12 January 2023
RumX Awards 2022 - The Best Rums of the Year Revealed - Part I
Another year lies behind us, which means a lot in the world of rum: Plenty of new rums that ended up in our tasting glasses or as bottles on our collection shelves; many great meetups, conversations and encounters with rum friends from various geographies; and some smaller, some larger rum tasting sessions with both newer releases as well as older, legendary all-time favorites. We’d like to thank you, our community members, for making these special moments happen, for living and breathing the spirit of a truly collaborative, caring, inspiring, sometimes controversial but always respectful community that helps all of us find, experience and exchange on our favorite spirits on the next level. And no, we did not come up with this conclusion after finishing our end-of-year rum session, it is backed by the sheer numbers that document what happened in RumX: From January to December 2022, 2,860 new rums were added to the database and 56,537 new community ratings were entered – this is more than double the amount we had seen in 2021! YOU ROCK!
But we get it, you did not come here to read about how proud we are of this community (but we are so happy about it that we’ll simply have to reconfirm this time and again!). Let’s go on with some lovely black on white facts and figures. So, from a more quantitative perspective, what did make the rum world go round in the past year? Which new releases were the top-rated ones according to our awesome (Oops... I did it again) RumX community? Which (independent) bottlers landed the highest average scores across all their 2022 releases? And which other funny, surprising or simply noteworthy facts did we come across when reviewing our 2022 data? Well... let’s check it out!
Top rums released in 2022
We’re kicking off our review with the Oscar’s of the RumX world - so to say the equivalent of the best actor in a leading role: The top rum of 2022!
Criteria: We only considered rums that were released in 2022 and got at least 25 community ratings. This obviously has some downsides – we’ve seen some limited releases with undoubtedly high-quality liquids inside that did not make it to our list, simply because there were not enough community ratings. We’ve assessed and discussed the lists countless times without ever coming to the one outcome that seemed to satisfy all aspects – but we agreed on a central aspect: We want this to be a community-based ranking. This means, we had to strike a balance between having as many individual user tastings as possible for our rums, while also not limiting the group of candidates too heavily by applying too restrictive entry criteria.
Hidden Champions of 2022
Since all hard limitations will inevitably result in tough decisions, we’d like to start our review with our list of the top five rums released of 2022 that would have ended up in the list based on their average ratings but did not get the required number of tastings.
We’d therefore like to call this list our “Hidden Champions of 2022”:
Some truly remarkable releases – and who knows, maybe some more users will get the chance to try them in future and help to get them into the all-time favorites list in our 2023 RumX Awards...?
Best rums of 2022
But enough foreplay. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present our rum releases of the year 2022! And the winner is... the Spirit of Rum Private Selection Edition 22 Enmore 1994 REV! Released almost a year before this report was published, it confirmed the impressive quality of the REV marque. Even though we’ve seen some other remarkable REV releases from the 1994 vintage in the past years, this cask righteously claimed its spot at the top-end of the scale. The Spirit of Rum team definitely went on a streak in 2022 and kept delivering very well-received releases: In total we found three of their 2022 releases in our top 10 (not to forget that their Edition 32, the Hampden 1990, missed the list due to only four missing tastings... please check the “Hidden champions of 2022” for the full details). Long story short: We tip our hats to the Spirit of Rum team in Berlin!
On rank 2 we find another outstanding release, this time from Jamaica’s Hampden distillery: The Salon du Rhum Hampden 1990. This year’s festival bottling for the rum fair in Belgium turned out to be a real gem – and Serge over at whiskyfun.com is one of its fans (or should we say ‘lovers’?). An outstanding rum for sure – this year’s list features only two rums that reached an average rating of more than 90 points!
Finishing on rank 3, we also welcome Swell de Spirits’ T.D.L Private Garden No.1 on the winner’s podium. Even though slightly falling short of the 90 points mark this one is still a worthy runner-up to our rum of the year. We’ve seen quite some highly regarded releases from T.D.L recently, and Swell de Spirit’s selection is nothing less than a perfect example of the impressive quality of the early 2000s vintages.
Comparing this year’s top list to the one of 2021, it appears as if the overall quality of rum has decreased a bit. In 2021, we had six rum releases that scored an average of 90 or more points, we went down to two in 2022. Interestingly, even our 3rd place winner, Swell de Spirits T.D.L, would not have ended up in last year's top ten where the lowest average score was 89.23 points. Nonetheless, this year’s list features a bit more variety than the previous one: We see both Agricole and Molasses-based rums in the ranks that originate from six different distilleries in four countries. The usual suspects remain the same though – Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad remain the most prominent countries among the community.
Accordingly, most of the rums released could probably be described as “well-established quality benchmarks”: Most of the releases show marques and vintages of their respective distilleries that we have already seen multiple times before. In the case of the Enmore 1994 REV, the Hampden 1993 and the Diamond 2001, we even find the exact same combination of distillery, marque and vintages in both the 2021 and this year’s list again.
But to be clear: We are not arguing about quality here at all. As much as we love to encounter new styles, flavors and directions that rum can take – don’t we all like to have our well-known favorites at home that we can turn to again and again? And if anyone can find another outstanding cask from any of these vintages – just keep them coming!
Top rums rated 2022
Sticking to our comparison with the Oscar’s, we will now go to the lifetime awards. In other words: Which rums were the best rated ones based on the tastings added by the community in 2022? The criteria for this ranking are a bit easier than the previous one: We considered all rums in the database (independent of their release date) that got at least 25 community ratings in 2022.
And we are reminded of last year’s ranking since we again get to praise Velier’s “The Last” Caroni released in 2019. The total of 52 tastings made in 2022 resulted in an average of 93.02 points, which means they fell slightly below the 94.1 points from 2021’s RumX Awards – but the score is still breathtakingly high of course.
The second rank goes to another release from Velier and one of the already legendary Demeraras that Luca Gargano bottled a while ago – the Uitvlugt ULR 1997 released in 2014. 26 ratings in 2022 resulted in an average score of 92.35 points (about 0.8 points up from 2021). This bottling is one of the most prominent representatives of DDL’s legendary Savalle still and a testament to Velier’s landmark position among the rum bottling companies.
Up next we find two representatives from German bottler Rum Artesanal which again recall sweet memories from 2021’s top releases of the year list. Our 2021 rum of the year, the Rockley 1986, finished second after the Hampden 1990 – even though the difference in scores is only 0.11 points. The overall ratings confirm the quality of the liquids either way, with their average they are even slightly ahead of this year’s frontrunner from Spirit of Rum. We consider this as yet even more proof that for most of our beloved distilleries certain vintages and marques simply stand out, as both the 1990 Hampdens as well as the 1986 Rockleys showcase time and again. Next one up is our rum release of 2022, Spirit of Rum’s Enmore REV 1994, which again is only nuances behind in terms of the overall score. A really strong field with some absolutely stunning bottlings representing different rum styles.
Looking at the full list, the dominance of Jamaica and Guyana remains striking – especially releases from Hampden appear to be absolute crowd pleasers to the RumX community. Half of the top 10 rums in our list stem from the distillery in the Trelawny Parish with the oldest vintage (1983) being almost 20 years apart than the youngest one (2002). Also, Guyana remains an evergreen in our top lists – in combination with Velier’s iconic black bottles the chances of not having an outstanding Demerara representative in your hands remain small anyhow.
One last note on the bottlers behind these releases – we once again have to express our deep respect for the impressive story that Dominik Marwede wrote during his time at Heinz Eggert / Rum Artesanal. With a total of four releases from his time at the company in the top 10, he put Rum Artesanal on eye level with Italian bottler Velier, headed by the living rum legend Luca Gargano, and clearly ahead of other renowned rum bottlers like Plantation.
Most tasted rums released in 2022
On to the next category, the most tasted rum releases from 2022. Again, criteria first: We look at all rums released in 2022 and sort them by total number of tastings added. So yes, this should again give those rums an edge that came to market in the early months of the year, but we still felt this might be fun to look at. Even though we see a lot of releases from the first half of 2022, we still have representatives like Velier’s Long Pond Cambridge STCE 2010 in the list as well that had its very first appearance to the public only in October at Whisky Live in Paris.
But more interestingly, this year’s most tasted rum is an Agricole from Martinique, Saint James’ Les Ephémères No. 1 from 2001. Looking at the average rating of almost 88 points it doesn’t really surprise us to see this one gaining a lot of attention – especially at the release price of only slightly above 100 Euros. Rank 2 goes to one of the latest discoveries of Luca Gargano from Velier, Haiti’s Clairins. The Sajous from 2017 was aged for its entire four years in former Lustau Oloroso Casks and released in early 2022, which back then put it among the oldest Sajous releases to date. Following the average score of 81.28 points, this one could not quite keep up with the Saint James, but obviously still managed to grab the attention of the community. Rank 3 goes to another big name in the rum world, Barbados Foursquare distillery and their 2007 vintage release called Sovereignty.
What else? Releases from Jamaica dominate this ranking with five different rums originating from three distilleries, namely Long Pond, Clarendon and... well, you guessed it, Hampden. No Guyana rum was represented this time, instead we found our very own release from Saint Lucia Distillers selected with our friends from Grape of the Art in the top 10 as well – thanks to everyone in the RumX community!
Most purchased rums in 2022
We’re closing part one of our RumX Awards with the list of the most purchased rums in 2022. The name implies the underlying criteria already, but to be technically precise here is the guiding principle for this list: We consider all rums from the database and sort them by number of bottles that were added to our community members’ collections in 2022. In addition, we also checked the “open rate”, i.e. the number of bottles that were opened in relation to the total number of bottles added. And while we are aware that not everyone immediately updates their collection status as soon as a new bottle is opened, these values might give an indication of which rums are primarily bought for drinking and which are rather considered a collector’s item or even an investment/trade object.
But let’s start off by having a look at the top spots of this list. Interestingly, we found exactly those three rums again that already landed in the highest ranks of our most tasted top list. With 227 bottles added to our users’ collections, the 2001 Les Ephémères by Saint James (open rate: 8.4%) wasn’t only the most tasted rum in the past twelve months, but also the one with the highest number of bottles added. Rank 2 goes to Foursquare’s nineteenth release of their Exceptional Cask Selection series called Sovereignty which was added 206 times (open rate: 8.3%) to our users’ collections. Rank 3 is then taken by the second most tasted rum in 2022, Velier’s 2017 Sajous aged in ex-Lustau Oloroso Casks which was added 163 times (open rate: 12.3%).
This duplication among the two lists seems to make sense: the more bottles that are bought; the more people get to enjoy the rum. Interestingly, the open rates of these rums are at the lower end of the scale; the number of tasting notes added is four to five times higher than the number of opened bottles for each of these releases. Knowing that all three releases were quite sought after and sold out quickly, we normally don’t see too many chances to get our hands on one or more bottles of these rums (at least on the primary market). It makes us even happier to see that the high numbers of tasting notes could also be achieved thanks to the various bottle splits among the community, many of them organized in our community forum (again, kudos to our community for sharing the rum passion in this way!). So even though quite a few bottles are now stored somewhere in cupboards, home bars or cellars, these rums still find their ways into the noses, mouths and maybe sometimes also the hearts of us rum lovers – which is what they were made for, right?
Still thirsty for more statistics and exciting insights? Click here for the second part of our RumX Awards.
What was your personal rum highlight in 2022? Did you have the opportunity to taste the winners and what were your impressions?