22 January 2023

RumX Annual Report 2022 - Part 2

Welcome back to the second half of our Annual Report! In this part we’ll take a closer look at the top distilleries, the top rated countries and the most controversial bottles - and we’ll announce the top independent bottlers of 2022. As already done in the first part, we’ll introduce you to the exact criteria behind each ranking as well. Let’s get the party started!

Top independent bottlers 2022

We’ll jump straight into the probably most important discipline - the top independent bottlers. Why do we think so? Well, it certainly requires consistent quality throughout the year to manage to deliver not just one or two, but many high quality releases - without one release falling too far behind. In parallel, we also look for bottlers that leave an impact on the rum market - e.g. releasing a rum from a previously unseen vintage, marque or distillery of outstanding quality. Although the release of several bottles of high quality certainly testifies to the fact that a bottler has demonstrated its qualities in the selection of casks, we also want to leave room for the unexpected. Those surprises that can lead the rum world in new directions and thus have a lasting impact - which is not necessarily related to the number of bottlings within a year. We tried to define our ranking criteria in a way that both consistent quality levels as well as releases with a huge impact on the rum market are accounted for.

Criteria: We considered all bottlers that released rums in 2022 and received a minimum of 100 community ratings for their 2022 releases (i.e. pre-2022 bottlings were excluded from the average scores). This way we were not tied to a minimum number of bottlings as a requirement, but wanted to reward those bottlers that received a wide recognition within the rum market - be it due to a large number of consistently high quality releases or due to fewer releases that left a big impact for the reasons mentioned before. As usual, there are downsides to every ranking scheme - just like this one has its flaws. But to repeat our guiding principle, we want these rankings to be community-based and thus rested on as many reviews from the community as possible. Accordingly, we believe that a bottler that received 100 ratings within one year had a larger impact on the community than a bottler with only 40 ratings. Ultimately we rank by average score, so quality aspects are still considered the key factor, of course.

Enough of the theoretical part - let’s jump straight to the top bottlers of 2022!

Rank 1 goes to Distilia. For those who are not entirely clear which releases belong to Distilia - think of the Greenheart Collection, The Golden Age of Piracy or most recently the Floral Rums editions. Two of Distilia’s 2022 releases ended up in our hidden champions list, achieving the highest average scores across all 2022 releases but falling slightly short of the minimum number of community ratings required. Especially their 1983 Long Pond was a truly remarkable release that, due to its limitation, could not be tasted by too many community members though. Still, a lot of other releases found their ways in the hands and mouths of the RumX members and consistently achieved high scores: Distilia ended up with an average of almost 90 points for their releases (89.44) and with a mean deviation of only 3.88 points which is by far the lowest among our top 10 bottlers. Kudos to the team around Jakub and Piotr, we are looking forward to this year’s releases already!

“You can’t imagine how happy we are with this award. Thank you guys! Keep up the good work!“

Rank 2 goes to another bottler we had already seen ranked among the top distillers in the first part of our annual report: Swell de Spirits. While Swell releases a variety of different spirits (we can only recommend to check those out as well), their 2022 rum releases around the T.D.L Private Garden No.1 (third-best rum release of 2022) were all very well appreciated by the community. Swell achieved an overall score of 87.31 across their 160 ratings by the RumX community in 2022 and thus ended up on rank 2. Congratulations on this well-deserved award!

“What a fantastic first year at Swell de Spirits, to receive this award means the world to us. We really appreciate and are so thankful for the amazing support and feedback from the RumX community. Stay tuned, we have a lot of great rums in the pipeline for 2023.“

Rank 3 goes to the bottler of our rum release of the year: Spirit of Rum from Berlin. With three releases in the official top 10 releases of 2022 and another one in our top 5 hidden champions list, Spirit of Rum definitely delivered at top level. Moreover, we’d like to highlight the variety of releases that Spirit of Rum brought to us in 2022: While having some reencounters with already well familiar (we should probably say “beloved”) distilleries and vintages like Enmore REV 1994 or Hampden 1990, Spirit of Rum also brought the first Hawaiian rum in cask strength, a remarkable Agricole from Martinique with their Depaz from 2010 and last not least a remarkable old Navy Blend that by now (mid-January) achieved an average score of 90 points as well. Hats off once more to Dirk Becker and team!

“Playing with the barrels is above all passion for me! I have rejected many barrels, even if they had the right mark or vintage. In the bottle it comes only when I am 100% convinced. I also love to create blends.“

  1. Distilia 89.44 (127 reviews)
  2. Swell de Spirits 87.31 (160 reviews)
  3. Spirit of Rum 86.03 (330 reviews)
  4. Nobilis 85.09 (244 reviews)
  5. Wealth Solutions 83.95 (201 reviews)
  6. Oldman Spirits 83.91 (128 reviews)
  7. Old Brothers 83.41 (113 reviews)
  8. The Nectar 81.34 (225 reviews)
  9. Compagnie des Indes 81.27 (237 reviews)
  10. Velier 80.30 (627 reviews)

One thing that might surprise when comparing the top bottlers with the top releases for 2022 is that, besides our three top bottlers, only Nobilis made it to both lists; all other bottlers did not position one of their 2022 bottlings in the top releases list. This could be interpreted in multiple ways: Either they delivered consistently high quality releases without a complete standout release; or the average quality of releases in comparison to 2021 has gone a bit south. The latter conclusion is backed by a comparison of the average scores in the top 10 independent bottlers list between 2022 and 2021: In 2021, Silver Seal on rank 10 finished with an average score of 85.1 points - almost five points higher than this year’s tenth slot, Velier, with an average score of 80.3 points.

Just to be clear on how to interpret these numbers: Average scores of above 80 points still indicate that across all releases, the community verdict was very good - so the general quality of rums is not in question. We may simply have seen less outstanding releases within the multitude of bottlings in the past year. This triggers some speculation: Does overall quality of liquids bottled not reaching the same levels as in the past anymore? Or are we getting so spoiled by the most outstanding releases that we see a correction in the scores? All these points would require a deeper analysis which we did not deep dive into at this point. But let’s keep an eye on how things will develop this year. Especially keeping the global economic conditions in mind, are we to expect some kind of fatigue in the market going forward? At least in our rearview mirror, this trend cannot be confirmed. Rather the opposite - as already mentioned in part 1 of our annual review, almost twice as many tastings have been added as in 2021, so we are very confident that more great rum moments will await us in 2023.

Top distilleries 2022

On to the next category: The top distilleries in 2022! Similar to the top bottlers, this ranking requires consistent quality of all 2022 releases - but with an interesting facet since the respective distilleries are not in sole control over the releases originating from their stills. With brokers and bottlers as additional players in the downstream process, which liquids are released to the market, at which point in time, defines a multi-step decision-making process. For the reason that the (companies behind the) distilleries (and yes, sometimes we may referring to an individual still type within a larger distillery - e.g. Demerara Distillers Ltd.) only control the very first step of the process. However, typically the distillery names are what we find on the bottles which means they signal a certain style of rum - or maybe even serve as a quality label - and thus became a kind of brand themselves.

Criteria: We considered all distilleries with at least one release issued between January and December 2022 and with at least 100 community reviews in the same timeframe. We explained the rationale for setting a higher bar on the number of ratings in the top bottler section above - and the underlying rationale applies to this category as well. We tried to tie our ranking to both consistency in release quality as well as impact, all judged upon by the RumX community exclusively.

The top distillery of 2022 is coming from Guyana and is actually a no longer existing one - however, the Enmore style and marques are still alive and very well received in the rum world. We could enter into a deep discussion on what actually is the “real” historic Enmore style, whether or not Versailles should be considered Enmore as well - but we leave this for another time, preferably over one of the marvelous rums that keep coming our ways under the Enmore distillery name. Remember, we had a total of four representatives of the Enmore style(s) among our top-rated rum releases in 2022 (two hidden champions and two in the top releases - including our rum release of the year 2022, the Spirit of Rum Ed. 22. Noteworthy as well is the very clear verdict by the RumX community: Enmore spearheads the field with an almost four-points lead over rank 2. In addition, Enmore again has the smallest standard mean deviation of the entire group (3.66 points). In short: A well-deserved winner of this category!

The runner-up on rank 2 comes from Jamaica and, surprise, surprise, is not the Hampden, but New Yarmouth with an average of 85.9 points. New Yarmouth introduced a completely different facet to us when their (mostly) tropical aged 1994 vintage releases hit the market in recent years - in addition to high ester releases like several examples from the 2000s vintages. Undoubtedly New Yarmouth claimed their spot among the top distilleries of our time for good reason and have definitely turned into a distillery that the rum community keeps a close eye on. Even though we had no New Yarmouth bottling in our top releases of 2022 list, the distillery is still represented in the hidden champions list with the The Royal Cane Cask Community 1994. But also younger vintages are very well perceived by our community - proof of that is the Compagnie des Indes’ release of a 2009 New Yarmouth for German bottler Perola that scored an average of 87.5 points from our community and thus was on the long list for the release of the year as well.

Rank 3 goes to Saint Lucia Distillers - and in fact, they are rather a joint second rank with only 0.01 points difference. In the sports world, we’d call the final scores of rank 2 and 3 a photo finish - but well, numbers are cruelly precise and so is this ranking. Nonetheless, it is still a very-well deserved slot on the podium. We’ve seen plenty of remarkable releases from St. Lucia in 2022, a lot of them under their Chairman’s Reserve label, and we are happy to have been among the lucky ones that got to pick a cask from them as well. But also other bottlings got a lot of well-received positive feedback, as just one example we’d like to mention Nobilis’ 1999 Saint Lucia that received an average score of above 90 points from the community as well (and again, well, you guessed it, simply fell short of our top releases of the year list only due to the number of tastings added). With Hampden ranked next we close the very tight top four list with only about 0.5 points between ranks two and four.

  1. Enmore 89.64 (169 reviews)
  2. New Yarmouth 85.91 (225 reviews)
  3. Saint Lucia Distillers 85.9 (139 reviews)
  4. Hampden 85.33 (793 reviews)
  5. Uitvlugt 84.18 (106 reviews)
  6. T.D.L 83.93 (256 reviews)
  7. Long Pond 83.82 (361 reviews)
  8. Foursquare 82.80 (433 reviews)
  9. Caroni 82.74 (243 reviews)
  10. Diamond 82.55 (211 reviews)

One interesting remark in comparison to our ranking from 2021: The average scores achieved this year again fell quite a bit behind the ones from last year. In fact, the 85.91 points of New Yarmouth would not have gotten them a place in the top 10 of last year (where Uitvlugt finished on rank 10 with an average of 85.92 points). We mentioned a few thoughts about why this might be the case in the top bottler section already. The observed drop in average points is confirmed on the level of distilleries as well (which logically makes sense, since bottlers obviously cannot operate without receiving our beloved liquids from the distilleries in the first place). We’re curious to see what this ranking will look like in 2023.

Top rated countries 2022

We’re zooming out a bit more with our next category and take a look at entire countries producing our beloved rums. Some countries are referred to when speaking of specific rum styles, e.g. Jamaica for rums with high levels of esters, Guyana for heavy, full-bodied Molasses rums or Martinique as one of the key representatives of Agricole rums. This overall verdict may easily become superficial when taking a deeper look at the expressions coming from the various distilleries, their stills and particular production methods. In no way do we want to create the impression that a list of top countries reflects whether a single style or origin of rum is preferred or even superior over another; we consider the below list rather an interesting look at how the individual countries are perceived, well aware that a direct comparison beyond the mere numbers depicted by our average scores is barely possible on an objective note. To not further theorize about the deeper implications of comparing rums across countries, let us jump straight into the ranking.

First things first, here’s the quick intro to the criteria: We feature all countries with a minimum number of 100 rums tasted by the community in 2022. The latter proved to be irrelevant for this ranking though since all top ranked countries received far higher numbers of reviews. South Africa on rank 10 had the lowest number with “only” 200 reviews. As was to be expected, due to the high level of aggregation, the surprise level of this list was kept fairly low. On the top ranks we find Guyana followed by Trinidad and Jamaica - when looking at our other categories, this is perfectly in line with these previously seen results. Guadeloupe on rank 4 and thus ahead of other famous rum countries like Barbados or Martinique might be a slightly more unexpected result - but knowing of the qualities of the country’s famous distilleries like Bielle or Damoiseau, this again perfectly adds up.

  1. Guyana 83.49 (2347 reviews)
  2. Trinidad 81.64 (1612 reviews)
  3. Jamaica 81.36 (4254 reviews)
  4. Guadeloupe 80.79 (1444 reviews)
  5. Reunion 79.79 (661 reviews)
  6. Barbados 79.79 (2305 reviews)
  7. Saint Lucia 79.66 (404 reviews)
  8. Martinique 79.64 (3108 reviews)
  9. Belize 79.22 (252 reviews)
  10. South Africa 79.14 (200 reviews)

Most controversial rum releases 2022

Let us close this year’s annual report with the final category, the most controversial rums of 2022. As the name implies (or as the ones familiar with last year’s report already know), this category investigates the “love or hate it” category. Rums that were well received by one group of rum aficionados and less so by others.

Criteria: We looked at all rums released in 2022 with a minimum of 30 community ratings and sorted them by the highest mean deviation. This means we look for those rums that polarized the community the most.

On rank 1, we find the Maison Ferrand Canerock, a spiced rum based on a distillate from Clarendon distillery. The “infusion with spices and natural flavors” obviously was hotly debated by the RumX users - some ratings went as low as 1 point, a larger part ended up in the range of 40-60 points, and quite a few users even saw this bottling in the 90+ points range. A perfect example of our “most controversial” range: While some enjoyed the magnitude of aromas, others felt it tasted simply “artificial”. Ultimately, the rum ended up with 72.4 average points and a standard mean deviation of 17.35 points. Out of the 70 ratings in 2022, the entire range of 1 to 100 was used in the ratings. Epitome of a splitter, we guess.

The second most controversial rum comes from Rum Artesanal. Their Cuba rum with a finish in CACD casks ended up with an average score of 52.74 and a standard mean deviation of 15.59 points. Here the picture looks a bit different to the Canerock - in the sense that the community seemed to agree that this rum wasn’t really a convincing release. The level of how bad it was perceived varied, a large portion of ratings ended up in the 30-55 points range, stating that they felt the alcohol was poorly integrated and the aromatic profile wasn’t too complex. Unfortunately, all ratings above 70 points had neither comments or tasting notes included - so the fans of the release did not want to share with us which particular attributes convinced them. A common agreement was that this release did not keep up with the high standards of previous Rum Artesanal releases - speaking from the average rating , it was definitely an outlier.

Rank 3 is taken by Velier - which comes as a surprise. Typically we find Velier releases at the top ranks of our lists with commonly agreed quality. Its Saint James 2015 release triggered some significantly deviating opinions though. The rum received an average score of 71.67 points with a standard mean deviation of 14.74 points. Ratings range from 10 points up to 84, and quite some members mentioned they tasted a soapy note - which some seemed to enjoy, while others felt this was an off-note. Interesting to see how differently this rum was perceived - and if you ask us: We enjoy tasting controversial rums with profiles that stand out. Like it or not, but tasting something new, extraordinary or simply uncommon shows us time and again how diverse the rum world can be - and isn’t this ultimately the reason why we love it so much?

RX12008
1
Image of the front of the bottle of the rum Canerock

72.4/100

70 reviews
Canerock
Maison Ferrand • Clarendon
40%   €
RX11628
2
Image of the front of the bottle of the rum Rum Artesanal Cuba Rum (CADC Finish)

52.74/100

31 reviews
Rum Artesanal Cuba Rum (CADC Finish)
Heinz Eggert GmbH
2015   7 years   59,6%   €
RX13241
3
Image of the front of the bottle of the rum Sélection exclusive Velier

71.67/100

27 reviews
Sélection exclusive Velier
Velier • Saint James
2015   6 years   47%   €
RX14076
4
Image of the front of the bottle of the rum Patridom XO Cask

66.75/100

40 reviews
Patridom XO Cask
1423 World Class Spirits • Alcoholes Finos Dominicanos
65%
RX12487
5
Image of the front of the bottle of the rum The Nectar Of The Daily Drams LBI

76.38/100

21 reviews
The Nectar Of The Daily Drams LBI
The Nectar • La Bonne Intention
2012   10 years   62,6%   €€€

Final thoughts

With this category we’re closing the annual report for 2022. We do not only look back at a year with lots of new releases, but also at quite some new favorites. Well known and loved distilleries, vintages and marques like Enmore REV 1994 or Hampden 1990 still have some stars to reveal - let’s see what is still waiting for us from these golden years in the 90s. But also the early 2000s have their gems: Just exemplarily picking some examples that made it to our top lists of 2022, we saw releases from T.D.L in Trinidad (like Swell de Spirit’s Private Garden bottling proved), D.D.L in Guyana (thinking of S.B.S’ Diamond 2001) or the Saint James Les Ephémères from 2001 and 2007 that hit not only the interest, but also the taste preferences of the community. And slowly but steadily also the decade from 2010 to 2019 is bringing some highlights to us, starting with e.g. Spirit of Rum’s Depaz from 2010 or various expressions from Jamaica’s Hampden or Long Pond distillery that, thanks to their tropical aging, already bring some impressive aromatic complexity into our noses and mouths.

On the bottler side we see some new names jumping up to the top of our lists - Distilia is turning into a rising star in the rum scene with products that bring long aged rums into the market from famous rum origins like Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados. While these rums are definitely positioned in the premium segment of the market price-wise, the quality seems unquestioned given their continuously high scores received from the RumX community. German bottler Spirit of Rum in turn delivered a wide range of rums from different countries, styles and aging states - but also here, quality was at consistently high levels and brought us some completely new impressions (think of their Hawaiian rum from Koloa distillery) as well as legendary profiles (talking of Enmore and Hampden again).

Another general trend we noticed was that overall point averages went down a bit. We discussed whether this could be interpreted as a sign of decreasing qualities of new releases or even a wider rum market fatigue - but when seeing that the number of tasting notes added went up by a good 50% and that also long-time favorites with unquestioned qualities like The Last Caroni received a slightly lower point average (which is still at crazy-high levels, to be clear) in the past year we rather consider this a sign of the further “maturation” of our tastes. And remember, in the RumX rating scheme we consider a good rum to be in the range of 70 to 79 points - everything above 80 is very good already.

We remain confident that 2023 has plenty of remarkable releases waiting for us - combined with amazing get-togethers, meetings with other rum geeks and friends as well, as old and new favorite rums. We look forward to what is waiting for us - whatever it will be - we are sure to be in best company. Here’s to an exciting 2023, dear RumX community - keep up the amazing spirit and let’s make this another great year of joint rum celebrations!

Comments

Which independent bottler do you think did the best job in 2022? Do your impressions match our analysis? What was your "love it or hate it" rum of the year? We look forward to exciting discussions.