The spirits world is currently tittering with talk of discovering aged rums, which is great, but doesn’t something have to be missing first in order to be discovered? We never forgot our appreciation for mature cane spirits and their magnificent affinity with fine cigars.
Perhaps it’s the latest bloom of products in the brown sugar category that’s got the market so excited. Not only have such established brands as Appleton and Mount Gay introduced ethereal new selections, but a spate of newcomers—e.g., Plantation, Zafra and Zaya—is enlivening the market at the same time.
Appleton Estate Aged 30 Years has raised the bar for time spent in a barrel to three decades. The age of this Jamaican rum is a minimum (not an average as some rums are allowed to claim) and the result is exquisite. Not as delicate as its younger version, it adds savory banana and passion fruit to its signature honey, apple and pear notes.
Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection blends reserve rums from 10 to 30 years old to create this sultry nectar from Barbados. A caramel nose is followed by banana, ginger spice and hard candy on the palate and a long leather finish.
Plantation Extra Old also hails from Barbados and brings with it hints of molasses, orange peel, light spice and a creamy touch of bread dough. Zafra Master Reserve is new to the U.S. but boasts an average age of 21 years. Named for a term for the sugar cane, the Panamanian rum smacks of spice, cloves, banana, ginger and cinnamon. Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year Old, from Trinidad, is intensely sweet, with brown sugar and hard candy as well as a lingering spice finish.
An obsession for the new mustn’t serve to obscure the memorable rums we have always loved. The Dominican Republic’s Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 Solera Blender manages to combine a delicate cognac nose with vanilla, toffee, nougat and spices on the palate. Serralles DonQ Gran Añejo, from Puerto Rico, has a sweet, spicy nose with interesting tastes of graham cracker.
That other great Puerto Rican chimes in with Bacardi 8, an expansively complex rum with caramel, butterscotch, licorice and even a trace of Bourbon. Guatemala’s Ron Zacapa Sistema Solera 23 is full of caramel, vanilla and even some citrus, with a very full body. Flor de Cana Centenario Gold 18 pulls off complexity in a medium-bodied Nicaraguan rum. Sugary at first, it shows honey, cream and spice as it develops. Cuvée Homère Clément, an estate rum from Martinique, is tangy and spicy with molasses, rich apple and the slightest bit of grit. As well as tasting of maple and almonds, Ron Abuelo Añejo 12 Anos, of Panama, has a note that is sure to be intriguing to our readers: cigar box.