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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Rum Of The Year 2023

What a year. Scarily quick. Scary generally. Personally a milestone year, saying goodbye to our beloved home and basement bar. And a step closer to exciting new things.

Rumwise, looking back each winter I often see that my year has centered around rum travel and the predictable immersion into new rum styles I have experienced.

  • 2022 was all about the incredible rums of Madeira (my overview of their fascinating rum history and distilleries is here).

  • The theme of 2023 was, without doubt, the spectacular islands and rums of Guadeloupe & Marie Galante (see my travel tips and distillery overviews here).

Before getting down and dirty with the finalists, here's my usual random potted summary of 2023's rummy highs and lows...

Innovation and blurring the lines - The two highlights of 2023 for me have been:

  • seeing the growth of new emerging innovative brands - like the fantastic Papa Rouyo in Guadeloupe, the cluster of superstars in Scotland, and several new Aussie rums (I reviewed a few here) firmly establishing Australia as a major player on the rum map. Bottler and specialist aging house Dead Reckoning Rum making waves since they became available in Europe (Killik daiquiris - yum!). The list goes on and on.

  • and the culmination of bold moves from several historic brands to step away from recently accepted norms and open their arms to the traditional, exciting, multifarious world of rum production.

    • Foursquare growing sugarcane and using its fresh cane juice in varying degrees through a variety of their single blended rums.

    • Worthy Park using its established cane fields to not only produce its own sugar and molasses but now also to use for pure fresh cane juice rums.

    • Mount Gay's long-term, slightly secret project to build and run its own sugar mill - providing full control over the quality of their molasses and culminating in the release of the first Mount Gay single estate rum.

IWSC winners ... The Rum Family!

  • Rum Producer Trophy - Worthy Park

  • Industry Champion - Richard Seale

  • Spirits Communicator Trophy - 'The Rum Ambassador' Ian Burrell

Rum leading the way in a world of inflation - soaring prices have been the norm over the last few years and 2023 was no different. Mount Gay deserves a special mention here too, but they're not alone in passing on the increased costs of production plus a bit extra to reflect the flippers and investors jumping on the rum bandwagon. Appleton 17 Mai Tai's anyone?

The year of rum, or have a few gone too heavy too quickly - The International Wine and Spirits Competition [IWSC] declared 2023 - "the year of rum". It certainly feels that rum has come of age as a widely recognized serious dram.

Targeting this moment, several big names have been investing heavily and implementing new operations on a huge scale - I wonder if innovative new giants like Renegade in Grenada and DropWorks in the UK are not quite seeing the level of sales growth that they had expected? (I wouldn't be surprised to see more pre-sale of casks and other marketing drives in 2024)

Festivals - Yes yes yes!! Rum is about the people... the rum fam ... and festivals are always my highlight. You lot are great and I can't wait for more fun next year. Uber blogger Lance of The Lone Caner has done everyone a huge favour and compiled a list of all the 2024 Rum Festivals!

Secret Rum Bar 2023 Tasting Highlights - I really enjoyed the 'side by side' format this year, my most memorable (and most read) reviews were...

A rundown of the highlights of any year wouldn't be complete without mentioning Foursquare's coveted annual releases. This year I had the pleasure of reviewing

Rum of the Year (ROTY) Criteria

  • Must be something I have tasted and reviewed since my last ROTY

  • Ideally, rums that offer good value and are reasonably accessible

  • Must be delicious (obviously) and hopefully bring something unique & interesting.

Fancy a look back? My last two ROTY are here (2021 and 2022).

This selection criteria rules out many of the incredible rums that I had the pleasure of tasting in 2024. Not least the plethora of new releases I tried at rum festivals like WhiskyLive in Paris - as many of these are not yet available, I haven't got around to reviewing them, or they're stupidly rare & expensive.

The finalists 

Mhoba Antipodes Collection - following in the footsteps of 2021 runner-up Habitation Velier Mhoba, this South African unicorn is tight on the selection criteria but I made an exception for it as there were bottles on the shelves of rum shops in Paris for many months after it's release. It blew my socks off when I reviewed it back in April and was deservedly crowned joint winner of my epic Mhoba tasting ... the bourbon & cape red wine double aging lifted this to another level. Delicious rum.

Habitation Velier Last Ward 2007/2009 - a pair of quite old releases, possibly not rums some would expect to feature on a 2023 rum of the year. These landmark bottles are still frequently available for under £100 (I bought a pair in Europe for EUR80 each just a few weeks ago). Reviewed this year in my Ultimate Mount Gay Tasting they scored very well and presented exceptional value. Hence I had no doubt that either of these flavour bombs deserved a place in my 2023 ROTY final. New, very pricey releases from Mount Gay cemented my decision - I suspect the remaining bottles won't hang around for long.

Sugarhouse Blood Tub - representing Scotland, a very limited, but hopefully annual release from Sugarhouse Distillery. This, the second blood tub, was reviewed alongside the inaugural release days after I published the 2022 ROTY (Blood Tub review here). Given the breadth and quality of Scottish rum releases this year there had to be one in the final. This was my pick of the bunch.

Warehouse#1 NYE/WK - representing an impressive new line of unaged Jamaican rums from the Czech bottler. I reviewed the full lineup *at the time. Several more exciting options have since been added (see my review of the range here). Against stiff competition including a fabulous new pure cane juice Worthy Park, this New Yarmouth monster was my pick.

Rhum Neisson blanc 52.5% - A longstanding staple at the Secret Rum Bar, eligible for the 2023 ROTY as I compared it to the bio version in May (here). Scoring higher for me than its bio sister, this classic clean unaged Martinique Agricole offered easily the best value against other unaged Neisson rums - arguably the best value of anything I've reviewed this year!

...drum roll....

And the winner... Secret Rum Bar ROTY 2023 ...

Sip cautiously, add a drop to make daiquiri magic, Warehouse#1 unaged lineup, notably the New Yarmouth beast WK!

...thanks for all the support and positive feedback this year, I don't make a penny from this blog, I buy all my own bottles, and it's more time-consuming than the dodgy quality of the output suggests :-) So it's great to hear that a few people enjoy it. Cheers, and I hope 2024 is kind to you all!

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Jan 01

Thanks for all the articles, you're one of my favourite reads, and I pay attention when you advise what's great 🎊

Stuart Pearce
Stuart Pearce
Jan 01
Replying to

Kind words. Thanks Sean 😁

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