Manufactured from sweet sugarcane and made famous in the Caribbean during an era when pirates still roamed its seas, rum has been enjoyed for centuries – but not always by the common man. These days, a bottle of average (not fantastic) rum can be purchased for as little as $6 USD if bought in the country of its origin.
When you think of a rum-warmed vacation, which places come to mind? Likely Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Panama, Bermuda or other such lush, beachy lands. Do you enjoy a rum and coke? Or perhaps your palate is more refined, and you prefer your rum straight. If you don’t take even ice, you’re a truly distinguished rum drinker. Some of us prefer the rum-based cocktail: The Pina Colada, or the Rum Tiki. Whatever your tastes, if you love rum, then reading about some of the following blends will have your mouth watering.
If you’re one of the lucky ones that can afford the more expensive rums, no doubt some of these are worth a try. Some of us regular joes might splash out on numbers 9 or 10 on the list, but 1 and 2 in particular would be extremely remote possibilities for any of us. Even as specialty bottles for an expensive night out to impress a new client, they’re particularly cost prohibitive. Still, we can dream…
10. Pyrat Cask 1623: $260
Anguilla Rums, Ltd. was founded on the island of the same name by American businessman Martin Crowley who died in 2003. The factory stopped production in 2010, so we don’t know how many bottles of this stuff are left. A blend of nine premium Caribbean rums aged in oak barrels for up to forty years went into this rum. It has been described as, “an elegant, refined spirit with delicate notes of honey, caramel, citrus fruit and sweet spice.” The decanters are made of hand-blown glass, and are each adorned with an image of the patron saint and protector of bartenders, Hoti. All this enclosed in a walnut case made by hand — quite the presentation!
9. 8-year-old Bacardi, Millennium Edition: $700
To celebrate the new millennium, Bacardi produced just 3,000 bottles of this premium edition 8-year-old rum. Presented in a crystal Baccarat bottle, each was numbered and came accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Ruben Rodriguez, the then-president of Bacardi. The special-edition rum was aged in sherry casks, and the decanters were filled by hand. Many rum aficionados purchased this as an investment, and have yet to open their bottles, meaning the bottles grow even more expensive and tastier with time.
8. Rhum Clement 1952: $1,200
On the site of an old creole sugarcane plantation in Le Francois, Martinique, Habitation Clement has been the home of Rhum Clement for over a century. In 1996, it was declared a heritage site. Homere Clement, a doctor and radical socialist who was mayor of Le Francois, recognized a large demand for alcohol during World War I. Apparently also an entrepreneur, Homere bought land and began the distillery, which passed to his son Charles after his death – Charles is credited with making Rhum Clement so distinctive. Production was moved in 1989, and this particularly pricey 1952 blend is the oldest Clement Rhum made in the original location, giving it a cachet that adds to its reputed spicy, fruity flavour, which is its real power.
7. Havana Club Máximo Extra: $1,700
This rum brand was established in 1878 by José Arechabala, and the brand was held by the family until 1959 when the new government took over the distillery during the Cuban Revolution, nationalizing it. The family left the island and ended up in America after time in Spain. The rum continued to succeed, however, and in 1994 the French liquor company Pernod Ricard partnered with the government-owned company. Máximo Extra was introduced in 2006 by Pernod Ricard. This “ultra-premium, extra-aged rum” has an alcohol content of 40% and is a mix of rums of different ages blended over and over with fresh sugarcane distillate, then aged some more. Sounds delicious!
6. Ron Bacardí de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII: $2,000
Bacardi managed to get two bottles onto this list. This one was a more limited edition rum created by Bacardi for Y2K, hence its price of 2K. With only 1,000 bottles produced globally (to its younger sibling’s 3,000 bottles), only 200 of those bottles were available to the public. To taste the MMXXII, most of us would have to find an establishment that serves it, and even then we’d pay an eyewatering price for just a shot. In a numbered crystal decanter that was hand blown and a walnut stopper, this rum comes with its own leather case, display stand, and a small booklet outlining its story, including details on how the Masters selected the impressive blends that went into it. That’s some expensive reading!
5. British Royal Navy Imperial: $3,000
In Jamaica in 1655 the British Royal Navy first served their own brand of rum to English sailors. It was conceived of for use by His Majesty’s armed men. A major part of British naval life (this might explain both the draw into military life and the penchant many of the Brits have for a hot toddy), the ration or “tot” was reduced in the early 1900s, then abandoned altogether in 1970. This ended over 300 years of tradition on a day now called Black Tot Day: July 31st. British soldiers now perform their duties entirely sober. To commemorate 40 years since Black Tot Day the last reserves of the remaining stock were re-bottled in 2010 under the mark, “Black Tot: Last Consignment” – hence its royal price.
4. 50-year-old Appleton Estate, Jamaica Independence Reserve: $6,630
In 1962 Jamaica became independent from England. Several barrels of different blends of Appleton rum were set aside by the already well-established rum company with the express plan of aging them for 50 years, to then bottle and sell them on the 50th anniversary of the island’s independence. Over the 50 years the rum was overseen by only two Master Blenders: Owen Tulloch, and then his protégée Joy Spence, who is still Appleton’s Master Blender today. In 2012 Jamaica celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence and many Jamaicans (and others) celebrated with this reportedly ultra-smooth and unique, oldest barrel-aged rum ever.
3. 1780 Barbados private estate: $10,667
Harewood House in Leeds, England had a historical tie to a Barbados plantation. One day in the 21st century, the sons of the late Earl of Harewood had servants carry out an inventory on the cellar. Rum bottles which the sons knew were there – but which they had discounted based on appearance alone – were tested for the first time in hundreds of years. Dated back to 1780 according to a cellar ledger, the bottles were covered in a thick layer of mould that took a half hour to remove per bottle. A mix of light and dark rums, the hand blown glass bottles of almost 235-year-old rum sold at auction. They were the most expensive rum has ever auctioned at Christie’s at nearly $11,000 US each.
2. Legacy by Angostura: $25,000
Chances are very few of us will ever taste this limited edition vanity liquor which retails for $6,000 a shot at London’s Playboy Club. Made in Trinidad by Angostura, Master Distiller John Georges admits it was a marketing move. With only 20 bottles produced in 2013 for global distribution, several bottles sold quickly. Chosen from Angostura’s smoothest blends among 80,000 barrels, this rum was made for sipping — mixing this with Coca Cola would be a deplorable move. The bottle was designed by long-time British jeweller, Asprey, is topped with sterling silver, and is presented in a leather-encased, handmade wooden box lined with velvet and silk. Forget the rum – who could even afford the packaging?
1. 1940s bottle of J. Wray & Nephew: $54,000
While so many rums on this list are designed with haute style and extravagant flourishes, the most expensive rum retailed for its huge price thanks entirely to the quality, age and exclusivity of the drink itself.
It’s not surprising the most expensive rum comes from an island made legendary by pirates and bad boys who liked their drink: Jamaica. Even British royalty chose this country for their Royal Navy Imperial. J. Wray and Nephew is one of Jamaica’s oldest rum producers (Appleton, a smaller producer, claims to have been around roughly three-quarters of a century longer), and one of the country’s biggest rum exporters. The parent company was bought by Gruppo Campari in 2012. However, the rum that has claimed the world’s largest price was made long before this — roughly 70 years ago — and there are only four known bottles left. This is because of Trader Vic’s and the Mai Tai craze which began in the 1930s. Once Vic tasted this particular blend, he would reportedly use no other in his cocktails. His establishment literally drank the stash almost out of stock.