If the mention of rum (or ron if in Spain and rhum if in France) elicits images of tiny umbrellas floating in coconut-shaped mugs, perhaps it’s time to reacquaint oneself with the popular spirit. While it’s true that most ‘beach drinks’ utilize rum as the predominant spirit, the greatest of rums beg for a two-finger pour, straight up or on the rocks. As smooth, silky, and satisfying as your favorite bourbon, and featuring bold flavors and sweet notes of vanilla, caramel, and toffee, these are meant to be savored – not mixed. If you can’t resist the blender, save the good stuff as a luscious topper in order to taste the full effect.

Crowned Monkey

Crowned Monkey

This is the dark and rich bespoke spirit of Four Seasons Resort Nevis. Created in honor of the resort’s 29th Anniversary, a single barrel of Crowned Monkey Rum was produced by Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and aged 14 years in a single Jim Beam bourbon barrel (the final year in Nevis), yielding 345 private label bottles. As an unfiltered rum, all of the wonderful oils developed over the years result in a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with notes of burnt caramel, hints of vanilla, and light golden raisins, which give it a delicate balance. The prolonged finish has a sweet aftertaste of light toffee and even lighter honey and floral notes that belies its 46% ABV, which serves to elevate the balance between more flavor at more strength. “This rum is a true taste of the Caribbean and the perfect representation of the legacy that is Four Seasons Resort Nevis,” said Kendie Williams, master mixologist at the resort. “You don’t need to do much to it; it’s a smooth sipping rum.”

Ron Abuelo XII Two Oaks

Ron Abuelo XII Two Oaks

Ron Abuelo’s estate-bottled rums are created at the hands of expert distillers at Varela Hermanos, a third-generation, family-owned company that dates to 1908 when Don José Varela established the first sugar mill in the town of Pesé in the recently formed Republic of Panama. Pesé-made rums are unique due to the region’s terroir, which features a rich mixture of volcanic soil and clay, and climate conditions such as moderate rainfall, cool nights, and humid days. Ron Abuelo XII Two Oaks (Selección Especial) is the newest rum to join the Abuelo family. Crafted from a 12-year-old rum that is first matured in oak bourbon barrels before it is finished in extra-charred, strategically cut American oak barrels, this dark mahogany rum has a bouquet of light smoke with toasted oak supported by vanilla and nuts. Its velvety texture opens to an intense taste of spice, caramel, and roasted coffee beans with a hint of coconut. It is a rounder, silkier version of what currently exists in the fabulous Abuelo portfolio.

Zacapa XO

Ron Zacapa XO

Crafted in Guatemala, Zacapa Rum is a work of art and an expression of patience, richness, quality, and master blending by Lorena Vasquez, one of only a few female leaders in a traditionally male-dominated industry. She brings an expressive character and special approach to blending, harnessing the best ingredients from Guatemala to create Zacapa, the first brand to be inducted into the International Rum Festival’s Hall of Fame. This Zacapa XO is a unique balance of complex aromas and flavors resulting from ‘Sistema Solar’ aging – a dynamic method of blending young and old rums in what was once whiskey or sherry barrels. The rum is finished in French oak previously aged with Cognac, resulting in rich, ultra-smooth deliciousness. This beautifully presented rum pairs perfectly with dark chocolate and other desserts.

Dos Maderas Luxus

Dos Maderas Luxus

Dos Maderas, meaning “two woods,” is a combination of Guyanese and Bajon rums aged in New American Oak barrels in their respective production countries. After five years, the rums journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Jerez, where they are blended. The combination of the light bouquet and sweetness of the Barbadian rum combined with the robust body of the Guyanese rum creates the perfect base for all Dos Maderas rums. Dos Maderas Luxus is a blend of 10-year-old Bajon and Guyanese rums that rest for an additional five years in American oak-wood casks at prestigious wine and spirits producer Bodegas Williams & Humbert. Intense amber in color with a hint of mahogany and coppery highlights, this beautiful, award-winning rum features notes of vanilla, almond husk, tobacco, and black tea on the nose. It is full-bodied and bold, yet elegant, with a velvety finish. Perfect straight up or on the rocks, it is also great as a bourbon or rye substitute in an Old Fashioned.

Holmes Cay Barbados 2012 Port Cask

Holmes Cay Barbados 2012 Port Cask

Holmes Cay represents an exciting, curated approach to rum. Founder Eric Kaye traveled the globe for years to discover the many outstanding, hard-to-find rums which almost never find their way to North America. Delivering on a promise to share rare and special rums with spirits lovers, Kaye has built a stellar reputation by selecting and releasing an annual series of limited-edition rums. The Barbados 2012 Port Cask is a molasses-based blend of pot and column still rum, from the highly respected Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados. It was tropically aged in Barbados for eight years in ex-bourbon casks before undergoing an additional year in port casks in New York State. “We chose this high quality, eight-year-old Barbados rum because it works so well with the secondary aging in port casks,” said Kaye. “The added layer of fruit harmonizes well with the toffee and baking spices already present.” This rum leads with plum and cherry notes, with light caramel, honey, and oak on the palate yielding to raisin and stone fruit, with a crisp, oaky finish. Like all Holmes Cay products, no sugar, coloring, or other flavoring has been added to this release.

MEZAN Chiriqui

MEZAN Chiriqui

MEZAN represents the purest and most authentic style of the Caribbean’s rums. Crafted in Panama, MEZAN’s limited collection of unsweetened, uncolored, unchill filtered rums, are all aged in casks until each reaches its optimal maturity. MEZAN Chiriqui is a distinctive soft molasses-based rum, small batch-distilled in modern multi-column stills and aged twice in separate sets of white oak American bourbon casks to give added structure to the spirit. The distillery grows its own cane and cultivates historical yeast cultures which add character and individuality. This one features a lovely golden tint with an intense nose of spices, vanilla, pepper, and light oak notes, backed by stone fruits and coconut aromas. The palate is subtle, round, elegant, and lightly woody which develops into spicy and refreshing peppery notes on the finish.

| All photos courtesy of each respective company

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Fran Endicott Miller is a luxury-focused freelance feature writer for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites and a California editor for luxury travel concierge service Essentialist. Prior to her journalism career, she held positions in the fields of politics, television, and professional sports, and is proud to have established the Golden State Warriors’ first community relations department and programs. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtful, thorough, and lyrical coverage, and for the quality of her writing. When not traveling she can be found walking her neighborhood with her beloved Golden Retrievers Reggie and Nate.