It's hard to dispute that aged rums are just right when pairing cigars. But when your aim is a thirst-banishing cocktail for summer, keep light, bright rums in mind. Quality white cane spirits mix magic and contain a spectrum of tasting notes that show off their sugar base.
Bacardi first tamed the raw spirit of rum and its Bacardi Superior is the classic white. The well-balanced result is clean and sweet, but never too sugary, with mints, spice and citrus. Try the lemon and grenadine Bacardi Cocktail. (Puerto Rico, bacardi.com, listed rums are 80 proof.)
The brainchild of Moet Hennessy, 10 Cane uses a still borrowed from the parent's Cognac operation. The result is a particularly floral rum with a back aroma of olive oil and hints of citrus, vanilla and spice that transform a Cuba Libre (rum and cola) into a grown-up drink. (Trinidad, 10cane.com.)
Matusalem, like Bacardi, traces its heritage to Cuba. Ron Matusalem Platino is smooth and sugary, but has spice, mint, grass and a slight bread dough taste, helping it stand up to the pineapple and lemon of the Havana Cocktail. (Dominican Republic, matusalem.com.)
Don Q may be named for Don Quixote, but it isn't tilting at windmills when it comes to its distinct flavors. Its peppermint nose becomes very sweet and sparkly on the palate before its grass and spice finish. Use it in place of gin in a Martini and garnish with a twist. (Puerto Rico, donq.com.) You recognize the name from the bright print shirts and devil-may-care persona, but Tommy Bahama also makes rum. Tommy Bahama White Sand is the smooth, supersweet light version and smacks of rock candy with a slight citrus. Begs to go in a Mojito. (Barbados, tommybahamarum.com)
Cruzan is known for its range of flavored rums, but we find the Cruzan Aged Rum (minimum one year) very tasty on its own, given its hints of licorice, cinnamon and graham cracker that marry well in a classic Daiquiri made with fresh lime. (St. Croix, cruzanrum.com.)
Mount Gay, the oldest rum brand, took more than 300 years to debut a totally clear spirit. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver shares some of the vanilla and banana undertones of its older siblings and develops a bready flavor big enough for rum punch. (Barbados, mountgay.com.)
Clément Première Canne is estate bottled under the strictures of France's rhum agricole designation (produced from sugar cane juice, not molasses). And you taste the cane in this grassy, oily, licorice and sage rum. Try it in the national drink: Planter's Punch (Martinique, rhumclement.net)
Rum Flor de Caña Extra Dry is aged four years, but filtered to create the, well, dry profile that it has. It smacks of the vanilla you'd expect from its time in Bourbon wood and makes for a bracing Rum & Tonic. (Nicaragua, flordecana.com)
Cigar fans are familiar with the trademark twists of a product like Havana Club Puerto Rican Rum, a spirit made by Bacardi by virtue of its purchase of the family recipe, but contested by the marketers of the Cuban brand of the same name. A recent court decision makes this sugary, creamy rum available. But do not expect this rum to taste like its Cuban counterpart.