The term “dark rum” doesn’t have a legal definition, but it generally refers to rum that is dark brown in appearance due to aging or the addition of molasses or caramel coloring. Expect notes of vanilla, brown sugar, and toffee along with a bit of sweetness, which makes this type of rum an excellent choice to sip or use in a variety of cocktails. There are so many different brands to choose from, it can be overwhelming. We spoke to some industry experts to find out their top picks for the best bottles of dark rum to drink right now.
Best Overall: Plantation Original Dark Rum
- Region: Jamaica, Barbados, France
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Raisin, Pepper, Caramel
“Plantation Original Dark is an excellent addition to the bar,” says Chris Keller, bartender at Osaka Ramen in Denver. This bottle is a blend of rum from Barbados and Jamaica that is brought to France to age for another three to six months. “Drink with a couple of ice cubes and let the flavors of vanilla and smoke mingle with its natural sweetness,” says Keller.
Best Budget: Cruzan Aged Dark Rum
- Region: St. Croix
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Nutmeg, Butterscotch
This inexpensive dark rum from Cruzan is aged between two and four years in charred American oak casks. It’s smooth and complex enough to drink on its own, but this also works in any number of classic or tropical cocktails. This bottle is proof that you don’t have to spend a lot for good quality rum.
Read Next: The Best Cheap Rums
Best for Dark ‘n Stormy: Goslings Back Seal Rum
- Region: Bermuda
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Baking Spices, Fruit Cake
Goslings is a classic dark rum and a key ingredient in the Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail. The company sources its rum from a few Caribbean countries, and then blends and ages it in Bermuda. This is a bartender’s favorite and a really excellent example of what makes a dark rum stand out.
Best for Mai Tai: Hamilton Overproof Rum 151
- Region: Guyana
- ABV: 75.5%
- Tasting Notes: Stone Fruit, Baking Spice, Banana
“This is a rum for the banana bread lover,” says Jess Weinstein, beverage director for Maydan and Compass Rose. “Roasty, vanilla, caramel, and rotten banana [notes] forever.” This blend of rums from Demerara Distillers is aged for up to five years, and bottled at a very high 151 proof, really letting the flavors explode and providing a buzzy boost to a Mai Tai or any tropical cocktail.
Read Next: The Best Rums
Best for Daiquiri: Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva
- Region: Venezuela
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Banana, Date, Orange
“I love the richness of this rum, and it tastes like a spiced/malty banana cake,” says Katsumi Yuso Ruiz, bartender and co-owner of Curio Bar, Roger's Liquid Oasis and Brass Tacks in Denver. “It makes for an amazing winter daiquiri.” Combine this Venezuelan dark rum with some lime and simple syrup, and enjoy one all winter long.
Best for Sipping: Flor de Cana 12
- Region: Nicaragua
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Wood, Baked Apple, Vanilla
“Flor de Cana is a great Nicaraguan dark rum at an exceptional price,” says Eric Vanderveen, bartender at The Empire Lounge & Restaurant in Louisville, CO. “The value can’t be beat.” That makes this rum a perfect sipper that won’t break the bank. This expression is a blend of liquid aged for an average of 12 years and made using sustainable practices with no sugar added.
Read Next: The Best Sipping Rums
Best Overproof: Plantation Dark Overproof O.F.T.D.
- Region: Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, France
- ABV: 69%
- Tasting Notes: Caramel, Chocolate, Cinnamon
O.F.T.D. stands for “old fashioned traditional dark.” “It’s a blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados bottled at 69% ABV, and comes out coffee brown in color,” says Brendan Bartley, head bartender for Bathtub Gin Speakeasy Bar. “It has everything a bartender would be looking for in a tiki-style rum, with notes of baking spices that warm the palate and finishes long with some citrus and tropical fruits and ginger.”
Alex Jump, bar manager for Death & Co Denver, is also a fan. “It’s a wonderful, robustly flavored dark rum that’s a great bang for your buck—I highly recommend adding some to your holiday eggnog,” she says.
Best Solera Aged: Ron Zacapa 23
- Region: Guatemala
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Butterscotch, Raisin, Oak
“Ron Zacapa 23’s aging process makes this rum drink like no other rum you have ever had,” says Matthew Sentas, general manager at Precinct Kitchen + Bar at Loews Boston Hotel.
“With a bouquet of brown sugar and hints of chocolate and caramel, this is a great choice.” This expression blends six to 23-year-old rum using the solera process, which combines younger and older liquid in oak casks.
Read Next: The Best Spiced Rums
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Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries for the past six years. His work has appeared in many different national outlets covering trends, new releases, and the stories and innovators behind the spirits. His first love remains whiskey, but he is partial to tequila, rum, gin, cognac and all things distilled.