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The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Rum

RH-winner2014

Rum continues to be a growing category across the world, especially with respect to well aged premium spirits. However, cracks are beginning to show as more and more I have noticed that the spirits companies are dropping definitive age statements and replacing them with fancy nomenclature which implies age, but does not guarantee it. Although these companies assure me that the liquid inside their bottles is the same as it always was, if the rum is still the same as it always has been, why would the age statement have been dropped?

The reason of course is that aged stocks of all distilled spirits have been dropping as the demand for more premium spirits has increased world-wide. In order to meet this demand, bottlers and distillers have looked for innovative ways to maintain flavour profiles while being forced to use younger stocks. When I published my Top 25 Rums of 2014 Countdown, I expressed concern that I had noticed a perceptible dip in quality in some of those brands which had abandoned the age statement. Here, however, I am going to offer some hope.

In my discussions with different spirits companies I have noticed a welcome change in attitude regarding the oak barrel. Whereas, in the past these companies would only discuss how long their spirit had rested in that barrel, today those same companies are beginning to talk about the barrel itself. I hear terms like New Oak, First Fill, Second Fill, and re-charred oak barrels not just when companies are discussing whisky; but also when they are discussing Rum. We are also seeing an influx of exotic finishing barrels like cognac casks, Sherry Casks and many more. It seems that as we are in this time of diminishing aged stocks, the spirits companies have embraced innovation to bring more flavours and more character forward in new and exciting ways. If this trend continues, then as the companies replenish their aged stocks over the next five and ten years, we will then enter into a new paradigm where the consumer may have the best of both worlds, a return to blends which contain only well aged rum as well as these same blends benefiting from all those years of innovation. We may indeed look back on this time as the shot in the arm that industry needed to bring something even more wonderful forward. Of course, only time will tell.

It is time for me to bring forward my 2014 Rum Howler Awards Winners. These are the spirits which have risen to the top and provided us with our greatest enjoyment.
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Jamaica Pot Still SAM_1415The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum

and the winner is:

Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57% 

Runner-up Award to: Pumpkin Face White Rum

Honourable Mention to: Potter’s Superior White Rum

The Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum is a beast of a rum. Produced in Jamaica upon a copper pot still and bottled at a full 57 % alcohol by volume, this rum was deemed a bit of a risk by Rum Nation owner and principal Fabio Rossi. Simply put, he considered it is an ester filled bombshell which might confuse and alienate his customer base.  Fabio, knew in his heart though that this rum might just represent a new direction for the category, one which might bring new customers to the table. My opinion for what it is worth, is that this Jamaican White Pot Still Rum just might be the best white rum I have ever tasted. (Note: My full review will be published soon.)

My Runner-up selection, as well as my Honourable Mention are the Pumpkin Face White Rum produced by Itsko Imports Inc of Beverly Hills, California, and Potter’s Superior White Rum produced by Highwood Distillers in Calgary Alberta. Although the Awards winners this year are all rums which are hard to locate, they are also all worth the effort to search them out.

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SAM_1350The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum

and the winner is:

Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum

Runner-up award to: Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum

Honourable Mention to: Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum

Kenny Chesney’s, Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spice Rum blew me away this fall when I sampled it at the 2014 Edmonton Food and Wine Show. I would never have thought that coconut and spiced belonged together on a rum label. However, I was wrong, and this wonderful new spiced rum is the proof.

Mosaiq’s, Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum was my Runner-up for the second year in a row, and the 100 proof Screech Spiced Rum from the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation was my Honourable Mention. The spiced rum category continues to show steady improvement each year.

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Demerara_23yo_89-12The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof Rum

and the winner is:

Rum Nation’s Demerara 23 Year Old

Runner-up Award to: Rum Nation Caroni 1998

Honourable Mention to: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%

This year I opened up the overproof category to well aged ‘cask strength’ rums, and it caused a complete overturning of the usual results. This decision also paved the way for Rum Nation to sweep the category with their regional cask strength offerings which represent some of the most unusual fully flavoured rums in the marketplace.

The winning rum this year is a Demerara Rum from Guyana which has been aged a full 23 years, Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old . The Runner-up Award goes to a fifteen year old rum from the defunct Caroni Distillery in Trinidad, Rum Nation’s Caroni 1998 (55%), and Rum Nation’s Jamaica White Pot Still Rum (57 %) was a strong Honourable Mention. These cane spirits from Rum Nation are absolute gems, and if you are a serious aficionado of rums with plenty of character and full strength flavour, then Rum Nation should be on your radar.

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RumChata SAM_1345The 2014 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum

and the winner is:

RumChata (Horchata Con Ron) Cream Liqueur

Runner-up Award toEl Dorado (Golden Rum) Cream Liqueur

Honourable Mention Award: Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum

In the Flavoured Rum Category this year, two Rum Creams beguiled me with their delicious taste. RumChata (Horchata Con Ron), which is apparently made from a proprietary mix of spices, real dairy cream and Caribbean Rum, was the wining flavour although it was very close with El Dorado Rum Cream putting in a strong showing.

Blue Chair Bay Rum won the spiced category with their Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum, and now they have also won an Honourable Mention Award in the flavoured category with their Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum. Fish Bowl Spirits (owned wholly by Kenny Chesney) seems to be on the right path with these very pleasant rum flavours. Hopefully I will be able to try a few more of their flavours in the coming year. (My review for the Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum will publish soon)

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Myer's Planter's PunchThe 2014 Rum Howler Award for Amber or Dark Mixing Rum

and the winner is:

Myer’s Planters’ Punch (Canadian Bottling)

Runner-up Award to: Brugal XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva

Honourable Mention to: Screech (Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum)

Last rear, my friend Lucas gave me a bottle of Myer’s Planter’s Punch and asked me to blend it with something, and then place it in one of my one litre oak casks to help improve its flavour. Long story shortened, the rum never made it into my small cask as when I tasted the rum, I decided that my opinion was quite different from his. As a Rum and Cola mixer, this one is hard to beat.

Two other nice mixers are my Runner-up, Brugal’s XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva (which my daughter purchased for me in the Dominican Republic), and my Honourable Mention, Famous Newfoundland Screech produced by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation. Although all of my award winner’s this year would primarily be Rum and Cola mixers, they each also work well in punch style recipes and fancy daiquiris.

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SAM_0825 One Barrel 5 YearsThe 2014 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: Brugal XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva

Honourable Mention to: El Dorado 5 Yr Cask Aged Rum

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 Brugal’s XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva, which as you know also won the same award as an Amber Mixer. (Yes it is possible for a great rum to be both a mixer and a sipper.) Returning to my Awards and winning an honourable mention is the El Dorado 5 Year Old Rum. This is another rum which does extremely well as both a sipper and a mixer. If I had decided to go with two Honourable Mentions in that earlier mixer category, this rum would have garnered the second honorable mention.

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Diplomatico Exclusiva SAM_1418The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum:
(aged up to 12 years)

and the winner is:

Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva

Runner-up Award to: Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year

Honourable Mention to: El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

This year, I raised a few eyebrows when I lowered my overall review score for the Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva Rum. Simply put, the sample I tasted this year seemed to have lost just a bit when compared to previous years. Despite the small lowering of its score, the Diplomatico Exclusiva is still one of the very best rums I have ever tasted. I prefer it to the much more expensive Diplomatico Ambassador, and in my side by side tastings this year, the Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva was the best premium sipping rum I tasted in the 12 years and under category.

Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old Rum was a solid Runner up, and the El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve from Guyana was a well deserved Honourable Mention. By the way, if you are a budget minded individual who wants to enjoy great rums; these three Award Winners rums are not only great sippers, they are the best rum bargains out there in the Premium Rum category.

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Dictador Insolent SAM_1195The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Ultra Premium Sipping Rum:

and the winner is:

Dictador XO Insolent Rum

Runner-up award to: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum and Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

Honourable Mention to: Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva Rum

 In choosing the Award for the Best Sipping Rums, I deferred to the tasting scores I recently published when I chose the Top 25 Rums of 2014. During the process of choosing and ranking those rums, I re-tasted all of the premium rum samples I had been given over the past two years. During this exercise, the Dictador XO Insolent Rum was my clear favourite. Because the El Dorado 21 Year Old and the Ron Millonario XO Reserva each received equal scores I decided to honour both with Runner-Up Awards, and this was the case as well with the Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and the Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva rums.

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RH-winner2013The Winners

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum: Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof Rum: Rum Nation’s Demerara 23 Year Old

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum: RumChata (Horchata Con Ron) Cream Liqueur

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Myer’s Planters’ Punch (Canadian Bottling)

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: Travellers One Barrel 5 Year Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Dictador XO Insolent Rum

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RH-Runner-Up-2013The Runners-Up

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best White Rum: Pumpkin Face White Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Spiced Rum: Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Overproof Rum: Rum Nation Caroni 1998

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Flavoured RumEl Dorado (Golden Rum) Cream Liqueur

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Brugal XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Dark Sipping Rum: Brugal XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best 12 Year Old Sipping Rum: Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Awards for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum and Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

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RH-HM-2013The Honourable Mentions

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best White Rum: Potter’s Superior White Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Spiced Rum: Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Overproof Rum: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Flavoured Rum: Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Dark or Amber Mixing Rum: Screech (Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum)

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Sipping Rum (up to 5 Years Old): El Dorado 5 Yr Cask Aged Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Sipping Rum (up to 12 Year Old): El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum: Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old and Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva Rum

 
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