Rum Of The Year - 2021
What an amazing year - so many exciting new rums. The depth and quality of rums available in the UK seems to have increased from all corners of the globe. As you'll see below, it's now absolutely normal to discuss the best rums of the year looking far from the usual Caribbean & Central American superstars!
When selecting my rum of the year, I have tried to not only select an outstanding bottle but also to consider price and availability. My very loose criteria is ideally a rum released in 2021, certainly one I first tried in 2021. And a rum that I felt was great value and brought something new & special to the already diverse world of rum.
Bottles like Hampden Great House 2021, the new Rhum Rhum and Mhoba FAQ plastic haven't yet become available in the UK, maybe never will, so they're not in the running this year.
2021 ... more interest in rum, higher prices, more demand, a fight to get some releases. Wider selection, new distilleries, exciting times.
Before getting to the winners. Here's a random splattering of my thoughts, moans and highlights of 2021 ...
A bit controversial but ... I feel that Hampden maybe be losing its status as my number one distillery in Jamaica. My love affair with the iconic distillery is waning thanks, in part, to outstanding rums coming from elsewhere. Most specifically Worthy Park - some really special releases over the last couple of years, with (rumour has it) some exciting new rums coming early next year. Also, unfortunately, I feel that Hampden have made a tiny step towards focussing on quantity over quality - hopefully I'm wrong - all eyes on 2022.
[Worthy Park review here]
On another note, I'm really hoping that next year Appleton fill what I've always thought was a glaring gap in their range. We seem to leap from their 43% great value bar staples (8 & 12 year etc) to the super premium cask strength £200+ hearts collection. There's spaces on my back bar for higher strength Appleton sippers in the £70-120 range, please :-)
[Appleton review here]
Richard Seale - The man with the golden touch - continues to lead the way both in terms of value and quality, not only in Barbados but a benchmark for the rest of the rum world. 2021 ECS releases were, as always, a highlight of the year. Shibboleth matching the highest highs of the series to date. What else can I say [sips Doorly's 14] ... long may it continue. [see my review here]
St Lucia - More great Chairman's releases. Feels a little like these continue to fly under the radar.
Rum festivals are back. Hopefully to stay. Awesome to be able to meet rum friends face to face while drinking an unhealthy number of samples.
Haiti - Clairin - now firmly established as an exciting, requisite style of rum for any bar. This year bolstered by a second Providence (that I can't wait for) and a fifth name in the outstanding Velier Clairin lineup - Sonson! My Clairin tasting earlier in the year was a real highlight and something to repeat as soon as possible! [see my review here]
New distilleries - Stunning releases from some new kids on the block. A really positive shift to terroir drive style and a loads more data allowing rum nuts to find more and more about what's in their glass. My tastings of A1710 rums in Martinique and of the recent releases from Renegade distillery in Granada were more highlights of 2021. [see my reviews of A1710 here and Renegade here]
French Caribbean - Martinique, Guadeloupe & Marie Galante continue to produce some breath-taking rums. Neisson, Labat, Bielle... the list of superstars goes on & on. Sadly we in the UK have yet to grasp this fact and our low interest has a direct impact on availability of these world class rums. Come on people - let's make 2022 the year of cane juice rums in the UK!
In other news - Rhum Rhum has settled into its new home on Marie Galante. Yippee! Please Santa - I'd love a new Liberation Integrale :-)
Independent bottlers - A great year for the independents. The three that immediately come to mind as having a stand out year are Thompson Brothers in Scotland, Boutique-y Rum and Eric of Holmes Cay fame. Some fantastic barrel picks in 2021, greatly enhancing the range of rums available. We urgently need Holmes Cay in the UK ... who's with me?
Far east & Asia - Established cult distilleries such as Savanna in La Reunion and Nine Leaves in Japan have been joined over the last couple of years by (amongst others) Sampan - Vietnam, Chalong Bay - Thailand and Renaissance - Taiwan. 2021 saw a first wave of excellent rums from these distilleries hitting our shores. I hear 2022 has lots to look forward to ;-) [see my review of Chalong Bay & Sampan here]
UK rum - It's great to see a few missing iconic rums finally become available in the UK (Rivers & Rum Fire come immediately to mind).
More importantly, just last week I had the huge pleasure of reviewing some of the growing list of genuine artisan rums being produced here in the UK. World class rum! [see my review here]
South Africa - regular readers of this blog will be under no illusions how impressed I've been by the rum wizard that is Robert Greaves. Some of his experimental rums have been erm ... interesting. But when they are good, they are spectacular [see my reviews here & here]
No more rambling on ... or scrolling down :-) .... The shortlist...
Clairin Sonson - Haiti, 53.2%, £50 - reviewed here
J Gow TBRC- Scotland, 57.2%, £45 - reviewed here
Mhoba HV - South Africa, 64.6%, £90 - reviewed here
Foursquare Shibboleth - Barbados, 56%, £90 - reviewed here
Velier Beenleigh 2006 & 2015 - Australia, 59%, £100/£60 - reviewed here
An the winner???
It's a bargain, it's actually available, it's big, bold and dirty. It brings new and exciting flavours to the rum world. I absolutely love it (and let's be honest - there was only one vote!)
Stephan Kalil Saoud & Luca Gargano, take a bow, Clairin Sonson - awesome rum! Secret Rum Bar - Rum of the Year 2021!
Bring on 2022...