The 2017 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Rum
This past year was a pivotal year for the Rum Howler. I have been writing about and reviewing rum on my website for 8 years now, and it seems that 2016 was the year that the publishing industry took note of my work. In fact two publishers sought me out to author new books about rum.
In both cases I was very flattered, and I gave each project serious consideration … until they sent me the contracts. (Apparently publishers do not have a high opinion of the intellect of writers.)
Here is a tip for anyone who is approached by a publisher. Regardless of whatever is said to you about your rights (and responsibilities), a contract means exactly what it says. If a contact uses all-encompassing language which restricts your ability to publish other work in the future; understand that this language is not just lawyer speak, that language is there for the purpose of restricting your ability to publish other work (for other potential publishers) in the future. The publishing companies want not only to own what you give them in the present, they want to own (or at the very least to control) what you might produce in the future. And you should not be surprised if they want to own and control everything you have produced in the past as well.
The publishing company is trying to protect its own interest. It wants to produce a book with the intent that its shareholders will benefit from the sales of that book. And they quite rightly want that work’s integrity and those book sales (present and future) protected. That contract they send you protects them, not you. And as I said earlier, a contract means exactly what it says. So if you ever want to write a book and have it published, make sure that what you are committing to is something that you are perfectly comfortable with not only now, but in the future as well.
A book probably is in my future; but based upon this past year’s experiences, I think it will have to be a project completed on terms and within a timeline which suits my interests and goals much more closely than the two projects I was offered in 2016.
Of course, what motivated those publishers to contact me is my large selection of Rum Reviews which apparently are among the best in the world (words of a flattering publisher, not mine). And it is those reviews which I relied upon when I began the process of selecting my Rum Howler Award Winners.
For this year’s Rum Awards, I had the luxury of having most of my work completed ahead of time. During the past year I examined and ranked all of the Spiced Rums I owned. I also built cocktails all year round to determine a ranking of the 50 Best Mixing Rums (a few internet trolls are unhappy with that term; so if you like, you can call them the ‘Best Young Cocktail Rums‘) I have tasted as well. Finally, I also combed through my reviews and determined what I believe are the 50 Best Rums of 2016.
- The Rum Howler – Top 50 Rums of 2016
- The Rum Howler 2016 Top 50 Mixing Rums Countdown
- The Rum Howler 2016 Spiced Rum Countdown
To determine my Rum Howler Award Winners, I merely had to examine these lists, determine which of the rums on each list had been tasted at some point in the past two years, and then select the best spirit for each of my categories.
It is time for me to bring forward my 2017 Rum Howler Awards Winners. These are the spirits which have risen to the top and provided me with my greatest enjoyment:
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum:
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: Brugal Titanium Rum
Honourable Mention to: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara 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.
My Runner-up selection, is the Brugal Titanium Rum produced in the Dominican Republic using the company’s proprietary double-distillation technique which apparently creates a clean, dry rum. My Honourable Mention is a perennial favourite of mine, El Dorado Rum’s 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum:
and the winner is:
Runner-up award to: Bacardi Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum
Honourable Mention to: Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum
George Street isn’t an ordinary spiced rum. The rum itself is from Guyana, the home of the world-famous Demerara Rum, and that rum has been well aged blended from marques which are two, five , and seven years old. This blended aged rum is then spiced using both extractions and distillations of real spices. The product is bottled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Commission (NLC) and sold across Canada.
Bacardi’s Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum is produced from a blend of column distilled rums which have been aged in charred oak barrels. This aged rum is then spiced to reach a flavour profile which walks the path of a vanilla accented by fragrant spices the combination of which is meant to compliment the aged rum but not to dominate it.
Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum is crafted from the same 4 separate marques of Jamaican rum which are used to produce the Famous Newfoundland Screech which are aged anywhere from 2 to 5 years. However, because this is a spiced rum which is bottled at 50 % alcohol by volume, the treatment of these marques will necessarily be slightly different.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof/Cask Strength Rum:
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%
Honourable Mention to: Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum
The Caroni Distillery in Trinidad and Tobago was established in 1918, and was operated at near full capacity until 1993. Unfortunately, due to industry consolidation, rum production at the facility began to decline late in the 20th century and the distillery was closed in 2002. We can count ourselves lucky that some of the rum barrels from the Caroni distillery are still finding their way into the market place, and the Rum Nation Caroni 1998 is one such offering.
My Runner-up is Rum Nation’s new Jamaican White Pot Still Rum is produced entirely without age straight from the still. Rather than giving us a smooth refined ultra premium white rum, this new rum revels in its brutish, concentrated (bottled at 57 % alcohol), Jamaican pot still flavour. The result is a bold new style of white rum which is anything but smooth and refined, but which has enthralled me since I first tasted it. I also named it the Best Mixing Rum of 2016.
Honourable Mention goes to Panama Red 108 which is a Panamanian rum brought to you by PANAMONTE BRANDS. It is produced from the sugar cane that grew in Las Cabras de Pese, the same region where the Distillery is located, and has as its base, a 3 year molasses based rum which is aged in used Bourbon casks at the distillery warehouse in Pese.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum:
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: Dictador Orange (100 Month Aged) Rum
Honourable Mention Award: Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum
Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum is produced from flavourful Victorian Pineapples. These pineapples are peeled by hand, and then the left over rinds are infused with Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum (see review here) for one week. The resulting infused spirit is then distilled upon Cognac Ferrand’s copper alembic pot stills. As well, the pineapple fruit is infused with Plantation Original Dark Rum. Then the re-distilled Plantation 3 Star Rum (which had been infused with the pineapple rinds) is then combined with the infused Plantation Original Dark Rum. The two spirits are allowed to marry, and then they are re-casked in oak barrels for three months. The result is spectacular!
The Runner-up, Dictador Orange 100 Month Aged Rum was created to be a discerning spirit for the cocktail enthusiast. The base rum within the flavoured spirit is a continuous column still rum which was aged (for 100 months) in ex-bourbon oak barrels. At maturity the rum was macerated with fresh Colombian orange peel.
Recently, CAPTAIN MORGAN® introduced three flavors to its fleet of rums in Canada, CAPTAIN MORGAN® Pineapple Rum, CAPTAIN MORGAN® Coconut Rum, and CAPTAIN MORGAN® Grapefruit Rum. It was the Grapefruit Rum that my tasting group, The Rum Chums went crazy over and it has earned this year’s Honourary Mention award.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Amber or Dark Rum (aged up to 5 years):
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: Momento Amber Rum (Highwood Distillers)
Honourable Mention to: Monymusk Classic Gold Rum
Noxx and Dunn 2-4-5 Rum is created is made from a blend of 100% Florida sugar cane molasses pot and column distilled spirit. These rums were aged for 2, 4 and 5 years in the sub tropics (in Florida of course) in once used bourbon barrels. Importantly, no flavouring and no colour were added. The colour and flavour of the rum in the bottle is completely natural and derived from the ageing process.
My Runner-up is Momento Amber Rum from Highwood Distillers. It is a Caribbean blend of rums aged in charred oak barrels at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies for 2 to 3 years. It happens to be a great mixing rums for Cuba Libre’ and Daiquiri cocktails and it is on its strength as a cocktail rum that it has won its award.
The Honourable Mention, is produced at Jamaica’s Claredon Distillery. While the vast majority of the rum distillate produced at the distillery is destined for bulk sales (much of it to Diageo), about 10 % of the rum distilled is set down to rest in American Oak barrels and aged at the NJR facility at Innswood, an older distillery which now serves as an aging and blending facility for Claredon. Monymusk Classic Gold Rum was produced from aged rum at Innswood. This is a non age stated rum, but my best guess based upon my tasting notes would be that it is a blend of 2 to 5-year-old rums.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Rum (aged 6 to 10 years):
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: Penny Blue XO Single Estate Mauritius Rum
Honourable Mention to: Bacardi Gran Reserva 8 Años Rum
Although Brugal makes their rum in a traditional manner (from molasses) and ages it on site in Puerto Plata. Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar) however, undergoes a special double maturation process. The rum is first aged in medium-toasted, ex-Bourbon white American oak casks for 6 to 8 years. This is followed by a second maturation in first-fill Spanish Oloroso Sherry Casks.
Only 7000 bottles of Penny Blue XO Batch #002 were produced from 22 oak casks. Thirty percent of the rum was drawn from ex-Whisky casks, thirty percent from ex-Bourbon Casks, and 30 percent from ex-Cognac casks. The ages of these rums varied between 5 to 11 years. An astute person will note that this accounts for only ninety percent of the rum. The final ten percent of the rum was actually a portion drawn from Batch #001 which was added to the blend for additional flavour and complexity. After blending the rum was bottled at the Medine Estate.
The Bacardi Gran Reserva 8 Años Rum is produced using column still distillation and oak barrel aging. This rum has been aged for a full 8 years in ‘hand selected’ oak barrels. According to various sources, at least part of the rum was aged or perhaps finished in sherry oak barrels.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum
and the winner is:
Runner-up Award to: El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum
Honourable Mention to: Dictador XO Insolent Rum
Although Ron Millonario, is headquartered in Italy (owned by Rossi and Rossi S.R.I.), the rums of Ron Millonario are distilled and aged in Northern Peru. The company website does not give us the exact location of the distillery which produces the Millonario rums although it does speak of a mid-sized Northern Peruvian distillery with three old Scottish column stills and a slow distillation process which is used to produce their rum from sugar cane molasses. Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum is the premier rum produced by this Italian Company, and it has been one of my most favoured rums ever since I first tasted it.
My Runner-up this year is El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum which uses a blend of rums selected from their world-famous stills, the Enmore (wooden Coffey still), the Versailles (single wooden pot still), and the Albion (Savalle still). All of the rums in the blend have been aged in oak for a minimum of 21 years, making this one of the oldest production rums in the world.
My Honourable Mention, Dictador XO Insolent is aged in pre-used oak barrels which have a significant percentage of oak obtained from Jerez Spain, as well as in pre-used Port Wine Barrels. Near the end of the aging process, the barrels earmarked for the XO Insolent Rum are emptied (and the rum stored of course), and these barrels are subjected to an open flame process which caramelizes the rum soaked oak fibres on the interior of the barrel. These barrels are then refilled with the same rum allowing the spirit to draw the sweet caramelized flavours from the interior of the oak barrel.
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best White Rum: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Spiced Rum: George Street Spiced Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Overproof/Cask Strength Rum: Rum Nation Caroni 1998
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for the Best Flavoured Rum: Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Amber or Dark Rum (aged up to 5 years): Noxx & Dunn 2-4-5 Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Rum (aged 6 to 10 years): Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar)
The 2017 Rum Howler Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum: Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best White Rum: Brugal Titanium Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Spiced Rum: Bacardi Oakheart Smooth Spiced Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Overproof/Cask Strength Rum: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still 57%
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Flavoured Rum: Dictador Orange (100 Month Aged) Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Amber or Dark Rum (aged up to 5 years): Momento Amber Rum (Highwood Distillers)
The 2015 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Rum (aged 6 to 10 years): Penny Blue XO Single Estate Mauritius Rum
The 2017 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Premium Sipping Rum (Aged 11 to 20 Years & Solera 10 Plus): El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum
The Honourable Mentions
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best White Rum: El Dorado 3 Year Cask Aged Demerara Rum
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Spiced Rum: Screech Spiced 100 (Proof) Rum
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Overproof/Cask Strength Rum: Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Flavoured Rum: Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Amber or Dark Rum (aged up to 5 years): Monymusk Classic Gold Rum
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Rum (aged 6 to 10 years): Bacardi Gran Reserva 8 Años Rum (NAS)
The 2015 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Premium Sipping Rum (Aged 11 to 20 Years & Solera 10 Plus): Dictador XO Insolent Rum