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The best bottles of rum (to channel your inner Hemingway)

From a spirit that hails from Salford, to a rye-aged rum from the Philippines, here are the best bottles of an underrated drink

Rum. It’s an odd one, isn’t it? Sweet, spicy and mysterious in equal measure, it should be as popular as whisky, vodka or gin. But, for some unfathomable reason, this most spirited of spirits has yet to ascend to the heady heights of other much-loved liquors. And even when its most fierce proponent was the original man’s man; Ernest Hemingway.

The infamous novelist and adventurer adored rum. He sipped it straight, mixed it into Mojitos and Daiquiris and even created his own cocktail to showcase the spirit; the ‘Papa Doble’. He drank it dark, light, golden, spiced, by the mouthful, bottle and case. So, if you’re looking for someone to inspire you to more intrepid, daring drinking, what better hero than Hemingway — and what better spirit than rum?

For a well-rounded, locally-grown option, Indica Rum

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway indica

Where’s it from: The Channel Islands, of all places. But it’s a blend — with four of the five distillates hailing from the Caribbean and Americas, and only one created with local Channel Island Indica flowers.

What does it taste like: It’s got the sweet touch you’ll be looking for — with hints of butterscotch and caramel on the palate. But it’s not all sugar and spice; there’s a savoury side of grass, herbs and vegetation in there, too.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: Probably poured from his hip flask as he wandered across the plains of the Serengeti. Because nothing builds up a thirst like tracking big game through the bush.

For a deep, rich hit of flavour, The Salford Dark Spiced Rum

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway salford

Where’s it from: Take a guess. The docks of Salford, specifically — once one of Britain’s biggest importers of rum, fruits and spices from the Caribbean.

What does it taste like: Spice. Thanks to eight years maturing in ex-bourbon casks, this handsomely bottled rum is a symphony of vanilla, clove, cinnamon, hazelnut and dried fruits — all wrapped up with a whisper of caramel.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: On a hot beach somewhere, while turning the rum-stained, well-thumbed pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — one of the author’s favourite novels.

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway salford

The Salford Dark Spiced Rum

£28.95

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For a smoky, oaky finish, Enghaven Black Strap Rum

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway black strap

Where’s it from: Enghaven itself — a small, dedicated batch rum distillery just outside Aabybro in the Jammerbugt municipality of northern Denmark.

What does it taste like: Not as mean and piratey as it looks. In fact, this one’s quite a smooth spirit — with honey, stone fruits and berries running through it, before disappearing in a puff of oaky smoke.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: Definitely while sparking up and chomping down on the fattest Cuban cigar he could get his calloused hands on.

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway black strap

Enghaven Black Strap Rum

£42.75

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For an authentic Caribbean rum, Cashcane Extra Old Rum

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway cashcane extra old

Where’s it from: The golden triangle of the Caribbean; Barbados, Trinidad and Panama.

What does it taste like: It’s deeper and darker than the golden colour suggests. The smooth, silky flavours of vanilla and fruit coat the mouth — but the punchier notes of coffee spice and extra strong vanilla are what stay with you.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: Sailing down to Key West on the Hawk Channel — with a swiggably uncorked bottle of this in one hand and probably a speargun (or something equally dangerous) in the other.

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway cashcane extra old

Cashcane Extra Old Rum

£39.75

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For a deceptively dark Cuban option, Pacto Navio

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway pacto navio

Where’s it from: The distillery of San José de Las Lajas, just outside Havana. Created from a blend of meticulously selected aged Cuban rum bases, this is the real sun-soaked deal.

What does it taste like: A summer holiday. Lingering fruits, spicy aromas and bursts of citrus. But there’s also a certain complexity — with hints of caramel, vanilla and cinnamon giving Pacto Navio worldly depths.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: Mixed into an El Presidente, no doubt. And likely sipped at in some dark and stormy Cuban basement bar while a tropical hurricane whips by outside.

For something completely different, Don Papa Rye Aged

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway don papa rye

Where’s it from: The foothills of Mount Kanlaon, on the island of Negros, in the Philippines — aged for four years in reclaimed American rye casks.

What does it taste like: No other rum that’s ever passed your lips. Fresh mint and cedarwood. Cracked black pepper and gold molasses. It redefines rum — and somehow tastes even better than its intricate bottle looks.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: Mixed into a Double Dark Daiquiri, or Black Daiquiri. Probably in El Floridita — a favourite haunt of Hemingway’s on Old Havana’s Monserrate Street.

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway don papa rye

Don Papa Rye Aged

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For a tart, tangy — but fruity — option, Navy Island Rum

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Where’s it from: Again, clue’s in the name. A small tropical island off the coast of Port Antonio, Jamaica — used by the British Royal Navy in the 18th century.

What does it taste like: Better than the old swill those sailors had to hand, we’d wager. Fruity and floral — with flamed orange peel, poached pear and pleasingly tart notes of red apple punching through.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: In a toast to celebrate just reeling in that monstrous, iridescent marlin now flailing around dangerously on deck. It’s okay; he’ll deal with it later.

For a reliable, no-nonsense rum, Companero Gran Reserva

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Where’s it from: Another Danish offering, blended using traditional Jamaican pot-still rum and Trinidad column-still rum.

What does it taste like: Hemingway in a bottle. Steady, flavourful oak. Rich, heady tobacco smoke. Rounded caramel and banana. It’s a reliable rum done incredibly well. No bells. No whistles. Just great rum.

How would Hemingway have enjoyed it: How else? Propped up, late afternoon, against his writing desk. One eye on his trusty typewriter — the other on a simple tumbler of this stripped-back, no-nonsense rum.

best rum 2020 dark spiced bottles hemingway companero gran reserva

Companero Gran Reserva Rum

£41.75

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Still more into gin? Here are six of the best bottles you’ve never heard of…

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