Rum and whiskey are different in a lot of ways. Most obviously, rum is made from sugarcane while whiskey is made from grains. But there are some incredible aged rums out there that even the most dedicated whiskey drinker will fall for. Because for all of the major differences, there are some similar flavors that can be found between the two spirits.
The biggest similarities come from barrel aging. Barrels impart the vanilla, oak, and baking spice notes that are found in both whiskey and aged rum. And then there’s the fact that a lot of aged rums use barrels that used to hold bourbon, and there are also some whiskeys that are finished in barrels that previously held rum.
Coconut Cartel Special
The oldest rums in this blend have been in American white oak casks for up to 12 years, putting it on par with some of the longer aged bourbons on the market. That heavy barrel influence also makes it a solid sipping rum. And while there are plenty of rims out there with impressive age statements, Coconut Cartel does one thing very different: the spirit is proofed with coconut water. This fundamentally changes the flavors you’re dealing with and mixes barrel and tropical in all the right ways.
The Real McCoy 12 Year
There’s a couple competing stories about where the phrase “the real McCoy” comes from, one of them being Bill McCoy, a rum runner known for delivering high quality booze to New York City during Prohibition. This rum is aged in the Caribbean and the tropical air has a huge effect on the aging process. The warm and humid air results in a loss to the angel’s share that’s larger than what you might find in milder climates. That environment also means the rum pulls a ton of character from the cask faster than more temperate climates. This one is for the real cask nerds out there who love deciphering the nuances wood brings to liquor.
Appleton Estate 12 Year
If you know anything about rum then you’re likely familiar with the name Appleton Estate. The Jamaican rum can be found pretty much anywhere in the States, and it’s full flavor and accessibility make it a prime choice for people looking to add some rum to their whiskey collection. The 12 Year is a blend of rums aged for a minimum of 12 years on Jamaica. The aging and quality selection means you can expect flavors like baking spices, brown sugar, caramel, and coconut.
Zacapa No. 23
This is about as far as you can get from the island aging of most Caribbean rums. Zacapa ages its rum in Guatemala in the mountains at about 7,500 feet elevation. The wood influence is long and slow compared to the hot and humid tropics. But the wood is definitely still present in the rum thanks to the blend of rums aged between six and 23 years in a variety of barrels that previously held American whiskey and sherry for vanilla and barrel notes. This is one that whiskey drinkers will want to sip neat or on the rocks.
Twisted Path Dark Rum
Twisted Path finishes this rum in rye whiskey barrels, which is a suitable twist on the more common practice of finishing in bourbon barrels. This aging drops some malty spice into a liquor to balance a natural sweetness. This extra layer of complexity makes Twisted Path a particularly good addition to rum cocktails or to drink solo — if you’re lucky enough to head up to Wisconsin to get a bottle.
KōHana Barrel Aged Hawaiian Agricole Rum
In the same way that different grains change the flavor of whiskeys, different sugarcanes change the flavor of rum. KōHana uses kō kea, an heirloom Hawaiian sugarcane — a rarity in the rum world. There are flavors here you simply can’t pull from other types of sugarcane, and those flavors are further enhanced and the burn reduced by the rum’s American oak rest period. The distillery also makes a rum that’s aged in native koa wood for something that speaks to Hawaii’s natural resources even more. While also available in California, there’s nothing like drinking KōHana rum on the islands.