally have sugar added after distillation, as well as artificial coloring and/or flavoring. There are no rules against this practice in most countries, and artificially sweetened rums are also some of the most popular and widely enjoyed. But if you have a rum with unusually prominent vanilla notes and a viscous mouthfeel, that sweetness may not be natural.
How did we choose the rums on this list?
Several factors went into making this list, including availability—plenty of incredible rums are, sadly, virtually impossible to procure. We also wanted to include a wide array of styles and flavor profiles. But in the end, what mattered most was, do we think each rum is worthy of being called the best in its specific category? Aroma, mouthfeel, flavor profile and finish were all considered in making these choices. Lists like this inevitably provoke discussion and disagreement, and that’s a good thing. But each choice made is one we can stand behind.
Why should you trust us?
Tony Sachs has been writing about rum and other spirits since 2007, visiting distilleries and meeting the people who distill and blend rum to learn the techniques and the stories behind each one. He is a judge for several spirits competitions including the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and in addition to close to a decade of writing for Robb Report, he’s written for numerous other publications, including Forbes, HuffPost, Whisky Advocate and Esquire.