White rum gets no respect. Rum devotees grouse that it lacks the oaky pedigree and fancier education of its older counterpart.
But when warm weather rolls around, even those drinkers who like their 15-year-old rum served neat in a crystal Riedel tasting glass often reach for cleaner, lighter rum when mixing drinks like Daiquiris and Mojitos. White rum may lack the depth and intrigue of aged rum, but it makes for a friendly and refreshing cocktail. It also works well with a wide range of fruits and flavors. Here are a few to try this spring:
Diplomático Blanco ($40):
Diplomático Blanco is a quadruple-distilled spirit from Venezuela. Aged and then filtered, it has hints of vanilla and an underlying sweetness, but these qualities tend to dissipate quickly in mixed drinks. It’s perfect for making rum drinks for people who don’t like rum. Right now it’s only available in Florida.
Mount Gay Eclipse Silver ($20):
The venerable Mount Gay distillery introduced its first clear rum in 2008. Eclipse Silver is a lighter version of the brand’s popular medium-bodied aged rum. It has a clean taste with some banana and tropical fruit notes, but is best combined with flavorful mixers, like fruit juices and colas, which nicely mask the rum’s sharper edge.
Rhum Neisson ($35 for a liter):
This rum has big, round, grassy, vegetal notes and may be off putting at first to those unaccustomed to un-aged Martinique agricole-style rums. But given time and repeated use, it can become a favorite. It’s particularly good in a traditional ti’ punch—a little lime juice, a little cane syrup, a single ice cube—and makes a perfect transitional drink between day and night.
Oronoco is among my new favorites. It’s a blend of Brazilian white rum made from sugar cane juice and a bit of Venezuelan rum. The result is a very happy marriage—a full, sweet, complex, butterscotchy rum that’s particularly smooth. Oronoco adds a rich, unexpected depth to a traditional Planter’s Punch and works really nicely in cocktails calling for dry vermouth, like an El Presidente.
Prichard’s Crystal Rum ($34):
Prichard’s is a delightful white rum—a beguiling mix of caramel and vanilla, citrus notes and even a touch of pineapple. It’s made in Tennessee from high-grade molasses and is produced in a pot still. The brand’s founder, Phil Prichard, claims to be making distinctly American rum (opposed to tropical rum). But if you close your eyes and take a sip, you’ll swear you’re in the islands.
Wayne Curtis writes about drinks for The Atlantic Monthly and is author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.