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Taste Test: Spiced Rum

Spiced rum

Spiced rum is a category of spirits that often gets no respect. And for good reason, too: it's usually pretty gross. But there are times when spiced rum can be useful. Mixing up a punch or grog, for example, or giving a little extra zing to a Rum and Coke. What should you do in those cases?

We sampled six popular spiced rums to find which ones you can safely use, and which you should avoid. Here are the results.

Coruba Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml)

Jamaican rums are probably my favorite overall, so I was looking forward to this one. Sadly, it didn't match up to the quality and taste of Coruba's dark rum. It has the typical spiced rum flavor profile of vanilla, cinnamon and caramel. But that's about it. This isn't a bad rum, but it's slightly harsh and much lighter than regular Coruba. Nothing much to recommend it.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Score: four stars(Highly Recommended)
Price: $17 (750ml)

This is by far the highest octane rum in the bunch, clocking in at a whopping 92 proof. You can smell the ethanol when you lift the glass to your mouth. This stuff doesn't mess around. It's also very strong tasting — this isn't a subtle spirit. But the flavor works very well. Lots of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and cloves, maybe even a little almonds in there. It has just the right amount of sweetness, giving it a nice balance. My favorite of the bunch.

Captain Morgan Sherry Oak Finish Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $20 (750ml) 

The ubiquitous privateer Captain Morgan makes a foray into the finished rum category with this new offering, which rests in Sherry casks after aging. It starts out well, with a sweet and fruity aroma that's appealing. The taste is also sweet and fruity, and the Sherry flavor is there — but so is a chemically aftertaste. I could have recommended this as a sweeter spiced rum if not for that odd, off-putting note.

Shellback Caribbean Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml)

I had good things to say about Shellbacks Silver Rum when I reviewed it a while back. Unfortunately, their spiced rum doesn't earn the same praise. It has the same overpowering aroma of vanilla extract — which is not a deal breaker; this is spiced rum, after all — and the vanilla continues onto the palate. But that's all there was. Lots of sweet, artificial vanilla, with little other spice.

Bacardi Oakheart
Score: three stars(Recommended)
Price: $15 (750ml)

I'm not usually a fan of Bacardi's offerings — their mainstay rums are just too flavorless to be of any interest — but their spiced rum brings something nice to the table. Oakheart has a rich, fruity smell — lots of plum and vanilla. The taste is pleasantly spiced (cinnamon) and fruity, with some caramel-like sweetness. There's a little bit of oak, but not as much as the name would imply. A solid spiced rum and one of the two best overall.

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum
Score: one star(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml) 

I love Cruzan rums in general, but this was a bomb. It reeks of brine and medicine, and the taste is the same. An overload of spice with salt and pepper, allspice and juniper assaulting the senses. It ends up all running together and tasting pungent. A spiced rum shouldn't be sweet, necessarily, but it should have some sweetness. This was too dry. A disappointment.

The Bottom Line:

Sailor Jerry and Bacardi Oakheart were the best spiced rums of this batch. Both are recommended, but Sailor Jerry is better, and its higher proof means it will stand up in cocktails especially well.

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Drink Recipes Rum

Recipe: Coquito (Puerto Rican “Egg Nog”)

Want to try something new for your holiday libation this year? Mix up a batch of Coquito! This is the traditional Puerto Rican version of Egg Nog, and it's muy delicioso.

 

Coquito (Puerto Rican “Egg Nog”)

1 can Coconut Milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (minus 2 ounces)
6 Egg Yolks
1 ½ Cups Rum
½ teaspoon Cinnamon, plus more for Garnish

Whisk or blend together the egg yolks and rum until well beaten.* Add equal amounts of the three milks, plus the cinnamon, and mix until combined.

Pour into glass bottles with stoppers and refrigerate. It should keep for at least a week. (And probably much longer.)

Sprinkle with freshly-ground cinnamon before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by author Sarah McCoy (handed down from her abuelita, Maria Esparra Norat).

*There is always some risk to consuming raw eggs. However, the risk is very small, and combining them with the alcohol in this fashion makes it even smaller.

 

This Coquito is very easy to make and delicious. I whipped mine up in the blender — the only drawback was that it was more liquid than the carafe could hold, so I had to do it in batches. Next time I'd probably do it in a bowl with the mixer.

You should probably make this with a Puerto Rican rum, just to be authentic. Either white or gold would work, although I think white is more traditional. I'm not a fan of Bacardi (the most common Puerto Rican rum), but you could try Don Q or Ron del Barrilito.

There are endless variations you can make with this same basic recipe. You could add nutmeg, vanilla, banana, more rum, whatever you like.

¡Salud, amor y pesetas!