During these uncertain times the online alcohol sales have gone through the roof, (I might’ve contributed to it myself) so, as a cocktail bartender and rum blogger, I decided to put together a list to guide anyone on a budget looking to put a/another bottle of rum in their spirits cabinet. Either for homemade drinks, cocktails, or simply slow sippers, here’s my top 10 value for money rums under £40.01:
10. Chairman’s Reserve Original – £23
When you think rum, Saint Lucia probably isn’t the first Caribbean island to pop in your head, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Saint Lucian brands like Chairman’s, Admiral Rodney, St. Lucia 1931 and Bounty Rum show just how versatile Saint Lucia Distillers, the island’s only distillery, can be.
Their flagship, Chairman’s Reserve Original, is a blend of column and pot stills aged separately by batch in ex-Bourbon casks, then married together and matured for a further 6 months with an average age of 5 years. All of it happens in the Caribbean in Saint Lucia, which thanks to the climate, it’s more intense with the liquid-wood interaction being more aggressive and the evaporation higher. All that resulted in an diverse array of flavours like orange zest, old leather, tobacco, banana bread, milk chocolate and pear. You’re definitely getting more than what you’re paying for at £23 (The Drop Store) or less a bottle, even at just 40% ABV.
Chairman’s Banana Negroni
Chairman’s Reserve Original – 30ml
Tempus Fugit Creme De Banane – 25ml
Campari – 25ml
Angostura bitters – 1 dash
Stir it down with cubed ice, serve in a tumbler over ice and garnish with an orange twist. In this case one of the ingredients is actually more expensive than the rum itself.
9. Mount Gay Eclipse – £19.60
Being the oldest continuously operating rum distillery (1703) isn’t easy. With great age comes great responsibility? Regardless, Mount Gay are definitely a representative of the Barbadian rum culture, with the Mount Gay Eclipse being a great introductory rum that’s under £20. The name is inspired by the double phenomenon in 1910 when the Hayley comet passed by during a total solar eclipse.
Mount Gay Eclipse is a blend of pot and column still distillates, with the column as the predominant component. The rums have been aged for 2 years minimum in American whisky casks in Barbados then bottled at 40% ABV. While mostly a mixing rum with notes of vanilla custard, mango, charred oak and floral honey, I definitely wouldn’t say no to a tot of this. Can usually be found around £19.60 (Master of Malt), but more than often you’ll find it on offer on Amazon at £17.50. Try it in a good ol’ punch!
Mount Gay and Ginger Ale
Mount Gay Eclipse – 50ml
Ginger Ale – top
Add the Mount Gay Eclipse to a highball, fill with cubed ice, top with Ginger Ale and garnish with a lime wedge (feel free to give it a squeeze as well).
8. Havana 7 Year Old – £25.50
While it arrived later to the rum party, Cuba’s association with the liquid gold nowadays is strong. The island was definitely a paradise for the Americans that traveled there to enjoy a tot or two of rum during the 1920 Prohibition . A good percentage of the rum smuggled on the American soil at the time was also Cuban, thus helping their rum industry expand – pretty ironic given that US doesn’t import rum from Cuba since 1960 due to the trade embargo, but I won’t get into that.
They use multi-column stills to create light and heavy distillates which, by Cuban law, need to be aged at least 2 years in old ex-Bourbon barrels and then charcoal filtered (which removes some flavour and colour) in order to be called rum – so technically our Havana 7 Year Old could be Havana 9 Year Old. Due to their production process, Cuban rum is often described as elegant in flavour and Havana 7 Year Old is definitely a representative of the category. After spending at least 7 years in ex-Bourbon barrels in Cuba, the rum is easy to drink at 40% ABV, yet quite complex with notes of raisins, tobacco, warm spices and caramel. A very well aged Cuban rum which retails at around £25.50 (Master Of Malt) and even cheaper in some supermarkets, great for your Cuba Libre or a rum and coke… wait…
El Presidente (1930s)
Havana 7 Year Old – 50ml
Dolin Blanc – 20ml
Dry Curacao – 10ml
Angostura – 2 dashes
Stir it down with cubed ice, serve in a coupe and garnish with an orange twist. Many thanks to Gergo Murath for providing me the recipe!
7. Trois Rivieres Blanc – £32.50
This is the only rum on the list that is made from sugarcane juice (vesou in French) rather than molasses. Hailing from the French Caribbean island, Martinique, Trois Rivieres is labeled with the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) which ensures the production process follows the regulations put in place in order to call itself Martinique Rhum Agricole – similar with Cognac or Champagne. These regulations are unique to the island of Martinique.
With agricoles you can talk about terroir, as everything influencing the sugarcane crop, from the soil to the temperature and air can potentially contribute to the the rum’s final flavour. For Trois Rivieres the main factor is the location of the plantation – situated in the far South of the island, close to the Caribbean Sea, giving it a slightly mineral profile. Trois Rivieres Blanc is distilled in modified column stills known as creole stills and then rested for 3 months in wooden vats before being brought down to 50% ABV for bottling. The final result is a punchy agricole rum that is vegetal and rich with notes of fresh cane, coconut, lime, vanilla, white pepper and hints of seaweed. Very different from all the rums on this list, but definitely worth the £32.50 (Master of Malt) price point, especially if you want to try and make an authentic Ti Punch or use it in various other tropical drinks.
Trois Rivieres Blanc – 50ml
Lime juice – 15ml
Orange bitters – 3 dashes
Ting/Grapefruit soda – top
Add all the ingredients except the Ting/Grapefruit soda to a highball, fill with cubed ice, top with Ting/Grapefruit soda and garnish with a grapefruit wedge. You can add a pinch of salt for a more savoury drink.
6. Rum Bar Silver – £19.50
Rums has this silly categorisation by colour, white, golden and dark, but when there are practices like charcoal filtration to remove colour, or the addition of caramel colouring (E150a) to make the rum darker, that’s pretty redundant. Won’t start preaching here, but a wise man once told me “colour is not a flavour” and that’s the case here as well. There are plenty of white rums out there with a similar price point which usually would be associated with clean taste and lack of flavour, similar to vodkas, but Rum Bar Silver is here to break the stigma.
It’s distilled at Worthy Park in Jamaica exclusively using pot stills (think Single Malts) and then is watered down to 40% ABV, no ageing involved. The flavour it presents is described as “funk” by some rum enthusiasts with intense notes of tropical fruits (mainly banana), citrus zest, margarine, vanilla and white pepper. Think about the intensity of Wray & Nephew Overproof, but at a more forgiving ABV which makes it easier to be mixed in cocktails. It can be used as a modifier to give certain rum drinks that call for white rum a bit more flavour. A good experiment can be a split base Daquiri, with Rum Bar Silver and your usual white rum of choice, but at less than £20 a bottle (The Drop Store) might as well just make it a Rum Bar Silver Daquiri and enjoy the funk.
Rum Bar Silver – 50ml
Lime juice – 25ml
Simple syrup (2:1) – 15ml
Shake, strain into a coupe, drink in one go and then make a Daquiri using the same recipe, but enjoy it slower.
5. R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old 46% ABV – £38
Barbados is the home of rum as we culturally know it today and I couldn’t make a list about great value for money rums without including a release from Foursquare Distillery – owned by R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd, hence the name. Foursquare is highly regarded due to their Exceptional Cask Selection range which is limited and affordable, but here we are talking about continuous releases so I chose the R.L. Seale’s rum, which had an upgrade in ABV from 43% to 46% last year… so happy days!
Often Barbadian rums are very well balanced mainly due to the blend of column and pot still distillates and they extract a lot of their flavours from the ageing process. Spending at least 10 years in ex-Bourbon casks in Barbados, the R.L. Seale’s showcases notes of dry fruit, red apple, oak spices, saffron and sour cherry. It stands very well on its own, but don’t be afraid to mix it. Think about your favourite whisky classic and make it an R.L. Seale’s classic. Retailing at £38 (The Drop Store) or £40 (Master Of Malt) this is indeed a fine Barbados rum. Also the bottle looks pretty (and) unique, it will definitely stand out on the shelf – the design is meant to mimic a leather bottle.
Corn N’ Oil
R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old – 50ml
John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum – 15ml
Optional: Angostura – 2 dashes
Stir it down with cubed ice, serve in a tumbler over ice and garnish with a lemon twist. You can use “homemade falernum”, but the Barbadian Gods won’t be pleased.
4. Black Tot Finest Caribbean – £40
Black Tot Day, 31st of July 1970, was the last day the Royal Navy issued rum rations to the sailors, marking the end of 300 years of (intermittent) tradition. The most of the remaining Royal Navy stock was bought by Sukhinder Singh (The Whisky Exchange) who vatted it and bottled it under the label Black Tot: Last Consignment. That one, retailing at £650 it’s a little bit above my budget friendly list, but they have created a more modern, and luckily, affordable blend – The Black Tot Finest Caribbean.
The concept behind the Black Tot Finest Caribbean began with the discussion about how the Navy Rum blend would look like if it were to be created again today while still honoring the traditional style. Most Navy style rums on the market have a hefty portion of Guyana in it, usually from the legendary wooden pot still Port Mourant, which imparts a very distinctive floral, smoky flavour to its distillates. With 60% of the Black Tot blend coming from Guyana, you bet there will be some PM in there – the rest of it is comprised of 35% rum from Barbados and 5% from Jamaica, all aged between 0 and 5 years. The diversity of the rums in the blend brings a lot of flavours forward like anise, cacao, black tea, walnuts, tropical fruits, cloves and nutmeg. With a price point of £40 (The Whisky Exchange) and clocking at 46% ABV, this is a complex bottling that showcases 3 different styles of rum and will work beautifully in any classic that calls for an aged spirit… or just simply sipped.
Black Tot Rum – 50ml
Simple syrup (2:1) – 5-10ml
Angostura bitters – 2 dashes
Raegans’ Orange bitters – 2 dashes
Stir it down with cubed ice, serve in a tumbler over ice and garnish with an orange twist. Feel free to sub the simple syrup for others like brown sugar syrup, maple syrup or even Guinness syrup (I know, you can contact me for the recipe).
3. Smith & Cross – £35
Smith & Cross is created by Haus Alpenz, an European spirits distributor, using two historical styles of Jamaican rums, Plummer and Wedderburn – English names attributed to full bodied, heavy and medium Jamaican rums popular in the 19th and 20th century in England.
The blend is roughly equal parts of each, with the Wedderburn aged for less than a year and the Plummer being composed of rums aged between 18 months and 3 years in white oak barrels. Most of the rum was produced at Hampden Distillery, Jamaica in their pot stills. If we’re being historically accurate, the Navy Strength was 54.5% ABV, although there will be plenty of rums that clock at 57% ABV stating “Navy Strength” on the label and I won’t complain about the extra kick in any case. Plenty of funk in this one, aromas of rotten tropical fruits like bananas and pineapples pair with black tea, treacle, orange zest, cloves and leather. There’s a reason this is so high on the list, it’s intense and complex, not to be played around with – well, figuratively, of course, try it in some drinks, but be careful as it can easily overpower other ingredients. At £35 (The Drop Store) Smith & Cross is an ideal rum for drinks, especially tropical drinks – if you manage to balance it in a Mai Tai, you’ll never look back.
Smith & Cross – 37.5ml
Campari – 12.5ml
Pineapple juice – 37.5ml
Lime Juice – 25ml
Simple syrup (2:1) – 15ml
Shake, serve it in a highball filled with ice and garnish with a pineapple leaf, or even a pineapple fan if you’re feeling crafty. Make sure you don’t use a plastic straw.
2. Wood’s Old Navy Rum – £27.50
Wood’s Old Navy, owned by William Grant & Sons, is probably the most accessible rum you’ll find at 57% ABV “Navy Strength” that will also deliver a decent level of body and flavour.
It’s distilled in Guyana, at Diamond Distillery and it’s aged up to 3 years in ex-Bourbon casks in Scotland with some added caramel colouring for some extra “darkness”. While not the most elegant Demerara rum, there are clear influences from a wooden pot still you’d find in most Navy style rums with notes of brown sugar, liquorice, caramel and dark chocolate making it quite easy to drink even at 57% ABV. Online it retails at around £27.50 (Master of Malt), but it can often be found at £20 in Waitrose or on offer on Amazon (which is mindblowing if you ask me) making it a very affordable ingredient for tiki drinks that ask for high-proof Demerara rum – not to mention it makes a pretty hefty rum and coke.
Wood’s Old Navy Rum – 50ml
Lime juice – 25ml
Brown/Demerara sugar syrup – 15ml
Optional: Angostura bitters – 2 dashes
Shake and serve over cubed ice. If you feel flashy you can use one of the spent lime shells, place it on top of your drink, fill it with Wood’s and light it up.
1. Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve – £28.50
Another Jamaican rum, I know, but they are all bringing something different to the table. This one is quite new, and by that I mean this year new. Appleton have rebranded most of their core range rums and replaced their old Reserve Blend with Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve which is a different blend, created in 2000 to commemorate their 250th anniversary.
The Appleton range is usually on the “easier to drink” side of the spectrum of Jamaican rums, but that doesn’t mean it lacks complexity, on the contrary. Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve is a blend of pot and column still rums that have been aged for at least 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks in Jamaica before being bottled at 43% ABV. It delivers notes of stone fruits, dark chocolate, marmalade, prunes and layers of menthol. I could sip this all day and at only £28.50 (The Whisky Exchange) a bottle I am well tempted to do so. Can be sometimes found for £24 if on offer in certain supermarkets or Amazon as well. Definitely an affordable must-have for any rum shelf.
Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve – 37.5ml
Dry Curacao – 12.5ml
Lime juice – 25ml
Orgeat – 5-10ml
Shake and serve over cubed ice. You can garnish it with anything from a spent lime shell and mint to a pineapple fan. Just go crazy!
This list is based on the UK online retailers, prices and availability may vary from country to country. For questions or anything else please use the Contact option or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.