Four Fantastic Rums and Why They're So Good

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Welcome back to our rum-soaked pleasure cruise as we seek out the Valley's best sugarcane-based spirits. Last week, Dwayne Allen, co-owner of the Rum Bar in downtown Phoenix, introduced us to the joys of fine sipping rums. And now he's back to break down the literally hundreds of varieties of rums, rhums and cachacas, aka the fiery Brazilian spirit made with virgin sugarcane. So grab your snifter, and your sniffer, because to truly understand the rum-maker's art, you'll need all of your senses, starting with your schnoz.

Yes, you should never be afraid to shove your nose right into your glass of rum, Allen says. That's because each spirit's unique aromas will tell you a story about what you're about to drink. If it's smoky, complex and spicy-sweet, you're about to taste a rum made with rich molasses and a long aging process. If it's delicately fruity with hints of toasted sugar, you're about to savor a refined rhum agricole from the French West Indies.

And if it's overwhelmingly cloying, reeking of cheap molasses and artificial-smelling spices, you'll want to pour that Captain Morgan's right down the drain.

Find four fantastic rums after the jump.

First, Allen says it's important to understand that rum is like the Wild West of liquors. Unlike fussier spirits such as scotch or cognac, which are tightly regulated and must contain specific ingredients and be bottled in specific regions, rum is made wherever you find sugarcane. Furthermore, rum can be distilled, aged and bottled anywhere, which is why you'll find rums from distinctly non-tropical locales such as Britain, France, Holland and even Tennessee and Oregon.

Take The Old Mill Rum, which starts with a young spirit from the Cruzan distillery in St. Croix, that's been shipped to Oregon and aged in barrels made from American oak. According to Allen, the cooler climes of the Pacific Northwest infuse the rum with softer, apple-accented notes, versus the same variety of rum aged in the tropics.

(That said, as soon as I heard Oregon plus rum, all I could think was finishing my script for "The Goonies 2: the Revenge of One-Eyed Willy.")

So let's quickly run through four varieties of sugarcane spirits.

1. Sagatiba

The first on our list is a popular Brazilian cachaca. Crystal clear and featuring a dry, fruity aroma, you can almost taste the grassy flavors of the pure, unprocessed sugarcane that's been lightly-aged with Brazilian rainforest woods versus traditional oak casks.

2. Barbancourt Five Star

This is an eight-year-old Haitian rhum agricole. Smoky and slightly sweet-smelling, the taste is more rounded, but still fiery and warming as it spreads down the throat.

3. Myer Legend

This one comes from Allen's own private stock -- a premium, 10-year-old molasses-based rum from his native Jamaica. Featuring a bold, sweetened tobacco aroma, an inky black color and a powerful yet silky-smooth flavor, "it does the rum-maker justice," Allen says with obvious national pride.

4. Zapaca XO

Short for Extra Old, Zapaca XO is a 25-year-old Guatemalan rum. Darkly-colored and featuring a subtle earthy, spicy aroma, the taste is similar to a fine cognac, incredibly soft, well-balanced and mouth coating. Created by constantly mixing younger rums with more aged varieties, it's living proof that "Rum is alive and constantly evolving," Allen says.

Looking for more great rum cocktails? Check back tomorrow when we'll roll out three of the Valley's finest tropical tipples.

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