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Top 25 Rums of 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Once again, I have prepared my annual listing of the best rums available in the world, this time for the year ending, 2014.

If you have followed any of my year-end countdown lists over the past few years you will have noticed that they are ever evolving as new spirits become available for me to taste each year, and as previously reviewed spirits disappear (for example: Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve) or become unavailable in my market for me to re-evaluate.

Another factor causing change in my rankings each year is the evolution of the various spirit brands which, contrary to popular opinion, do not necessarily remain consistent from year to year (or even from batch to batch). Within spirit companies, and within individual distilleries, philosophies and styles change as does the quality of the spirit produced from year to year (and from batch to batch). It was refreshing to me when I chatted with Hernan Parra Arango, Rum Master for Dictador Colombian Rum earlier this year, and he openly spoke of how each batch of rum he produces will be different. For example, at Dictador, the average age of Hernan’s solera rums have been increasing slowly from year to year within his solera, and this change as well as changes in barrel quality, and in the actual distillate from year to year has resulted in a taste profile which is ever evolving. At Dictador, the emphasis is on making each batch of rum the best it can be, rather than attempting to match exactly a specific flavour profile.

Another example of this type of evolution seems to be evident within the Flor de Cana brand. I noticed this year that the company had dropped definitive age statements from the labels on their entire line-up of aged rums. Although they have assured me that the liquid inside the bottles is the same as always, it did seem rather coincidental to me that I began to notice a drop in quality two years ago (as reflected in my lower review scores). This perceived drop in quality on my part, seems to me, to have been confirmed with the new labels which no longer feature firm age statements. If the rum is still the same as it always has been, why would the age statement have been dropped?

It seems to make sense to me that if I believe that spirit brands evolve over time, it is only logical that one who reviews spirits (such as I) should periodically revisit these brands and discover whether we believe the rums quality is evolving as well. This year as I was contemplating my yearly Rum Howler listing of the 2014 Top 25 Rums, I decided I should spend some of my time re-tasting and re-evaluating many of my favourites. As I did this, I re-scored each rum and in some case rewrote the entire review. From that exercise, I compiled my list of this year’s top 25 best rums in the world.

My list as usual will be presented “Countdown Style” beginning on November 30th, and then through the month of December with the best rum of 2014 revealed on December 24, 2014 just in time for you to grab a bottle for Christmas and New Year’s cheer! As you return to this page each day (beginning November 30th), a new spirit will be revealed as we count down to the best rum I have personally tasted in 2014!

As so with no further ado, allow me to present my list of The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014:


25)  Flor de Caña Centenario 12  (90)
24)  El Dorado 8 Year Old Cask Aged Rum  (91)
23)  Dictador XO Perpetual     (91)
22)  Havana Club Selección de Maestros  (91)
21)  Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 18 Rum   (91)
20)  Dictador 20 Year Old Solera Rum   (91.5)
19)  Pumpkin Face 23    (92)
18)  Rum Nation Barbados Anniversary Edition (12 Years Old)    (92)
17)  Angostura 1824 (12 Years Old) Rum  (92)
16)  Dictador 12 Year Solera    (92)
15)  Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum (92)
14)  Rum Nation Panama (Aged 21 years)  (92)
13)  Ron Millonario Solero 15 Reserva Especial Rum  (92.5)
12)  El Dorado 25 Year Old Vintage Reserve Rum   (92.5)
11)  Ron Zacapa Centenario (23 Solera) Rum  (92.5)
10) Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old Rhum (Distilled 1999)  (93)
09) Rum Nation Caroni 1998   (93)
08) Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva Rum   (93.5)
07) El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum   (93.5)
06) Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old   ( 93.5)
05) Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year   (94)
04) Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva  (94.5)
03) Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum  (95)
02) El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum  (95)
01) Dictador XO Insolent Rum     (97)




54 Responses to “Top 25 Rums of 2014”

  1. said

    I noticed that Panamonte 25 yr did not make your list top 25. Why is that?

  2. Jambrina Sakellaropoulo said

    Does Rom Bustelo exist anymore? If so, where might I purchase it?

  3. Rick Sinclair said

    Curious if you have tried Ron Barcelona Imperial 30 Aniversario. Looking at buying but it’s 185.00

  4. Peter said

    Hey Chip

    The LCBO just discontinued El Dorado Single Barrel EHP by more than 50%. Nobody purchased it at the $100 price tag since the ED21 was only $10 more (My thinking). That said, at $45 I thought “why not”.

    I have to say I enjoyed this SB offering more than the 12 or 15, the finish lasts forever. I have heard the other EDSB offerings were nothing to get excited about but I think you may enjoy the EHP version.


  5. Paul said

    No Ron Zacapa XO? Blasphemy!!! I am still sipping on my bottle from the fall. Definitely top 3.

  6. Daniel said

    Hi Chip and Happy New Year. Was just curious as to why Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva dropped from 97 to 93.5? Cheers!

    • This year the review score for the Exclusiva changed from 97 to 94.5. This is because when I tasted the rum from a new bottle as part of my deliberations for the Top 25 Rums of 2014, it seemed to have lost a little compared to how it tasted previously. I re-scored my review for this rum based upon my most recent (2014) tasting. Although the tasting notes for the rum did not change in any significant way, I felt that there was a dip in my enjoyment level when I sampled the rum this year. (As indicated above (in the preamble) brands are constantly evolving, and a change in score of 2 1/2 points may be a result of this evolution or perhaps just a result of batch variation.)

      • Daniel said

        Thanks for that, Chip, I was just curious. In reading your reviews I wasn’t able to find anything regarding the difference between Dictador Insolent and Perpetual? I’m still on the hunt for this rum and I may have tracked it to downtown Montreal but I wanted to be armed with as much info as possible before I drop the 100$ on it. Thanks in advance!

        • Zacapa XO is definitely a top rum, but as I discussed earlier, I need to actually be able to taste a recent bottling before I can include it in my yearly results

        • As mentioned in my review, for the Dictador XO Insolent in particular, the aging barrels used are pre-used oak barrels which have a significant percentage of oak obtained from Jerez Spain, as well as 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.

          For the Perpetual, the casks are not subjected to the open flame process.

          I hope that helps.

  7. Misha said

    Thanks for the 2014 list 🙂
    A lot of familiar rums for me, but I didn’t know this years winning rum so i’m gonna check that one soon
    The bottle is slightly different in the Netherlands.

    Also check out the rums Greg mentioned, both great rums !!
    My favorite rum till this day is the Rum Nation 26y Demerara Rum, unfortunately no where to be found anymore.

    Regards & best wishes

  8. Phillip Chiricotti said

    Nice job on the list. I have had all the rums on your list that are available in the US and a few I could obtain shipping directly from the UK, including the Ron Millonario. The 15 year is spectacular. I agree with the downgrading of the Flor de Cana line. As you are no doubt aware, the stuff/blend in the bottle can vary depending upon the date of bottling. I have also long noted that the El Dorado 12 is a secret weapon for the price. Very surprised to see the Appleton 12 year on the list. Definitely not on mine. Also surprised to not see the Ron Zazcapa XO on the list. To me, it is right there with the El Dorado 21. I actually prefer the El Dorado12 year which is 2/3s cheaper. Again, great work on your end. Looking forward to trying the Insolent. I hope it doesn’t have that dominant tobacco taste that some of their other offerings have. Finally, also looking forward to the upcoming Plantation bottling sourced from the stock they purchased in Belize.

    • Thanks Phillip.

      I used to have a lower opinion of the Appleton 12, but everytime I taste it, it gets better and better. As for Zacapa XO, I haven’t been able to get my hands on a bottle for a couple of years now. Indications are that the blend changes slightly from year to year, and I was uncomfortable placing a rum on the list that I had not tasted recently.

    • Earl said

      Will vendors outside of Ontario or Canada ship to Ontario? I am thinking with the restrictive liquor laws in Ontario that we are not allowed to import. Anyone know?

  9. carlilem said

    In Canada, taxes can ruin any bottle of alcohol. So here is my top 5 that is monetarily inspired.
    El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum ( Yum )
    Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year ( Yummy )
    Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva ( Wow )
    Ron Millonario Solero 15 Reserva Especial Rum ( Smooth )
    Pumpkin Face 23 ( Can’t be 40% )
    In Alberta that is 35 to 60 dollars.

  10. Peter said

    Ron Zacapa XO fails to make the top 25.

    • Ron Zacapa XO (25) is pretty much unavailable everywhere. With no recent sample to taste, it is impossible to place the spirit on the list.

      • Peter said

        Unfortunately I have never seen Dictator XO Insolent in Ontario, only the 12 year. Can the XO Insolent be purchased in Alberta?

      • JDK said

        Interesting. Here in the States I can get Zacapa XO with just a little effort, but I can’t find Millonario XO anywhere…

      • Misha said

        No problems getting the Zacapa XO here in Europe (Netherlands) , i’ve also seen it in Indonesia & Malaysia during recent travels.
        It definately belongs somewhere in the top of the list.


  11. Scott said

    Pretty sure i know #1. And excited because i have a full bottle at home i just brought home from New Orleans.

    Thanks for all the research and reviews. You have opened my an entire new world for me. I love the youtube guy who also does rum reviews. Thanks and happy holidays.

  12. carlilem said

    Merry Christmas Chip. Thanks for the wonderfull web site! Love the interesting and informative stories of rum and the history of the many distileries. Your countdown is just like a Christmas candy card, I can’t wait to get to the end. I now know many wonderfull rums thanks to you!

  13. Peter said

    Now that DER has slipped to 93.5 from a 97 I know the the next 3 rums will be ED 21 and 2 Rums that are likely not available or ridiculously expensive. So for me the top 25 ends here

  14. crisklm said

    hi Chip,
    have you ever tried Origenes Reserva Especial 18yo.
    what do you think about this Rum?
    if you would have a Top 40 of Rums would it be there?

    • Sorry Crisklm Can’t reveal any spoilers….

    • Grand Master Jay said

      Hey Criskim, I’ve tried it and all I can say is wow, so much so that I had to order the 30. The 18 is smooth, virtually like a cognac. What do you think if it?

      Chip have you tried the Abuelo Centuria, La Hechicera and the Diplomatico single vintage 2000?

      Good work on the site

      • Both are on my to do list (unfortunately, or I guess perhaps fortunately, my to do list is extremly long at this time) So many rums and whiskies and so little time…. sigh)

  15. Paul said

    Hi Chip,

    I read the review for the Reimonenq Rhum a long time ago, and I was interested in getting a bottle. Unfortunately the LCBO has very slim pickings for Rhum. I did however manage to get a bottle of the Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole on a trip back from the U.S. I was very pleased with my purchase and I hope that we’ll see more similar products in Ontario.

    I’m heading to the Dominican next week. Any recommendations on spirits to bring back?

    Thank you,


  16. Peter said

    Hey Chip,

    Seems Pumpkin Face 23 will not be available in Ontario again. Would it be readily available in Alberta? (I have some co-workers who travel back and forth from Ontario to Alberta)

    What is the price of a bottle in Alberta?


    Great list as always

  17. Earl said

    I picked up the Flor de Cana 12 year old a few years back in Grand Turk. The bottle has changed and I can also say that the taste has changed. The newer version is much harsher and not as smooth as the previous issue. Really enjoying your blog.

  18. Dan said

    Looking forward to following this countdown!
    I discovered your blog a little over a year ago, and reading into rums helped me handle my anxiety- and so I started getting serious about rum, and started collecting.
    I went out of my way to get bottles of the previous #1s (the Flor de Cana 21 and Millonario XO), so I’m very much looking forward to this year’s rankings!

  19. Rafael said

    Hope you could taste Diplomatico Ambassador. Nice and very useful blog by the way. Cheers from Calgary

  20. Greg said

    I hope Ron Centenario 20 and Dos Maderas PX make your list. Those are my 2 faves.

  21. russ said

    another rumderful year passed,wow! enjoying your blog as always,looking 4ward 2 your unfolding list.just back from se asia and japan searching out and sampling rums throughout,many surprises..interesting that the full zacapa line is in all the airport duty frees,change from even last year….as to matusalum 18,i believe the mix is different as it was introduced that day in rumfest and almost all those snifters were taken back with little drank from them ,so everybody agreed with you on its taste..will gamble on a new bottle next week in florida…all the best in the holiday season 2 you and yours russ

    • I think you will like the new bottle Russ, as I indicated, it appears much nicer than the spirit unveailed in Miami. (I guess after over 100 rums tasted in 3 days my palate might have been good after all)

  22. Peter said

    Unfortunately Dictator 12 years is the only one available in Ontario. If it (12 years) does not show up with a better score then we are “rooked” here.

  23. Mike said

    Hi, only the 25th entry is listed. The rest are blank.

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