The rum category is known for its diversity, with different traditions and production methods shaping a wide variety of sub-styles. That holds true for recent releases, which come from across the Caribbean, Latin America, the U.S., and beyond, and which showcase a number of techniques, base ingredients, and flavor profiles.
While white and spiced rums still dominate sales, trends from other categories are bleeding into rum and driving interest in new, craft-oriented options. Though added color and flavor are common in the rum world, brands like Botran and Faraday are emphasizing their additive-free status—part of a wider movement towards transparency among many rum makers.
Producers are sharing more about how their rum is made, including details about the source of ingredients, sustainability efforts, and blend components. Among the most information-forward is Renegade Rum, which distills from a variety of fresh sugar cane varietals farmed across the island of Grenada and has just released its unaged “pre-cask” rums into the U.S. market.
Speaking of fresh sugar cane rum—often known as rhum agricole, whether or not it adheres to the AOC requirements—there’s a growing number of offerings in the category. In addition to Renegade, Copalli and Rhum Clément both have new releases. Holmes Cay, an independent bottler of rums with a strong transparency ethic, recently debuted a rare fresh cane rum from South Africa.
Other newcomers highlight their mixability and use in cocktails. A new overproof spirit from St. Lucia’s Bounty nods to the island’s tradition of cask rums, while KLYR, made in Pennsylvania, markets itself like a vodka.
There’s certainly something for everyone in rum right now. These are the latest offerings to try.
Botran No. 15 ($33)
After being absent from the U.S. market for a few years, Guatemala’s Botran has returned with a refreshed lineup and a renewed commitment to the environment. The brand’s credentials include International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) accreditation and Carbon Neutral Certification from SGS, which it maintains through continual tree-planting rather than purchasing carbon offsets. Working within the Ron de Guatemala PDO, Botran distills from cane honey and matures its rums in multi-stage cask columns rather than a traditional solera. No. 15 combines rums aged five to 15 years and, like all of Botran’s offerings, contains no added sugar.
Bounty Strong 151 ($25)
The national rum of St. Lucia, Bounty only recently became available in the United States, and Strong 151 is its newest offering. Designed at the request of bartenders, the spirit pays homage to St. Lucia’s tradition of “cask rums”: Until the 1970s, most rum on the island wasn’t bottled, but instead was offered at shops in the cask. Customers could bring their own jugs or bottles to fill up with rum that was lightly aged and strong. Thus, Bounty Strong 151 comes in nearly fresh off the still, with some light oak notes, ideal for cocktails requiring a splash of the stiff stuff.
Clément Rhum Blanc ($25)
Clément has been a mainstay in the U.S. for years, launching Premiere Canne in 2005; however, the brand recently rejiggered its core unaged offering to be more bartender friendly. With an updated bottle shape and a more cohesive look, Rhum Blanc is also slightly cheaper than its predecessor. The spirit within remains unmistakably Clément, an outstanding example of Martinique’s rhum agricole AOC and a perfect base for any number of rum cocktails.
Copalli Cacao ($30)
Most flavored rums include added sugar, color, and flavorings, but not Copalli Cacao. Made at Copal Tree Distillery in Belize, the rum is distilled from just-harvested and pressed organic sugar cane grown on-site. It’s then infused for several weeks with organic cacao nibs harvested from the distillery’s attached farm, and re-distilled—and that’s it. With a pure cocoa flavor tinged with berry notes, and the subtlest hint of sweetness, Copalli Cacao makes a killer secret weapon in a rum-based Espresso Martini or a Rum Negroni.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
Brand founder Owen Hyland lives in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, from which the CS Faraday set out in 1874 to lay the first transatlantic cables connecting North America and Europe. The vessel continued to create connections for the next five decades, and this eponymous rum honors its warm-water routes through the Caribbean. It’s a blend of three unique liquids, each complementing the others: 5-year-old pot and column-distilled rum from Barbados; 5-year-old column-distilled rum from the Dominican Republic; and rhum agricole from Martinique. Bottled at 42.5% ABV, the rum has no added sugar, color, or flavorings.
Holmes Cay South African Mhoba ($109)
Independent bottlers are common in Scotch whisky, and becoming more so in rum. Founded in 2019, Holmes Cay bottles single-cask rums as well as blends. Its selections are always free of additives, with true age statements, and they tend to represent flavor profiles and styles that are outside the norm—in a very good way. Recent bottlings have come from Barbados, Trinidad, Fiji, and more, but it’s the one from South Africa’s Mhoba Distillery that’s perhaps most exciting: Made in 2017 from fresh-pressed cane juice and pot-distilled, it aged for four years in South African whisky casks. The distillery makes about 50 casks a year, and just four of them were released, meaning you’ll never taste a rum quite like it again.
Made at Pennsylvania’s Crostwater Distillery using a proprietary water filtration process, Klyr appears to have taken some cues from the vodka category. The white rum highlights the number of times it was distilled (twelve) and filtered (eighteen) and markets its sugar- and gluten-free status as well. It’s packaged in a bottle with an American flag design to emphasize its made-in-the-USA status. A self-described “clean” rum, Klyr is intended for mixing and infusions—and baseball: Klyr is an official sponsor of the Philadelphia Phillies and operates a rum patio and cocktail counter at Citizens Bank Park.
Renegade Pre-Cask Collection Single Farm Origin: Nursery ($65)
Grenada’s Renegade sprang up a few years ago with a single-minded mission: to showcase terroir through rum. The state-of-the-art distillery grows sugarcane all over the island via CaneCo., its farming subsidiary, harvesting and processing each field separately, which allows the differences from varietal, soil type, and still type (pot or column) to shine through clearly. While most of the rum has gone into barrels to mature, Renegade is releasing “pre-cask” unaged distillate in the meantime. These bottlings might be intended as teasers, but stand on their own and easily prove the terroir thesis. Any of them are worth trying but the Single Farm Origin: Nursery bottling offers a rare taste of the Yellow Lady cane varietal, which Renegade farmed for a brief time but has phased out of production.