How to read a Rum Bottle

What is the proof? Watch out for overproof rums: they can be easily mistaken for lower proof spirits. Spiced rums are typically 35% alcohol.

Is there any age statement? If it says "Aged x years?," that would be the form of an age statement sanctioned by the Treasury Tax Bureau. If it simply throws around a number, it may not mean anything at all. Don't confuse age statements with brand names (e.g., Bacardi 8 or Matuselem 15 Solera Blender.) Some countries of origin have laws about aging, some don't. Puerto Rican rum must be aged at least one year, in Venezuela - two years. In other countries rum aging is not controlled by law or simply ignored.

Rhum vieux means aged at least three years in small barrels in the French islands.

Things to look for: "Virgin Island rum" means from St. Croix. "Cuban style" tells you nothing. "Estate bottled" or "Estate rums" are usually just marketing terms employed by large corporations but carrying little meaning. "Plantation" has similar connotations, as does traditional, except in the French islands where "traditionnel" means made from molasses.

Who is the importer? This can be important; some importers specialize in cheap well products, others in quality.

Who is the distiller? Does the label tell you who the distiller is? If it doesn't, they probably don't want you to know.

Where was it bottled? Was it bottled at the distillery of origin? If it's not bottled at the source, lower your expectations. Is it bottled by or for? "Bottled for" indicates contract bottling.

Lastly, take a look at the bottom of the bottle. There may be a clue or an indication of the country of origin. Is there any embossed lettering such as "Jamaica Liquor Bottle." While this is simply an indicator, I wouldn't expect a bottle of rum from the Dominican Republic with a story about Cuban refugees on the label to be bottled in a bottle with "Jamaica" embossed in the bottom.