Aged Rum

Best Aged Rum


Rum is the second largest selling spirit category in the U.S. with 25.2 million cases sold in 2014, but most people have the impression that rum should only be used in cocktails. Aged rum offers a full spectrum of flavors ranging from butterscotch and cinnamon to tropical fruits and tobacco— best enjoyed straight or on the rocks for casual sipping.

Rum is a sugar cane distilled spirit that is directly influenced by terroir, tradition and technique. Most rums are bottled directly from the still, but some are aged in charred oak barrels. Typically, these barrels were previously used to age bourbon (from the U.S.) or scotch, cognac and sherry (from Europe).

In some cases, the rum is allowed to blend and mature in another barrel for a second maturation. This rum is designated as “single barrel”. Occasionally distillers will top off their barrels with rums of the same age. Or in the case of a “solera”, with rums that is one year younger. Bottling occurs straight from the barrel. In the U.S., the age is determined by the youngest spirit in the bottle, and must be indicated by an age statement.

The distillation process, the barrels, and warm climates produce rums that are darker color and richer in flavor, mellower and more aromatic than clear rums.

The spirit of choice by pirates and princes, rum has earned its place in history:
In 1493, Columbus brought sugar cane to Hispaniola.
140 years later, in 1636 - Sugar became the chief crop of Barbados and of all the Caribbean islands.
Soon after, in 1687 - Rum is officially adopted as the daily ration for the Royal Navy.
50 years later (1740) - The Royal Navy’s dilutes rum rations with water, calling it “grog”.
At that time, Massachusetts had 63 distilleries that produced rum made from molasses. (Another reason why the British colonies in New England were very important to Britain.)

After the American Revolution, the British enforced a naval blockade to the Caribbean, restricting access to sugar plantations in the West Indies. So what did the American colonists do? They used their chief crop corn to make bourbon, marking the beginning of bourbon's popularity and the decline of distilleries in the Northeast.

Flash forward to 1980– when rum outsold vodka in the United States and outsold whiskey for the first time since the early nineteenth century.


The Fifty Best Aged Rum Tasting 2015

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 30 aged rums and dark rums with a panel of 15 judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The rums were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Each of the rums were judged and scored separately. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no bronze medals awarded for this tasting. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The countries of origin are identified for each brand.


Gran Riserva 12 yo

(Trinidad & Tobago)

Nose: Vanilla, molasses, caramel, butterscotch, brown sugar, milk chocolate, cola, whipped cream, creamy, popcorn, coconut, hazelnut.
Palate: Toffee, fudge, chocolate, dark molasses, treacle, maple, butterscotch, caramel, cane sugar, creamy, vanilla, dates, dark raisins, ripe fruit, citrus peels, light citrus, elderflower, violets, cinnamon, hazelnut, oak, delicate.
Finish: Toffee, maple syrup, dark fruit cake, clove, coconut, prune, dried fruit, hibiscus, amazing, wonderful.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

   Zaya Gran Riserva 12 yo Rum

Ron Cartavio
XO 18 yo Solera


Nose: Vanilla, molasses, caramel, tropical fruit, raisins, sherry, nutmeg, spice, pretzel.
Palate: Toffee, butterscotch, maple syrup, molasses, demerara, honey, vanilla, cherry, peach, orange peel, tropical fruit, chocolate, buttery, pastry, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sweet tea, agave, creamy texture.
Finish: Caramel, vanilla, butter, spicy, nutty, soft, smooth, layered, outstanding, perfect.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Ron Cartavio XO 18 yo Solera

Papa's Pilar
Dark Solera 24 yr.


Nose: Molasses, caramel, toffee, butterscotch, maple, honey, vanilla, dried fruits, walnut, nutty, cereal, herbal, cinnamon, sherry.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, dates, raisins, dried cherry, pear, fruity, lemon, orange peel, peppermint, herbal candy, hot toddy, mint, anise, nutty, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, oak, wood, wonderfully layered.
Finish: Vanilla, dark sugar, caramel, toffee, raisins, toast, nutty, marzipan, anise, hint of mint, great.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Papa's Pilar Dark Solera 24 yr. Rum

Grand Reserve


Nose: Molasses, sugar cane, maple, caramel, smoky toffee, nougat, buttery, vanilla, honey, ripe banana, mango, ripe fruit, fragrant flowers, soft.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, treacle, sugar cane, light brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, buttery, creamy, fruity, smooth, extremely well balanced.
Finish: Cola, smooth, soft, amazing sweetness, classic, perfect.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Rumson's Grand Reserve Rum

1 Barrel

Nose: Chocolate, butterscotch, brown sugar, maple syrup, French toast, honey, banana, pineapple, almond, cinnamon, coffee, leather notes, oak.
Palate: Honey, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, fudge, apricot, orange, banana, pecans in dark brown sugar syrup, French toast, dark chocolate, sherry, coffee, oak.
Finish: Sweet notes, honey notes, dark chocolate, a little cinnamon, coffee, nutty, leather, smooth.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

1 Barrel Rum

Ron Viejo de Caldas
Gran Reserva Aged 8 yrs


Nose: Caramel, chocolate, candied sugar, vanilla, creamy, ripe banana, apple, cherry twizzlers, bright acidity, coffee, oak.
Palate: Toffee, honey, chocolate, creamy, hazelnut, banana, orange, dried tropical fruit, raisins, black licorice, coffee, oak, slight pine, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Clove, hint of allspice, spice, grapefruit peel, walnut, apple pie, creamy, smooth, refined, wonderful, amazing.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Ron Viejo de Caldas Gran Reserva Aged 8 yrs

Ron Diplomático
Reserva Exclusiva


Nose: Caramel, molasses, toffee, chocolate, maple sap, cane sugar, butter, banana, pear, cherry, berries, toast, floral, oak.
Palate: Vanilla, dates, raisins, prune, cherry, strawberry, pear, banana, pineapple, lemon, sweet tea, sherry, cookies, hazelnut, biscuit, toast, spicy.
Finish: Dried fruit, raisins, dates, biscotti, creamy vanilla, maple syrup, nutty, salty, very clean, gentle.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva


Gold XO Special Reserve

(St. Vincent & The Grenadines)

Nose: Molasses, brown sugar, maple, toffee, light caramel, vanilla, cream, coconut, dried green apple, dried fruit, cinnamon.
Palate: Fudge, molasses, honey, creamy, banana, coconut, apple, apricot, prune, sherry, cereal, clove, spices, peppery, oak, smooth, well balanced.
Finish: Creamy, coconut, prune, dates, leather, nice, perfect, wonderful.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Mutineers Gold XO Special Reserve Rum

Super Premium


Nose: Dark sugar, gorgeous demarara, molasses, toffee, maple syrup. honey, vanilla, ripe tropical fruit, pineapple, black cherry, nutmeg.
Palate: Buttery, molasses, burnt caramel. sugar cane, cola, papaya, guava, peach, clove, pine.
Finish: Honey, peach, subtle pine notes, balanced, smooth, nice.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Rumson's Super Premium Aged Rum

XO Reserve

(Anguilla & various Caribbean Isles)

Nose: Chocolate covered orange peels, orange peel, pear, banana, watermelon, sour candy, rose, floral, pine.
Palate: Orange peel, orange, orange marmalade, grapefruit, lemon, citrus, pineapple, melon, coconut. vanilla, marzipan, tea leaves, cinnamon, smoky.
Finish: Honey, orange, lemon rind, lemon marmalade, coffee, salty, light spice, herbs, soft.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

 Pyrat XO Reserve Rum

1919 Aged 8-10 yrs

(Trinidad & Tobago)

Nose: Dried fruit, coconut, dark sugar, toffee, caramel, vanilla, clotted cream, cream, buttery, baked goods, nutmeg, spice, herbal, sherry, leather, pine.
Palate: Molasses, caramel, butterscotch, maple, chocolate, coconut, fruit cake, golden raisins, pear, lemon, citrus, herbs, nutmeg, great vegetal spice, smooth.
Finish: Honey, maple, citrus, tea, spicy, pleasant, exceptionally smooth, unmistakable, excellent.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Angostura 1919 Aged 8-10 yrs Rum

Premium Aged Rum

(St. Vincent & The Grenadines)

Nose: Cocoa, Earl Grey tea, bergamot, apples, banana, pancakes, dough, allspice, clove, cinnamon, sherry, herbal, summer meadow.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, cocoa, vanilla, honey, buttery, creamy, whipped cream, dried fruit, tropical fruit, lemon, orange, banana nut bread, ginger, Caribbean spices, allspice, nutmeg, pepper, light pine, oak.
Finish: Honey, maple, cinnamon, mint, oak, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Sparrow's Premium Aged Rum

Dos Maderas
P.X. 5+5


Nose: Toffee, caramel, dark muscavado, brown sugar, buttery, maple, bitter chocolate, coffee beans, cola, rose, hay, leather, oak.
Palate: Molasses, caramel, milk chocolate, raisins, hint of banana, apricot, orange, rose, nutmeg, clove, muscato, sherry, tea, leather, tobacco.
Finish: Butterscotch, nougat, light chocolate, almond, nutty, cereal.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Dos Maderas P.X. 5+5 Rum

1888 Gran Reserva Familiar

(Dominican Republic)

Nose: Tropical fruit, dried fruit, coconut, citrus, baked apple, molasses, jelly, sherry, clove, rosemary, leather, oak.
Palate: Dark sugar, molasses, butterscotch. honey, dried fruit, apricot. citrus, green apple, rose, cinnamon, allspice, clove, nutmeg, spiced bread, nutty, pepper, mint, sherry cask, oak, very nice texture.
Finish: Toffee, sweet, citrus, spicy, pepper, oak, wood notes, nice, gentle, elegant.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar

Aged 12 yrs


Nose: Orange peel, citrus peel, citrus, honey, butterscotch, caramel, nougat, vanilla, molasses, brown sugar, maple, tea.
Palate: Vanilla, butter, caramel, cream, banana, coconut, strawberry, pear, fig, sherry, maple syrup, nutty, cinnamon, allspice, clove, peppercorn, interestingly peaty.
Finish: Candied, vanilla, raisins, sherry, pepper, cinnamon, sweet, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Jav's Rum Aged 12 yrs

Travellers 5 Barrel

Nose: Molasses, honey, creme caramel, maple, maple syrup, mango, berries, honeysuckle, herbs, vegetal, grassy, tree bark, tobacco.
Palate: Honey, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, molasses, maple syrup, apricot, orange, lemon zest, coconut, tobacco, oak, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Vanilla, clove, pimento, spicy, smoky, earthy, oak.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Travellers 5 Barrel Rum

Ron Cartavio
Solera 12 years


Nose: Banana, tropical fruit, vanilla, brown sugar, sugar cane, molasses, caramel, maple, pecan, oak, wood.
Palate: Toffee, molasses, vanilla bean, clotted cream, fruity, guava, berries, raisins, port, spicy, cinnamon, walnut, leather, tobacco, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Marzipan, butter, honey, dark sugar, sweet, spicy, wood, oak, smooth, nice.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Ron Cartavio Solera 12 years


Nose: Banana, tropical fruit, banana bread, honey, buttery, caramel, hint of vanilla, macadamia nut, toasted almond, nutmeg, sherry, grass.
Palate: Butterscotch, buttery, pineapple, guava, pear, apple peel, grass, elderflower, baking spice, nutty, mahogany, balanced.
Finish: Fruity, banana, buttery, spicy, oak, smooth, very balanced.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Tiburon Aged Rum

Old Gold Special Reserve


Nose: Molasses, honey, pollen, caramel, buttery, creamy, crème brûlée, tropical fruit, nutmeg, oaky.
Palate: Molasses, caramel, creamy, maple, honey, strawberry, pineapple, citrus, coconut, marzipan, pecans, mint, lightly floral, biscuit, oaky, balanced.
Finish: Vanilla, molasses, sweet, spicy, peppery, touch of tobacco, flavorful, well balanced, nice, gentle, classic.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Cockspur Old Gold Special Reserve

1824 12 yr Dark Rum

(Trinidad & Tobago)

Nose: Tropical fruit, coconut, cane sugar, brown sugar, treacle, chocolate, almond, nutty, tobacco, woody, leather.
Palate: Orange, orange peel, green apple, ripe fruit, dried fruit, light coconut, honey, molasses, gingerbread, sherry, herbal, mint, licorice, nuts, leather, tobacco, wood, pine, oak.
Finish: Caramel, light cherry, spicy, tobacco, wood, balanced.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Angostura 1824 12 yr Dark Rum

Six Saints

Nose: Molasses, vanilla, lemonade, apple, pear, ripe banana, dried fruit, vegetal, grassy, pine, jasmine.
Palate: Molasses, caramel, maple, pear, stone fruit, cherry, mango, tropical fruit, dried fruit, marmalade, rose, elderflower, floral, jasmine, spicy, balanced.
Finish: Honey, rose, lemon, spicy, pepper, leather, gentle.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Six Saints Rum


Sam Smith's Boatyard Rum
Aged 2 yrs

(New York)

Nose: Caramel, brown sugar, toasted sugar, maple syrup, citrus, apple, bourbon, herbal, hint of grass.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, butterscotch, some vanilla, touch of cream, maple syrup, pear, coconut, sherry, hay, almond, nutty, oak, very smooth.
Finish: Hint of caramel, light, cedar, woody, silky.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Sam Smith's Boatyard Rum

Canne Royale
Extra Old Rum


Nose: Vanilla, cream, buttery, honey, sugar cane, brown sugar, toffee, treacle, subtle tropical fruits, pear, apple, citrus.
Palate: Vanilla, honey, molasses, caramel, butterscotch, butter, coconut, guava, banana, banana bread, apple pie, citrus, grass, eucalyptus, wormwood, oak, smooth, well balanced.
Finish: Apple peel, citrus, dark sugar, molasses, treacle, chocolate, coffee, leather, toasted bourbon barrel, soft.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Canne Royale Extra Old Rum

3 Howls
90 proof Rum


Nose: Caramel, toffee, butter, cane sugar, dried fruit, licorice, herbs, floral, grassy, earthy.
Palate: Butterscotch, molasses, dried tropical fruit, papaya, cherry, sherry, marzipan, grain, floral, hint of mint, peppery, vegetal, roots, earthy, tree bark, woody, oak.
Finish: Caramel, toffee, sweet, citrus, cinnamon, spicy, oak.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

3 Howls 90 proof Rum

Old Man Guavaberry Republic
5 Yr Rum

(Sint Maarten)

Nose: Toffee, caramel, light brown sugar, maple, honey, stone fruit.
Palate: Cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, vanilla, coconut, maple, bananas foster, apricot, sultana, cherry, red currant note, citrus, allspice, clove, hazelnut, creamy, sherry.
Finish: Pear, chocolate, spice, leather, well balanced, smooth, easy, elegant.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Old Man Guavaberry Republic 5 Yr Rum

Pierre's Texas Rum

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, molasses, honey, cherry, citrus, quince, grass, agave, tea leaves, saline, earthy, smoky, heavy oak.
Palate: Vanilla, dark sugar, treacle, molasses, honey, fruity, pineapple, apricot, peach, citrus, quince, almond, cinnamon, eucalyptus, spices, pepper, oak.
Finish: Molasses, banana, tropical fruit, slight spice, clove, leather, exceptionally smooth.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Pierre's Texas Rum

Ron Viejo de Caldas
Aged 3 yrs


Nose: Almond, honey, banana, pineapple, citrus, bubble gum, butterscotch, caramel, molasses, hay, nutmeg.
Palate: Coconut, banana, banana taffy, banana pudding, banana, pear, apple, orange, citrus, tropical fruit, gummy fruit, sherry, pepper, smooth, well balanced.
Finish: Maple, burnt sugar, vanilla notes, nutmeg, spicy, nice, smooth.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Ron Viejo de Caldas Aged 3 yrs

Dunc's Mill
Backwoods Reserve Batch #4 Rum 92 proof


Nose: Green apple, melon, floral, agave, vegetal, herbal, eucalyptus, hay, peat, saline, brine, leather, cedar.
Palate: Banana, pineapple, pear, orange zest, citrus, honey, sherry, scotch-like, herbs, mint, peppermint, eucalyptus, mineral notes, spice, pepper, pine, oak.
Finish: Citrus, pepper, clove, hay, oak, woody.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Dunc's Mill Backwoods Reserve Batch #4 Rum

Mezan XO

Nose: Green fruit, quince, green leaves, grassy, vegetal, leather, hay, balsa wood, caramelized wood, oak sap, woody.
Palate: Cane sugar, ginger, dates, quince, cherry, herbal, sherry, pepper, dry grass, biscuit, tobacco.
Finish: Citrus, peppery, light wood.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Mezan XO Rum

Dunc's Mill
Backwoods Reserve Rum 125 proof


Nose: Molasses, treacle, toffee, honey, vanilla, cream, custard, crème brûlée, bourbon barrel, cinnamon, ginger, jasmine.
Palate: Coconut, molasses, honey, Golden Grahams, eucalyptus, spice, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, bacon, leather, tobacco, woody.
Finish: Fruity, sweet, cinnamon, spicy.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Dunc's Mill Backwoods Reserve Rum 125 proof




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Comments and Suggestions:

Fri. August 21, 2015 6:21 AM - by: Editor
Our judging panel sampled Don Q Anejo. The review can be seen here.
Thu. August 20, 2015 12:54 PM - by: Barclay Webster
You should think about adding Don Q Gran Anejo Rum to the list. It's the only rum to win the 'Five Star Diamond Award' and has 96 points from Wine Enthusiast and the Ultimate Beverage Challenge. It's a much drier style than about all the other rums on this list as there's no sugar/caramel/molasses added after distillation. A lot of the rums on this list have 30-40+ grams of sugar added to them which only discourages whiskey and other brown spirits from converting to rum.

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Fifty Best > Spirits > Aged Rum
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