The Good Life With IQ

Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try

There’s much more to dark rum than meets the eye (or the mouth and nose)! Good dark rums have as much flavour and complexity as good whiskey, and can be enjoyed just as much. Here are five great dark rums from different parts of the world that you should try if you have the chance.

I’ve long thought that rum doesn’t get the respect it deserves. In India, especially, people consider rum the ‘poor man’s’ or ‘student’s’ liquor—something to start one’s drinking experiences with before moving up to whiskey. I suppose this is understandable, considering that most rums are cheap and relatively easy to produce. But just because rum is affordable doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flavour and complexity. Or that it can’t be enjoyed as much as any other drink. Subtle variations in the production process—from what kind of sugarcane product is used as a base, to whether it’s spiced  or not, and how it is aged—can result in an incredibly sophisticated end product that would arguably not feel out of place among the best whiskeys.

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I’ve had the pleasure of sampling quite a few dark rums produced in different parts of the world. While some are nicest when mixed, others are best enjoyed on their own—either on the rocks or with a dash of water, or both. Disclaimer: I don’t really enjoy white or pale rums, though, so I try to avoid them when I can.

Here, then, are five great dark rums from different parts of the world that you should try.

Also read: Four easy infusions with which to spice up your home bar

Old Monk Gold Reserve (India)

Old Monk Gold Reserve - Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try

The famous (at least in India) Old Monk rum is something that almost every drinker in India has tried at least once in their lives. Affordable and flavourful with its vanilla notes and caramel aftertaste, this dark rum is arguably the best known rum in India. And while every Indian drinker knows it, most haven’t heard of its premium Gold Reserve variant. Aged for 12 years, Old Monk Gold Reserve retains the base version’s caramel and vanilla flavours, and elevates them to a surprising level of sophistication.

The Good Life With IQ recommends:

Mix in a dash of apple juice for a complex, warming and Christmasy drink.

Bundaberg Master Distiller’s Collection—Small Batch, Vintage Barrel (Australia)

Bundaberg rum - Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try

This extremely interesting medium-dark rum blends selected regular Bundaberg (or ‘Bundy’, as the locals affectionately call it) rums with reserves matured for eight years in century-old oak barrels previously used for storing port. This gives it a unique, almost whiskey-like tang, while still keeping the characteristic caramel notes of a good dark rum. This is probably the best rum for a whiskey drinker to try, the only bridge between both worlds that I’ve ever encountered.

The Good Life With IQ recommends:

Bundy and coke is extremely popular in Australia, and for good reason.

Also read: Twelve things to see in and around Sydney

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Takamaka Spiced (Seychelles)

Takamaka spiced rum - Five dark rums from across the world you need to try

Smooth with rich vanilla notes, Takamaka Spiced is produced in the east African island nation of the Seychelles. Outside the Seychelles, I’ve only ever seen it stocked at the Dubai airport duty-free. If you’re ever there, you might want to pick some up. It even comes in small half-litre bottles, so if you’re not entirely sure, you can pick a small one up as a sampler. I tried this rum in 2012, after which production seems to have moved to a different distillery. I’m not sure if the flavour’s changed because of this. It’s probably still worth a try, though.

The Good Life With IQ recommends:

I’ve found that the vanilla hit of this medium-dark rum goes best with cola.

Also read: Six discoveries we made in the Seychelles

The Kraken (USA)

The Kraken - Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try

With its cargo-hold bottle, vintage label and black-as-night colour, The Kraken enthusiastically embraces rum’s pirate heritage. Not so the flavour, though, which is elegant and spiced, with a sweet caramel aftertaste. Besides caramel and vanilla, this very dark rum also has hints of clove, cinnamon and ginger, making it the most complex spiced rum I have come across. All in all, the most thorough embodiment of every aspect of rum and its history that I can think of.

The Good Life With IQ recommends:

Drinking it on the rocks will allow you to appreciate it for what it is. I’ve heard some like it with ginger ale, though.

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Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 (Guatemala)

Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 - Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try

A sophisticated sipping rum, Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 is matured using the solera process usually used for maturing sherry. It picks up subtle flavours from each of its four different aging barrels before spending another year maturing in oak casks. The result is a very smooth, multifaceted dark rum that doesn’t rely on spices for complexity. However, I did notice a distinct drop in sweetness after the brand was taken over by Diageo.

The Good Life With IQ recommends:

My preference is with a splash of cold water. I find it a little overwhelming if drunk straight or on the rocks.

Honourable mentions

Here are some other nice dark rums to try, if you get the chance.

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2 thoughts on “Five great dark rums from all over the world that you need to try”

  1. Thanks for this well-written piece on my all-time favourite, Rum.
    I’ve yet to try Takamaka; looking forward to getting my hands on a bottle soon.

    Cheers, friend!

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