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Barbados may have been the birthplace of rum historically, but Jamaica was one of those islands that took the rum-making process and made it into their own. That decision taken so many years ago has resulted in the production of a range of quality Jamaican rums including white rum, golden rum, aged rum, and overproof rum. Though these are the most common rums produced in Jamaica, there are a wide variety of options available.
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The distinctive fermentation technique used to produce Jamaican rum sets it apart from rums made in other countries. As there are many different brands of Jamaican rum, finding the best one can really be a matter of sifting through reviews and tasting for yourself.
If you’re planning on traveling to Jamaica and want to taste some of the best rums produced on this island, we’ve listed some of our favorites that you can try during your vacation. Before getting to that though, we'll touch on a bit of Jamaica's rum history.
Good to know: Jamaica is known and loved for its amazing food, and the country’s vibrant drink options, including rums, are a great complement to the local fare. Here are some of the best Jamaica resorts where you can enjoy tasty and authentic Jamaican food and drinks.
History of Jamaican Rum
Some refer to rum as the “national drink of Jamaica”. Even those who disagree with that statement have to admit that rum, in all its forms, is one of the most popular Jamaican drinks available. This industry has been a significant contributor to the economy of Jamaica since the 17th century. The history of rum in Jamaica is quite complex, and it's important to note that sugar plays a significant role in the rum-making process.
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In 1494, when Christopher Columbus brought sugar to Jamaica, he also brought alcohol. In Jamaica, the rum industry started with the establishment of Appleton Estate in 1749. The site of the Appleton Estate dates back to 1665 when the island became a British colony after prior Spanish rule. The British are credited for having brought with them the intricate details of the rum-making and distilling process from Barbados, which was the hub of rum-making in the Caribbean. The rum-making process was fine-tuned in Jamaica and as a result, grew to the point that the industry began to thrive.
There was a slump after the rum boom as various factors slowed the growth of the rum industry in Jamaica. This includes the anti-slavery movement and the war between Britain and France. The decline was significant by the early 1900s with the number of distilleries decreasing from 148 in 1893 to around 25 in 1948. Though there are still fewer distilleries in Jamaica today as compared to the days of the industry boom, the quantity of rum on the island has grown exponentially. There’s also a much wider variety available that has helped Jamaican rum secure its place among the most well-known rums in the world.
Expert tip: If you’re over the age of 18, you’ll be able to try some of the premium Jamaica rums at Negril resorts and Ocho Rios resorts. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included for guests at Beaches Resorts in these areas.
What makes Jamaican rum so unique?
The way that Jamaica rum is produced is one of the things that makes it so unique. There are strict regulations for the production of rum on this island. This is not the reality for many other rum-producing countries, and these strict enforcements assist in maintaining the quality of Jamaican rums. In terms of production, this is overseen by the Jamaican government. There are legal processes in place to ensure that any rum claiming to be made in Jamaica was actually made in Jamaica.
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Distilleries in Jamaica are allowed to mix up to 2.5% of another ingredient, like sugar, with their rums, in accordance with a law that applies throughout the Caribbean. This is done so that there is more flavor overall. Jamaican rum is manufactured by fermenting molasses in large casks called “puncheons,” and it is recognized for its robust flavor. It is distilled using a method that dates back to the 17th century and involves the use of pot stills. Jamaican rum, like other full-bodied rums, gets its signature flavor from a “wild” or natural fermentation process.
The government of Jamaica is in charge of both the certification of rum exports and the production of the molasses used in Jamaican rums. The latter (molasses) is produced in collaboration with privately owned mills in Jamaica before being sold to distilleries. In Jamaica, the stated ages of the rums produced are examined very carefully. To aid in this process, the government of Jamaica keeps tabs on each barrel as it ages in the country’s distilleries. This allows for the verification, through records, that the stated age of a bottle accurately reflects the youngest spirit contained therein rather than an average of all the ages of the spirits. All of these regulations help ensure that Jamaica rum is top quality.
Best rums in Jamaica
Some of the best rums in Jamaica include the Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, the Worthy Park Estate Rum-Bar White Overproof Rum, the Hampden Estate Pure Single Rum 46% ABV, and the Appleton Estate 12-Year Old Rare Blend. Here’s what you need to know about the distilleries that produce these rums and the brands themselves:
One of Jamaica’s oldest and most recognizable sugar estates is Appleton Estate. After so many years in business, Appleton Estates has become the gold standard of Jamaican rum. If you’ve had any of the rums from this distillery, you know that they set a very high bar for themselves.
Joy Spence, Master Distiller, has been in charge of the Appleton distillery since 1997. Due to its “cane-to-cocktail” philosophy, Appleton handles every step of the production process, from cultivating and harvesting sugarcane to distilling, maturing, and blending rum from start to finish on its own premises. This estate offers a wide variety of rums, including their signature rum, as well as rums aged 8-, 12-, 15-, and 21- years, with occasional limited edition blends.
In Jamaica, not only can you sample Appleton rum, but you can also visit the estate where it is produced. The Appleton Rum tour is among the most popular rum tours available on this island. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at rum manufacturing and learn about the numerous steps involved in its production. You’ll also be able to purchase your favorite rum from Appleton Estate to take home with you.
Insider tip: Guests of Beaches and Sandals Resorts can enjoy Appleton Rum with their all-inclusive vacation! As long as you’re 18 or older, you’ll be able to indulge at one of the many bars or swim-up bars in these resorts.
Wray and Nephew
Wray and Nephew is considered the sister brand of Appleton Estate. This brand dates back to 1825 and was started by John Wray. Wray was a bar owner and businessman and his concept was further developed by his nephew, Charles Ward, an entrepreneur, in 1860. The brand is named after Wray and his nephew.
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If you’re searching for the perfect overproof white rum to try while in Jamaica, you can start off by sampling Wray and Nephew. Their white rum is one of the most popular rums in Jamaica. A taste of Wray and Nephew mixed in with a little water or grapefruit soda is a popular combination for their white rum. The Wray and Nephew overproof white rum has a whopping 63% alcohol. As it is quite potent, this certainly is not a rum that you’re going to want to shoot.
While in Jamaica, you’ll be able to find Wray and Nephew rum at most bars and rum shops. Wray and Nephew is one of the largest exporters in the Caribbean and their products are available in and out of Jamaica. If you go to Appleton Estate during your Jamaica vacation, you’ll be able to learn more about Wray and Nephew and even purchase some to take home with you.
Blackwell Rum was founded by Chris Blackwell of Island Records, a multi-national record label. Creators of this rum promise a taste of Jamaica with their products which are distilled, blended, and bottled by Wray & Nephew in the style of an old family rum recipe. Blackwell’s mother is said to have owned Wray & Nephew and Appleton Estate at one point.
According to the creator, Blackwell Rum is a rum that “celebrates Jamaica, my friendships,and also my family legacy.” In terms of flavor, you can expect warm vanilla tones combined with the burnt taste of sugar and molasses. You can drink this rum on the rocks, or you can have it included as part of a well-mixed cocktail in Jamaica.
Worthy Park Rum
Jamaican rum is well-known around the world for its distinct flavor and high quality and Worthy Park is one of the producers responsible for this accolade. The Worthy Park Estate where this rum is produced is located in Lluidas Vale. This is an area that is surrounded by mountain ranges and lush and fertile terrain. Lluidas Vale is in the central parish of St. Catherine which is known for its traditional Jamaican rum.
Worthy Park Estate is about a 50-minute drive from Kingston and Ocho Rios. This estate has been producing rum since 1655. As there was an over-supply of Jamaica Rum after World War II, production was stopped in 1962 when an agreement was made with the Spirits Pool Association of Jamaica.
The distillery at Worthy Park Estate was established in 2005 when the estate re-opened for business. Worthy Park Estate has an extensive line of rum that includes Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve, the Worthy Park Special Cask Series, Worthy Park 109 Proof, Rum-Bar Rum, and others. While in Jamaica, you can take a tour of the Worthy Park Estate distillery. You’ll need to book a tour here in advance.
Rum-Bar Rum is a premium White Overproof Rum made in Jamaica. Established in 2007, this rum is made by Worthy Park Estate in Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica. The Rum-Bar Rum brand has three different types of rum including Silver, Gold, and White Overproof — all of these varieties are distilled in copper pot stills from Scotland.
Rum-Bar’s Gold Rum stands out as it is aged for at least four years in bourbon barrels. This is done in order to mellow out the apple and banana flavors of the rum with notes of vanilla. An interesting product to try from this brand is their Rum Cream which is a blend of their White Overproof rum and heavy cream. Once you try this drink, you just might be convinced it is exactly what’s been missing from your after-dinner coffee collection.
Worthy Park Estate also produces Hamilton Rum. Ed Hamilton, a well-known rum importer and author, created this rum. According to the rum’s history, Hamilton Rum was created after some research into the needs of bartenders, bar owners, and liquor store owners across the United States. As a result, several distinct Jamaica rums were created, including Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum, Jamaican Pot Still Gold Rum, and Jamaican Pimento Dram. Hamilton manufactures and imports rums from all over the Caribbean.
You should try Hamilton’s Black Rum if you’re looking for something with a more intense aroma and more pronounced flavor. This rum’s noticeable banana and fruit flavor comes from the double-strength black sugar-based caramel used in its production. Lighter in color and taste, Gold Rum features pineapple and citrus undertones. This flavor is made with gold-tint caramel. While in Jamaica, you should also try the liqueur Pimento Dram. This option combines Jamaican Pimento, also known as allspice pot still rum, and raw sugar. The end result is a product that adds a unique twist to punches and rum cocktails.
Fred L. Myers founded Myer’s Rum in Kingston, Jamaica in 1879. This is one of the family-owned quality rums available in Jamaica that has achieved international acclaim. The Myers family says this rum ‘represents over 140 years of authentic rum heritage, pride, and history’. This rum is made with pure Jamaican molasses and it is distilled continuously in pot stills before maturing in white oak barrels. Once that part of the process is complete, the rum is meticulously blended to achieve a distinct color, aroma, and flavor.
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There's a lot of work that goes into making this rum, so it’s no surprise that it’s a fan favorite in Jamaica. The Platinum White rum from Myers’ is also good, but the Original Dark rum is where the brand’s popularity really lies. Notes of caramel, honey, and dark chocolate can be found in the dark rum’s flavor profile. Myers’s Rum is widely available in Jamaica in bars around the island.
Hampden Estate is located in Trelawny Parish in the northwest of Jamaica. This is one the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica and it is one of those that you will be able to tour while there. Hampden Estate is the only distillery on this island that specializes exclusively in the making of heavy pot still rums.
Getting a little deeper into the rum-making process at Hampden Estate, the rum here is made with wild fermentation, natural spring water, and in pot stills. The end product is rums that have a distinctly funky flavor due to their high levels of esters which is a chemical compound that’s a result of the fermentation process.
Though there are a couple of products made at Hampden Estate, the brand’s flagship rum is the Hampden Estate Pure Single. This is an 84-proof variety that has notes of nearly overripe tropical fruits, smoke, and spices.
Monymusk Plantation Rums
Monymusk Plantation Rums is run by the National Rums of Jamaica. Located in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, this is a joint venture between a branch of the Jamaican government and two private companies. Monymusk rums are produced at Clarendon distillery — this is a large, modern distillery that is also partially owned by Captain Morgan’s parent company.
This plantation has been in operation since 1655 and it is one of the oldest in Jamaica. Monymusk produces several rums including a few that are available in the United States such as Special Gold Rum, Classic Gold Rum, and Special Reserve. Each of these rums is aged in American oak barrels for at least two years.
The Gold rums produced by Monymusk are full of orange, fruit, and caramel. If you’re thinking about trying them in Jamaica, keep in mind that the Special Gold is the lighter and sweeter of the two. The Special Reserve rum has an extended aging period of ten years and it is complete with tastes of rich vanilla, spice, and caramel. This rum is smooth and can be sipped on its own or on the rocks.
Try the best rum in Jamaica on your vacation!
With a long history of rum production, it's no surprise that Jamaica is recognized for the rum it produces today. This island is home to a number of rum distilleries, many of which offer tours. Whether you opt to take a distillery tour on your visit or simply drink on a blend of local rum while lounging on the beach at an all-inclusive resort, these brands have multiple options you just might want to bring home to remember your time in Jamaica.
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Expert tip: The Caribbean is certainly one of the rum capitals of the world, but Caribbean beers are also quite popular! If you’re ever in nearby and curious about the local breweries, you should check out a tour of the Turks Head Brewery and sample some of its offerings.