Old and Bold: Why aged rums are the considered gift this winter

We're raising a glass to the noble art of sipping — with four toast-worthy rums

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the noble art of the sip — the overlooked, underestimated, near-forgotten power of sipping. You might chug a beer. You sometimes glug a glass of wine. You spray a magnum of champagne. You swill a balloon of brandy. But a rum? Now that’s for sipping. And thinking. And swirling. And considering. And conversing.

Sure, whisky might hold similar properties (and I know of one Tennessee brand that proclaims itself the king of the art). But rum — good, aged, rich, complex rum — now that’s the real sipper’s choice. It is warm without burning; intense but mellow at once. And in an age where everything has slowed down, and family is more important than ever, and the art of conversation regains its power, and listening is the answer — a bottle of aged rum does more than simply warm the depths.

bacardi rum

With a sip of rum — sat in front of a fire, or round a table, or at a kitchen counter — things begin to glow and soften. There’s that warmth, the touch of sweetness, a sprinkling of pineapple and toasted almond, those drops of vanilla and honeyed nougat and cinnamon spice. This is not the stuff of damp moors or barren hills — it’s a carnival of sunshine and beaches and tropics and music.

To give a bottle to a friend, a cousin, a colleague this Christmas is to give them a little dash of conversation and laughter, even if you can’t share the real thing. It is a liquid reminder of the good times, in all their colourful, unpredictable glory. It’s a sip for the future.

bacardi rum

Take the case of the Bacardi Gran Riserva Diez. It took ten years to get here, and it’s not going anywhere soon. It is a thing of mellow, mature beauty, aged in barrels for a decade under the Caribbean sun. Expect notes of vanilla, dry spice, tobacco and marzipan on the nose, before a palette of butterscotch, treacle, almond and nutmeg.

"The Bacardi Gran Riserva Diez is a thing of mellow, mature beauty, aged in barrels for a decade under the Carribean sun..."

The Diez is a considered drink, and confident all on its own — no ice or adornments needed. Pour a measure in a rocks glass and let it unwind and open up before you. A true elder statesman in the Bacardi stable, it is an ideal gift for the grandfather that appreciates the slower pace of life.

The Bacardi Reserva Ocho, meanwhile, is inspired by a family recipe from 1862 — and is often known as the Family Reserve. Well, it’s good of them to share the fun. There’s a gentle spice here that comes from the eight years of ageing, and a playful sophistication met with sweet warmth.

It does a fine job in an Ocho Old Fashioned — a subtle twist on what’s known as the ‘original’ cocktail — where the syrup, Angostura Bitters and orange zest bring out notes of marmalade, dried apricot, oaked spice and fresh coffee. On the palate it truly comes to life: chocolatey, zesty, jammy, with an undercurrent of vanilla-flecked oak. It is a passionate, deep rum to give to old friends.

bacardi rum

Santa Teresa 1796 is a rum that lends you a sense of perspective with every sip. The spirit itself was unveiled in 1996 to celebrate the bicentenary of the foundation of the grand old hacienda. But it’s in the liquid where things get really interesting. Santa Teresa 1796 is crafted using the ancient solera method, passed on from maestro to maestro.

Essentially, it means that the original cask from 1796 has never been emptied. Instead, each time a bottle is poured out, a slightly younger rum is poured into its place. This means that every single bottle of the rum has the essence of the very first 1796 cast flecked through it. Here, 1796 is not just a number — it’s a promise.

This is a bottle, as such, for the historian in your life. They’ll enjoy it for its age-old mellow properties and mysterious depths. Expect notes of honeyed sherry, cocoa and vanilla, followed by a mature palette of buttery chocolate, smooth coffee and rich, biscuity notes.

Finally, there’s the Bacardi Anejo Cuatro. This one’s spent four years in barrels under the tropical sun, and it has a vitality and energy to match.

"The Bacardi Anejo Cuatro boasts notes of dry caramel, freshly cracked black pepper, and vanilla fudge..."

With enveloping notes of toasty oak, nutmeg spice, toffee and warm cinnamon, it is a spritely sipper that can be served over rocks, or tall and long in a highball. The palate boast dry caramel, freshly cracked black pepper, and vanilla fudge notes — give it to your most sociable friend as a happy, punchy, glowing reminder of warmer climes and brighter times ahead.

Looking for another alternative tipple? Here’s why you should be buying a fresh bottle of vermouth…

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