The Top 10 Rums of 2023

The Top 10 Rums of 2023

Top shelf rum is becoming easier and easier to find — and harder and harder to pin down into a cohesive top 10 list. For the fifth year, we’ve tried all the same, looking back at the year that just ended to select our 10 favorite bottlings. Sadly, many of the price tags on these rums are fairly luxe — with bottles nearly 30 years old, single barrels, one-off experiments, or all of the above. Apologies in advance if you have to choose between one of these and that new Xbox.

As always, you can find more great options on our previous top 10 rums of 2022, 2021, 2020, and 2019. You can also search multiple stores at wine-searcher to find the best prices on all these products and more.

1. LM&V Flag Series Guyana 1998 – A single cask release from the rum wizards at La Maison & Velier: This monster of a rum spent 2 years in bourbon barrels in Guyana, followed by 22 in Europe, in Port casks. Dense with molasses and barrel char, the rum takes you on a journey to coffee bean, cola, chocolate, and more – all filtered through the inimitable fruit that Port barrel aging provides. Lightly but appropriately sweet and impossibly rich with flavor, it’s the only A+ rating we gave to a rum in 2023. 118 proof. $300

2. Appleton Estate Rum 17 Years Old Legend – The mai tai is arguably my favorite cocktail, and the rum that inspired it was a bottling of Wray & Nephew, made at Appleton back in the 1940s. Last year, the distillery decided to recreate the flavor of this prized rum using some well-aged stock, all 17 years old or more, just like the W&N original. The experiment was a massive success, and while it’s hard to fathom putting a $500 rum into a tiki drink, I did it anyway. The spicy, earthy, peppery qualities of the rum worked perfectly in the drink. Of course, you can also sip it solo if you’re into that kind of thing. 98 proof. $500 [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]

3. Plantation Rum Fiji Islands 2009 – Our top pick from Plantation’s 2023 “Under the Sea” collection was this 100% pot still rum from Fiji, 13 years old – 10 on the island, 3 in France. Blatantly fruit-forward and in your face, it’s a tropical fruit bomb, layered with coconut, burnt sugar, and a raisiny underbelly. It’s a bit sweet owing to a light sugar dosage, so plan accordingly – we think the extra boost of sweetness works delightfully well in the mix here. 99 proof. $75

4. Appleton Estate Rum Hearts Collection 1993 29 Years Old – The oldest but not the most expensive rum on this list is a new rarity from Jamaica’s Appleton, a well-aged, pot-distilled rarity that just keeps coming and coming at you. Cherry, torched marshmallow, barrel char… it’s all folded into a dense core thick with molasses and untamed by time. Be free with the water. 126 proof. $300 [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]

5. Holmes Cay Single Cask Rum Barbados 2002 Pot Still – Pure pot still rum from the Foursquare distillery which spent 20 years aging in the UK before bottling. The very essence of Barbados’ most renowned distillery is on full display here, loaded with dense molasses and woody tannin, layered with overripe citrus underneath. Stick with it as it needs time to develop in glass before showcasing its charms in full – which are many, varied, and delightful. 102.2 proof. $349

6. Isautier Traditional 16 Years Old – Isautier is hardly a household name in the rum world – it’s based on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean – but this bottling from LM&V may help to change that. The hearty column distillate, which went into barrel in 2006, but time in glass eventually makes way for a surprising fruitiness – blueberries, blue raspberries, then coconut and vanilla. It’s altogether a wall of flavor that ultimately finds its way to a vibrant, tiki party. 114 proof. $150

7. Papa’s Pilar Rum Legacy Edition 2022 – Boutique rum-maker Papa’s Pilar drops limited edition rums at a regular clip. This expression, which we didn’t see until early 2023, is probably the best one yet, a blend of rums from Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela, and Florida that is finished in French oak apple brandy casks. Complex and holiday-friendly, the rum showcases baking spice, chocolate, orange peel, and other wintry notes you don’t often find in the rum world. 88 proof. $100

8. Bhakta Jamaican Rum 1990 – Raj Bhakta got started with brandy. Now he’s turned his sights to rum as well, starting with this vintage-dated blend of two Jamaican rums, one from 1990 and the other from 1985. Finished in Armagnac casks, it’s a one-off, cask-strength monster that will never be repeated. While its incredible age suggests a daunting experience, the flavor is actually quite light and lively, with florals, citrus, and ample sweetness. Gentler than its abv would suggest. 124 proof. $500

9. Bayou Rum Reserve Select Barrel – 2023 marked our first round with Louisiana-based Bayou Rum, which is putting out a variety of impressive, high-end, and innovative products. Our favorite to date is batch #2 of this offering, a pot still rum that’s solera-aged in bourbon barrels. Bright notes of citrus start things off before moving into more traditional fare – sweet with molasses and spice, then berries and fig jam. Excellent, especially at this price. 80 proof. $45 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE BOTTLE CLUB] [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]

10. Mount Gay Single Estate Series 23_01 – In 2023, Barbados’ Mount Gay launched a rum that was the first of its kind for the distillery: Rum made from estate-grown sugar cane. A tiny plot of a few hundred acres had to be harvested over two years, and the resulting rum is a blend of 5 and 6 year old spirit. It’s a familiar bottling for the operation, fairly heavy on char with an earthy, savory quality that masks the underlying fruit for a time. While more impressive for its creation and uniqueness, it’s still very fulfilling on its own merits. 110 proof. $400

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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