What are the best rums in Central America? To honor National Rum Day (yes, it’s a day), we look at the top ten rums in the region.
Another day another National or International Something-Or-Other Day. And this one is special. It’s a day close to the heart of this Central American and Caribbean region we call home. Yes, today is National Rum Day.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a great fan of rum. In fact, I don’t really drink liquor at all. I’m a light beer guy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the concept of rum, the idea and the image of the stuff in this part of the world.
You know, swaying palms, hammocks, and all that. Sultry nights and dancing.
Rum is the perfect tropical tipple, whether you’re sipping it neat, mixing it with coke and lime juice for a Cuba Libre (a Nica Libre in Central America), or enjoying a classic daiquiri or piña colada.
Yes, Central America is perfect for rum and rum drinkers. Which leads us, on this National Rum Day, to ask an important question – what are the best rums in Central America?
As already stated, I have no idea myself. It all tastes the same to me. So I decided to see what the experts on the internet say. I have a rough idea, of course. Even non-rum drinkers in Central America know the top and most prestigious brands in the region. They’re a matter of pride.
Central American rums tend to be lighter than those from the Caribbean islands like Jamaica and Barbados. They’re made from molasses rather than sugarcane juice and are easier, smoother drinks – simple to mix.
Below, we’ll outline the top ten rums in Central America, great for enjoying in a beach bar or taking home as a souvenir or gift for friends and family.
Ron Zacapa 23, Guatemala
Many rum experts consider Ron Zacapa to be one of – if not the – best rum brands in the world. This despite its relatively young age (the brand was only founded in 1976). The creme de la creme of Zacapa rums is the Ron Zacapa 23.
For a full expert review of this rum (plus a breakdown of some recent controversy about misleading packaging), check out Tony Sachs’ article for liquor.com right here.
Ron Zacapa XO, Guatemala
Another Guatemalan rum from the award-winning Zacapa brand, the XO is finished in French oak casks that once held cognac. To read more about Zacapa XO, a rum many find better than the 23, Drew Beard from Drinkhacker offers an excellent review.
Flor de Caña 12 Year, Nicaragua
Flor de Caña from Nicaragua stands with Zacapa as one of the best rums in the world. It’s a source of major pride in Nicaragua, and a great tipple to boot. Even I always used to enjoy a Nica Libre in the bars and cantinas of San Juan del Sur and Granada back in the day.
But those Nica Libres were with the regular 7-year-old stuff – still a fantastic rum in its own right. It would be a crime to mix the 12 Year with coke. The For de Caña 12 Year is a sipping drink to savor.
If you’re looking for an expert review of this excellent rum, head over to luxurylatinamerica.com.
Flor de Caña 18 Year, Nicaragua
I’ve heard this before that the Flor de Caña 12 Year is better than the 18 Year, but not by much. But what do I know? You’ll find a concise review of this rum on ThirtyOneWhiskey.com, where they also talk about the history of Flor de Caña and warn you to not be surprised about Flor de Caña 18 not necessarily being 18 years old.
Abuelo Gran Reserva 12 Year, Panama
Founded in 1936 by a Spanish immigrant to Panama, Ron Abuelo is a world-class, if relatively little-known (at least compared to Zacapa and Flor de Caña) rum brand based in the town of Pesé on the Azuero Peninsula. You can visit the finca and the distillery to learn all about their craft.
The best Abuelo rum is the 12 Year, which makes it the best rum in Panama. You can find a good review of this tipple right here on Spirits Review.
Centenario 20 Year, Costa Rica
Centenario is by far the best rum in Costa Rica, although it’s little heard of outside the country. But it’s a quality brand, and stands up well compared to the more famous rums listed above. The fact that Centenario isn’t well known outside Costa Rica is more to do with marketing more than anything else.
If you’re looking for the best of the best in Costa Rica, then you would go for Centenario 20 year. For a better expert review than I could ever provide, please read this page on gotrum.com to learn more.
Flor de Caña Gran Reserva 7 Year, Nicaragua
Back to Nicaragua and the famous Flor de Caña stable. The 7 Year is the basic, least expensive rum you’ll find in every bar or restaurant in Nicaragua. It’s the rum of choice for shots and mixes. And it’s still a rum of great quality.
Zafra Master Reserve 21, Panama
Abuelo Reserva Superior 7 Year, Panama
There are those in the know who would say – some of them, at least – that the Abuelo 7 Year is better than the aforementioned, higher-rated 12 Year. The 7 Year is a super smooth rum that won’t break the bank at all. For a better idea about this rum, check out berevita.com’s review.
Botran Solera 1893 18 Year, Guatemala
The final exhibit in our top ten rums in Central America comes from Guatemala, this time from the Botran brand.
Not as famous as its compatriot Zacapa, Botran nonetheless produces quality rums with pride in their country. The Botran Solera 18 Year is their best. The Fat Rum Pirate offers up an excellent review of this rum.
The above brands are considered the top ten best rums from Central America.
At least according to rumratings.com, which is how we listed these rums in the order we did. The more eagle-eyed readers of you might see that we only mention Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, and Costa Rican rums.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find good rums elsewhere in Central America. Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras all produce good rums – they’re just not in the top ten as far as the readers of rumratings.com go. But don’t let that put you off at all, please.
In Belize, there are some great rums, from the famous One Barrel brand to the quirky, Placencia-based Big Titty Rum (we love writing that). Visitors to El Salvador can’t go wrong with checking out any number of Cihuatan rums – also recognized as one of the best brands in the region.
And Honduras – with its Bay Islands where pirates once hid (“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” and all that) wouldn’t be Honduras without rum. Check out the Roatán-based Pirate’s Grog to get started.
Whether you’re a serious sipper and rum expert, or simply looking to get loose and party, you’ll find a massive range of great rums in Central America. Some of the best rums in the world, in fact.
Cheers and happy National Rum Day.
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.