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The 2013 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Rum

RH-winner2013Rum continues to be a spirit on the rise. There was a time not long ago that when I stopped by a local store to buy a bottle of rum, I had really only two or three choices, and they were all named Bacardi. Now it is not uncommon for me to see up to twenty different rum brands even in the small liquor stores, and some of the large stores will have as many as 50 different brands to choose from. When I talk to the local merchants, they all tell a similar story, more and more people are asking for rum and some of them even come into the stores brandishing my reviews as ammunition.

I am very proud of the role I seem to be playing in the resurgence of the cane spirit. My writing and my website have attracted a loyal and growing following of rum enthusiasts which has opened many doors and led to some wonderful opportunities.

These opportunities have included invites from rum companies who have offered to fly me down to look over their operations (see here), as well as invitations to all manner of rum and whisky festivals throughout North America. Other spirits organizations have also recognized my work, and as a result I have received several requests to act as a Spirits Judge at some of the major Spirit’s Competitions in Canada and the USA. In fact I have served twice of the jury of the yearly Canadian Whisky Awards, as well as twice in the same capacity for the International Rum Competition at Rum Renaissance in Miami. It has also been related to me that the largest buyer of spirits in the world (the Liquor Control Board of Ontario) not only has their people reading my rum reviews, they actually give weight to my writing when making their purchase decisions.

It is a fact that my website, The Rum Howler Blog has become one of the important sources of information which people turn to when choosing a rum to purchase. The proof of that statement can verified by simply typing the key words “Rum Reviews” into your Google search engine. What you will find is that this website will be listed on the first page, usually in spot number 1 or 2.

My Rum Howler Awards are published each year. They represent my yearly proclamations regarding the best rums which I have tasted within that particular year. As is the case each year, all of my Awards are based upon side by side tastings within each category of spirit. I taste the spirit neat, and I also mix a few cocktails. Sometimes I have my friends help me. All rum samples which I receive to review on my website each year are automatically considered for the awards. I do my review, and then I set aside the remainder of the spirit for the end of the year judging. I also receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards.

My side by side tastings are completed, and it is time for me to reveal the recipients of my 2013 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Rum.

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SAM_0972 Brugal TitaniumThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum

and the winner is:

Brugal Titanium Rum

Runner-up Award to: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum

Honourable Mention to: Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum

This past fall, I published a mini countdown of sorts of the best 10 white rums in the world. I began with a list of 30 rums, narrowed my selections to 18 contenders, and then using two cocktails as well as serving each white rum neat without ice, I (along with a few friends of mine) determined the very best. The top three rums from that list are represented as my Winner, my Runner-up and my Honourable Mention. You can do no wrong if you select any of these three rums to be your mixing rum of choice.

The winning rum, Brugal Titanium is one of the best white rums I have sampled to this point in my rum explorations. This is a refined spirit filled with spicy character and carries suave refinement within the spicy  flavour nuances.

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Spiced ScreechThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum

and the winner is:

Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum

Runner-up award to: Blackheart Spiced Rum

Honourable Mention to: Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum

The Spiced Rum category just keeps getting better, and this year we had a bit of an upset as the winner of this award for the last two years in a row, George Street Spiced Rum, was knocked out of contention by three new upstarts. (To be completely fair to George Street, the scoring was so close between the top four that it probably deserves an Honourable Mention as well.)

The winner of the spiced rum category placing first in both the cocktail format and when served neat over ice was the Screech 100 Proof Spiced Rum. The Blackheart Spiced Rum, and the Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum scored very closely and could easily have flipped positions on another day. 

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

and the winner is:

Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum

Runnerup Award to:  Lemon Hart Original One Hundred British Proof Rum

Honourable Mention to: Cabot Tower 100 Proof Rum

I suspect, that as long as I keep receiving samples of Panama Red, it will keep winning the overproof rum award. And it is no longer just me lauding how good this rum is. Panama Red seems to win awards wherever it goes, and was recently named best in class at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition. The rum has at its heart a 3-year-old molasses base, and it carries a full 108 proof forward. Yet despite the youth and the alcohol content the rum has such remarkable smoothness that last year I named it one of the 30 best in the world, in last years Rum Howler Top 30 Rum Countdown.

The Runner-up for the Overproof Award goes to a new rum from Lemon Hart their Original One Hundred British Proof. This rum is only available in the travel market, so I suggest you grab a bottle if you find one in duty-free. It carries a bit of a punch, but it also carries quite a wonderful flavour forward. Cabot Tower 100 Proof from Rocks Spirits is another great little overproof from the folks in Newfoundland.

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Whalers Coconut bottle shotThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum

and the winner is:

Whaler’s Killer Coconut Rum

Runner-up Award to: Admiral Nelson’s Coconut Rum

Because of the small number of entrants, (there was only five entries in the Flavoured Rum category this year) I almost decided to drop the category. However because the flavoured rum category seems to be growing each year in terms of sales, I decided that I would instead drop the Honourable Mention for this particular category and have on two Award Winners.)

As you can see, it appears that coconut was the flavour of the year with both award winners being coconut flavoured rums. Whaler’s Killer Coconut and Admiral Nelson’s Coconut are products of Heaven Hill Distilleries who produce their flavoured rums in Barstow Kentucky

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Pyrat_Rum_XO_ReserveThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Amber or Dark Mixing Rum

and the winner is:

Pyrat Rum XO Reserve

Runner-up Award to: Screech (Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum)

Honourable Mention to: Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum

I am not too sure whether the folks at Patron will be pleased or displeased to have won the Rum Howler Award for Best Amber or Dark Mixing Rum. However, despite the fact that Pyrat XO Rum is marketed as a ‘Premium’ rum, it has at its heart a 2-year-old spirit from Guyana. Older rums may be in the blend to be sure, but if this rum were to carry an age statement, it would not be older than 2 years. And, I have to say that as a mixer, the Pyrat XO is stellar. Perhaps the best orange flavoured daiquiri I have ever tasted  was made with the Pyrat XO. In today’s growing cocktail culture. I think there is room for a premium 2 Year Old Mixing Rum.

Famous Newfoundland Screech and Cross keys Island Traditional Rum each proved to be great mixers as well.

For this category I considered the flavour of each rum mixed in a Cuba Libre’ , and a Daiquiri.

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SAM_0825 One Barrel 5 YearsThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Sipping Rum:
(aged up to five years)

and the winner is:

Travellers One Barrel 5 Year Rum

Runner-up Award to: Pyrat Rum XO Reserve

Honourable Mention to:Rum Nation Demerara Solera N° 14

The sipping rums are all judged neat at room temperature in my glencairn glass in blind side by side tastings. The best of the sipping rums (aged under 5 years) was from Travellers Liquors Limited in Belize. This rum was formerly known as 5 Barrel Rum, but as it has expanded its reach into new markets a name change was necessary to avoid copyright issues with other established brands.

The Runner up Award goes to Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, which probably alleviates any ill feeling they may have had at being named the Best Mixing Rum. (It just goes to show that a rum can be great for sipping and for mixing!) Another great rum in the 5 year and under category is the easy-going Demerara Solera No. 14 from Rum Nation.

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Appleton 12 YO CanisterThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum:
(aged up to 12 years)

and the winner is:

Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year

Runner-up Award to: El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

Honourable Mention to: Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old Rhum (Distilled 1999)

I have mentioned before that the Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old Rum seems to get better with every year. This year was no exception, and my love for this rum increased yet again as you can see. Another rum which seems to grow in my glass every time I serve it is the El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve from Guyana. It was to be honest a bit of a toss-up between the two for the winning slot and you could do yourself no wrong if by choosing either of these two great rums for sipping.

Honourable mention goes to a surprising Rhum from Guadalupe, the Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year. It is a rhum full of flavour and character, but one which unfortunately has very limited distribution mainly in Italy. This is the first Rhum Agricole to win a Rum Howler Hounorable Mention Award.  (I suspect it will not be the last.)

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21yo-rThe 2013 Rum Howler Award for Ultra Premium Sipping Rum:

and the winner is:

El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

Runner-up award to: Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

Honourable Mention to: Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum

 I not only considered all of the Premium Sipping rums which I reviewed in the past year, I also considered all of the premium rums which I had sampled last fall as part of my 2012 Rum Howler Top 30 Rum Countdown. In the end, I selected an old favourite, the El Dorado 21 Year Special Reserve Rum as this year’s Best Premium Sipping Rum.

The Ron Millonario XO Reserva which had won the honour last year earned a runner-up position this year and I could not stop myself from making two Honourable Mentions, Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum.

(Note: In a few days I will publish my Regional Rum Awards as well as naming the 2013 Rum HowlerRum of the Year.)

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RH-winner2013The Winners

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum: Brugal Titanium Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum: Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof Rum: Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum: Whaler’s Killer Coconut Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Pyrat Rum XO Reserve

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: Travellers One Barrel 5 Year Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year

The 2013 Rum Howler Award for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

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RH-Runner-Up-2013The Runners-Up

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best White Rum: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Spiced Rum: Blackheart Spiced Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Overproof Rum: Lemon Hart Original One Hundred British Proof Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for the Best Flavoured Rum: Admiral Nelson’s Coconut Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Screech (Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum)

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: Pyrat Rum XO Reserve

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Runner-up Awards for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

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RH-HM-2013The Honourable Mentions

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best White Rum: Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Spiced Rum: Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Overproof Rum: Cabot Tower 100 Proof Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Dark Old Sipping Rum: Rum Nation Demerara Solera N° 14

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old Rhum (Distilled 1999)

The 2013 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum

One Response to “The 2013 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Rum”

  1. russ said

    hi. great choices,most agreed with and others not so much…interesting comment re the agricole .we seem to be on parallel course boyo..used to be western caribe and central/south american product,now not so much…just tried a kaniche xo, fun to find a new rum!..happy hanxgiving from miami russ

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