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10 Central American Rum Brands, Ranked

various Central American rum bottles displayed
various Central American rum bottles displayed - Static Media / Getty

Though sometimes overshadowed in the rum world by its Caribbean neighbors, Central America offers the perfect backdrop for crafting intriguing and delightful rums. With its lush rainforests, volcanic soils, and tropical climate, the region's spirit-making tradition is as rich as its vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes. More than that, many Central American distilleries have committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices -- so go Earth!

Central American rums are a diverse bunch that reflect the unique character and heritage of each country within this spirited region (like some of the most popular rum brands on the market). From smooth, aged expressions that whisper tales of ancient distillation techniques to lighter, mix-friendly rums that scream party, there's a style for every palate and occasion. The Central American rum-aging process is an art form, and many distilleries utilize a variety of barrels -- like ex-bourbon, sherry, and cognac casks -- to add complexity and depth.

But where should you start your discovery of Central American rum? Do you go with the lighter-styled Panamanian rums of Ron Abuelo, or perhaps the more robust, oak-infused rums of Guatemala's Ron Zacapa? We've compiled a roadmap to shed some light on that path and help anyone taste their way through this lush and verdant land. Based on a variety of factors -- including our firsthand experience with Central American rum brands and in-depth research into popular and well-known distilleries -- here is our ranking of 10 Central American rums.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

10. Pirate's Grog

Pirates Grog Rum bottles
Pirates Grog Rum bottles - Pirate's Grog Rum / Facebook

Pirate's Grog Rum hails from Roatán -- an island located off the coast of Honduras -- and injects a dose of adventure into the rum market with its seafaring theme. Named to evoke the tales of old-world pirates and their tropical exploits, the brand has managed to distinguish itself since its 2011 inception. The brand's heavy reliance on themed storytelling and visuals -- like its "made for pirates, by pirates" slogan -- initially raised our eyebrows regarding its substance versus style. The rum itself, however, manages to stand its ground.

The Pirate's Grog Five Year (aged for five years, naturally) achieves a commendable balance of sweetness and subtle spice. It's versatile enough for both neat sips and cocktail mixes, with well-pronounced vanilla and butterscotch notes reflective of its tropical upbringing. On the other end, Pirate's Grog No.13 ages 13 years before bottling. This premium expression ventures into a more complex territory with its richer palette of chocolate and coffee, targeting those who prefer a sophisticated rum experience.

With its engaging narrative and unique branding, Pirate's Grog Rum certainly caters to a niche audience -- those drawn to the romanticism of pirate tales and tropical adventures. While it may not compete with the gravitas of the oldest rum distilleries (or those Central American rums ranked higher), it offers an enjoyable taste experience that defies initial skepticism. Try it in one of the many cocktails to drink if you like rum.

9. Botran

Botran Rum bottles displayed
Botran Rum bottles displayed - Botran / Facebook

Originating in 1940 with five brothers, Botran Rum sets itself apart by focusing on a '"crop to drop" mentality. The distillery is carbon neutral and was named the first sustainable rum in the world in 2019, as well. This dedication to quality craftsmanship sets the stage for the creation of exceptional spirits renowned for their character and complexity.

Botran utilizes an adapted solera system to age its rums -- a method typically used for sherry that involves blending younger rums with older ones over time. They also employ not one but three master blenders: Yasmin Chapeton, Magda Lopez, and Leslie Taracena. Each brings their expertise to individual offerings, and this diversity is another feather in Botran's cap.

The brand offers a gamut of styles at a range of price points. On the lighter side, you'll find Botran Reserva Blanca, which is not your average white rum. Aged and then filtered to crystal clarity, it packs a smooth, sophisticated punch with a hint of smokiness (perfect for elevating your cocktail game). Other standouts include copper-distilled Botran Cobre (with its ginger and cardamom notes) and the Botran 18 -- a beautifully aged beast that's as rich and layered as rum gets. Full of toasty oak, spices, and dried fruit vibes, it's like a cozy, boozy blanket in a glass. It may rank ninth, but that's more a reflection of the brands above it.

8. Copalli

Copalli Rum bottles surrounded by sugarcane
Copalli Rum bottles surrounded by sugarcane - Copalli Rum / Facebook

Copalli Rum emerged from the verdant rainforests of Belize in 2018 and represents a fresh face in the rum industry. Crafted on the premises of the Copal Tree Lodge -- an eco-lodge renowned for its dedication to environmental preservation -- this brand is certified organic and staunchly eco-conscious. Distinct from the traditional rum-making process, Copalli champions sustainability from the very start. It utilizes organically grown sugar cane -- which is pressed within two hours of harvesting -- alongside pure rainforest canopy water and renewable energy (emphasizing its zero-waste philosophy).

Although it currently offers a limited range -- which contributed to its eighth-place ranking -- Copalli's products are noteworthy for their quality and promise. The Copalli White Rum evokes the spirit of a light-bodied agricole rhum and impresses with clean, vibrant flavors. With hints of tropical fruit and grass, as well, it's one of the best rums for a daiquiri -- or try it as part of a rum blend (and do wonders) for your next Mai Tai.

On the other hand, the Copalli Barrel Rested Rum -- which is matured in American oak barrels -- deepens the narrative with its rich vanilla and subtle spiciness. Rounding out the lineup, the Copalli Cacao Rum is enriched with locally sourced organic cacao nibs and adds a unique twist to its collection. As Copalli continues to evolve, we're excited to see the expansion of its rum offerings in the years to come.

7. Cihuatán

Cihuatan Rum bottles with cocktails and fruit
Cihuatan Rum bottles with cocktails and fruit - Ron Cihuatán / Facebook

Cihuatán Rum is handcrafted in the valley from where it takes its name: Cihuatán Valley in El Salvador. Legend has it that a Mayan goddess blessed this fertile valley and maintains her watch to this day in the form of the Guazapa mountain. The name Cihuatán itself is said to translate to "land beside the sleeping woman". This connection to the land and its history is a critical part of Cihuatan's identity, with each rum telling a story rooted in Salvadoran culture.

Produced by Licorera Cihuatán using a 100-year-old sugar cane mill, the distillery prides itself on its grain-to-glass approach, overseeing every step of production within the country's borders. Cihuatan's rums are aged in American oak barrels, which contribute to their smooth, rich profiles marked by vanilla, caramel, and a touch of spice. While the year-round offerings are mostly solid (if unspectacular), the limited edition bottlings are where Cihuatan shines.

The Nikté Limited Edition was inspired by an ancient Mayan festival of flowers and is noteworthy for its floral and fruity profile. The Cihuatan Sahumerio is another gem that combines four different rums (aged 12 to 14 years) and offers a complex tapestry of flavors including chocolate, coffee, and tropical fruits. While we are impressed by the depth of the lineup, many core bottles tend toward the sweeter side and seem to lack depth. Consequently, it comes in on the bottom half of these rankings.

6. Travellers Liquors

Travellers Liquors rum bottles
Travellers Liquors rum bottles - Travellers Liquors / Facebook

In 1953, Jaime Omario Perdomo opened a bar in Belize City. Inspired by the diverse patrons who passed through its doors, he fittingly named it Travellers. At the time, it was common for bars to blend their own rums -- a practice Perdomo took up with zeal. Thus, Travellers Liquors was born.

This distillery boasts an extensive selection of rums ranging from budget-friendly options to premium labels. Among its offerings, One Barrel Rum stands out as Belize's pioneering aged rum. This rum is renowned for its rich vanilla and brown sugar notes that capture the essence of the tropics and is an ideal way to bring a hint of Belizean warmth to any cocktail. Travellers' line also includes Three Barrel and Five Barrel rums -- named for how long it's aged before bottling -- which further showcases the distillery's expertise in crafting aged spirits.

The premium line features a tribute to the founder of it all with the Don Omario 18-year. This expression benefits from aging in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in ex-port barrels -- creating a rum that's meant to be savored neat or on ice. Keep an eye out for their limited edition bottles, as well, like the 1981, which was created in 2021 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Belize's independence. It's a 15-year-old rum that's finished in sherry casks and bottled at cask strength.

5. Ron Zacapa

Zacapa rum bottles by water display
Zacapa rum bottles by water display - Ron Zacapa / Facebook

Ron Zacapa has a reputation for excellence in the world of rum -- and a price tag to match. Distilled from virgin sugar cane grown in lowland volcanic soil, all of its rums are aged in the moist, cool air at the "House Above the Clouds" (which sits over 7500 feet above sea level). Under the watchful eye of Lorena Vásquez -- one of the industry's most respected female master blenders -- the resulting spirits are as smooth as silk. Though its rums are a touch on the sweet side at times, they also contain rich tapestries of flavors and remarkable consistency.

At the heart of Zacapa's lineup, Zacapa 23 features a blend of rums -- some aged up to 23 years -- in a series of barrels that have previously matured American whiskeys, sherries, and Pedro Ximénez wines. This process imbues Zacapa 23 with a luxurious profile, marked by sweet nuances of honey, butterscotch, and a medley of dark chocolate and fruit. It's one of the best rums for an indulgent coquito, and it's also great neat or on ice.

Zacapa XO is another crown jewel and represents the zenith of the brand's craftsmanship. Aged in French oak barrels that once held cognac, Zacapa XO is a symphony of elegance and depth. It offers discerning palates a complex array of flavors, from spicy oak and dried fruits to a delicate balance of chocolate and toasted nuts.

4. Flor De Caña

Flor de Cana rum bottles
Flor de Cana rum bottles - Facebook

Flor de Caña Rum is Nicaragua's pride and joy. Renowned for its exceptional smoothness and commitment to being eco-friendly, these esteemed rums come from a sustainable family-run distillery that's been pouring its heart into rum since 1890. Nestled at the base of the San Cristobal volcano, it uses molasses from local sugar cane that's distilled five times and ages its rums in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels.

Flor de Caña is among the few Central American brands that can boast its rums have no added sugar. Dive into its lineup with the Flor de Caña 4 Extra Seco -- a dry, light-bodied liquor that's one of the best rums for crafting a crowd-pleasing piña colada -- or the Flor de Caña 7 Gran Reserva. This versatile fan favorite has a rich amber hue and tastes of toffee, citrus, and a hint of spice.

There's also the more mature and sophisticated Flor de Caña 18. Its deep, warm notes of cocoa and caramel are perfect for sipping slowly and pretending you're on an exotic beach. The pinnacle of its collection is the Flor de Caña 25. An ultra-premium rum that's been aged to perfection, this expression presents a complex array of flavors. Dark chocolate, roasted nuts, and a delicate hint of vanilla provide a smooth, luxurious, and truly indulgent sipping rum. Clearly, Flor de Caña has plenty going for it (even if it just missed our top three).

3. Ron Abuelo

Abuelo Rum bottles by wood
Abuelo Rum bottles by wood - Ron Abuelo / Facebook

Located in the lush landscapes of Panama, Ron Abuelo is a smooth operator in the world of spirits -- and one that's been turning heads and lifting spirits (pun totally intended) for over a century. When Don Jose Varela Blanco established Panama's first sugar mill in 1908, he couldn't have known the impact he would have on his family and the country as a whole. As an homage, Ron Abuelo (or "Grandfather Rum") prides itself on a field-to-bottle approach, controlling every aspect of production from sugarcane cultivation to bottling. The rums are aged in white oak barrels, which contributes to their distinct flavor profiles without being overpowering -- helping it earn third place.

First up on the must-try list is the Abuelo 12 Años. Lighter in style than many Central American rums, it's like a masterclass in balance and richness. Aged to perfection in oak barrels, it offers up a symphony of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of smoke. It's the kind of rum that makes you want to sit back, relax, and savor every sip.

Then there's the granddaddy of them all: the Centuria. This ultra-premium offering is a blend of the distillery's finest aged rums, creating a complex, velvety smooth drink that's packed with deep, dark fruit flavors and a whisper of spice. It's not just a rum; it's an experience that's been crafted with patience and passion.

2. Zafra

Zafra Rum bottle on white
Zafra Rum bottle on white - Zafra Rum / Facebook

If Zafra rum was a bit easier to find, it might have taken our top spot. Zafra is a small-batch spirit celebrated for its exceptional craftsmanship. Originating from Panama, the brand's dedication to quality is evident in its selective aging process. The tropical climate of Panama plays a crucial role in accelerating the maturation, though, enhancing the rum's body and character.

Zafra's commitment to sustainability and ethical practices further distinguishes its offerings in the premium rum market by appealing to enthusiasts seeking both quality and responsible production methods. Through its standout rums, Zafra captures the essence of Panama's rich rum heritage, offering a luxurious experience that resonates with connoisseurs around the world. With only two rums in its portfolio, Zafra's focus is on the premium end of the market. These are sipping rums -- the sort suitable for special occasions or as a gift for that rum lover in your life.

Zafra's Master Reserve 21 is the flagship offering. It's aged for 21 years in bourbon oak barrels, which imparts a rich, sophisticated flavor profile marked by vanilla, caramel, and a slight smokiness. Their other notable expression is the limited edition Zafra Master Reserve 30, which is a testament to the brand's commitment to excellence. It showcases an even deeper complexity and smoothness, with layers of chocolate, dried fruit, and spices.

1. Ron Centenario

Centenario rum bottles with flowers
Centenario rum bottles with flowers - Centenario Ron / Facebook

Ron Centenario takes our top spot. It shines as a pinnacle of craftsmanship and sustainability in Costa Rica -- a land typically known for the traditional sugar cane spirit called guaro. Embodying the vibrant pura vida lifestyle, Centenario distinguishes itself as Costa Rica's only rum producer. It boasts a legacy of quality and a dedication to encapsulating the essence of its tropical surroundings in each bottle. Demonstrating a profound commitment to environmental stewardship, Centenario operates its facilities with 99.98% solar energy and actively engages in initiatives aimed at preserving local wildlife (further solidifying its spot in our rankings)

Eco-consciousness aside, Centenario has another interesting trick up its sleeve that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Unique to Centenario, each of its aged rums embarks on a journey through American Oak barrels that once held Scotch whisky. This adds an unparalleled richness and subtle smokiness that bridges the tropical warmth of Costa Rica with a unique and distinguished character.

While many of Centenario's lower-priced offerings can be difficult to come by outside of its home country, we can attest that the Centenario 20-Year-Old Anniversario and the Centenario 25-Year-Grand Reserve are worth spending a bit more on. The luxurious layers of caramel and tropical fruit (with a hint of peat and oak) invite connoisseurs and casual sippers alike to explore the depths of their complexity.

Methodology

map of central America region
map of central America region - Juanmonino/Getty Images

In our quest to uncover the top Central American rums, we launched into a detailed tasting odyssey, sampling a variety of offerings from each brand to assess the flavor intricacies, smoothness, and overall enjoyment each brand brings. Our exploration wasn't confined to just our own experiences, though, as we also dove into online ratings -- taking into account the views and assessments of a wider community of rum aficionados and critics.

Acknowledging the importance of environmental responsibility in today's world, we also took a look at the eco-friendly practices of these distilleries. Brands that demonstrated a commitment to sustainability -- through the use of organic ingredients, renewable energy, or effective waste reduction measures -- stood out to us and gained extra favor in our rankings.

To further refine our rankings, we considered the diversity of each brand's rum lineup. Although our highest accolades were reserved for brands that excelled in crafting the most exceptional single expressions, those offering a broad and varied selection were also acknowledged, giving them a slight advantage in tie-breaking situations.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.