Every spring, the American Distilling Institute (ADI) conducts an assessment of craft spirits. The competition recognizes the best craft spirits in the United States and around the world.
Since 2007, the competition has gathered around 50 spiritual judges to evaluate submissions from small and medium-sized producers. Both members of the ADI and non-members can submit contributions.
In addition to the usual list of bronze, silver, gold and double gold, ADI’s craftsmanship judgment also recognizes the best in the category and the best in the class. These are the biggest contestants among the gold medal winners.
Rome was the world’s first truly global spirit. Today, rum is produced all over the world and has proven popular with producers of spirits. There were three rums selected as winners of top class.
Best in Class Award for International Blend of Pot and Column Still Rums went to Remember Distillers, Pure Cane Australian Agricole Rum, 40% ABV, 700 ml, $ 55. This is an aged Agricole-style rum made from fermented cane juice. Rome is not available in the US but is available from online suppliers in Australia and Europe. Older versions are also available.
Ron Colón Salvadoreño, Over Proof Rum, 55% ABV, 750 ml, $ 40, won Best in Class Award for Overproof Rum. Ron Colón has been a multi-year winner in liquor competitions this year, scoring gold medals at both the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the New York International Spirits Competition. These rooms are clearly world class. If you love rum, you simply can not afford not to taste the Ron Colón terms.
The Ron Colón Roma are a blend of three different rums sourced from El Salvador and Jamaica. The blend consists of a 6-year-old column-distilled Salvadoran rum produced by Licorera Cihuatán distillery, an aged pot-distilled Jamaican rum produced by Worthy Park, Hampden and Monymusk distilleries and a 3-year-old Jamaican pot distilled rum produced by Worthy Park estate. All rums in the mixture are aged at source.
This is a very complex, nuanced rum. On the nose, it offers aromas of tropical fruit, especially banana and pineapple, along with notes of raisins, figs and prunes. On the palate you have the same fruit notes along with hot cinnamon and nutmeg, spice, caramel, milk chocolate, roasted almonds and dried apricot. No wonder this previously unheard of rum has been a multi-year gold medal winner this year.
The third best in the class winner was NJoy Spirits Distillery, Florida Mermaid Rum, 50% ABV, 750 ml, $ 40. This is a Florida sugar cane juice based rum that has been blended with Caribbean pot still rum. The blended rum is then aged for 90 days in casks that previously had the distillery’s award-winning Wild Buck Whiskey.
On the nose there is an intense tone of too ripe / cooked banana followed by floral aromas and creamy butter. As the rum opens, additional tropical fruit notes pop up along with almond, vanilla and caramel accompanied by some spicy oak notes. Aromatically, this rum shows a strong influence in Jamaican style.
On the palate there are several fruit notes along with cinnamon and a little fat and a little browned butter. The finish is long with notes of creamy browned butter and tropical spices.
In addition to the top three in the class winners, there were a total of nine additional rums that won the Best of Category; two in the international category and seven in the domestic category.
Proof & Wood, Exodus Rom, 44% ABV, 750 ml, $ 23. Exodus Rum is a blend of pots and pans that are distilled and stored in Jamaica and blended in Kentucky. The rum features the rich, deep “funk” flavors of classic Jamaican rum, featuring ripe tropical fruits, herbs with vanilla vegetables and caramel notes.
Ron Colón Salvadoreño, coffee infused rum, 40.5% ABV, 750 ml, $ 40. On the nose, rum offers aromas of rich, hot coffee and roasted nutmeg, followed by a sweeter tone of vanilla and honey. On the palate, the coffee infusion gives notes of delicious roasted coffee beans and milk chocolate along with pineapple and fresh banana notes in the rum.
The winners of the best in the category in the United States ranged from Hawaii to Florida. Gatsby Spirits, The Tides Rum, 40% ABV, 750 ml, $ 36 and Modern Matriarch, Amber Rum, 40% ABV, 750 ml, won the award for best in the category for mixed pot and column Still Rum. Gatsby Spirits is located on the Oregon coast in Waldport, while Modern Matriarch is based in Iowa.
Five Stories Spirits, White Rum, 40% ABV, 750 ml, $ 30, won Best in Category Column Still Rom. The company is a division of Northern Row Brewery and Distillery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Wicked Dolphin Distillery, Cold Brew Coffee Rum, 30% ABV, 750 ml, $ 30. Wicked Dolphin Coffee Rum is almost liqueur-like. On the nose there are intense coffee aromas with caramel and hints of vanilla. On the palate, it is rich and creamy with a pronounced, silky palate that has the same flavors of coffee, vanilla and caramel. The finish is unusually long with lingering coffee and caramel notes. Coffee and rum marry well together. If you are a fan of coffee-based liqueurs, this rum will suit you well.
Kō Hana Distillers, Kea Rum, White Hawaiian Agricole Rum, 40% ABV, 750, ml, $ 39, won Best in Category Award for Hybrid Still Rum. Kea Rum is distilled from the juice of native Hawaiian sugar cane. Kō Hana is at the forefront of terroir-driven space expressions.
It produces six different cane spaces, each based on a specific set of canes. The Polynesians brought sugar cane to the Hawaiian Islands more than a thousand years ago, long before Europeans brought it to America or discovered the Hawaiian Islands. The result is that Hawaii is home to many unique varieties of sugar cane.
StilL 630 Distillery, Expedition Rum, 40.5% ABV, 750 ml, $ 33, won the award for best in the category for Pot Still Rum. StilL 630 is a distillery in St. Louis. The term 630 is a reference to the height and width of St. Louis famous bow. The Expedition Rum brand is a reference to the Western expansion that began from St. Louis, and which included the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. The Expedition Rum label depicts a vignette from Lewis & Clark’s journey.
The distillery describes its Expedition Rum as:
A pure American rum in the Jamaican pot still-vein, great molasses flavor. Sweet molasses with hints of oak and subtle notes of tropical fruits on the nose, deep molasses in the palate, clean finish highlighted by vanilla and oak.
Big Dog Distillery, Heart River Spiced Rum, 40% ABV, 750 ml, won the Best of Category for Spiced Rum award. Big Dog is a small, family-run craft distillery in Bismarck, North Dakota.
There were 2 more rums that won gold medals at the ADI rating in 2021. For a complete list of the rum medals, see the ADI website.
Craft space is at the forefront of modern space innovation. These rums are very reasonable but can be hard to find. Many are only available on a regional basis or directly from the distillery. If you are a fan of rum and want to explore new and interesting rum expressions, these rums are worth searching for. Remember that half of the fun is in the search, the other half is in drinking them.