The Best Rum From Jamaica To Taste On Your Vacation

September 24, 2022

Taste the best rum in Jamaica

The best rums from Jamaica are emerging as leaders in a global rum revolution. Travelers who once threw a shot of Captain Morgan on top of their daiquiri are learning to appreciate the ingenuity and artistry behind more bespoke distillations.

They are also discovering that rum is another great reason to travel. Perhaps nothing is more closely tied to the Caribbean region’s history and heritage. And nowhere epitomizes this better than Jamaica.

Jamaica offers great beaches, beautiful hotels, and the famous coffee of the Blue Mountains. It’s one of the best Caribbean islands to visit with kids, especially because of the plentiful direct flight options to Montego Bay. But it is also an epicenter of fine rum-making. The best Jamaican rums have a distinctive style – a fruity “funk” celebrated by connoisseurs. But they can also be hard to find in your local liquor store, making this island a prime travel destination for the rum-curious.

Contemplating a family trip, and wondering which Jamaican rum brands you could sample on your journey? Or maybe searching for the strongest jamaican rum to put in your first cocktail upon arrival? This list offers an introduction to good Jamaican rums, so that you can get excited to explore them on your tropical vacation!

And, of course, because we can’t help ourselves, we’ve included our top recommendations for where to stay in Jamaica with kids. Read on for the good stuff. 

Table of Contents

Jamaica Family Travel Resources

Before we dive in, let’s be sure you have our best travel resources at your fingertips.   

Did you know we have a whole collection of recommended family hotels in the Caribbean – including in Jamaica? I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s sort of our pride and joy. 

What better way to try the rum from Jamaica than on a great family vacation? 

Wishing someone else would just handle the logistics for a change? We also offer bespoke Caribbean family travel planning services. Our specialty? Identifying the best Caribbean island and hotel for your  top-notch family trip. Let us take care of the legwork. 

Now, pour yourself an Appleton on the rocks and start learning about Jamaican rums… 

Introduction To Our List of Best Rum From Jamaica

While the post is titled “best rums from Jamaica,” we have to admit that we are not experts. Anyway, a ranking is always going to be totally subjective. This is more of a cross-section of our favorites from the island, rather than a declaration of the best.

Also, a bit ironically, a lot of the best tasting rum that we recommend may be tough to order off a Jamaican bar or restaurant menu. In our experience, many hotels and restaurants only stock major rum brands (many of which may be imported from elsewhere in the Caribbean and South America). This is something we hope a bit of interest will help to change!

But good news: A distillery tour can be a great excuse to get out into the beautiful Jamaican countryside! We love a frozen poolside drink as much as the next parent. But finding great local rums can offer adventure and cultural connections for everyone, even if the kids aren’t partaking. This is a chance to start thinking about rum during your next family trip as not just a mixer, but as “the spirit of the Caribbean.”

Go, explore, and sip some of these bottles at their source.  We have some specific suggestions below for distilleries where you can sample the best Jamaican rums.

And finally, if this introductory list motivates you, we highly recommend our rum-hero, the Lone Caner, as a top resource. His encyclopedic and lyrical website is a great resource for anyone looking to expand their knowledge and take a deeper dive into the rum world.  

Appleton: The Best Rum In Jamaica
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The Best Rum In Jamaican To Try On Your Next Tropical Vacation

1. Classic Jamaica Rum: Appleton 12-Year Old Rum 

If you’ve ever gone looking for good, aged rum, Appleton probably comes to mind. This is no coincidence: Appleton is produced at one of two distilleries owned by Wray and Nephew, one of the largest rum producers in Jamaica. It’s available in just about any liquor store with a rum shelf.

Appleton is among the easiest of the top Jamaican rums to find, making it one of the best Jamaican rum to buy in Jamaica on your vacation, when presented with a choice at the bar. 

Virtually all Jamaican rums are made by fermenting molasses.  (As compared with an ‘agricole’ style rum made with sugar cane juice.)  Appleton is no exception. It is aged for 12 to 18 years in oak barrels in Jamaica’s tropical climate before blending. It also meets all of the requirements for its “geographical indication” as a Jamaica rum.

Appleton 12-Year Tasting Notes

Reasonable minds may differ as to the best Appleton rum, but the 12-year is a grea place to start. While it may not be the most unique rum coming out of Jamaica, reviewers note its fruity/funky aroma and smooth texture, with initial oak and smoke on the palate that give way to sweeter molasses and caramel flavors – the quintessential Jamaican dark rum. 

Per the Lone Caner, Appleton 12-year rum is almost “able to serve as a stand-in for a whole country’s rums.” It is therefore a great Jamaican dark rum brand to introduce to the bourbon or single-malt drinker in your family. 

Tour the Appleton Estate Rum Distillery 

If you’re looking for a unique excursion, consider a visit to the Appleton Estate.  It’s nestled in the rugged green hills of Jamaica’s interior, about a 2-hour drive from the resort towns of Negril and Montego Bay.  It is open to the public from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM, Tuesday through Saturday and offers guided tours, as well as a well-appointed bar and a gift shop with small-batch bottles available.

The tour is named for Joy Spence, Appleton’s master blender and the first woman to hold that title in the spirits industry!  While the tour is geared towards adults, Appleton makes clear that children are welcome to join.

For Family Fun, Visit YS Falls and Appleton Estate In The Same Tour 

One of the great things for parents who want to tour Appleton Estate: The Estate is only about 25 minutes from one of Jamaica’s best and most popular kid-friendly spots, YS Falls. YS Fall is an absolutely gorgeous mountainside experience, with waterfalls, pools, rope swings, and a great zipline for kids age 6+.  Combine a day at YS Falls with a rum tour at Appleton and everyone will go home happy! 

Appleton Estate: Best Rum From Jamaica

2. Strongest Jamaican Rum: Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

As we mentioned above. Wray and Nephew owns Appleton. But it also makes a variety of rums under its own label – many of which are meant to be enjoyed in mixed drinks. Think of the Appleton rum brand as Wray & Nephew’s serious and careful eldest child, and its White Overproof Rum as the younger sibling doing bellyflops off the diving board.

This Jamaican white rum is bottled fresh out of the still at a face-slapping 63 percent alcohol.  Most sipping rums are in the high 40s or low 50s, and an “overproof rum,” i.e. the strongest rum in the Caribbean, is anything with more than 50 percent alcohol.  

So this Jamaican classic rum by Wray and Nephew is definitely the strongest on our list of Jamaican rums. So why does this rocket fuel make our list of best rums in Jamaica? It is fanatically popular with bartenders, especially on the tiki circuit, has spawned countless imitators, and remains one of Jamaica’s best-selling rums. No list of important Jamaican rums can be complete without it.

White Overproof Rum Tasting Notes

With tasting notes that touch on things like “acetone,” “gasoline,” or “nail polish,” this may be a tough glass for even the most desperate parents to enjoy on its own. While strong, though, it still imparts the distinctive Jamaican “funk” that makes it a great mixer with tropical fruit flavors.

It is a great way to spice up your daquiri recipes and kick-start a party.

 

3. Small Batch Rum: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve Blended Rum

Now we’re moving away from rums you can find on supermarket shelves.  Worthy Park is a small distillery, but has made a name for itself among serious rum drinkers with its six-year old blended rum, first released in 2017.

The well-balanced, complex flavor profile of the Single Estate Reserve Blended Rum, combined with its relatively accessible price point, has made the distillery a rising star. This rum is often compared, and is in many ways similar to, Appleton’s 12-year old rum, but is regarded by many to be the finer product. Definitely a contender for the best Jamaican dark rum.  

Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve Tasting Notes

Worthy Park uses a pot still to blend its rum, a technique known as imparting more flavor than the more commonly used column stills. Blending with pot stills is kind of like using a well-loved cast-iron skillet when cooking. Reviewers rave about how smooth and pleasant this rum is to drink, perhaps making a run for the best tasting rum in Jamaica, though you may notice the smell more than any specific taste profile.

This is a great starter rum for those who aren’t yet connoisseurs, such as family members who you may convince to drag you along on a rum tour…

Visit The Worthy Park Estate

For another rum-focused excursion, Worthy Park Estate is in the center of the country, about 2.5 hours from Montego Bay, and 1 hour from Kingston or Ocho Rios. (Unfortunately, it’s in a completely different area than the Appleton Estate so you can’t hit them both in one great day.)

Tours are available and encouraged, but by appointment only, so book ahead. While there, you can also sample Worthy Park’s other rum brands, like their Rum Bar collection, which are built to compete with Wray & Nephew and meant to be mixed.

Renting a Car In Jamaica

Before we keep going with our list of awesome Jamaica rums, a quick word about getting around Jamaica.  In this post, we suggest rum tours that include transportation from your hotel — a great option if you’re staying at a resort without a car. 

That said, driving yourself around Jamaica can be a blast, and offers more flexibility. It’s not for the faint of heart: There are windy roads, fast drivers, and lots of potholes. Plus, you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road.  But if you’re up for it, it’s totally doable, and we never felt unsafe. 

We’re always available to chat about whether driving around a specific island makes sense, so don’t hestitate to reach out with questions.  We recommend using Discover Cars to quickly compare your rental options and find the best deal.  Tip: Sixt often has the best prices in Jamaica and we’ve had solid experiences going with them. 

Now back to our Jamaican rums! 

4. Up-And-Coming Jamaican Rum: Hampden Estate Great House Distillery Edition

Hampden is another up-and-comer among the Jamaican dark rum brands responding to increased demand for premium rums.

Like other rum-makers in Jamaica, Hampden long survived by selling rum to other distributors for blending. But following a partnership with famed rum makers at La Masion and Velier, who were already using Hampden rum for some small-batch offerings, Hampden started releasing rums under their own label to wide acclaim.

The Great House Distillery Edition is a limited-edition bottle that comes out annually and is meant to represent the best of what the distillery has to offer. This summer, we managed to try a glass of the 2020 version at the perfect setting: the bar at Strawberry Hill, a resort in the mountains overlooking Kingston.

Hampden also works with a number of small-batch, independent producers for true collector offerings, some of which are only still available at auction at astronomical prices. Like Worthy Park and Appleton, they also have a mixing brand that includes white and gold rums called Rum Fire.

Distillery Edition Tasting Notes

This Jamaican dark rum gives off a bright, balanced aroma of tropical fruits and butterscotch, but at 59 percent ABV, is more than a little hot on the palette. Your instinct may be to blow on it to cool it down. (It won’t work.) The fruit flavors still come through, leading to a warm and sugary finish that gets better the longer the glass breathes and the more sips you take.

Tour Hampden Estate

Hampden Estate is a short trek inland from the northwest coast, less than an hour from downtown Montego Bay. This would be a great option for a distillery tour for those staying a resort who want something a little closer to home. Tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10AM and 11AM with lunch included. You can book ahead via phone or email.

Where to stay in Jamaica

Jamaica has a wide range of options for travelers looking to enjoy the beach with their families — but also to sample some good Jamaican rum! Before we get to our fifth and final rum on this list, a quick word about where to stay. 

If you’re looking for an easy all-inclusive resort, Montego Bay has endless options.  Read our full hotel reveiws to learn why we’re partial to the lively urban vibe of S Hotel Jamaica and the boutique luxury of Round Hill Resort. Many families also enjoy the Hyatt Rose Hall and Half Moon Resort.

Want to venture a little further? Try the infamous seven-mile beach in Negril. We love the chic but affordable beach club Skylark Negril for a comfortable home base. 

Or, head across Jamaica’s north coast. Be inspired to create at GoldenEye Resort in Ocho Rios. Venture a little further east and you’ll arrive in the lesser-frequented area of Port Antonio where we’ve got our eye on the cottages at Geejam Hotel.

Finally, consider heading to the award-winning Jake’s Treasure Beach, one of the most unique hotels we’ve experienced in the Caribbean, to see Jamaica’s undiscovered south coast.

5. Woman-Owned Jamaican Rum: Long Pond Special Edition ITP 15yr Old Jamaican Rum

So far, we have sampled a rum from each of the major producers of Jamaica, save one: National Rums of Jamaica.  

You’ll see a similar pattern begin to form: In the past, NRJ sold most of its rum to bottlers outside of Jamaica for blending (the well-known Myers and Captain Morgan Black brands key among them). More recently, it started bottling under its own label, with different brands targeting different market segments. It is also working with independent rum makers to produce bespoke barrels for limited-edition productions.

So what sets this producer apart? For starters, they are among the very small handful of spirt makers worldwide with a woman as their CEO, which gives them bonus points on our list of best Jamaican rums.  Second, they operate one of the oldest distilleries on the island. Their Long Pond site, for which their recently-launched premium label is named, dates back to 1753.  The Long Pond Special Edition ITP 15yr marks the distillery’s “first official distillery direct release in the US ever.” 

At $200 a bottle, we haven’t had a chance to try this one yet, but we have a feeling it’ll easy make the list of best Jamaican dark rums. At that budget, you might also try looking for some of the smaller batches to come out of this distillery through its partnerships with independent bottlers like Velier (a name that you will notice keeps coming up in connection with Jamaican rums).

But if you have the means, it might be fun to compare it against the offerings above and see how it stacks up. If you do, let us know what you think!

Jamaica Family Trip (Plus Rum)

Plan Your Jamaica Family Trip with Mango Tree

If this list of the best rums in Jamaica gets you excited for a tropical family adventure, we understand. We’re ready to pack our bags too. 

There are some amazing family-friendly hotels in Jamaica that would be a great home base for some family R&R with a little rum tasting sprinkled in. Need help planning your family trip to Jamaica or another top Caribbean destination?  That’s our jam, so reach out and let’s chat.

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Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for your Jamaica Trip

When you book travel with your kids – to Jamaica or elsewhere – you should always get trip insurance in case things go wrong. You want to be sure you’re covered for trip delays or cancellation, medical costs, and lost luggage. 

We suggest getting a quote from IMG global. The Travel SE plan will offer sufficient coverage for most family trips. And we like it for the Caribbean in particular because, on top of having comprehensive medical, cancellation, and luggage protection, the hurricane protection is better than most. If NOAA issues a hurricane warning or watch for your destination 24-72 hours before departure, trip cancellation benefits kick-in (read the fine print for all plan details, of course).  

We’re also intrigued by Faye, new player seeking to revive the travel insurance space and improve the traveler experience. Faye provides coverage quotes in minutes and prioritizes excellent service. It has an easy-to-use app for claims processing, speedy reimbursements, and 24/7 travel assistance. They cover flights and have a vacation rental protection add-on. Their focus on making life easier for their travelers resonates with this busy mom!