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The Only 6 Rums a Tiki Enthusiast Will Ever Need

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Rum expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry of Latitude 29 in New Orleans calls out six of his favorite rums.

Six essential rums.
Six essential rums.
Annene Kaye

In an age when some tiki bars pride themselves on vast rum collections—200, 300, 400 bottles!—at 5-month-old Latitude 29 in New Orleans, the liquor locker contains a mere 22.

Curated by owner, author and rum obsessive Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, the Polynesian-style bar and restaurant pours just 20-odd rums (plus a handful of value bottles in the well) to concoct all the tiki fever-dream cocktails on the menu. Many are intended as luxury sippers.

Why such a lean and mean rum menu? In part, it’s "counterprogramming," Berry acknowledges, a way to stand out from bars (like Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco or Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago) that have literally hundred of rums on offer. Add to that the limitations of a small bar space and the hurdle of obtaining rums in Louisiana, where many of the world’s best rums simply aren’t available.

But the most important reason, Berry insists, is "I don’t think there are 500 great rums out there…I’ve already drunk my way through all those rums, and in my opinion, there’s not 100 great rums."

Photos by Annene Kaye

According to Berry, these are six of the best:

1) Name: Caña Brava 
Production: Panama
Berry's Notes: We’re very fond of this for cocktails. It’s our go-to Daiquiri rum. It’s very dry, but still floral, and it’s higher proof, so you get more of a rummy taste. It’s a white rum but still has a lot going on for the palate.

2) Name: Banks 7 Golden Age
Production: Jamaica, Guyana, Java, Trinidad, Guatemala, Panama, Barbados
Berry's Notes: It’s kind of a mutt. It has a blend of rums from all over the place. But it’s mixable and a good one for cocktails. It’s our go-to for an El Presidente. This is about picking rums from seven different regions and blending them, instead of needing to buy seven different rums and mixing them yourself. That’s why the Zombie has so many rums in it.

3) Name: English Harbour 5-Year
Production: Antigua
Berry's Notes: This is a very approachable rum. We recommend it for people who are used to lighter spirits, if we’re trying to wean someone away from Canadian whisky or even vodka. It’s light, not a heavy molasses-y spirit. It has flavors of oak and honey, in a nuanced and satisfying way. This is a flat-out 5-year-old rum. They’re not pussyfooting about it.

4) Name: Samaroli Demerara 1988
Production: Guyana
Berry's Notes: Demerara rums from Guyana have this deep, dark, explosive taste like Jamaican rums, but also an added dimension of smoky richness.

5) Name: Hamilton Demerara
Production: Guyana
Berry's Notes: This is really a lovely rum you can sip or use in cocktails. It takes you on this journey, you get tastes that range from cigar to chocolate to caramelized fruit to that charred wood, smoky taste. There are so many things going on. It’s a lush, rich pour and reasonably priced. I like that it’s 86 proof, which gives a more concentrated taste.

6) Name: Clément Grand Réserve 10-Year
Production: Martinique
Berry's Notes: It’s just a magnificent rum. For those who don’t think of rum as a sophisticated, complex sipping spirit for those who drink Scotch or Cognac and don’t think rum is in the same leaguewe recommend this one. It has a really nice, layered baking spice taste to it and a finish that just doesn’t quit.

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