10 Essential Rums From Around The World

If rum isn't the spirit of the summer than I don't know what is. It goes into festive piña coladas, classic Hemingway daiquiris and all-too-drinkable mojitos – or simply into a glass with an ice cube for a sweet after-dinner sipper. Indeed, rum is very much a spirit to be enjoyed on its own. Maybe it's because rum is usually made in warm, sunny places that we associate it with beach parties and relaxation. Feel the sand between your toes as we take you around the islands (and inland) in 10 delicious rums. (Note: We've supplied buying information, but alcohol shipping laws vary by state, so check with your local liquor board before ordering.)

1. Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo Solera, Venezuela ($35; all prices are suggested retail)

Using the solera aging system perfected by Spanish sherry producers, this rum is a fine blend of spirits ranging up to and even older than 25 years of age. It has the typical dark rum character of caramel, cocoa and oak spice, with nutty and fruity nuances thrown in. Buy it: klwines.com

2. The Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad ($30)

Named for the bright red bird that brings to mind a flamingo but is actually in the pelican family, this rum is bottled at a none-too-timid 98 poof. It's deep amber in color and subtly complex, honeyed but with a pleasant funk. Buy it: drinkupny.com

3. Rhum Barbancourt "Réserve Spéciale", Haiti ($28)

While most rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, this Haitian rum is made from freshly pressed cane juice. Straw-colored and peppery on the nose, its eight years of aging result in a beautifully caramelized rum with a pretty vanilla finish. Buy it: drinkupny.com

4. Caña Brava, Panama ($32)

Made from wild-grown Panamanian sugar cane, this classic white rum is aged for three years, then filtered to a crystal clarity. It's dry, with grassy aromas that give way to bright citrus and fresh cane juice. Slightly sharp, but a mellow vanilla hint coming through. Our man Simon Ford is behind it, so you know the stuff is great. Buy it: klwines.com

5. Smith & Cross, Jamaica ($30)

Not quite as famous as Jamaica's premier rum, Appleton Estate, this Navy-strength bottling gets a lot of well-deserved love. Well over 100 proof, it's a golden brown in color and full of rich, fruity and spiced flavors. A full-bodied rum with complexity and character. Buy it: astorwines.com

6. Plantation Grande Réserve, Barbados ($20)

The granddaddy of all Barbados rum is Mount Gay. So, what does a cognac maker from France know about invading this sacred turf? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. The team behind Cognac Ferrand makes island-specific rums, including this one aged five years in French oak casks, full of tropical fruit flavors and toasty vanilla notes. Buy it: drinkupny.com

7. Ron Zacapa 23, Guatemala ($38)

OK, so maybe a lot of time in the barrel does make a pretty darn exemplary rum. Especially when it's aged at more than 7,500 feet above sea level. Using the solera system, this blend of spirits aged anywhere from six to 23 years is complex and intensely flavored, reminiscent of butterscotch pudding, candied fruit and baking spices. Buy it: klwines.com

8. Neisson Rhum Élevé Sous Bois, Martinique ($50)

The French Antillean islands like to make their rum from pure cane juice instead of molasses – and add an 'h' into the word to remind you it's special. Rhum agricole comes unaged, dark, and in a pale straw color in between. This expression is piquant and fragrant, fresh yet heavily perfumed after resting 18 months in French oak. Buy it: drinkupny.com

9. Flor de Caña 7-Year-Old Grand Reserve, Nicaragua ($25)

The Nicaraguan distillery also makes a 12-year-old rum, an 18-year-old expression and even a 21-year-old. But it's debatable whether time in the barrel corresponds directly to improved flavor. The proof is in the 7-Year, a beautiful spirit that takes on the cedar and dried fruit character of the bourbon and whisky barrels it's slowly aged in. Buy it: crownwineandspirits.com

10. Cane & Abe Freshwater Rum, Wisconsin ($40)

For those who aim to eat local, the unhappy small print has long been: either learn to live without coffee and sugar or get flexible. But thanks to the 50th state in the Union, these two staples are now made in the USA, too. And domestic sugar cane means domestic rum. Like this earthy, sharp rum out of Madison, Wisconsin. Buy it: drinkupny.com

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