Versatile and fun, rum’s not just for sailors and pirates, but for regular old Midwesterners like you. How to pick the best to warm your bones this winter? Here are my top 6 rums available in Ohio for the cane-spirit curious. Each of these rums is unadulterated/unsweetened and incredibly wallet-friendly at around $50 or less, the way it should be. In my opinion, the best selections for rum/rhum/ron can be found at Weiland’s and Arena Wine & Spirits.
Rhum JM VSOP
Rugged and earthy, this carefully-crafted cane spirit from the island of Martinique is made from distilling fresh-pressed sugarcane juice as opposed to molasses, known as rhum agricole. Aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, try it as a substitute for rye in a classic, no-fuss manhattan at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room.
A big-bodied rum made from molasses with flavors of smoke and stone fruit from the historic stills of the Demerara River region. At 43% ABV, this is a more sippable version of the Hamilton Overproof (151) for beginners to gain an appreciation for this world-renowned style of rum. Try this in a Demerara Cocktail at the Light of Seven Matchsticks.
Newly available in Ohio, this ultra-funky Jamaican rum comes from the legendary Hampden Estate. Ripe banana, roasted pineapple and brown spice amaze both the nose and palate. Unaged and untamed (63%!!), absolutely nothing compares. Turn your daiquiri game up to 11 with this one at home or with the Ohio Rum Society at their next meetup here in Columbus.
Rhum Neisson Blanc
Another unaged flavor bomb, this rhum agricole from the French Caribbean exemplifies “terroir” in the cane spirits world. Grassy and floral, this is for the agave spirits lover. Try it in a classic Ti’ Punch (the official Martinican cocktail) or in a paloma in lieu of tequila blanco at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room.
Appleton Estate Rare
A beautiful yet subtle Jamaican rum, this blend is cask-aged for no less than 12 years in the hot Caribbean climate, as opposed to the more forgiving Kentucky or Scotland. At less than $40, this sipper offers the most bang for an Ohioan’s buck. Try it neat, in a Rum Old-Fashioned at Citizens Trust, or in a “beertail” at Wolf’s Ridge.
Pipe Dream from 451 Spirits
Local, pot-distilled, aged in virgin American oak. A well-crafted, excellent example of molasses-based rum reminiscent of colonial New England. Unapologetically punk and colonial, I love this in a Sidecar. Visit our longtime pal Chad Kessler for a tour and tasting at his distillery in Clintonville, or order the “Put That in your Pipe” at Denmark on High.
Other honorable mentions: Duquesne Élevé Sous Bois (Martinique), Mount Gay Black Barrel (Barbados), and Smith & Cross (Jamaica).
Story by Chad White.