16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

Sunshine in a glass: that’s rum. Many think of the sugarcane-based spirit as the quintessential good-times drink – best stirred into fruity punches or blended with cola. But the truth is rum has grown up.

These past few years have seen an explosion in craft brands and artisan production. Ask bartenders and industry insiders, and many will tell you rum is set to be the “next big thing”.

While most of the world’s rum comes from the Caribbean, that’s only part of the picture. Some are distilled in Africa, the US or Australia. Others are blended and bottled in Europe. Rum can be made from a base of molasses or sugar cane juice, or both. It can be aged for years, into the double digits – or no time at all. In short, it’s about as diverse as spirits get.

There’s a place for almost every kind of rum out there. So in our quest to list some of the best, we’ve aimed to include a variety of origins, styles and price points (though, we’ve excluded spiced and flavoured rums here – categories of their own).

Some are grain-to-glass spirits from distilleries fanatical about terroir and sourcing; others are complex blends, created from unique rums sourced from across the world. Some show off the purity of sugarcane as an ingredient; others the skills of an experienced blender. Some are just darn delicious in a mixed drink, full stop.

How we tested

When choosing our favourite rums for 2022, we tasted each one neat at room temperature, then again with ice. We mixed up dozens of tasty daiquiris, the simple, classic rum cocktail with lime and sugar syrup – the spirit’s answer to a margarita. We ranked each rum we tasted on flavour, of course, but also took into account transparency of sourcing and production, and value for money. Let’s say “cheers” to the standouts…

The best rums for 2022 are:

Appleton estate signature

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

Ask any rum fan about which bigger brand they really respect, and Appleton’s name consistently comes up. Produced in Jamaica to some of the world’s strictest standards by master distiller Joy Spence, entry-level bottling signature shows brilliant value for money. Intense flavours of stone fruit, pineapple and molasses join a gentle oak character that makes it super versatile; this is just as good stirred into a daiquiri as it is a giant vat of rum punch (and, unlike many other top rums, it’s affordable enough for the latter, too). Classic and crowd-pleasing, this is exactly what a rum should be: a pure taste of the Caribbean.

Buy now £21.99,

Saint benevolence

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If you thought white rum lacked flavour, think again. Clairin, a Haitian version made with fresh sugarcane juice, tastes green, grassy, fresh and characterful – in short, a bit like the lush Haitian landscapes captured in a bottle. This one, made from organic sugarcane in Saint Michel, is a charitable endeavour, with a full 100 per cent of the profits going to non-profits that work to uplift impoverished Haitian communities. It’s bursting with vegetal, spicy notes of green pepper, green banana and smoke. If you enjoy the profile of mezcal or characterful tequilas, this is the rum for you.

Buy now £38.40,

Veritas rum

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This blended white combines rums from two of the sugarcane world’s major cult distilleries: Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden in Jamaica. Medium-bodied yet rich, it has enough weight to offset zingy lime in a daquiri and plenty of delicious flavour too, with notes of tropical banana, pineapple and a hint of green grass. Really, it’s pretty exceptional value given the quality (not to mention the pedigree).  And if you happen to be out of fresh lime for daiquiri-making, we can confirm from experience that it tastes just as superb sipped neat…

Buy now £34.75,

Duppy white

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

If you drink whisky you’ll perhaps have heard of the “angel’s share”, the small amount of liquid lost to evaporation as the spirit ages in barrel. Well, in rum they call it the “duppy’s share” – duppies being Caribbean spirits – and that’s what gives this fun 100 per cent Jamaican rum its name. It’s all classic character: bright tropical banana and mango, a bit of spice, and a super smooth finish that seriously impresses given the sub-£20 price point. And if you need one more reason to buy? It’s produced with London-born grime musician Kano, who has Jamaican heritage; if he’s willing to put his name to the bottle, you know it’s got to be tasty.

Buy now £19.75,

Renegade dunfermline column still

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

Here’s one for the proper rum geeks: a terroir-driven, single farm column still rum from Grenada’s Dunfermline estate. It’s a rare prospect – a rum that’s not about blending and aging, but rather about expressing a specific origin; think of it as a snapshot in place and time. It’s amazingly complex (and punchy, at 50 per cent ABV), with concentrated notes of banana, orange and aloe. It’s one for drawing down with some ice and sipping slowly and thoughtfully, so you can unpack all that character. Though put it in the hands of a bartending maestro, we imagine it could make for some seriously interesting cocktails too.

Buy now £54.95,

Hattiers eminence

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This bottling shows off what great blending skills can do. The British-made spirit contains eight different rums from four different countries – Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and, unusually, Australia – as well as super fresh Dartmoor water from South Devon. Some rums have been aged (some for as long as eight years) while others have never seen time in a barrel. The result is a white spirit that has rich body and the smooth vanilla, cream and fudge notes that come with aging – yet still plenty of fresh fruity, grassy zip. It’s basically a halfway point between a classic white and a golden rum, and we’re super into it. Delicious sipped solo over ice.

Buy now £37.50,

Montanya exclusiva

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

Rums don’t have to be from the Caribbean, as this American bottling shows. It’s made in Colorado from sugarcane grown in Louisiana, by a team of female distillers – then aged in ex-whiskey, wine and Port barrels. The result is a one-of-a-kind pour, with a profile that all its own: notes of sweet Port and whiskey on the nose, then a very spicy yet smooth palate. Delicate, clean and elegant thanks to being aged in a cool climate (Colorado is more like Scotland than St Lucia), it’s really more akin to a whisk(e)y than it is a conventional rum. This is not a pour for sloshing up in cocktail; heaven forbid mixing with coke. Sip it neat, and savour.

Buy now £40.74,

Lost Years four island rum

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

Want a rum that tastes good and does good? Lost Years is it. Working with sea turtle charity non-profit SEE Turtles, every bottle bought apparently saves up to 10 turtle hatchlings born on Caribbean beaches. But just because it’s kind to the environment, doesn’t mean you’re missing out on quality here.

A blend of barrel-aged rums from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, Dominican Republic and Jamaica joins a splash of unaged agricole (sugarcane juice rum) from Guadeloupe. That means you get a zingy, grass note alongside those tropical and smoke flavours. Not to mention a finish that goes on for yonks.

Buy now £38.95,

Hampden Estate 8 year old rum

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

One of the need-to-know names in Jamaican rum, Hampden is a rare thing: a distillery that grows its own sugarcane as well as distilling its spirit. With its grain-to-glass mentality, quality is always at the forefront. And this, its eight-year-old aged spirit, really shows off how complex the profiles can get. We’re talking medium-bodied, smooth and elegant, with notes of coffee, chocolate and treacle – but also a bite of baked apple. We could sip this all day long, any which way: neat, with a dash of coconut water or pineapple juice. Or in a very, very swanky rum punch.

Buy now £56.25,

Panamá-Pacific ron de Panama 5 year old

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In old speak, this is what is known as a “Spanish style” rum – basically, lighter and fruitier than more treacly “English styles”. While this kind of colonialist terminology is falling out of favour now, it’s a way to think about the profile of this sort of aged rum: bright and fresh, yet complex, with almost a whisky- or Calvados-like character. It’s smooth, with a long finish, and unlike many other rums the age statement refers to the youngest rum in the blend, not the oldest. As for the aging? Ex-bourbon and Canadian whiskey casks.

Buy now £39.95,

Plantation XO 20th anniversary

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This rum is smoother than a silk nightie. First aged in ex-bourbon barrels on the island of Barbados and then further aged in small oak casks in France, it will appeal to lovers of a good sipping cognac. It’s similarly delicate, luscious and elegant (and the bottle looks the part to match, too). But don’t worry, this is definitely still a rum, with flavours of mango, banana and chocolate turning out, alongside ripples of vanilla and coconut. Pour it into a tasting glass, kick back in an executive armchair in front of a roaring fire, and savour every sip.

Buy now £54.25,

Ron Abuelo 12 year old

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

It’s common to see big age statements on rums these days, but often that number represents the oldest part of the blend, not the youngest. That’s not the case with Ron Abuelo 12 year old, where every drop of the molasses-based rum has been aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a minimum of a dozen years. The result is a golden hued spirit with notes of tobacco, coffee, smoke and fudge, as well as classic banana – not to mention a smooth sweetness. Despite its brooding character, it can go surprisingly well in a refreshing daiquiri if combined with a brown sugar-based syrup.

Buy now £36.95,

Goslings black

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

If you like a dark ‘n stormy – the classic serve of dark rum, lime juice, Angostura bitters, sugary syrup and ginger beer – then there’s only one rum that officially fits the bill. And that’s Goslings black, made in Bermuda since 1806. In fact, this rum brand actually trademarked the bar classic. And to be fair, it tastes fabulous in it. Is it one for straight sipping? We probably wouldn’t say so. But for a party night with mates, it’s a winner.

Buy now £23.40,

Diplomático reserva exclusiva

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Rich, sweet and dangerously sippable, this Venezuelan rum is a fan favourite for a reason. It’s bursting with dark spicy character, with flavours of chocolate, Christmas spices, chocolate, vanilla, demerara sugar and coffee. And yet, thanks to its balance and rich sweetness it’s still fairly approachable for a rum newbie. Try it in a rum-based spin on an old fashioned and you won’t be disappointed.

Buy now £43.50,

MacNair’s exploration rum Jamaica peated

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

There are rums that have a whisky-like elegance and then there are those – like this one – that come with serious whisky character. One of a series of experimental pours from Speyside’s GlenAllachie distillery, it consists of rum made at Jamaica’s Clarendon distillery that’s first been aged in American and French oak casks, then rested further in the cool Scottish climes. Blender Billy Walker hand-selected each Jamaican cask to make sure it would fit the perfect profile for ageing, and the result is a fascinating rum that balances tropical fruit flavours, ginger and butterscotch with fragrant notes of peat. An exploration indeed.

Buy now £48.90,

Bacardi reserva ocho 8 year old

food, 16 best rums to sip straight, on the rocks and mix in cocktails

What’s a rum round-up without Bacardi? The big dog of the rum world is one that any spirit drinker will have sampled at one time or another. And this eight-year-old bottling shows that they can do more than their classic unaged white pour. Sweet, golden and smooth, with stone fruit notes, it’s a refined sipping rum that really won’t hurt the bank balance at just £26.

Buy now £26.00,

The verdict: Rums

We can’t get enough of Appleton signature – it’s affordable, delicious and made to a high-quality standard. If you’re dreaming of the classic taste of golden rum, this will definitely hit the mark.

Looking for a white rum that boosts real character? Try Veritas for a taste of two of the rum world’s leading distilleries, or Renegade for a unique terroir-driven bottling. Both show off why unaged sugar cane spirit can be so exciting.

Finally, if you want smooth, dark sipping rum with some age on it, give Hampden eight year old or Plantation XO 20th anniversary a try.

Stock up your drinks cabinet with one of the best tequilas or the best gins

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