I’ve yet to visit a Central American country in which I found the local rum to be disappointing. Nicaragua has my favorite, the rich and smooth Flor de Caña Centenary 18, with Guatemala’s complex Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 coming in a close second.
Belizean distilleries make some commendable rums as well, and on this visit I made a point of sampling several of them. In addition to the selections below, I recommend looking for rums produced by Belcampo Belize, the distillery of which was not yet in operation during my stay.
Made by Belize’s most famous distillery, this 3-year-old rum has a light and dry caramel aroma, and notes of vanilla and banana. Belcampo Belize’s bartender suggested pairing it with my chocolate tasting, and it worked beautifully with a brownie, becoming more spicy and powerful.
Aged an additional two years, the 5 Barrel rum has more of a coconut note in its nose, deeper flavors of caramel and crème brûlée, and a lift of tobacco freshness on the finish. It wasn’t as interesting as the 3 Barrel with the brownie, but it cut right through some spiced chocolate pudding.
This unaged rum appears most frequently in cocktails, but I tried it unmixed over ice. It was quite a pleasant surprise, with a clear note of chocolate followed by light spice and a touch of mint at the end.
Travellers released this spiced rum in August 2015, and according to the local Ambergris Today newspaper, it’s “hangover free.” I didn’t test that dubious assertion, but I did try the rum mixed with a splash of coconut water. The drink tasted balanced, with appealing flavors of allspice, cinnamon and coconut. It reminded me a bit of Mexican horchata (sweetened rice milk flavored with vanilla and cinnamon).
The finance director of a large Illinois car dealership came up with the idea for Tiburón. After purchasing a second home on Ambergris Caye, Basil DeStefano decided he wanted to make rum, and approached Travellers for help. Together, they crafted this blend of rums aged in used oak bourbon barrels from Kentucky. It had enticing aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and wood, and I enjoyed its classic vanilla and caramel flavors. The long finish started with some powerful spice and herbaceous freshness, eventually mellowing into more of a molasses tone. You can also find this rum in California, Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.