Come winter, when dark spirits with their complex flavor profiles and intrinsic warmth take center stage, whiskey hogs most of that spotlight. We get the appeal, but it’s a shame if you’re missing out on one of the more underappreciated spirits of the season. That would be dark rums. Not so much the unaged light (silver) rum which we’ll be relishing in our mai tais and daiquiris next July, but the dark, spiced rums serving as the base of some of our favorite cold season cocktails—including the dark ‘n stormy, rum sour and, of course, the hot buttered rum.
Dark rum is one of the finest mixing spirits out there, but not just any random bottle of it. Here are 10 of our favorite dark rums, an across-the-shelf selection of higher-priced expressions that are great for either drinking neat or using in classic drinks as well as some bargain bottles that are perfectly good for mixing.
Best Dark Rums to Drink Neat or Mix in a Cocktail
1. Ron Zacapa No. 23
This 80-proof, highly mixable (and sippable) dark rum from Zacapa in Guatemala gets its numerical name from a blend of rums matured between six and 23 years using a solera aging system. It’s aged in barrels that once held American whiskey as well as Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. The result is memorable rum with hints of raisins, dried cherries, vanilla beans, oak, and just a hint of spicy cinnamon.
2. Goslings Black Seal
Surprisingly cheap yet full-flavored and supremely mixable, Goslings Black Seal is found virtually everywhere for good reason. The Bermuda-made rum (from a 150-year-old recipe) is pot still and continuous still distilled before aging in charred American oak barrels. It’s mellow, sweet, and carries notable flavors of raisins, vanilla beans, dried fruits, treacle, and just a hint of seasonal spice.
3. The Real McCoy 5
A favorite of bartenders and drinkers alike, The Real McCoy 5 is distilled in both column and pot stills before aging for five years in heavily charred American oak bourbon casks. The result is a surprisingly mellow, velvety smooth rum with notable flavors like butterscotch, almond cookies, cinnamon sugar, and rich charred oak. A warming, sweet, slightly spicy finish is well-suited as the base for your favorite cocktails.
4. Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum
An homage to Ernest Hemingway, Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum is a blend of sourced rums from the US, the Caribbean, and Central America that are blended in American oak casks as well as Port wine barrels and sherry butts. This creates a multi-dimensional, complex rum with notes of dried fruits, sweet bourbon, rich oak, and a gentle nutty sweetness.
5. Brugal 1888
Made for sipping but great for mixing into a rum-centric old fashioned, Brugal 1888 is a Dominican rum aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. It makes for a rich, flavorful rum with hints of creamy caramel candy, oaky wood, toasted vanilla beans, and a nice fruity backbone. In other words, a memorable rum you’ll return to many times.
6. Mount Gay Black Barrel
This blended rum produced at the oldest operating commercial distillery (dating back to 1703) is made using \ traditional column stills as well as double retort pot stills. It’s aged in American oak before finishing in heavily charred ex-bourbon barrels for a flavor profile typified by charred oak, vanilla beans, butterscotch, dried fruits, and light, warming spices.
7. Flor De Cana 7 Year Grand Reserve
Unlike many dark rums, no sugar is added to this Nicaragua-made standout aged for seven years. Fair trade certified, gluten-free, and even Kosher, it makes a phenomenal spirit base for a classic rum cocktail—offering rich flavors like honey, fudge, toasted coconuts, and vanilla beans, along with a slightly fruity finish.
8. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
When Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum was launched in 1999, it was made for one reason—mixing. Named in honor of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, the “father of the old school tattoo,” it’s a blend of Caribbean rums that are infused with various spices and natural flavors. This results in a highly mixable, slightly spicy rum with hints of oak, toffee, wintry spices, and vanilla.
9. Diplomatic Reserve Exclusive
Produced in Venezuela, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is a blend of rums aged for up to 12 years before being selected by Diplomático’s Master Blenders. The result is an award-winning, flavorful rum with notes of butterscotch, candied orange peel, almond cookies, oak, and slight spice that works well as the base for your favorite wintry rum-based cocktails.
10. Plantation O.F.T.D.
The O.F.T.D. here stands for Old Fashioned Traditional Dark. It’s a high-proof, 69% ABV dark rum made by blending rums from Guyana, Jamaica, and Barbados. It’s a beloved mixer in the bartending community because of its complexity, versatility, and flavors of nutmeg, milk chocolate, vanilla beans, wintry spices, and sweet treacle hints.
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