Your bar tab at a Caribbean hotel can add up quickly, which is why savvy travelers often hit the local grocery stores in search of ingredients to make their own rum cocktails. In some Caribbean islands, rum is literally cheaper than (bottled) water, and for under $15 (and often under $10) you can get a nice bottle of locally produced rum that you can drink on your trip or bring back home as a remembrance or as a nice gift for family members or friends.
With a history dating back to the first sugar mill in the Republic of Panama, Ron Abuelo Anejo is aged in small oak barrels from sugar-cane juice rather than molasses -- more like the rhum agricole of the French West Indies than the typical Caribbean rum. This three-year-old light (though not white) rum perhaps works best when mixed with cola, suggests Rum Howler reviewer Chip Dykstra.
This may be the bottom of the product line at Appleton, but this golden blend of 15 rums from Jamaica still blows away many competitors with a much higher price tag. The V/X is more of a mixer than a sipper, but great in a rum & coke. For a few dollar more, the Reserve is good enough to enjoy on the rocks or in a cocktail. "It personifies what I think of when I think of 'Jamaican Rum,'" says Rum Dood reviewer Matt Robold. "It's flavors are bold, fruity, and spicy. It can stand up to the most strongly flavored mixers and yet doesn’t overpower the more subtle ones."
Cruzan rums have become much more visible in the last few years, with expanding distribution in the U.S. and an ever-growing product line that includes the spiced Cruzan 9, an intense Black Strap rum, and a range of white rums flavored with mango, guava, black cherry, banana, and more. Visit Cruzan's home island of St. Croix, the duty-free mecca of St. Thomas, or anywhere else in the U.S. Virgin Islands and you'll find most of the Cruzan line for under $10 per 750 ml bottle.
DonQ is sort of known as the "other" rum producer from Puerto Rico (though there are more than two), sometimes overshadowed by the international behemoth known as Bacardi. In truth, however, this is the top-selling rum in Puerto Rico. The DonQ Anejo is a blend of three- to five-year-old rums aged in American White Oak barrels. "Hardly complicated but easy enough to sip on or mix with, it's nonetheless a solid rum at this price level," notes Christopher Null at Drinkhacker.com
Barbados is often called the rum capital of the world, so getting a five-year aged rum for $15 or less is a great deal. Produced by R. L. Seale at its Foursquare Distillery (which you can visit in St. Philip), Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum is a blend of pot and still rums that the Floating Rum Shack calls a "premium mixing rum" that's well-priced and well developed.
A fine Demerara amber rum packed in a curvaceous bottle, the El Dorade 5 Year Old is aged in bourbon casks. Chip Dykstra of the Rum Connection calls this Guyana rum "robust, spicy, El Dorado with a more Caribbean Island profile than sweet South American. It is a nice sipper and an even better mixer." You can read more on the El Dorado line of rums here.
Nicaragua's Flor de Cana distillery produces several excellent, budget friendly rums that you can find in the Caribbean for under $15 per 750 ml. The Extra Dry 4 is a light rum that's an excellent mixer and stands alongside Flor de Cana's 4-year-old Light and Gold rums, which can be had at similar prices. "A unique dry white rum aged 4 years and filtered to produce a dry, light bodied rum with character that makes fine cocktails," says Rob's Rum Guide.
Mount Gay Eclipse is a familiar sight on liquor store shelves in the U.S., but that doesn't take away from the fact that this Barbados rum is one of the best aged rums for the dollar anywhere -- "a very complex rum full of aroma and character," according to Chip Dykstra of the Rum Howler blog. You don't want to sip this rum, necessarily, but it makes a nice mixer. The Mount Gay distillery is a must-see when you're visiting Barbados.
Belize's most popular rum has only recently been appearing on shelves in the U.S., this slightly sweet rum is aged for one year in Kentucky Oak barrels. Described by the Ministry of Rum as a "classic golden rum," One Barrel is produced by Traveller's. It features a "bright golden color and distinct aroma of sweet butterscotch with a hint of maple syrup, [and] mellows out on the rocks or with a splash of water," according to Rob's Rum Guide.
Selected as the best gold rum at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the Plantation 5 has a grand name but a modest price. Aged first in bourbon barrels then finished in French sherry casks, this Barbados rum is described by Cocktai Enthusiast as "rich in flavor and aroma, with notable oak accents."