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The World’s Top Rums According To San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Over 3,000 spirits, including several hundred rums, are judged each year at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC)

The SFWSC is the oldest spirits competition in the US, dating back to 1980, and the second oldest in the world. Its judges include some of the world’s leading experts. The competition has an unrivaled reputation for the quality of its judging, as well as for the scope of the categories of spirits that it judges.

The SFWSC judges rum over five different categories: Best Extra-Aged Rum, Best Flavored Rum, Best Over-Proof Rum, Best White Rum, and Best Dark/Gold Rum

The Best in Category Extra-Aged Rum award was given to Appleton Estate 8 YO Rum. Appleton is one of Jamaica’s famed rum producers. Appleton Estate dates to 1655, and has been producing rum since 1749. It’s located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, in one of Jamaica’s prime sugarcane growing areas, and covers over 11,000 acres.

The brand was a favorite of George Washington, who supposedly served at his inaugural celebration, even though as a product of a British colony its importation had been banned by Congress.

The rum is a blend of up to 20 different pot and column still rums. In addition to its column still, the distillery also uses five double-retort pot stills. This type of still used to be called a “thumper” or a “doubler” by American moonshiners for the characteristic sound it made when operating.

Vapor from the pot still is passed through a second, unheated pot, in which vapor from the first distillation had condensed. The hot vapor redistills the “low wine” from the first distillation, mimicking the effects of a second distillation, before proceeding to a condenser.

The process duplicates the effect of a double distillation using only a single one. This process is cheaper and faster than double distillation, and produces a high proof spirit, hence its appeal to moonshiners.

The rum offers up aromas of dark caramel, along with roasted almond and peach notes, as well as hints of tropical fruits of mango, melon and a hint of banana and coconut.

On the palate, it’s sweet and creamy, showing caramel and molasses flavors, notes of tropical and stone fruits, candied orange zest, some coffee, as well as vanilla, cinnamon and clove spices. There is also a hint of new leather in the background.

The finish is long and sweet, with caramel and molasses, a hint of smokiness and with lingering notes of citrus zest, tropical fruits and tropical spices.

The Best in Category winner for Best Flavored Rum is Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum. It’s produced by Ron Colón Salvadoreño. The name suggests a venerable rum producer somewhere in the Spanish Americas. While the company has deep links to El Salvador, it is in fact a Dutch company and has only been selling its rum for little more than a year.

Ron Colón Salvadoreño began in 2018, and sold its first rum in January 2020. It’s the brainchild of industry experts Pepijn Janssens and Thurman Wise.

Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum
Ron Colón Salvadoreño Coffee Infused Rum

The rum is made from a blend of 6-year-old column-distilled Salvadoran rum produced by Licorera Cihuatán distillery, unaged pot-distilled Jamaican rum produced by Worthy Park, Hampden and Clarendon and 3 YO rum from Worthy Park. All rums in the blend are aged at source. Currently, the rum is bottled in the Netherlands.

The current range includes Ron Colón Salvadoreño High Proof Aged Rum and Ron Colón Salvadoreño Cold Coffee Infused Rum. Both expressions are bottled at 55.5% ABV. A 40.5% ABV expression of the coffee infused rum was launched at the end of 2020. 

A new expression, RUMRYE, consisting of a blend of 50% American rye whisky and 50% Ron Colón Salvadoreño, 50% ABV, is slated to launch in 2021.

The coffee used to make the rum is produced by Charlotte, North Carolina based, specialty coffee producer Jags Head Coffee. Jags Head sources its coffee beans “from the most prestigious farms in the Apaneca-llamatepec mountain range in El Salvador.”

The company describes the coffee infused rum as having “rich warming coffee and toasted nutmeg spice,” with “fresh vanilla and honey bringing a sweeter note.” On the palate, it offers up “notes of delicately toasted coffee beans and milk chocolate” layered on “the sticky pineapple and fresh banana notes of the rum.”

The winner of the Best in Category Over-Proof Rum is Barrell, Private Release B617. Over-Proof rums are those that are bottled at an ABV greater than 57.5%, although many are typically in the 75.5% range. These rums usually exhibit the numbers 151, their proof, on the label.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries over-proof rums were called Guinea Rums. During the period of the infamous African slave trade, rum was one of the commodities that was traded for slaves along the Gulf of Guinea coast. In order to carry more rum to barter with, slavers would bring overproof rum and then dilute it down to a lower strength once they had reached the African coast. The term was eventually applied to all over-proof rums.

The term proof also has a rum related pedigree. Rum on Royal Navy ships was supposed to be around 55% ABV. To demonstrate to the crew that the rum had not been watered down, the purser, the person in charge of the rum ration, would mix the gunpowder with some rum and ignite it. If the powder failed to burn it meant that the rum had been watered down. If the gunpowder flashed when lit it meant if was overproof. If the gunpowder burned with a steady blue flame, then the purser had “proven” that the rum was the correct strength. Hence the term proof.

According to Barrell:

Every release of our private release rum is a unique blend of rums from Barbados. Jamaica, and Guyana, as well as Rhum Agricole from Martinique. Once created these blends are married in single casks, many of which were previously used for other spirits and/or wines.

The rums are either Barbados or Jamaican dominant blends. Barrell’s B617 blend is a 61% Barbados blend. The final blend is finished in a Petro Ximenez (PX) Sherry barrel. PX is a type of viscous, very sweet, syrupy Sherry made from grapes that have been partially raisinated by being dried in the sun before being crushed.

The Best in Category White Rum was awarded to Hidden Harbor, White Rum. The rum is a collaboration between, Hidden Harbor, a Tiki Bar in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and Allegheny Distilling Company’s Maggie’s Farm Rum.

Hidden Harbor White Rum
Hidden Harbor White Rum

White Rum is an unaged rum. Like most white rums it’s typically distilled using a column still. Hidden Harbor was specifically designed to use in Daiquiris, and consists of a blend of 60% white rum from Maggie’s Farm, 20% “Queens Share” white rum also from Maggie’s Farm, 10% from Jamaica and the balance is an assortment of Caribbean white rums from Guyana, Barbados, Martinique and Trinidad.

“Queen’s Share” refers to a distillation method in which a portion of the tails are redistilled. The term is also sometimes used to designate the best rum casks; i.e., the rum casks that would have been reserved for the monarch.

This is a full-flavored white rum. It is rich in aromatic esters, with flavors of ripe and overripe tropical fruit, produced from an exceptionally long fermentation. This aroma and flavor profile is typically described as “Jamaican funk.” There are additional notes of red fruit, along with ginger pepper.

The Best in Category Dark/Gold Rum is Zaya, Gran Riserva Rum, which is produced in Trinidad and Tobago by Trinidad Distillers Ltd for Infinitum Spirits. Dark rums usually obtain their color from contact with barrel wood, although that color can be enhanced or duplicated by using caramel as a coloring agent.

The rum does not carry an age statement. It’s a blend of molasses-based rums that have been distilled using a five-column continuous still and that are at least 12 YO. Infinitum Spirits describes the rum as,

seductive with aromas of pear, baked apple and spiced vanilla. The palate is smooth, with notes of caramel, vanilla, toasted oak and baking spices and finishes profoundly with a hint of smoke. 

All five of these rums are outstanding. Most are priced for under $50 per bottle, and represent terrific values. If you are a rum fan, there is much to discover here. If your idea of rum hasn’t evolved beyond rum and coke, then you have a brand-new world of rum to explore.

Article By Forbes

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