As I travel throughout the Caribbean, I always search for local rums. Although the basic principles of distillation remain unchanged, each island creates spirits with a distinctive style.
In St. Kitts, the market is dominated by Brinley, a family business started in 1986. A new generation took charge in 2002 and decided to make flavored rums. This line, known as Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum, includes iterations of the spirit that are imbued with flavors of spice, vanilla, coffee, mango and coconut. (Brinley also makes a coconut cream, suitable for piña coladas.) In my view, the standouts are the spiced rum, which has been aged four years in used American whiskey and bourbon barrels, and the mango. I had not expected the fruit and the rum to harmonize as well as they did. For a refreshing drink on a hot day, I mix the mango rum with a splash or two of tonic and a slice of lime.
Rums in the Dominican Republic are known for their smoothness (which is not necessarily a characteristic prized on other islands). The Brugal XV Ron Reserva Exclusiva is distilled from molasses, aged in American white-oak barrels and finally blended with rums from three to eight years old. The result is a clear amber spirit with a nose that has notes of oak, honey, butterscotch and a hint of cinnamon. On the palate, I enjoy the butterscotch character, along with the presence of spicy orange. This is a rum I only drink neat, like a single malt. Another Dominican rum of note is the Bermudez 1852 Aniversario. A dark amber in color, it is aged in oak casks for 12 years, which gives it a pronounced smoothness and wonderful depth.