Minimalist Tiki

99 bottles of rum on the wall: The Atomic Grog rates some of the top cane spirits

Just in time for Friday’s National Rum Day, The Atomic Grog recently reached a landmark by acquiring a 99th bottle of rum. The occasion provided even more reason to literally take stock of this booty.

The Atomic Grog's rum collection
The Atomic Grog’s rum collection hits 99. Looks like there’s room for a few more. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2013)

The rules for my count include no duplicate bottles and nothing smaller than 200 ml, though most are 750 ml and above. Various aged versions of the same rum count separately (the 4-, 5- and 7-year-old versions of Flor de Caña’s gold rum count as three, for example). I’m proud to say that I’ve tasted all of them, and mixed with a good 75 percent. I’ll also admit that my wish list is probably just as long, so I make no claim to having the most complete collection. My tastes obviously lean toward Tiki cocktail rums.

Modern Caribbean Rum
Havana Club rums: Contraband from Cuba
Havana Club rums: Contraband from Cuba. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2012)

Among the great rum-producing lands represented are Barbados (13), Jamaica (12), Guyana (9), the U.S. Virgin Islands (9), Puerto Rico (6), Nicaragua (5), the Dominican Republic (4), Trinidad (4), Bermuda (3), Haiti (3), Martinique (3), and eight other countries including the United States. Also padding the total are an embarrassing number of spiced rums (12), plus cachaca (2).

As my collection grew over the years, I attempted to rate my favorites. I consider myself a mixologist, not a rum taster, so the ratings skew toward rums that I enjoy in cocktails. But I do appreciate a good aged rum and they typically rise to the top of the ratings. FYI, my drink of choice to test a new rum’s mixability is the humble daiquiri.

Here then is a totally biased ranking of The Atomic Grog’s favorite rums, with a 5.0 being the perfect rum (not yet discovered, unfortunately). Everthing at 3.0 and above are rums I’d reach for frequently, though there are some decent ones below that rating. So this list contains the 56 currently rated 3.0 or higher. Also, note than many of the white and spiced rums have yet to be rated.

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Don the Beachcomber's Demerara Dry Float is the perfect spotlight for Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum
Don the Beachcomber’s Demerara Dry Float is the perfect spotlight for Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, July 2012)

ATOMIC GROG RUM RATINGS

4.4
* Lemon Hart 151 (Demerara overproof, Guyana)

4.3
* El Dorado 15 (Demerara/aged, Guyana)

4.0
* El Dorado 12 (Demerara/aged, Guyana)

3.8
* Ron Zacapa Centenario (aged, Guatemala)
* Smith & Cross (traditional Jamaican Navy)

3.7
* Appleton Estate Extra (dark/aged, Jamaica)

3.6
* Cockspur Bajan Crafted (gold/aged, Barbados)
* Mount Gay Extra Old (aged, Barbados)
* Myers’s Legend (dark/aged, Jamaica)
* Plantation Grande Reserve (gold/aged, Barbados)

Kohala Bay
Kohala Bay is a rare and power-packed dark Jamaican rum formerly was known as Dagger. It’s a key ingredient in the legendary cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2013)

3.5
* El Dorado 8 (Demerara/aged, Guyana)
* Kohala Bay (dark Jamaican Navy)
* Mount Gay Sugar Cane Rum (gold, Barbados)
* Plantation Old Reserve (gold/aged, Jamaica)
* Zaya Gran Reserva (aged, Trinidad)

3.4
* Appleton Estate Reserve (dark/aged, Jamaica)
* Appleton V/X (gold aged, Jamaica)
* Chairman’s Reserve (gold/aged, St. Lucia)
* Cockspur Five Star (gold, Barbados)
* Doorly’s X.O. (gold/aged, Barbados)
* El Dorado 5 (Demerara, Guyana)
* Fortuna Ron Reserva Exclusiva Añejo 8 Años (gold/aged, Nicaragua)
* Gosling’s Black Seal (dark, Bermuda)
* Havana Club Añejo Años (gold, Cuba)
* Myers’s Original Dark (Jamaica)
* Pusser’s British Navy (aged/Navy, British Virgin Islands)

The Shark Bite
Jamaica’s Appleton makes some of the most essential mixing rums. (Pictured: The Mai-Kai’s Shark Bite from TheSwankPad.org)

3.3
* Angostura 1919 (aged, Trinidad)
* Appleton Special (gold, Jamaica)
* Botran Reserve (aged, Guetemala)
* Coruba (dark, Jamaica)
* Doorly’s 5-year-old (gold, Barbados)
* Havana Club Añejo Blanco (white, Cuba)
* Mount Gay Eclipse (gold, Barbados)
* Ron Del Barrilito (gold/aged, Puerto Rico)
* Rhum Barbancourt Reserve Speciale (aged, Haiti)
* Santa Teresa Gran Reserva (gold, Venezuela)

3.2
* Bacardi 8 (gold/aged, Puerto Rico)
* Bacardi Select (gold/dark, Puerto Rico)
* Dancing Pines Cask (gold, Colorado)
* Ron Matusalem Clasico (gold, Dominican Republic)
* Rhum Clement V.S.O.P. (amber agricole, Martinique)
* Travellers 1 Barrel (gold, Belize)

Deadhead Rum
Deadhead is one of the newest and most distinctively bottled rums on the market.

3.1
* Cruzan Black Strap (black, U.S. Virgin Islands)
* Deadhead (gold, Mexico)
* Diplomatico Reserve 8 Años (aged, Venezuela)
* El Dorado Original Dark (Guyana)
* Flor de Caña Grand Reserve (gold/aged, Nicaragua)

3.0
* Angostura 7-year-old (gold, Trinidad)
* Cruzan Single Barrel Estate (gold/aged, U.S. Virgin Islands)
* Flor de Caña Black Label (gold, Nicaragua)
* Pyrat XO Reserve (aged, Anguilla)
* Ron Barceló Gran Añejo (aged/gold, Dominican Republic)
* Ron Superior Brugal Añejo (gold, Dominican Republic)
* St. James Extra Old (amber agricole, Martinique)
* The Real McCoy (gold/aged, U.S. via Barbados)
* Wray & Newphew White Overproof (Jamaica)

Coming soon: Expanded reviews of some new rums plus (of course) more cocktail recipes. The big question is, what rum is worthy of being No. 100?

Rum coverage on The Atomic Grog
* Miami festival showcases a never-ending variety of rums, but what does the future hold?
* How big a punch can Tiki Month take?
* Rums of The Mai-Kai: Legendary Lemon Hart returns to the promised land
* Miami festival offers many lessons in rum appreciation
* When rum-runners ruled South Florida
* ‘Rum Rat Pack’ starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011
* We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
* More on: Rum | Rum cocktails

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Rum links
* 5 Minutes of Rum
* The Floating Rum Shack
* Got Rum?
* Miami Rum Renaissance Festival
* Rob’s Rum Guide
* Rum Connection
* The Ministry of Rum
* The Rum Collective
* The Rum Experience

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