While the number of rumheads is growing, nerdom around rum has not yet reached the heights of a spirit like whiskey. To riff on a Billy Joel classic, many people limit their rum consumption to a bottle of dark, a bottle of light. But the world of the sugar cane spirit is much more diverse and nuanced than that. We chatted with Kenneth McCoy, founding partner of New York’s Ward III and the Rum House, which boasts a rum list nearly 100 bottles long, about what people miss when they buy rum, whether they’re at the liquor store or the bar.
The next time you’re in the market for rum, don’t make these mistakes:
Sticking Only with the Bottles You Know
“For years,” says McCoy, “people went into a store and when they thought about rum they thought, ‘There’s a pirate guy and there’s a palm tree.’” Whether it was because of market domination (just three brands account for 60 percent of American rum sales) or perhaps just a lack of curiosity, many drinkers stuck to buying a small number of rums. But McCoy emphasizes that there’s a lot going on in rum now, so take an extra couple minutes to peruse the aisle. He points to Rhum J.M. from Martinique as one that is probably quite different than some of the most commonly purchased rums. “It’s got all these grassy notes … and it’s a rum that really gives you terroir.”