The practice of lobbing fruit and spices into barrels of rum is nothing new. Distillers have been blending their rums with all kinds of adjuncts for centuries – whether to help thirsty sailors ward off scurvy, or to mask off-flavours of their dodgy grog. Until recently, spiced rum has been the poor relation to its pure, barrel-aged cousins, seen as a party drink rather than something for the connoisseur.
A few respected spiced rum brands such as Captain Morgan and Sailor Jerry have been bobbing around the spicy seas for years, but now a once niche style of spirit is being seized upon by distillers keen to capitalise on the ever expanding market for innovative, flavoured booze.
Spice is in vogue, and for those who like a flavoursome twist to their cocktails or simply an alternative sipping choice to straight rum, there are many products to choose from. Here’s our top ten, guaranteed to flush your cheeks and warm your cockles.
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1. Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, 40%: £22.99 for 70cl, Drinks Supermarket
You can see why Chairman’s has been so clutchy with this slick, spicy export from the revered St Lucia Distillery. The initial citrus twist of orange peel gives way to a warm wash of caramel, nutmeg and a delicate smattering of cinnamon. It's the perfect balance of sweetness and spice. Don’t waste this one on mucky mojitos – make like the Chairman and save it for best.
2. Foursquare Spiced Rum, 37.5%: £29.31 for 70cl, Amazon
Blended by the molasses-stained hands of Master Distiller Richard Searle, Foursquare Spiced Rum is a high caliber, smooth sipping treat, packed with bags of butterscotch flavour and underlying hints of cherries and almond. This is a classic Bajan Rum – distilled with both column and pot stills – which makes for a light, fruity spirit that has been enhanced – not dictated – by flavours of cinnamon and ginger. Expertly done.
3. Elements Eight Exotic Spices, 40%: £26.34 for 70cl, The Drink Shop
Elements Eight has the word ‘artisan’ plastered on the bottle, but fear not – this is no slick marketing gimmick to entice and ensnare a booze-craving hipster. It’s a mellow sipper, with emphasis on orange peel and ginger. Honey and toffee combine with light floral notes, backed up with cinnamon, cloves and a hint of coconut. If you prefer your spiced rums a tad sweet, this is the one to reach for.
4. Dead Man’s Fingers Rum, 37.5%: £22.95 for 70cl, Amazon
The folks at St Ives’ ‘Rum & Crab Shack’ know a thing or two about rums; pop in for a crustacean-crunching lunch and you’ll be greeted with an eclectic rum menu that would make the most sea weary pirate go ‘Arrrrrrrrr’. This spiced rum is one of its own creations – a vanilla led booze with a heady nose of cola-cubes and toffee. Don’t expect a tooth-dissolving, sickly sipper though, for these Dead Man's Fingers haven’t been lingering in the sweetie jar – on taste, it's a dry, well-balanced tipple, with marmalade and cloves adding fruity depth.
6. Bumbu Rum, 35%: £34.60 for 70cl, The Drinks Shop
Head for the bottle marked with an X, as this bourbon, barrel-aged rum certainly hits the spot. Based on the original recipe created by 16th and 17th century West Indian sailors, it’s a smooth, vanilla-led rum that riffs off the Christmassy, thrice-spice triangle of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bumbu will hoist up many a cocktail and makes a particularly fine ‘dark mojito’. Add 2oz rum to 1oz demerara sugar syrup and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Shake with ice, pour into a tall glass and top up with soda water.
7. Ron de Jeremy Spiced Rum, Hardcore Edition, 47%: £36.90 for 70cl, Urban Drinks
We’re guessing elderly, ex-pornstar Ron Jeremy doesn’t get as many bookings as he used to, hence he’s turned his attentions to the delicate art of rum making. The suggestive brand marketing leans heavily on Jeremy’s eye-popping career, but to be fair on Ron, this is a fine booze that more than holds its own in the spiced rum market. It comes in two varieties, the ‘Original Spiced’, and our favorite, Ron’s ‘Hardcore Edition’ – a strapping 47 per cent beast, packed with bold notes of butterscotch, cloves and allspice. Sip it naked, splash it over ice, or slip it into a cocktail for a spicy surprise.
10. Don Q Spiced Rum, 45%: £28.95 for 70cl, The Whisky Exchange
Made from a heady blend of three to six-year-old rums, this Puerto Rican piquant potion has been given extra tannic bite thanks to the oak barrel aging process. Vanilla, spice and toasted nuts dominate the nose, with a fruity, boozy christmas cake on taste. Don’s finish is soft, slow and warming. This rum makes a super ‘spiced daiquiri’ – mix 2oz rum, 1oz cointreau, 1oz lime juice, 1oz sugar syrup, shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and form an orderly ‘Q’.
5. Spytail Black Ginger Rum, 40%: £38.90 for 70cl, Urban Drinks
A relative newcomer on the spiced rum scene, this French treat pours dark mahogany from a bulbous, bathysphere-shaped bottle, inspired by Jules Verne and his tales of underwater escapades. It’s based on a 19th century recipe that has punchy ginger spices dominating proceedings with a long-lasting, piquant, bonfire-toffee finish. It’s a delicious, flavoursome booze with which to submerge your tonsils.
8. Wester Spirit Co. Premium Spiced Rum, 40%: £35 for 70cl, Wester Spirit Co.
A Scottish, Caribbean-style rum might sound at odds with itself, but Glasgow’s Candleriggs Quarter has a long, historic association with sugar refinement, so the leap from palm-fringed Barbadian sands to the Clydeside docks is not so vast. Wester’s offering is a premium-priced, spiced sipper that pours the colour of deep mahogany with a cola candy nose. It’s a dry, complex drink with sweet vanilla cut with hints of citrus. Spice is supplied by star anise, ginger and nutmeg, which complements the overall package.
9. Pusser’s Spiced Rum, 35%: £20.45 for 70cl, The Whisky Exchange
Pusser’s already dominates the navy rum market with its flotilla of fine golden boozes, but this is its first – and relatively recent – foray into the spice market. It’s a clear, copper-coloured rum that sails between sweetness and spice with consummate ease. There are ginger marmalade flavours ahoy, with a peppery heat courtesy of cinnamon and allspice. It works as a sipper, but also makes a mean ‘Dark & Stormy’. Combine 2oz rum and 3oz ginger beer in an ice-filled glass. Add an optional ½oz lime to ward off scurvy.
The Verdict: Spiced rum
Jemmy open the Chairman's drinks cabinet and get your hands upon his boozy bounty. It’s our pick of the spice rack and a rare rum treat.