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Turn supermarket Rum into great Rum !

Good Cheap Rum ??? – try the supermarket

A reader on this site recently posed a great question in a previous Blog. He said “Rum can be very expensive, can I use my cheaper branded rums to make these infusions ?”. Well, it got me thinking and I felt that the best way to respond is to let everyone else listen in to my answer so here is some advice on choosing and using ‘Good Cheap Rums for your infusions’. One of the easiest to get hold of at a consistently good price point are the ones supplied in the supermarkets so let’s look at the current UK options.

But, first, I want to tell you a bit about the world of Rums as Choosing can be bewildering as you have to navigate an array of terms, choices… and not to mention great marketing spin.

Confusing classifications and types

Imagine if I asked you to come with me to buy a car. You naturally ask me “what type of car are you looking for ?”, I answered in all sincerity, ” a Red one !”. Undaunted, you ask for more information, I answer again ” a Red one with 4 wheels !” By this point, you are concerned for your life and wondering if the door is locked. Well in some ways the Rum classification system is a bit like this.

Let me explain. The world of rum shares many close similarities to the car conversation above: The industry instinctively talks about “white, Golden, Dark, spiced,” “Jamaican,” “column stilled,” “English style,” and “overproof” rums amongst others. It may sound sophisticated, but the problem with these long-standing rum designations is that we lump vastly different spirits into ill-defined and often flat out meaningless categories; according to Matt Pietrek, a world authority on Rum.

Rum is loosely defined as any spirit made from sugar – either cane juice or molasses. Most rum is distilled from molasses, a by-product of sugar production, but other sugary bases include Demerara and juice squeezed directly from sugar cane as in the Agricole varieties (don’t worry about that, it’s still Rum !) Most rum is produced in the Caribbean and Latin America, but it is now made across the world – including Scotland, Thailand, USA, New Zealand, India and Mauritius, just to name a few.

The color of a rum has absolutely no bearing on its taste, how long it’s been aged, where it originates, or its alcohol content. Judging a rum by its color makes as much sense as selecting a vehicle by color alone as when any rum comes off the still, it’s naturally clear. Dark or Aged Rums ‘hue’ are created by the Barrel that it then goes into, the region is located in; but also some distillers create a ‘Gold’ category by adding Caramel colouring. Phrases like ‘super premium’ actually don’t hold weight – it’s mere marketing jargon.

However, as general rule, for infusions, white rum is my favourite. It’s generally light and crisp and can take on the flavour of the ingredients you use so you can control the end product of the flavour you are creating. It’s typically un-aged, although it can be aged and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour. ‘Ageing is simply leaving the rum in barrels for a while so it can take on the flavour of the wood the barrel is made from or the flavour of something that was in the barrel before the rum.

All a bit confusing right ?

A final point to note is the general rule that for a liquid to be called a Rum it generally has to have two characteristics; 1) It has to be made from Sugar – cane juice or molasses, and 2) The strength of the liquid should be 37.5% (ABV) or above. If you go to your supermarkets today then you may notice that there are a lot of big changes in small print !

Supermarket Rums – a review

Rum is going through a revival with projected sales likely to outperform Gin sales for the first time this year. Previously associated with sailors and old men, this re-invention has not gone unnoticed by the Supermarkets and they have struck out to get their share of the action. Some stores have labeled their own, whilst others have commissioned brands to produce their own range for high volume low costs sales. This makes them a good option for home infusions…. with some caveats !

Sainsbury’s Superior White Rum

Size: 70cl (700ml) £11, 100cl (1 litre) £15, 35cl (350ml) £5.75. NB: The 70cl bottle contains 28 servings of 25ml shots

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 37.5%

Website description: Expertly Blended. A smooth Caribbean white rum with a careful balance of vanilla and tropical notes. Serve over crushed ice with chopped lime, mint, sugar and a dash of soda water for a classic Mojito cocktail.

Infused Rum Stories verdict: : The taste of the rum is neutral and quite thin with no discernible tones of sugar or any spices such as vanilla etc. The rum is presented in a Glass bottle, aluminum cap. The range of sizes is good and makes it a good option for using to test out infusions. Importantly, this is technically a rum due to the ABV, but the company have not disclosed the blend of rums used. The Rum is defined as ‘Superior’ but no reference to what it is superior to ? It’s Caribbean Spiced is reduced to 35% ABV and hence not a Rum, and is now described as ‘Spirit Drink with Caribbean Rum and spice flavourings’.

Infusion Score (out of 5): 2 out of 5

 

Tesco’s White Rum

Size: 70cl (700ml) £11, 100cl (1 litre) £15, 35cl (350ml) £5.75. NB: The 70cl bottle contains 28 servings of 25ml shots

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 37.5%

Website description: Produced in the West Indies, A Light & Dry Rum

Infused Rum Stories verdict: : This rum is described as being produced in the Caribbean but with no further information. The taste like a neutral spirit such as a vodka with vanilla in. The rum is presented in a Glass bottle, aluminum cap. The range of sizes is good and makes it a good option for using to test out infusions. Again, this is technically a rum due to the ABV, but the ‘Spiced Gold’ version is now at 35% ABV and so not technically a Rum. The print now refers to this as a ‘Spirit drink made from Rum with spice flavourings’

Infusion Score (out of 5): 4 out of 5

ASDA’s Carta Blanca White Rum

Size: 70cl (700ml) £11, 100cl (1 litre) £15, 35cl (350ml) £5.75. NB: The 70cl bottle contains 28 servings of 25ml shots

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 37.5%

Website description: Produced in the West Indies, A Light & Dry Rum

Infused Rum Stories verdict: : This rum is described as a ‘Superior white rum’ and branded as Carta Blanca and presented in a Glass bottle, aluminum cap. The size range and costs is comparable with the other supermarkets and helpful in testing new infusions. This Rum is 37.5% ABV, but the same pattern follows for their Caribbean Spiced’ which is now at 35% ABV and described as a ‘Sweetened and flavoured Spirit drink’ The taste of the white rum is the most peppery of all tasted and has more of a kick to the palate.

Infusion Score (out of 5): 3 out of 5

 

LIDL’s Liberte White Rum

Size: 70cl (700ml) £9.99

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 37.5%

Website description: Produced in the West Indies, A Light & Dry Rum

Infused Rum Stories verdict: This rum has a strong alcohol taste with plenty of vanilla extract in the flavour profile. Reminds me of the Agricole style as a very grassy flavor. Branded as Liberte and presented in a Glass bottle, aluminum cap. This Rum is 37.5% ABV. Their Dark and Spiced Rums are labeled ‘Captain Cook’ with the ‘Smooth & Spiced Original coming with a 35% ABV and described as a ‘Spiced Rum based Spirit drink’. This is the best price for Rum, but you only have one choice for bottle size.

Infusion Score (out of 5): 5 out of 5

 

The Verdict: Best Cheap Rum

Choosing your rum for infusions can be a laborious task as the market has grown significantly and is likely to continue for the next few years. The trend in the Rum world to be fascinated with premium sipping rums of good provenance can lead novice drinkers to feel embaressed about their choices, but I feel strongly that you should drink what you like and learn as you go along.

It is easiest to get a neutral rum at a good price in the supermarkets and the range has certainly improved of the last few years.

My recommendation for the newbie infuser is to get yourself down to Lidl and pick up a bottle along with your weekly shopping. It’ a great price, has a definitive flavour which you can pair easily with your favourite fruits or spices or herbs and will carry a nice kick with it due to the vanilla undertones.

Either way, go and enjoy and make some memories !

If you agree with my review verdict or even if you didn’t, please leave a comment below.



12 Comments

  • Dexter

    Cashain. Thank you for a very interesting article. Good to know where most of them are produced too. I will start to look at the supermarket rum bottles differently.

    • Cashain

      You are welcome. It’s my mission to help people make better Rum choices and learn how to create wonderful infusions with using ingredients that help tell your own stories !
      Remember; “drink rum, tell stories”.

  • Kevin

    This was quite an interesting read. I’m more of a whiskey kinda guy, however I do like rum every once in a while. While I don’t have a lot of knowledge on this topic, it’s good to read that what is classified as ‘good’ rum doesn’t necessarily need to cost a lot. I will take your advice in account. There’s a Lidl near my place, and I’m about to do some groceries. So yeah, I’m going to pick up a bottle of Liberte White Rum while I’m at it. Thanks again for this comparison/review!

    Kevin

    • Cashain

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for the comment and glad to hear you will give it a try. I was surprised about the Lidl Rum too, but they also won awards for their Gin which was also one of the cheapest. Make sure you share what infusion you decided to make too. You can check out my previous blog with some ideas.

  • Bob

    When I was young , I was looking for good cheap alcohol to help in my social engagements at parties. Rum was one of my favorites as it mixed well with cokes.

    Your having a classification system of rum and showing the alcohol content involved was also an eye opener.

    Thanks for the article.

    Bob

    • Cashain

      Thanks for your comment Bob. There are a lot of rums on the market now and many are going after a premium rating so can be pretty expensive. I would encourage you to try them but with a bit more knowledge about what you are drinking. Happy infusing.

  • Maria C

    In the past, I’ve made rum infusions with ginger and another with ginger & pineapple. Reading this is bringing the itch to make them again. Being in Chicago, the selections will differ but thanks to this post I do know what to look for.

    The weather is turning chilly here. Sweet, smooth rum is on my grocery list. Gotta be prepared for the snowbound days.

    • Cashain

      Great to hear that Maria,
      Ginger and pineapple infusions work well but be careful that the ginger does not overpower the pineapple as it can do very easily.
      You can see some guidance on how long to infuse different elements in one of my earlier posts.
      Happy infusing !

  • Rachel

    I’m not familiar with many alcohols. However, I was inspired to start cooking using Liquor and wine few years ago when I saw a Rum and other liquor at my father-in-law’s house. I’m pretty sure that you have already answered this but why are they cheaper in Supermarket? My FIL hates super market liquor and prefers one from a liquor store

    • Cashain

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for the message. Supermarket Rum often get a bad rep as it is often ‘white labelled’ as some obscure brand name or labelled as the supermarkets won brand. Here’s where understanding the economics are helpful in decision-making. As lot of larger brands can sell off their base rums to traders in bulk on the market and it is this rum that then gets re-branded as something else (sometimes they may get additional flavours or ‘ageing’ to align with the new brand. So it is often the case that a favourite top rum brand may also be in a cheaper rum by a different route. You can see this in a number of industries such as washing powder etc..
      My advice as always it do what is best for you, but also be open to being surprised with good stuff in unexpected places.
      Hope that helps.

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