Distillery Ranking

When we’ve introduced scoring on this blog, one of our goals was to come up with rankings regarding distilleries and bottlers. When I was working on these numerical rankings, I quickly came to realize two things, which I didn’t think about beforehand. Firstly, when going by these two categories, the sample sizes for many bottlers and distilleries were way smaller than I initially thought. Of course these are limited by what we have in our library, and that again is not only limited by overall availability, but also our desire to acquire samples of these bottlers and distilleries. Secondly, next to our curiosity to taste new things, there is a natural bias for us to acquire and review the products we believe we might enjoy, which drastically impacts the results. What is more, the results are naturally skewed by what we have reviewed so far and outliers or rums that haven’t been reviewed yet drastically influence the results. Thus, the results clearly do not reflect the underlying structure of our belief system.

Hence, even though I already finished compiling these numerical rankings about half a year ago, I decided not to publish them for exactly these reasons. It just wasn’t possible to produce this objective side of our subjective reviews to our satisfaction. Now that doesn’t mean that we are not going to publish the results eventually, but I’ve decided to postpone them to the point at which I am happier with the sample sizes. As it is right now, we just do not have any proper means to compare the numbers adequately, which would render the endouver meaningless.

Of course, I still wanted to produce such a ranking nevertheless, except that this one is based solely on my subjective impression and how I feel the distilleries would be ranked if all the data had been compiled. The following is a short explanation of the tier ranking system. Note that it is build as a pyramid, meaning that every subsequent tier is larger than the previous one and restricted in size by the overall amount of included distilleries. It follows that some distilleries didn’t make it to the tier I feel they should have ended up in but the relative nature of the system forced me to make a few tough decisions. Examples would be Long Pond, Savanna or South Pacific Distillery that didn’t make it into tier 1 and Mount Gay, Sajous or Worthy Park, that just missed tier 2. Moreover, the order within a tier is alphabetically.
Tier 1 consists of the absolute top notch distilleries. Those are distilleries that are not only capable of producing the very best rums out there, but also those who have shown that they can do so consistently with numerous bottlings and batches. We can look past their bad products thanks to the vast number of magnaficient rums. In Tier 2 we find the distilleries that have the potential to make it to Tier 1, but that lack either the necessariy consistency or compatibility with my personal palate. Excellent releases have come from these distilleries and the general quality of their rums can be regarded as very good. Tier 3 is the playing field of many good distilleries that seldom really disappoint, but that also have few top class releases (think Mount Gay). Alternatively, they may have been responsible for a few extraordinary rums but the general level of their products is subpar on average. Some of them may be considered as true underdogs. In Tier 4 we have distilleries that are not exactly producing bad rums, but at least those that we are not always particularly fond of. That may range from solid but boring to “I wouldn’t recommend it”. In short, all the distilleries that don’t meet any of the criteria for Tier 3, but that just cannot be put in the lowest tier either. They have the potential to ascend. You may argue that (some of) these are thw median. Tier 5 consists of distilleries that are not to our liking. Either their products are very flat and boring, don’t suit our palate or are even just bad. Many of the distilleries tend to mess around with their rums. At best, we could tolerate some of the rums coming from these distilleries but on average we do not, especially given the much better alternatives. There’s little hope for these distilleries to ascend to Tier 3 in the near future. Finally, some distilleries have yet to be ranked. That’s essentially because their sample size is not sufficient for them to be ranked accurately.

Update (11.8.2020): We’ve added different sections within the tiers. Distilleries that are “looking up” (⇑) have the potential to ascend, Distilleries “looking down” (⇓) are on the verge of descending. This is the result of new bottlings that have shifted the perception of the distillery in one direction or the other, or, in some cases, even the lack thereof. At least for the moment, the rest is solidified within that tier.

Tier 1

  • Caroni (Trinidad, closed)
  • Enmore (Guyana, closed)
  • Hampden (Jamaica)
  • Neisson (Martinique)
  • St. Lucia Distillers (St. Lucia)

Tier 2

  • Savanna (La Réunion) ⇑
  • South Pacific Distillery (Fiji) ⇑
  • New Yarmouth (Jamaica) ⇑
  • Bielle (& Rhum Rhum, Marie-Galante)
  • J.M (Martinique)
  • Long Pond (Jamaica)
  • Reimonenq (Guadeloupe)
  • Damoiseau (Guadeloupe) ⇓
  • Diamond Distillery (Guyana) ⇓
  • Gardel (Guadeloupe, closed) ⇓
  • Uitvlugt (Guyana, closed) ⇓

Tier 3

  • Clarendon (Monymusk, Jamaica) ⇑
  • Sajous (Haiti) ⇑
  • Travellers Distillery (Belize) ⇑
  • Worthy Park (Jamaica) ⇑
  • Appleton (Jamaica)
  • Casimir (Haiti)
  • Depaz (& Dillon, Martinique)
  • Engenhos do Norte (Madeira)
  • Espérance (Langueteau & Karukera, Guadeloupe)
  • Grays (New Grove, Mauritius)
  • La Favorite (Martinique)
  • La Mauny (& Trois Rivières & Duquesne, Martinique)
  • Le Simon (Clément & HSE, Martinique)
  • Mhoba (South Africa)
  • Montebello (Guadeloupe)
  • Mount Gay (Barbados)
  • Paraiso (Sancti Spiritus, Cuba)
  • St. James (& J.Bally, Martinique)
  • Barbancourt (Haiti) ⇓

Tier 4

  • A1710 (Martinique)
  • Antigua Distillers (Antigua)
  • Beenleigh (Australia)
  • Bellevue (Guadeloupe)
  • Bologne (Guadeloupe)
  • Bonne Mère (Guadeloupe)
  • CACD (Venezuela)
  • Chamarel (Mauritius)
  • Distilerie de Jeanty (Haiti)
  • Domaine de Séverin (Guadeloupe)
  • Foursquare (Barbados)
  • Labourdonnais (Mauritius)
  • La Rocher (Haiti)
  • Nine Leaves (Japan)
  • O Reizinho (Madeira)
  • Paranubes (Mexico)
  • PILSA (Panama)
  • Poisson (Père Labat, Marie-Galante)
  • River Antoine (Grenada)
  • Riviere du Mat (La Réunion)
  • Saint Aubin (Mauritius)
  • Ten Cane (Trinidad, closed)
  • Trinidad Distillers (Angostura, Trinidad)
  • Vaval (Haiti)
  • WIRD (Barbados)

Tier 5

  • Barcardi (Puerto Rico)
  • Barcelo (Dominican Republic)
  • Bermudez (Dominican Republic)
  • Brugal (Dominican Republic)
  • Bundaberg (Australia)
  • Cardenas (Legendario & Cubay, Cuba)
  • Centenario (Costa Rica)
  • Compania Licorera de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
  • Cruzan (US Virgin Islands)
  • Destileria Colombiana (Colombia)
  • Destilerias Unidas S.A. de Peru (Peru)
  • Don Q (Puerto Rico)
  • Don Ruffin (Germany)
  • Enghaven (Denmark)
  • Epris (Brasil)
  • Groupe Vidzar (Dzama, Madagascar)
  • Inverroche (South Africa)
  • Isauter (La Réunion)
  • Le Galion (Martinique)
  • Licorera Cihuatan (El Salvador)
  • Licoreras de Guatemala (Guatemala)
  • Old Monk (India)
  • Privateer (USA)
  • Revolte (Germany)
  • San José de las Lajas (Havana Club, Cuba)
  • Sangar (Liberia)
  • Santa Cruz del Norte (Havana Club, Cuba)
  • Santiago de Cuba (Santiago de Cuba & Varadero & Caney, Cuba)
  • St. Nicholas Abbey (Barbados)
  • Simon’s (Germany)
  • Tanduay (Philippines)
  • Trois Frères (Takamaka, Seychelles)
  • Villa Clara (Cubay & Mulata, Cuba)
  • Westerhall (Grenada, closed)
  • William Hinton (Madeira)

Notable unranked distilleries

Hardy (Martinique, closed), Industria Licorera de Caldas (Colombia) Issan (Thailand), Llandovery (Jamaica), Macoucherie (Dominica), Montanya (USA), Saint-Maurice (French Guyana)

The featured image comes once again from our buddy Johannes. You can find this and many more cool vintage sugar cane related postcards on his instagram profile.