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The World’s Best Rums, According To The San Francisco World Spirit Competition

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Is there a better spirit to sip than rum? Many would argue not. Born in the tropics, rum exudes a laid-back energy that can instantly transport a drinker to the sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, and sunny skies of its birthplace. That ability to tap into this visceral joy has helped propel rum sales to record highs over the last several years.

No longer consigned to fruity blender drinks, rum has undergone a renaissance in the eyes of drinkers. Much like its Mexican cousin, tequila, drinkers are discovering the inherent craftsmanship and heritage of rum that has quietly existed behind the scenes for centuries. This has led to heightened demand for premium and super premium rums as mixologists build cocktails around them and drinkers discover their inherent sippability.

Across the globe, established and up-and-coming craft distillers are turning out some truly fantastic bottles these days. While that is good news, it has also led to an abundance of riches when it comes to choices when looking for the best of the best bottles. Luckily, the San Francisco World Spirit Competition (SFWSC) just released its list of finalists for its Best in Class Rum Awards. The overall champions will be awarded in October.

Called the “Oscars” of the spirit world, the SFWSC has spotlighted the best spirits in the world for forty-four years. As one of the largest international spirits competitions, it runs every bottle received through an extensive blind taste-testing panel of industry experts. Landing a medal at the event (they award bronze, silver, gold, and double gold) elevates any bottle. But making the finalist list signifies something special that drinkers should search out immediately.

If you are a lover of rum or just interested in seeing what all the buzz is about, we suggest you lay your hands on one of the crème-de-la-crème of the category, extra-aged rum. Loaded with layers and flavors due to time spent in the barrel, they perfectly highlight the complexity that can be found in rum. Here are the five finalists, each a double gold medal winner, in no particular order.

Saltwater’s Crew Only 8-Year-Old Rum

This German rum perfectly spotlights the growing global appeal of rum these days. Made at Saltwater’s, a five-year-old distillery located just outside Berlin known for its gins, it is yet another unheralded rum to turn heads at SFWSC in the last few years. Made from a worldly blend of rums from Trinidad, Panama, Nicaragua, Jamacia, and Spain, it has tasting notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and leather. Best of all, it only costs $33.

Zacapa XO

Located in Guatemala, Zacapa Distillery produces some of the world’s most renowned rums. One of the most distinctive aspects of their rums is the use of virgin sugar cane honey derived from the first pressing of sugar cane. That contrasts with the molasses used in most other rums, resulting in a smoother and sweeter rum. Zacapa XO showcases their rum-making prowess. Crafted from a selection of rums aged between 10 and 25 years in a system of whiskey, sherry, and wine barrels, before finishing in French cognac barrels, each sip is bursting with flavor. It is priced at $119 per bottle and is an ideal addition to any bar.

Flor de Cana 18

For over a century, the rums from Flor De Cana, a family-owned distillery located in the heart of Nicaragua, have wowed judges and rum lovers. Nestled at the foot of the San Cristóbal Volcano, the volcanic soil, enriched waters, and favorable climate allow its distillers to craft unique and smooth rums. Flor de Caña 18 undergoes a meticulous aging process that imparts distinctive flavors and aromas, resulting in a rum of unparalleled depth, complexity, and character. It is priced at $58 per bottle and exhibits butterscotch, raisin, and honey flavors with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange peel.

Mount Gay Single Estate Series

As one of the oldest rum distilleries in the world, Mount Gay began making rums in Barbados in 1703; it has helped shape the discussion around rum. Using traditional copper pot stills and column stills in its distillation process, they tap into the unique terroir of Barbados. Part of what makes its rums unique is the molasses it makes on-site and the coral-filtered water used in the distilling process, drawn from the original well dug centuries ago. Their Single Estate Series of Rums is a limited-release bottling made entirely from pot still rum and aged in Bourbon and American Oak casks. Priced at $400 a bottle, its flavors perfectly balance both sweet and spicy flavors.

The ImpEx Collection 2007 15 YO Long Pond Rum Cask

Founded in 2008 as an importer of premium and rare spirits from around the globe, ImpEx has branched out in the last several years, creating several high-end lines of their own award-winning products. Working with notable small and medium-sized distilleries, they craft unique bottlings. Their 2007 15-Year-Old Long Pond Rum Cask is one such bottle. A Jamaican rum made at the famed Long Pond Rum Distillery, it aged fifteen years to produce a rum brimming with distinctive funky tropical flavors of bananas and molasses with hints of oak and vanilla. It costs $120 a bottle.

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