Pouring a glass of whisky with ice from a decanter, in a dark background.
Why You Shouldn't Trust The Age Labels On Rum
By Chandler Phillips
Aging is a crucial part of curating the depth of flavor of a spirit because the subtle reactions ethanol has with air, water, and oak allow it to mellow. Rum is a primary spirit that features an age statement on the label, but given the vast diversity of rum, that age statement might not always be the best indicator of quality.
Age statements on rum are supposed to indicate the age of the youngest spirit in the blend, but certain blending techniques obscure a spirit's true age. For example, the solera method continuously adds liquor to the barrels, so by the time a barrel is ready for bottling, it may be a blend of anything between a 20-year-old and two-year-old rum.
Judging solely by an age statement with rum may be a moot point, especially with varying regulations — for instance, Puerto Rican spirits must be aged for at least three years to be called rum, but Martinique has designations that reflect French cognac labels. In addition, the location of the aging can impact the rum's flavor due to the changes in atmospheric pressure.
Rum has no regional designation, no universal age requirements, and just has to be made with sugar cane or sugar cane by-products, which can make it hard to know which rums are best. It’s important to first figure out what types of rum you like and keep an eye out for words that describe the casking, as some are aged in sherry casks and others in repurposed bourbon barrels.