Warm Up This Winter With These Top-Notch Rums

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Rum is not just a summer spirit.

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People tend to think of rum as a summertime spirit, but it’s time to reassess that sentiment. Sure, a flavorful white or dark rum is the perfect tropical drink ingredient, the foundation of everything from a Mai Tai to a classic daiquiri. But these days you’ll find an increasing number of aged rum releases that are appealing to the whiskey drinking crowd, from high proof single cask bottlings, to blends of pot and column distillate from different countries, to mature rum that is finished in a variety of cask types. Many of these spirits are meant to be sipped on their own, but just as many can be used in any number of cocktails that are geared towards the colder months, like an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Hot Toddy. The bottom line is that rum, like any spirit, can and should be enjoyed all year long.

Related: 11 Gin Cocktail Recipes You Absolutely Need to Perfect at Home This Winter

Here are some new and notable rum releases that are worth checking out now.

Kōloa Kaua'i Reserve Five-Year Aged Hawaiian Rum

Courtesy Koloa

If you’ve tried rum from Hawaii’s Kōloa Rum Company before, get ready for something completely different. Previous releases have consisted of various flavored expressions, along with white, gold, and dark versions of this sugar cane spirit. But this new release is something that should appeal a bit more to the serious rum drinker, a five-year-old single barrel rum bottled at cask strength that ranges from 110 to 124 proof depending on the barrel. It drinks surprisingly easily despite its relatively high ABV, with strong notes of vanilla, citrus, and spice on the palate. This is a much lighter, fruitier rum compared to its Caribbean cousins, but it’s quite good all the same.

To buy: $100, koloarum.com

Plantation Single Cask 2020 Jamaica 1996

Courtesy Maison Ferrand

This release came about as part of Plantation Rum’s barrel swap program, in which the brand exchanges casks with other distilleries and producers to further finish and age their respective spirits. In this case, Plantation master blender Alexandre Gabriel collaborated with NY Distilling Co.’s Allen Katz who provided Ragtime Rye American Straight Whiskey barrels. 21.5-year-old Jamaican rum that was aged in Ferrand cognac casks for another two years was put into these barrels for an additional six months, allowing flavors of vanilla, tropical fruit, violet, and spice to mingle in this truly unique spirit.

To buy: $130, binnys.com

Equiano Rum

Courtesy Equiano Rum

Equiano is a new rum that is a blend of liquid from two distilleries on opposite sides of the world—Foursquare, the famous rum distillery in Barbados, and Gray’s in Mauritius. The rum begins in the latter country, where it’s aged for ten years in ex-cognac and French Limousin oak casks. Then it’s shipped to Barbados and blended with bourbon barrel-aged rum from Foursquare. No sugar or coloring is added before bottling. This is a delightful sipping rum, a bit on the dry side but with deep brown sugar, vanilla, and molasses notes. It also happens to work swimmingly in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, if that’s more your speed. And in an altruistic gesture, a portion of the profits from each bottle sold is being donated to various charities by the company.

To buy: $60, reservebar.com

Related: Bar Basics: Your Guide to Every Major Spirit on the Shelf

Don Q Reserva 7/Gran Reserva XO

Courtesy Don Q

Two new aged rums were released by renowned Puerto Rican distillery Don Q this year, adding to its already impressive lineup of bottles. The first, Gran Reserva XO, is actually a rebranding of the distillery’s Gran Añejo. This bottle contains rum aged between nine and 12 years, with some solera-aged rum that could be up to 50 years old. It’s a bold but approachable aged rum, perfect for sipping on a cold winter night. The other release is Reserva 7, a blend of column distilled rums aged for at least seven years in American oak barrels. This is a more affordable bottle that still packs quite a bit of flavor, with notes of chocolate, honey, and candied fruit. Use this rum for any classic rum cocktail you can think of.

To buy: $50, drizly.com (Gran Reserva); $25, totalwine.com (Reserva 7)

Goslings Papa Seal Single Barrel Bermuda Rum

Courtesy Goslings

If you’re making your Dark ‘n Stormys with any old rum, technically you’re doing it wrong as Goslings actually holds the trademark for this classic cocktail (don’t worry, your secret is safe here). But if you are using Goslings, it’s probably best to use Black Seal for mixing and save this expensive single barrel expression for sipping. Papa Seal first launched in 2018, and this year’s release is a blend of sourced pot and column still rum aged between 10 and 21 years in ex-bourbon barrels, then brought to Bermuda to age for another two years. Just 1,500 bottles were released this year, and while the flavor will vary depending on the barrel you can expect to find notes of caramel, vanilla, and a bit of spice in every bottle.

To buy: $200, reservebar.com

Mount Gay Port Cask Expression

Courtesy Mount Gay

This year’s Mount Gay Master Blender Collection release found master blender Trudiann Branker using port pipe-aged rum for the first time in the Barbadian distillery’s history. This is the third release in the series (the first two were XO: The Peat Smoke Expression and Pot Still Rum). It is a blend of column still rum aged for five years in tawny port casks, and pot still rum aged for 14 years in American whiskey barrels and finished in tawny port casks for an additional year. The influence of the port is strong on the nose and palate, bringing a dryness and big candied fruit notes to the background of vanilla, cocoa, and tropical fruit that dominates the palate. Definitely try sipping this one neat first, but feel free to add some water if you’d like to bring it down a bit from its hefty 110 proof.

To buy: $175, wine.com

Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Port Cask

Couresty Holmes Cay

Holmes Cay focuses exclusively on single cask releases, sourcing rum from various countries and bottling it at barrel strength. The latest and final release for 2020 from the brand is this 2009 vintage from Barbados, aged for eight years, then brought to the UK to mature for an additional two years in ex-bourbon barrels, and finally finished for another year in port casks. No sugar or color was added to the rum before bottling. This is a grape candy explosion, with the port cask influence coming into play immediately on the palate. The effects of the finish are very strong here but not overwhelming, making this a really interesting rum to sip, especially with a few drops of water to bring it down from its 56% ABV and open up the palate a bit.

To buy: $129, flaviar.com

Ten to One Reserve Rum

Courtesy Caskers

Ten to One is a relatively new rum brand that is making a mark with its high quality white and dark rums, sourced from countries around the Caribbean and blended together with no color or sugar added. This new high-end expression is a bottling of 17-year-old Trinidadian rum from just four casks (ex-bourbon barrels, to be specific). Immediately, a fruit cocktail jumps out on the palate, with big notes of passionfruit, mango, apricot, and pineapple overlaying a base of crème brûlée and vanilla flavors. This is a very different rum than the other Ten to One releases, and is worth checking out this winter.

To buy: $150, caskers.com

Related: The 10 Best Campari Cocktails You Can Make At Home

Coconut Cartel Special Añejo Rum

Courtesy Coconut Cartel

A visit to the Coconut Cartel website makes the vibe immediately clear—Hollywood gangster movies and pics of women in bikinis. This feels a little juvenile at best, but overall the brand’s vibe seems to be more about Vegas poolside sipping than serious rum contemplation. So what makes up this rum and how does it actually taste? It’s Guatemalan rum aged for up to 12 years in American white oak barrels, and then cut to proof with coconut water. This twist obviously brings coconut flavors to the mix, along with the expected notes of vanilla, brown sugar, and fruit. The nice thing about this rum is that it actually tastes like real coconut, not the suntan lotion “coconut” flavor that you might expect. This might not be the rum for the purists out there, but it should work well in different cocktails.

To buy: $37, drizly.com

Ron Abuelo XV Años Finish Collection

Courtesy Wine Chateaux

Ron Abuelo is a Panamanian rum brand that is distilled at Varela Hermanos, which has been around for over a century. There are three excellent new cask-finished expressions out now that mingle the flavors of Central America with those of Spain, Portugal, and France. Each 15-year-old rum undergoes a different finish—Oloroso in sherry butts, Napoleon in cognac casks, and Tawny in tawny port pipes. Try them side by side if you can to see what each barrel finish really does to the liquid, imbuing it with everything from notes of almond to dried cherry to subtle baking spices.

To buy: $75, winechateau.com

Humboldt Organic Spiced Rum

Courtesy Humboldt Distillery

Out in California, Humboldt Distillery makes a few different spirits, including an interesting hemp-infused vodka. A great cold weather option to try this winter is this Spiced Rum, a flavored take on the distillery’s Original Rum. The spices used here are all certified organic, as is the sugar cane the rum is distilled from, bringing notes of vanilla, allspice and fruit into play on the palate. The actual mix of spices is kept secret, but according to the distiller raw cane sugar and organic caramel are added for sweetness and color.This is a great bottle to mix up some cocktails with, like a hot rum cider, a spicy mojito, or even just adding it to some eggnog (yes, you can drink eggnog after Christmas).

To buy: $25, drizly.com

Kasama Rum

Courtesy Kasama

Kasama is a new rum from the Philippines that will be widely available starting in February. The brand was founded by Alexandra Dorda who was inspired by her parents—her mother is from the Philippines, and her Polish father co-founded the Belvedere and Chopin vodka brands. The rum is distilled on Luzon Island from noble sugar cane juice and aged for seven years in ex-bourbon barrels, giving it bright notes of citrus, pineapple, and sweet hits of brown sugar and caramel. It’s then brought to Poland for bottling. This would be a good choice for making cocktails, as the flavor profile is light and easy. And the vibe seems to be all about hitting the beach with friends, something in short supply these days.

To buy: $30, mashandgrape.com