As someone who has been creating cocktails at home for over a decade, I’ve come to have my favorite spirits. Rum is one that is dear to me, mainly because it is easy to find quality rum at a great price point. Rum is also unique because, like tequila, it comes in silver, gold, and aged varieties. It can be flavored, like vodka, or blended, like whiskey. In this post, we break down everything you need to know about aged rum so you can make an informed choice the next time you’re stocking your home bar!
Choosing a rum can be confusing because it’s not as regulated as other alcohols like tequila or whiskey. This is good and bad. But overall, it means that you are sure to find an aged rum without spending too much money, and you'll find one that works with your plans for using it. Whether you want to enjoy it neat or in a classic cocktail like a Cuban Daiquiri, the world of aged rum has something for everyone!
🤨 what is aged rum?
⏳ barrel aged for years. Rum is aged in barrels (sometimes called casks) that have held whiskey, sherry, or even wines for 1 - 20+ years. Sometimes, the rum is aged in new American oak barrels or new French oak barrels.
🍹 complex and flavorful. Because rum is aged in barrels that have sometimes held other alcohols, it takes on the flavor of the barrel. This creates a bold and unique spirit!
🤌 extra special. Mature aged rums are great for special occasions because they have such a unique and complex flavor. Whether you choose to enjoy them neat or mixed into a tropical cocktail seen at popular tiki bars, rum is perfect for celebrations.
🆚 dark rum vs. aged rum
Aged rum is always dark. But dark rum is not always aged. Confused? It’s okay! Here are the quick facts:
- Dark rum is darker in color. This can be because of aging, but it can also be because of added coloring. An example of dark rum that is not aged is Coruba Rum.
- Aged rum is darker in color because of the aging process. When rum is stored in a barrel or other container and aged, it darkens in color.
👅 flavor profile
Aged rum can vary in flavor from mellow and smooth to funky and spicy. It all depends on the distiller’s recipe, the maturation times, and the blending of the rum, which is usually done by a master blender. Generally speaking though, rum that has been barrel-aged will be deeper in flavor with a full-bodied taste and warm undertone compared to unaged rums. These rums are dark in color and syrupy in appearance.
Some prominent tasting notes of more mature rums are:
- molasses or burnt sugar and toffee
- stone fruit like cherries and apricots
- vanilla and warm spices
- citrus, like orange peel or zest
🍳 how aged rum is made
Silver rum, or white rum, is placed in barrels to age for 1 - 20+ years. On average, distillers will call a rum aged if it has been in barrels for 3 years or longer. Because rum starts out as clear, it takes on the color of the barrel very quickly. For this reason, color should never be the clue you use to understand how old a rum is. Instead, look on the bottle itself for the number of years it has been aged. The distiller will let you know how long it’s been in barrels, and the price tag will tell you, too! The label will also often tell you the kind of barrels used and whether it is a blend of aged rums or a single barrel-aged rum.
On average, I look for aged rums that are in the 8-12 year range. They get very expensive the longer they mature. The youngest rum I recommend is 4-5 years, and usually, it’s better to use those in cocktails instead of sipping on solo.
🍹 how to drink it
These rums are perfect for enjoying on their own or mixed into cocktails. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy aged rum, but here are some ideas:
- neat - you can pour the rum into a glass and serve it neat, at room temperature. This is especially recommended if the rum is exceptionally aged or rare, so you can taste the true flavor profile of the unique rum.
- on the rocks - serving aged rum poured over a large ice cube is one of the most popular ways to enjoy it. I also love serving aged rums over frozen cubes of coconut water for an added burst of tropical flavor.
- in cocktails - aged rum is the perfect liquor for cocktails, because it brings the complex and full-bodied flavor of the rum to any drink it is present in. Cocktails like the Aku Aku or a rum old fashioned are perfect for customizing using a mature rum!
💰 cost per bottle
The wonderful thing about rum is that you can find quality ones at every budget. The not-so-wonderful thing is that as rums age, they do become more expensive. Expect to spend about $40 on a nice bottle of aged rum.
With that said, some of the rarest rums exceed $200, $300, and even $500 per bottle! This is because of the time it takes to make the liquor, and the amount of bottles that are available for sale.
Rums that have been aged 3 - 5 years will be cheaper than those aged 10, 15, or even 20 years. Unless you’re a diehard rum enthusiast with a taste for the finer things, you’re sure to find a brand of aged rum that doesn’t break the bank!
🛒 popular brands of rum
Rum isn’t a liquor that has a ton of oversight as to how it is made, like scotch or whiskey. The good thing about the lack of oversight is that it means just about anyone can make rum. That also can be the bad thing…because it means there is a LOT of variety out there, and it’s difficult to know which brands have the best rum.
Luckily, when it comes to aged rum, because it takes longer to make there are fewer companies willing to invest that time. The best aged rum is the one YOU like, so take some time to try a few brands within your budget. Here are a few aged rum recommendations to get you started:
Bacardi originated as a Cuban rum brand, but now they are based in Bermuda, with their largest distillery in Puerto Rico.
price: about $30 per bottle.
tasting notes: It has hints of nutmeg, vanilla, and apricot. It's made from a combination of rums and aged for about 8 years. Our tasting panel found this to be a spicy blend, with a slow burn to it. We also noted that it has a sweetness and syrupy texture, which can sometimes hint that sugar is added.
how to drink it: Bacardi Ocho is mild, smooth, and well-rounded in flavor. While it is more mellow than silver rum, it would work well in cocktails or even mixed with soda water instead of neat or on the rocks.
Appleton 8 Year
Appleton is a Jamaican rum, which are known for being funky and flavorful. While these rums are a bit more mild than other Jamaican rums like Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold Rum, they are more flavor-forward than rums like Bacardi.
price: about $30 per bottle.
tasting notes: The aging process does mellow out the characteristic funk, but there are still notes of classic Jamaican flavors like allspice, honey, and orange peel. Our tasting panel noted a strong flavor of orange zest and an almost floral flavor profile and sweetness.
how to drink it: This rum is a great option for complex cocktails like mai tais, aku aku, or rum punches.
Rhum Barbancourt 8
This rum is from Haiti, and it is made from sugar cane juice. It is aged for a minimum of 8 years in French oak casks.
price: about $30 per bottle
tasting notes: The tasting profile of this rum notes that it has hints of vanilla and orange zest, complemented by oak from the aging process. Our tasting panel shared that this rum was more one-dimensional and lighter in flavor than the other aged rums on this list. There was a slight sweetness and almost grassy note, which you do see in French agricole rhums.
how to drink it: This rum is more "rum-forward" than other 8-year rums, so it can stand up to using in mixed drinks. It is cost-effective enough to use in your cocktails, and it gives a nice almost toffee-like flavor to them!
El Dorado Rum 12 Year
This rum comes from Guyana, which is known for demerara sugar. French Guyana rums will be closer in style to agricole rhums, or rum made from sugar cane juice. British Guyana rums are made from molasses and have a deeper, spicier flavor. This rum is the latter.
price: about $40 per bottle.
tasting notes: Deep, rich, and it has a hint of spice to it. It stands up to the older (and more expensive) 15-year-old El Dorado rums. Our tasting panel noted the intense brown sugar flavor, which makes sense given the type of sugar cane used!
how to drink it: It’s great on its own or in a simpler cocktail like a rum old fashioned!
Havana Club 7
This rum is a classic Cuban rum. This means the rum is only possible to buy when you are traveling outside of the USA, and bringing it back with you. We often pick up a few bottles when we travel to Grand Cayman because they have a great selection of Cuban rums there in the airport!
price: about $40 per bottle (+ the cost of a vacation).
tasting notes: This rum has a deep, dark color and a light and sweet brown sugar flavor profile. Our tasting panel agreed that the Havana Club 7 was a favorite! It gets sweeter as you sip, and would make an excellent easy-drinking daiquiri.
how to drink it: It’s perfect for using in a classic rum cocktail that benefits from a deeper flavor than silver rum. This one is also a wonderfully well-rounded rum to enjoy on its own.
Plantation XO 20th Anniversary
This molasses based rum is double aged in a range of casks, from new oak barrels to used bourbon barrels. Aging it twice like this gives the rum an added smoothness.
price: about $60 per bottle.
tasting notes: This spirit is polarizing in the rum community because it is sweeter in flavor and has hints of tropical fruits like coconut, mango, and pineapple. If you like a sweeter rum, this is a perfect aged rum to try. Our tasting panel noted the intense sweet flavor, and preferred to use this in cocktails over sipping neat.
how to drink it: Drink it over ice or in a rum-based cocktail like a pineapple daiquiri.
🌪️ blended aged rum
Many brands of aged rums are made by blending multiple batches of rum. The Solera Method of blending rum is when new rum is added to an aging rum. This method was highly popularized by Ron Zacapa, seen in their No. 23 rum. Distillers use this method to keep the supply of the rum from running out. Brands of rum that use this method will tell you on the bottle, it will usually say Solera somewhere on it. You’ll also see a number on the bottle signifying the age of the rum.
One thing to keep in mind though is that the age of the rum is actually difficult to know because it is a mix of rum, and the distillers do not have to tell us the ratios they use in their blends. It’s safe to say that if the rum is cheaper, there is less of the older rum in the blend.
Responsible drinking is the key to enjoying a good rum!
Always consume alcohol in moderation, especially when drinking liquor like aged rum neat or on the rocks.
Never give alcohol to minors. In the USA, the legal drinking age is 21 years old.
- For more information on Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) check out this resource here.