RumX Awards 2023
Best rums and hidden champions
Welcome back to the second part of our 2023 RumX Awards, our yearly roundup of the most notable rums as experienced by our community. These awards represent an extensive analysis of the data collected from reviews submitted by our RumX members over the past year.
11 December 2023
Our focus is on identifying the standout rums and rum bottlers as well as the leading distilleries and rum producing countries, with every decision grounded in the feedback provided by our over 30,000 members. Looking for further background? Make sure to check out the first part of our RumX Awards 2023:
In the second part of our annual review and awards ceremony, we'll focus on the key categories for individual rums: the top rums from the past twelve months, along with the highest-rated rums of all time. Off we go!
Best rums (2023 releases)
Let's dive straight into the heart of our reviews: The best rums of 2023. This is where we showcase the standout rums that have captured the attention and admiration of our RumX community over the past year. Get ready to explore the top picks that defined rum excellence in 2023!
Our focus was on rums released from December 1st, 2022, to November 30th, 2023, that got at least 25 reviews from our community and were then sorted by average ratings in descending order. Sound familiar? Indeed, we applied the exact same system last year, but this time we started a month. Our approach, requiring a minimum number of reviews, ensures a balanced and reliable reflection of the diverse opinions and collective voice of the RumX community.
With that said let's dive right in. Here are our top rums for 2023:
And this year’s winner is… Spirit of Rum’s Rumclub’s Private Selection Edition 31, a 32-year-old Hampden from the legendary 1990 vintage! With an outstanding average score of 9.10 from 41 reviews, it emerged as this year's frontrunner. This victory marks Spirit of Rum's second consecutive win in the Rum of the Year category, following their 2022 triumph with the Enmore 1994 REV (for more details, please check out our RumX Awards 2022). Yet another release by Dirk Becker and his team in Berlin which left a strong mark on the RumX community – all we can say is that once again, we are thoroughly impressed by their cask picking skills. Congratulations to winning the rum of the year title again, another well deserved award - and, speaking on behalf of our community: We’re already excited about the upcoming releases, please keep the good stuff coming our way!
"Jamaican rum is something very special, and Hampden Rum from 1990 is one of the holy grails for us. That's why it was clear to us after the first tasting that we had to bottle this cask. The fact that we have now taken first place for Best Rum of the Year two years in a row is wonderful and a great honor for us." - Dirk Becker (Spirit of Rum)
In second place we find another Jamaican representative with the 23 year old Clarendon 1997 bottled by the Danish company Fine Drams. Scoring an impressive 9.05 points from 56 reviews, this rum quickly emerged as a strong contender for our annual award soon after its release. Community tasters noted its complex aroma profile, skillfully blending ripe fruit and almond notes with a subtle hint of rubber. A notable aspect of this release was its unique bottle size – Fine Drams chose to release a collection of four expressions, each in 35cl bottles, all of which were enthusiastically received by our community. In fact, another Clarendon release from this series also made it to our list, which we’ll discuss shortly.
The third place is awarded to Distilia for their remarkable 1994 Enmore REV release, celebrating the “Victoria Amazonica” flower. Scoring an average of 9.04 points from 25 reviews, they just made it into the ranking, meeting the minimum review requirement – a fact that reflects the challenging availability of the bottle. In fact, the rum could only be purchased via the Catakwiki auction house. Seeing another Enmore 1994 on the best rum releases podium, following last year’s winner, speaks for the overall quality of the distillates under the REV marque from this vintage. Notably, Distilia also earned recognition last year with their 1983 Long Pond release and named the hidden champion of the year. The continuous success of Piotr and Jakub's team, securing yet another exceptional cask this year, leaves us eagerly anticipating what other treasures lie in their cellars.
"Distilia was built from our passion for spirits. Same was RumX - built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. People say it is a privilege to have a job that you like, but to call your job a dream job you need appreciation. And this is exactly what this award/distinction means to us. It gives us the drive to do better and not to satisfy ourselves with the average. Big thank you to everyone who is part of this amazing RumX community and everyone who tasted and scored our rums. Your opinion truly matters. Keep up the great work and drink well." - Jakub Bagiński (Distilia)
With the next rank we come back to Clarendon as we turn our attention to Decadent Drinks, who also left a significant mark with their Rum Sponge series. They secured some exceptional casks, including another notable Clarendon 1997 variant that hit the market in 2023. This expression, gathering 36 reviews, scored an average of 9.02 points, placing it remarkably close to the Fine Drams version from the same distillery and vintage. The tasting profiles of both top rums of the year show intriguing similarities: The Rum Sponge Clarendon is particularly noted for its tropical fruit aromas and adhesive notes, while our community members also found hints of dark chocolate, cedarwood, and warm coconut fat, all harmoniously offset by delicate floral hints of lavender.
Fifth place brings Spirit of Rum back into the spotlight with their Rumclub Private Selection Edition No. 32, a Navy Rum Blend consisting of rums aged between 20 to 32 years from multiple countries and distilleries. The bottling scored an average of 8.99 points out of its 38 ratings and just narrowly missed the 9-point mark, but certainly not the hearts of our members. The release brought a highly aromatic and complex rum with outstanding alcohol integration to us that - thanks to the variety of its ingredients - introduced completely new dimensions to the world of Navy Rums.
The following ranks cement the dominance of Clarendon’s 90s vintages in our top list of 2023 releases. In the sixth spot, we find the second expression from Fine Drams, a Clarendon 1995 release, aged for 26 years in the tropics and averaging 8.97 points from 47 reviews. Our hats off to Fine Drams for their remarkable selection and innovative approach to bottling. You've truly captured the hearts of our rum aficionados and have become a prominent name in many of this year’s rum debates with these impressive cask picks - we look forward to what is coming in the next months!
But Fine Drams isn't the only new entry on our “rum bottlers to watch out for”-list. We will certainly also keep an eye on the Rum Sponge series, which landed a total of three releases in this year’s best-of list. Their second entry ranks on seventh place, a blend of the aforementioned 1997 Clarendon and a 1997 Caroni consequently called “Clarendoni 1997”. It takes some courage to blend two such heavy profiles, but this expression certainly worked out exceptionally well - the average score of 8.94 points from 30 reviews clearly proves that also this second blend in our best-of list is a piece of art.
And just to further highlight the exceptional quality of the Rum Sponge releases issued by Decadent Drinks, we find a third (!) rum from their 2023 releases at rank eight - their Enmore 1992, a 29-year-old pot still rum from Guyana earned an average score of 8.92 points from 43 reviews. It boasts a rich and deep flavor profile, filled with notes like licorice, tobacco, leather, prunes, and caramel. A big shoutout to Angus and his team at Decadent Drinks! Securing three spots in the top ten is nothing less but an awesome achievement and a testament to the exceptional work done by the Rum Sponge in 2023.
And Enmore continued to excite with its variety of styles and long-aged distillates from different vintages - on rank nine we find Tamosi’s Enmore 1991 Haubariria release which represents the KFM marque. Out of the 25 reviews recorded, this bottling secured an average score of 8.90 points.
The list is closed with our only representative from Trinidad in this year’s top list, namely Asta Morris’ 2001 release of a 21 year old T.D.L. single cask, scoring an average of 8.87 points from 71 reviews. Quite an impressive number of tastings for a single cask release - but no surprise if one’s aware of the incredible commitment of our community to sharing their favorite spirits with other members via bottle splits. Awesome work, dear RumX gang!
Reflecting on the top rum releases of this year reveals a tighter competition compared to the previous year. The gap between the top-scoring rum and the tenth place are only 0.23 points in average scores, indicating a narrower range than last year’s wider margin of 0.44 points. This demonstrates an increased consistency in quality across the leaderboard of this year without sacrificing on overall quality level: Even though last year’s top rum landed a slightly higher total score than this year’s winner (9.20 points), it's noteworthy that six rums from last year’s top ten wouldn’t have secured a spot in our 2023 list due to overall higher average ratings.
In terms of favored origins, the trend shows some consistency, with Hampden, Enmore, and T.D.L. making a repeat appearance in our top list. The clear rising star of this year is Clarendon with four releases (including the Clarendoni blend) that made into our top list of the year. Interestingly, it seems that age plays a role for the quality - at least if we look at the vintages of this year’s top ten. Not a single rum listed was aged for less than 21 years. Most of the vintages selected had already seen earlier releases that indicated the outstanding qualities of the distillates from the respective distillers and marques, so we remain curious whether we have already seen the peak of Hampden 1990, Enmore 1994 or Clarendon 1995 and 1997 releases or if there will be further casks hitting the market that manage to raise the bar even higher.
Another striking aspect this year was the notable focus on Molasses rums, as not a single Agricole rhum made it into the top ten (or even the top fifteen). This is a surprising contrast to last year, where Saint James and Depaz were prominent representatives of Agricole releases; even though we saw compelling releases from the well-known names in the French rhum world like Neisson, Bielle or La Favorite, it seems that the number of high-quality Molasses rums was simply too high this year. We remain curious for next year - and we wonder: Will we find an Agricole rhum on the top rank of our annual reviews for the first time…?
Hidden Champions (2023 releases)
Same as last year, this year also saw some rum releases that - due to rarity, high price points or limited accessibility - found their ways in only very glasses and thus did not receive sufficient reviews to make it into our official 'Rums of the Year' list. Some of these releases however still received ratings that indicate exceptional levels of quality, which is why we continue our special category for these releases: The Hidden Champions of 2023.
Criteria for this list are therefore very similar to the ones of our rums of the year list, we considered all releases issued between December 1st, 2022 and November 30th, 2023 that received at least 10, maximum 24 community ratings in the past twelve months and sorted them by community rating.
Topping our list of 2023 releases is Velier's fourth release in their Caroni Paradise series, a 1996 single cask under the HTR marque. This rum became available to the broader public during Whisky Live in Paris, where our RumX members entered quite some reviews. Its exceptional quality was also recognized at the Epic Velier Caroni Tasting earlier in April, where initial reviews helped it achieve an overall score of 9.20 points out of 19 ratings. Interestingly, this score even surpasses that of the Spirit of Rum Hampden 1990. Despite not meeting the review threshold for our main list, it's thrilling to have such a category as hidden gems to showcase these rums.
In the subsequent ranks, we encounter three hidden gems from Guyana. Ranks 2 and 4 underscore the exceptional quality of the Enmore 1994 vintage distillates under the renowned REV marque, with two expressions from Nobilis Rum (9.12 points from 20 ratings) and The Rum Cask (9.06 points from 22 ratings). Sandwiched between these two is another legendary Demerara distillery, securing rank 3 with The Taste of Rum's Diamond Single Cask from 1996, scoring 9.06 points from 14 ratings. Wrapping up the list is 2023's only agricole rum release which landed a spots in the top rums of the year. Swell de Spirits unveiled a 2021 distillate from Marie Galante’s Bielle distillery, earning 9.00 points from 15 ratings, demonstrating the allure of young rums - definitely worth exploring!
These rums were standout performers over the past year and fully deserve recognition in our annual review. They embody the excellent work and dedication behind these remarkable releases. Our kudos go to Velier, The Rum Cask, Nobilis, The Taste of Rum and Swell de Spirits for their fantastic work!
Best rums (all-time)
Next, let's delve into the best rated rums of 2023 as determined by the RumX community. This list represents the all-time favorite rums, however with a distinct focus on only those ratings that took place in the past 12 months: Which rums left the best impression on our community in the last year, and how do these rums compare with the best releases from 2023? Let’s dive right into the numbers!
First, let’s clarify our criteria again: We considered all rums in our database, irrespective of their release date, that received at least 25 community ratings from December 1st, 2022, until November 30th, 2023. We then sorted by the average community rating - that’s it.
Once more, the top of our list is graced by the Velier Caroni 39th Release The Last 1996. With an average score of 9.38 from 68 ratings, this rum not only maintained but also slightly improved upon its stellar performance from last year, where it had an average of 9.30 points. The consistently high rating of this rum cements its legendary status in the rum world.
Not far behind is another Caroni release from Velier, the 20 year old Heavy Trinidad Rum 1992 bottled at full proof of 60,21%. Just like “The Last” Caroni, this rum is considered by many well-versed rum aficionados to be among the best Caronis of all time, which is underlined by its average score of 9.30 from 30 ratings recorded in the past 12 months.
Interestingly, this year's list sees a dominant presence of Velier Caroni releases, including the 35th Release of a 1996 full proof HTR release, also referred to as “Trespassers”. With an average score of 9.18 from 32 ratings, it further highlights the outstanding reputation of Velier's Caroni releases and how deeply they still resonate with rum enthusiasts.
Saint James makes a notable entry with their J. Bally Millésime 1999 Brut de Fût, scoring an average of 9.17 from 25 ratings. Even though it features a rather unusual profile with its notes of leather, wood, cocoa, dark chocolate, and fruit it remains an outstanding representative of the world of Agricole rhums and the outstanding vintage releases from J. Bally in particular.
Habitation Velier also has a strong presence on the list, with their Long Pond 2005 and two different 2010 Hampden releases, all scoring above 9.0 points. Speaking of Hampden rums, their quality was once more underlined by three ranked releases in our top 10 list; but even though they all originated from Hampden, they represent quite a range of styles, vintages and aging profiles: On one end of the spectrum we find Rum Artesanal's 1983 release of a 35 year old HGML single cask aged under continental conditions contrasted by Habitation Velier’s 2010 expressions under the marques of C<>H and HGML that were bottled after “only” 9 and 10 years - but fully matured in the tropic.
These rums underscore the mass appeal of the Jamaican rum style, at least among our community: Out of our top fifteen rums tasted, nine releases come from Jamaican origin (five Hampdens, two Long Ponds, two Clarendons). What is even more remarkable is that all nine of these rums were rated as “excellent” by the RumX members, scoring consistently above 9.0 points. Even though the different Jamaican distilleries may produce rums with a certain recurring spin characterized by heavy ester notes reminding us of tropical fruits, the individual distilleries and marques still deliver different profiles that continue to fascinate us. We bet we’ll find a solid number of Jamaican rums in next year’s top rated rums list again…it would be for a good reason, for sure.
But let’s head back to the remaining entries on our list. We also find our top rum of 2022 on the list with Spirit of Rum's Enmore Rumclub Private Selection Ed. 22, slightly ahead of this year’s winner, the Hampden 1990, both scoring above 91 points. The list is completed by both Fine Drams’ and Rum Sponge’s Clarendons from 1997, putting our entire 2023 rums of the year podium into the all-time favorites list as well. Our top fifteen of the past 12 months are concluded by another legendary Agricole expression from Bielle, bottled by Velier under their Rhum Libération label. The 2012 Version Integrale reconfirmed its reputation as one of the most impressive releases from Bielle with its 9.03 points out of 27 tastings added.
Notably, this year’s list saw a strong emphasis on Caroni and Jamaican rums. In contrast to our rums of the year list we find at least a few Agricoles in the list - with Bally’s 1999 BDF only missing the podium by a mere 0.02 points difference. Compared with last year, a few new entries - the twenty year old Caroni 1992 Full Proof, the 1996 Caroni Trespassers, Velier’s Long Pond releases from 2005 and 2007 as well as the Liberation 2012 as well as the three 2023 top releases, obviously.
Reflecting on this year’s list and comparing with the previous years, we’d like to highlight four observations:
First a rather general thought on how the list is set up. This ranking is obviously heavily dependent on getting a large enough number of our community members in touch with especially older gems. This year, already highly rare releases like the 1992 Hangar Caroni found its way in multiple glasses - remember our rarity tasting set? ;-) - which simply wasn’t the case one year before. Also in 2022, the rum did not score significantly differently, but collected far less reviews throughout the rating period. Consequently, a comparison of this list with our all time best rated rums in the app (which considers all reviews, independent of when they were made) shows quite some missing entries. The respective rums have become so rare today that less and less people actually get the chance to taste them, resulting in too few reviews in the past 12 months; a good number of them even gathered only single digit numbers of reviews overall. We still decided to stick to our rating approach since otherwise biased reviews could too easily bring rums to the top that lack the proper backing from our community. For further impressions of the best rums of all times we recommend to have a look at the explore tab in the RumX app.
Second aspect is that we do find some evergreens on the list, most prominent one being “The Last” Caroni which again landed on rank 1 of our 2023 all-time favorite list and is ranked consistently among the best rated rums of all times in our app as well. We are glad to see how the quality of this liquid gem keeps fascinating our community and can only encourage everyone of you who did not have it in their glasses yet: If you ever get a chance to taste it, go for it!
Third aspect is the impressive presence that Italian bottler Velier maintains in this list. Not all of its 2023 releases scored in the highest ranks, which might also be due to the sheer number of releases and the variety of styles represented; but landing five rums in the top ten and even eight in the top fifteen of the best rated rums in this year speaks for itself. We already were impressed with the four rums Velier positioned in the top ten results of this ranking last year, but this year topped the result even further. We remain absolutely impressed and thankful to our community that we see lots of sharing of both new releases and rum rarities that allows a larger number of community members to get their hands on these rums… this reflects the perfect interplay of love for rum and a strong community spirit. Hats off to our dear RumX-users!
A fourth and final aspect to note is the dominance of Caroni and Jamaican rums in this year’s list. Twelve of the top fifteen rums originate from either the renowned, closed Trinidadian distillery or from the esteemed Jamaican rum powerhouses. The top three positions are completely occupied by Caroni, while the rest of the list is predominantly made up of Hampden, Long Pond, and Clarendon. It's intriguing to see that even with its community favorite status, Guyana couldn't quite match this strong showing - with Spirit of Rum's Enmore 1994 being the sole Demerara rum in our list this year, a decrease from three entries in last year’s top ten. The year 2023 has evidently placed a particular emphasis on the enduring legacy of Caroni and the beloved, fruit-forward flavors of Jamaican rums. Will this trend continue? Will we see a shift towards other countries and distilleries in the future? T.D.L. bottlings are gaining increasing recognition, and Savanna has been growing in popularity in recent years. Not to mention the high-caliber releases from various Agricole distilleries across Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Reunion. We eagerly await what the next year will bring – it's all in the hands (or should we say: glasses?) of our dear RumX community!
As we conclude our exploration of the best rums of the year in the RumX Awards 2023, we've traversed a world rich in diversity and flavor. From the iconic Caroni vintages to the vibrant Jamaican rums and emerging independent bottlers, we've shared the diverse universe of rum. These insights reflect our RumX community's shared knowledge and highlight the dynamic nature of premium rums. Look out for the final part of the RumX Awards, where we'll broaden our scope to include the most popular countries, distilleries, and all-time favorites, capturing the full spectrum of our community's rum journey.
Win a sample set with the best rums of 2023
Now, it's your turn! We're excited to hear about your favorite rum of 2023. Share with us in the comments below which rum captivated your palate this year. And here's the exciting part: Among all RumX Community members who comment until December 20, 2023, at 23:59, we will giveaway 10 sample sets, each containing 2cl samples of five of the best rums of the year.
- Participants must be at least 18 years old.
- A valid delivery address within the European Union is required.
This is not just a chance to win some of the finest rums of 2023, but also a fantastic opportunity to engage with fellow rum enthusiasts and share your passion. So, don't hesitate - let us know your top pick and join the celebration of rum excellence!