IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR— award season. When we look back on 2012, it was a strong year for rum across the Caribbean, from Barbados to Martinique, the Dominican Republic to Guyana, and everywhere in between.
Rum Journal traveled across the region, sampling the best cane spirits — and some of the best rum drinks — in a bid to bring you the information you can only get here at Caribbean Journal.
And so, without further ado, we bring you the inaugural 2012 Rum Awards — you might call them the Rummys.
Spiced Rum of the Year: This one wasn’t close. In a year that saw the debut of several new rums (and increased attention on the niche by the majors), a small-batch micro-distillery in Florida gets the Rummy: Sarasota’s Siesta Key Rum. The distillery run by Troy Roberts and Tom Clarke makes the best spiced rum currently on the market. Using only natural spices and honey and no artificial flavours, Siesta Key, which is working to broaden its distribution across the US (and hopefully, someday, the Caribbean), returns spiced rum to the way it should be.
Special Category Rum of the Year: This category includes all flavoured, infused rums and the like. And this year, the winner came from Haiti, and Rhum Barbancourt’s Pango Rhum, a delightfully fruity rum that is made by blending the distillery’s standard rum with natural mango and pineapple.
Bottle Design of the Year: Brazil’s Oronoco. This design has been around for several years, but it’s hard for any rum to match the pewter-coloured cap, raised glass lettering, limited-edition hand-signed label and, of course, the party piece: the leather map. (Oh, and the rum is pretty good, too.)
Rum Drink of the Year: We tried a lot of rum drinks this year. We featured many of the best recipes, too. But one stood out: the Killer Bee at Sunshine’s in Nevis. While Sunshine will never reveal the recipe, the Killer Bee is a classic beach rum punch. What’s in it? By the time you’re done with it, you won’t remember the question anyway.
Rum Bar of the Year: While Caribbean Journal recently named Martinique’s Le Petibonum (which does serve a mean Ti’ Punch) its Caribbean Beach Bar of the year, this award focuses on bars that focus on rum (independent of food), and it covers the whole world — not just the Caribbean. Our choice for this year is a bar with one of the best selections of rum in the western hemisphere: the aptly-named RUMBAR at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne, Fla. With rums from more than 18 countries, and a host of very educational tasting flights, RUMBAR, which seems to evoke an old Havana living room, is a rum paradise. (And it’s all helped out by bartender Anthony Buddle, a native of Jamaica.)
Rhum of the Year: While a number of rhums agricoles were in consideration for Rum of the Year, we thought the French rhums deserved their own category. This year, these rhums, made from sugar cane juice, continually wowed us, with one ahead of the pack: Rhum JM XO. The rhum from Macouba in Martinique (the French territory is the only place granted AOC status from the European Union for rhum) is a knockout — aged 10 years, smooth, refined, and possessing that delightful cognac-like flavour unique to the best rhums auricles. (In second place: Rhum Vieux Millesime 1989 from Guadeloupe’s Damoiseau.)
Rum of the Year: This was, naturally, the most difficult choice. Rum is in the midst of a boom — there are more aged rum options available to the enthusiast than at any time in recent memory, from the US, the Caribbean, Central and South America — everywhere. And we tasted almost all of them. But what made the cut? Three, to be exact, with one clear winner. In third place? Puerto Rico’s Don Q Gran Añejo, an excellent aged rum that wowed us during the tasting earlier this year. In second place? Dos Maderas PX 5+5, a rum that is aged for five years in the Caribbean and then sent to Spain to be aged in sherry barrels (although it actually gives hints of a stellar port). But the winner was a classic, one that has been with us since time immemorial (at least it seems that way): Bermuda’s Gosling’s Old Rum. Bottled in a champagne bottle, the same way sailors used to drink Gosling’s in the Bermuda of yore, sealed with wax, Old Rum continues to be the standard for aged rum. It is the most complete rum in the world — flavourful, balanced, complex, sweet but not too sweet. And it’s our 2012 Rum of the Year.