Dark rum is a delicious choice, but white rum is a true cocktail staple. This clear spirit brings all the vanilla, brown sugar, and fruit notes of rum to life without affecting the way a drink looks. Some white rum is unaged, but many brands mature their rum in barrels for a period of time before filtering the spirit to remove all or most of the color.
There are many different brands to choose from, so we asked bar industry experts for their top picks. Whether crafting the perfect cocktail or enjoying on the rocks, The Real McCoy 3-Year-Aged is the clear winner.
Here, the best white rums to drink right now.
Best Overall: The Real McCoy 3-Year-Aged
Region: Barbados | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Spice, Banana
The Real McCoy is the real deal, a rum that comes from Barbados' esteemed Foursquare Distillery. This rum is aged for three years before being charcoal-filtered just once to remove the color. The result is an excellent sipper that can also be used in any cocktail, filled with bright notes of citrus, banana, caramel and coconut.
Best Budget: Bacardi Superior Rum
Region: Puerto Rico | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Coriander, Ginger
Puerto Rico's Bacardi is practically synonymous with affordable rum. “Bacardi Superior is the go-to classic white rum for all sorts of cocktails,” says Darnell Holguin, co-host of the Azucar y Limon podcast and beverage partner of Las' Lap. “[It] has a wonderful balance of flavors from its proprietary blend.
There are notes of almonds and lime that are complemented by hints of vanilla, and the finish is dry, crisp and clean. It’s delicious with just soda and lime.”
Best Sipper: Denizen Aged White
Region: Trinidad, Jamaica | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Grass, Oak, Vanilla
“Denizen White Rum is a great product at a solid price point,” says Frederic Yarm of The Smoke Shop in Somerville, Massachusetts. “The producer acquires aged rum stocks from Trinidad and Jamaica, blends them, and charcoal-filters out the color.”
The end result? A stunning rum ready for mixing with lime and sugar to make Daiquiris, or Coke for a highball, or a bounty of mixers for tropical drinks, says Yarm. The rum is also complex enough to stand on its own, making this a good choice to reach for when you’re in the mood to sip.
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Best for Mojito: Havana Club Añejo Blanco
Region: Puerto Rico | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Pineapple, Vanilla, Banana
"Havana Club Añejo Blanco has a clean taste with fruity aromas, hints of vanilla and oak,” says Reniel Garcia, the bar director of Havana 1957 in Miami Beach. “It is distilled in Puerto Rico using a two-part aging process.”
The rum is aged for a year, then blended together and aged for another two months. The result is the perfect rum to mix with some lime and mint for a classic Mojito.
Best for Piña Colada: Wray & Nephew
Region: Jamaica | ABV: 63% | Tasting Notes: Stone fruit, Banana, Cake
“Wray & Nephew Overproof Jamaican Rum is a great one to have around,” says Cory Mendonca of Main St. Provisions in Las Vegas. Mendonca likes to making cocktails with this rum by splicing it with other rums or spirits as the base; he also uses this rum in small amounts as a modifier.
“It lends this fiery, sort of ‘old world,’ eau-de-vie intensity and earthy rum funk that can really add some curiosity to a cocktail,” he explains.
Use it in a Piña Colada to really add intensity of flavor, along with a boost in ABV, which will dilute nicely when mixed with the other ingredients.
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Best Splurge: Rhum J.M Agricole Blanc
Region: Martinique | ABV: 50% | Tasting Note: Sugarcane, Tropical fruit, Spice
This spirit is spelled with an “h” because it’s actually rhum agricole from Martinique. That means that it’s distilled from sugarcane juice instead of molasses. Rhum J.M might cost a bit more than your average bottle, but the earthy palate with notes of citrus, banana and caramel makes it worth the price. This bottle tastes great on its own or used in any cocktail.
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Best Aged Over 5 Years: Diplomático Planas
Region: Venezuela | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Cream, Vanilla
Diplomático is a rum distillery based in Venezuela. “This rum stands out for its aging process (six years), which results in a rich and chewy rum with notes of cappuccino and a nutty finish,” says Frederic Najem, the director of food and beverage at Bank & Bourbon and Loews Philadelphia Hotel.
Najem says this rum can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, or it can serve as the perfect main ingredient for delicate cocktails.
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Best for Daiquiri: Plantation 3 Stars
Region: Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad | ABV: 41.2% | Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, Tropical fruit, Candied orange
"Plantation 3 Stars White Rum is a mix of the best three terroirs in the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad,” says Carlos Lopez, the bar manager of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami Beach. “It’s the perfect rum for a classic Daiquiri and Mojito.”
This expression is a blend of unaged and two- to three-year-old rum, with a touch of older Jamaican rum for some extra flavor.
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Best Puerto Rican: Don Q Cristal
Region: Puerto Rico | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Pear, Banana
Don Q is one of the most popular rum brands in Puerto Rico. “What is special about this Puerto Rican rum is that it has been aged for a minimum of 18 months in American oak barrels, then goes through a process of carbon filtration for a more smooth and refined taste,” says Pablo Guerrero, the food and beverage manager of Azabu Miami Beach. He says Don Q makes a great sipping rum, and it makes for a great cocktail.
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Best American: Owney’s White Rum
Region: New York City | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Banana, Butterscotch, Spice
The American rum scene is thriving, with distilleries around the country making excellent versions of this spirit. This woman-owned distillery started in Brooklyn back in 2011 with this white rum made from molasses produced from domestically grown sugarcane.
The distillery is making a blended rum now, but this bottle is still readily available and offers a revealing taste of how good American rum can be.
Best South American: Flor de Caña 4-Year Extra Seco
Region: Nicaragua | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, White chocolate, Orange
Nicaraguan distillery Flor de Caña makes rum near the base of a volcano using sustainable methods. There are a variety of aged rums in the lineup, including this white rum—a blend aged for an average of four years that is filtered to remove color. No sugar is added, earning the rum the “seco,” or dry, designation.
There’s a bit of natural sweetness at play here, along with some notes of vanilla and citrus.
Best Craft: Cutwater Three Sheets Rum
Region: California | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Vanilla, Pepper
San Diego’s Cutwater Spirits is a small distillery that makes an impressive array of craft spirits, along with ready-to-drink canned cocktails. One spirit that can be found in the cocktails and bottled on its own is Three Sheets Rum.
This white rum is made from cane sugar, not molasses, and is a stellar example of how the American craft scene has embraced the art of rum making.
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The Real McCoy (view at Drizly) is the best overall white rum to buy. It is distilled at a well-regarded distillery that's known for making high-quality rum, and it offers the taste of an aged rum at a very reasonable price. Use this one for making any cocktail you can think of, or just sipping on a hot summer day.
What to Look for in a White Rum
Rum comes from many corners of the world, and each country has different rules (or lack thereof) about what can actually go into the bottle. In general, white rum is either unaged or has spent a few years inside a barrel and had the color removed using charcoal filtration. Do some research to see if a particular bottle has been aged (or use this guide), whether sugar has been added to the spirit, and what the proof is. Some of the best bottles are the cheapest ones, so no need to spend your hard-earned cash on a white rum—save it for the aged expressions.
What is white rum made from?
Like all rum, white rum is made from molasses or sugarcane juice, depending on its country of origin. Sugar can be added to the spirit, again depending on the rules of the country in which it’s produced.
How is white rum different from other types?
White rum differs from aged rum mainly in color. This is because it can be an unaged spirit, or it can be a spirit that was aged for a few years and then charcoal-filtered to strip the color picked up from the time spent in barrels. An aged white rum will have some of the flavors associated with time spent in wood, like vanilla or tannin, while an unaged white rum will be a bit crisper, with vegetal or citrus notes.
Is white rum cheaper than dark or aged rum?
Generally speaking white rum is cheaper than aged rum, as the maturation process adds value to the spirit for most distilleries.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries for many years. His work has appeared in many 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.
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