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The 2012 Rum Howler Awards for Rum (Part 2 – The Best of Rum)

What a year it was in the world of Rum. From the Panamonte XXV to the Appleton Estate 50 year Old Rum, it seemed as though every producer was rushing out with a new super premium – super aged rum. In an industry where only ten or so years ago a 10-year-old rum was a rarity, one wonders where all this super aged rum is coming from. Apparently the industry, scattered as it is throughout the Caribbean (and the rest of the World), decided en masse fifteen years ago to begin allow a good part of their rum to just keep on aging. Although it may seem to be a remarkable coincidence that so much well aged rum is hitting the market at once, when one considers that this trend arrived about fifteen years earlier in the world of whisky, I think it is easy to see how the rum manufactures caught on. The cost of aging is after all relatively inexpensive for the producer, (despite what they tell us). The price of aged rum is, on the other hand, relatively expensive for the consumer.

But it is not just well aged rum that is exploding into the market place. It seems every producer is at least considering one of those super-premium white rums that are trying to replace upscale Vodka, and you cannot enter a liquor store these days without tripping over a new flavoured or spiced rum. It seems change is everywhere. Do not misunderstand me, I am not complaining. It is a great time in history to be a rum guy (or gal). We may well look back ten years from now and determine that this was the watershed moment for Rum!

And what of this watershed moment? Like all such moments, some of the changes which we are seeing will be lasting, and some will not. Some of this new rum is very good, and some of this new rum may in later years be labelled as  misguided. Of course, I am not so interested in the rums which I feel will later be labeled as misguided, and I am not even really all that interested in those rums which are merely good. I am interested in the rums which I believe are Great! And that is what I have tried very hard to uncover.

And so without further ado, let me reveal the recipients of the 2012 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Rum. These Awards are for the Best and Greatest Rum Spirits which I encountered in the year 2012.

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured Rum

and the winner is:

Juan Santos Coffee Infused Rum

Runner-up award to: Kuknat Coconut Rum

Each year, that I do my Rum Howler Awards for best flavoured rum, the Juan Santos Coffee Infused Rum is one of the contenders. This year, was the year that it finally won the prize. I love this flavoured coffee rum. The flavours are so rich and deep that it can be served neat or enjoyed in a rum flavoured cafe latte. I have even served it to my friends over ice-cream.

The Kuknat Coconut Rum is another very nice dessert rum with the delectable flavour of coconut clearly on display.

(Considered for this award were, Kuknat Coconut Rum, Juan Santos Coffee Infused Rum, Redrum and Whistling Andy Hibiscus-Coconut Rum)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum

and the winner is:

George Street Spiced Rum

Runner-up award to: Bacardi Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum

Honourable Mention toCaptain Morgan 100 Spiced Rum, and Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum

I began my tastings in the Spiced Rum Category with 14 different spiced rums trying them each neat, and then in a spiced rum and cola cocktail. For the second year in a row, George Street Spiced Rum won my Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum. The spiced rum and coke cocktail is a natural for the George Street Spiced Rum as the sweetness of the cola works beautifully with the dryer elements of the rum. The Bacardi Oakheart was a very close runner-up, and the three honourable mentions were all no slouches either. Last year I remarked that the Spiced Rum category was beginning to show definite signs of improvement. This trend has continued.

(Considered for this award were, Bacardi Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum, Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum, Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum, Captain Morgan’s Original Spiced Rum, Captain Morgan 100 Spiced Rum, Captain Morgan Silver Spiced Rum, Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum, El Dorado Spiced, George Street Spiced Rum, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Lambs Blacksheep Spiced Rum, Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum, Siesta Key Spiced Rum, and VooDoo Spiced Rum)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof Rum

and the winner is:

Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum

Runner-up award to: Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum

Honourable Mention to: Plantation Original Dark 73 % Overproof Rum, and Demerara Superior High Wine

This was an extremely hard category to judge. I started with 6 Overproof rums on a lazy Sunday afternoon in August. After tasting them all neat (very carefully in small sips), I then made a small version of my Hart Breaker cocktail with each. At the end of that day, I was only able to eliminate two of the nominees. The next day, I mixed some high-octane Mojitos and sipped each rum neat again. After much consideration (and much gnashing of my teeth), I named the Panama Red 108 the winner (the Panama Red won last year as well). The Lemon Hart 151, the Plantation Original Dark 73 % Overproof Rum, and the Demerara Superior High Wine were all strong candidates as well. The Overproof category is showing just as much improvement as the Spiced Category!

(Considered for this award were, Demerara Superior High Wine, Lamb’s 151 Proof Navy Rum, Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum, London Dock Rum (Favell’s 100 Proof), Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum, Plantation Original Dark 73 % Overproof Rum)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for the Best White Rum

and the winner is:

El Dorado Deluxe Silver 6 Year Aged Rum

Runner-up award to: Bermudez Ron Viejo Blanco

Honourable Mention to: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum and Potter’s White Rum

For this category I considered the flavour of each rum in a Daiquiri,  and a Mojito, (two classic white rum cocktails). I awarded an overall score to each white rum and gave that score 50 % of the weighting. Then I tasted of each white rum neat at room temperature which accounted for the other 50 percent of the score. Although I began my deliberations with 9 rums, I was quickly able to narrow the field to 4. Although the Eldorado Deluxe Silver 6 Year Aged Rum was in third place after the cocktail deliberations, it was so clearly superior to all of the other rums when sampled neat, that it literally climbed over the competition to take first place. The real surprise of the competition was the Bermudez Ron Viejo Blanco, which was in first place after the cocktail rounds and almost carried that momentum to a first place finish.

(Considered for this Award were: Bermudez Ron Viejo Blanco, Cristal Parrot Lite Rum (Traveller’s), El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum, El Dorado Deluxe Silver 6 Year Aged Rum, Flor de Caña Extra Dry 4 Year Old Rum, Highwood Imported White Rum, Mount Gay Eclipse Silver, Potters White Rum, Traveller’s White Rum)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum

and the winner is:

3 Barrel Aged Rum (Travellers)

Runner-up awards to: Appleton Vx

Honourable Mention to: Cockspur Fine Rum and Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum  

For this category I considered the flavour of each rum mixed in a Cuba Libre’ , and a Daiquiri. The winning 3 Barrel Aged Rum is a wonderful cane spirit from Belize. Amazingly enough it appears to be only available right here in my home Province of Alberta. That is lucky for me and unlucky for the rest of the world. I should note that it was a very close contest between the 3 Barrel Rum and the Appleton Vx. The Vx was perhaps the spirit with the most overall character in the line-up; but the overall smoothness of the 3 Barrel won the day. Screech Rum has an undeserved reputation for harshness. Perhaps, many years ago, this rum was a much rougher blend. However, the current version of Screech is an acceptable sipper and a great mixer. Cockspur Fine Rum was also a worthy competitor in this category deserving honourable mention.

(The Rums Considered in this category were, 1 Barrel Rum (Travellers), 3 Barrel Aged Rum (Travellers), Abuelo Anejo (Rum), Angostura Royal Oak, Appleton Estate VX RumCockspur Fine Rum, London Dock Rum (Favell’s 70 Proof)Mount Gay Eclipse (Gold), Pusser’s (Blue Label) RumRagged Rock Rum, and Screech (Famous Newfoundland))

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum:
(aged up to five years)

and the winner is:

Plantation Guatemala Gran Anejo Rum

Runner-up award to: 5 Barrel Rum (Travellers)

Honourable Mention to: Diplomático Reserva and Plantation Guyana (Old Reserve Rum)

I tasted each rum neat in side by side flights. The 5 Barrel Rum from Travellers and the Plantation Guatemala Gran Anejo Rum were obviously the class of this category. Each rum was so good, that I have decided to also place them in my Top Thirty Rums of the World Countdown tasting competition against much more expensive, and much older rums. (Keep following my website postings to learn what I think the best thirty rums in the word are.)

(Considered for this award were:  5 Barrel Rum (Travellers)Appleton Estate Reserve RumBermudez Ron Anejo 1852, Cockspur 12 Bajan Crafted Rum, Diplomático Añejo, Diplomático ReservaEl Dorado 5 Yr Cask Aged Rum, English Harbour 5 Year Rum, and Plantation Jamaica (Old Reserve 2000 Rum)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum:
(aged up to 12 years)

and the winner is:

Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva

Runner-up award to: Zacapa Centrenario 23 Solero

Honourable Mention to: Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year Dictador 12 Year Solera and El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

Again, for this Category, each rum was tasted neat in side by side flights. However, as we have moved into the upper echelon of rums I decided to invite three friends to join me. We scored the rums out of 100 points and then I averaged the scores. When I finished, the Diplomatico Exclusiva was the most favoured rum in this category placing first on every score card. There was such fierce competition amongst the remaining rums that I ended up choosing three Honourable Mentions instead of two.

(Considered for this award were: Angostura Single Barrel Rum, Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 YearCaroni 1997 13 Year Old Rum (Cask RR1072), Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, Dictador 12 Year Solera, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, Dos Maderas (5+5) PX, El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum, Havana Club Selección de Maestros RumJuan Santos 12 Year Gran Reserva Rum, Mount Gay Eclipse Black, Plantation Nicaragua 1998 (Old Reserve Rum), Plantation Trinidad 2000 (Old Reserve Rum) and Zacapa Centrenario 23 Solero)

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The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Ultra Premium Sipping Rum:

and the winner is:

Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

Runner-up awards to: Zacapa XO (25 Year Solero) Rum

Honourable Mention to: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum and Panamonte Reserva XXV 

Tasting these 15 rums side by side was a real treat. Although I chose a winner, a runner-up and two honourable mentions, the truth is that every rum considered for the Ultra Premium Award would be welcome on my rum shelf. After I did my side by side scoring, I was a little surprised by the winning rum, but only a little because I remembered that in my original review for the Ron Millonario XO I thought the rum was absolutely  lovely. I guess my feelings haven’t changed!

(Considered for this award were: Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum, Appleton Estate Master Blender’s Legacy, Bermudez Anniversario, Dictador XO Perpetual, El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum, Dictador 20 Year Solera,  Juan Santos 21 Yr Antigua Reserva Rum, Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask SelectionPanamonte Reserva XXV – 25 Year Old Rum, Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum, Ron Millonario Solera 15 Reserva Especial,  Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum, Rum Nation Panama 21 YearsSanta Teresa 1796 Antiguo de Solera,  and Zacapa XO (25 Year Solero) Rum)

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The Winners

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured Rum: Juan Santos Coffee Infused Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum: George Street Spiced Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof Rum: Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for the Best White Rum: El Dorado Deluxe Silver 6 Year Aged Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: 3 Barrel Aged Rum (Travellers)

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: Plantation Guatemala Gran Anejo Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva

The 2012 Rum Howler Award for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

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The Runners-Up

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Flavoured Rum: Kuknat Coconut Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Spiced Rum: Bacardi Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Overproof Rum: Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for the Best White Rum: Bermudez Ron Viejo Blanco

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Appleton Vx

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: 5 Barrel Rum (Travellers)

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping RumZacapa Centrenario 23 Solero

The 2012 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Zacapa XO (25 Year Solero) Rum

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The Honourable Mentions

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Spiced Rum: Captain Morgan 100 Spiced Rum and Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Overproof Rum: Plantation Original Dark 73 % Overproof Rumand Demerara Superior High Wine

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for the Best White Rum: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum and Potter’s White Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum and Cockspur Fine Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Dark Old Sipping RumDiplomático Reserva and Plantation Guyana (Old Reserve Rum)

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year Dictador 12 Year Solera and El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

The 2012 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum and Panamonte Reserva XXV

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4 Responses to “The 2012 Rum Howler Awards for Rum (Part 2 – The Best of Rum)”

  1. Adam said

    You’ll want to get your hands on the Plantation 3 Stars white rum. It’s quite good and could be your 2013 winner for the category. I’m assuming you haven’t tried it as it doesn’t appear on the list for white rums considered.

    In my mind, the El Dorado 5YO and 8YO are mixing rums and spectacular mixing rums at that. Their sipping line is the 12YO-25YO “luxury” range.

    • That is good to hear about the Plantation 3 star Adam as indeed a bottle is on its way to me from the good folks at Plantation Rum as I write this. As for the El Dorado range, I agree that the 5 is a great mixer, but I also believe, that it is intended to be sipped as often as it is mixed. The 8 year Old is great, and I would be much more inclined to sip the 8 than to mix it.

  2. Hi Chip

    A few questions to clarify a point or two:

    1. What is your definition of an overproof? Over the years mine has changed from 45% or greater to 50% or greater (this way the up-and-coming 43-46% rums — like Renegade, for example — are now more “regular” than overproof), but what is your line in the sand on this one?

    2. Can you elaborate on your distinction between a flavoured and a spiced rum…since both contain additives to achieve a particular profile (coffee, vanilla or what have you), I was wondering why you judged them in separate categories.

    3. How do you distinguish between a dark/amber mixing rum versus a dark/amber sipping rum (price, points scores, reputation, makers’ advertising…), and how do you guard against overlap? I make the point because you could argue that the Panama 108 is a great dark mixer, yet I liked it on its own as well…so my question relates to the larger issue of the basis upon which you stratify rums into the judged categories where there are many points of similarity.

    Whatever the case is, there certainly were a lot of amazing rums hitting Alberta this year, and the only problem might have been chosing among them (and affording the bill for those we did get). I guess my only beef is that I wish we could get more of the rarer ones.

    All the best…

    • Hi Lance,

      It was a great year for Rum in Alberta, wasn’t it. As for my classifications, I always look to how the manufacturer or producer classifies the rum as my first indicator as to how I should classify the rum. If the producer calls the rums spiced, then I do, if the producer call the rum flavoured, then I do. I have to use some judgment, because some producers like to hedge their bets. Instead of flavoured, a rum may be call “coffee infused”. I consider all infused rum to be flavoured, unless the rum is clearly labeled “spiced”.

      My line in the sand (currently) with respect to overproof follows the same criteria, If the producer labels the rum “overproof”, who am I to argue. If there is no labelling to guide me, I use the water test. If the rum has more alcohol than water, it is overproof, if not it is rum. Hence anything bottled at more than 50 % ABV would be overproof even if the label does not state overproof.

      This same logic was extended to the classification of whether a rum was a mixing rum or a sipping rum. I went to the producer’s websites and tried to glean how they classified the rum. If the producer presented the rum as a great cocktail rum or a rum and cola mixer, then that is how I classified it. If the producer stated the rum was for sipping neat, or on ice, then I called it a sipper. Almost all rums which were three years old or younger seem to be classified by the producers as mixers, and almost all rums 4 years and older seem to be classified by the producers as sippers. Some anomalies exist, such as the Legendario rums which are very young, but which are recommended as sippers. I tried my best to judge the rums based upon the manufacturers recommendations.

      The real quandry existed at the higher end, where arbitrary age cutoffs really do not work. Again I tried my best to present the rums in the classification which I felt the producer intended. Hence Zacapa XO 25 went into the Ultra Premium Category even though if it were to carry an age statement, that statement would read 6 years old. The Zacapa 23 Solero is presented by the company as a notch below the Zacapa XO 25 so it went into category one notch below the 25. I think it only fair that if the Solero Manufacturers want to present their rums to the public as being much older than they actually are, then I should judge them with the older rums as well.

      Cheers Lance.
      (And if this isn’t clear just ask some more questions.)

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