Best Craft Rum Distillery (2017)


Sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean began distilling rum during the 17th century from molasses, an inexpensive byproduct of the sugar refining process. The spirit came to the U.S. in 1664 with the opening of the first rum distillery on Staten Island and continued to grow in popularity through the Revolutionary War. Rum has come a long way since those early days, and distilleries across the nation are experimenting with how to craft the finest variations.

  • Wicked Dolphin

    Wicked Dolphin
    Cape Coral, Fla.

    Founded in 2012, Wicked Dolphin Distillery uses 100-percent Florida-grown sugarcane to create small-batch rums in a traditional copper pot still. The spirit then gets aged in used American white oak Kentucky bourbon barrels for a minimum of one year (and up to 14 years). Wicked Dolphin also produces a silver rum, coconut rum (made from real coconut water) and Rumshine, a 100-proof spirit made from fresh local strawberries.
    Photo courtesy of Wicked Dolphin

  • Tailwinds Distilling

    Tailwinds Distilling
    Plainfield, Ill.

    Taildragger rums from Tailwinds Distilling are never charcoal or chill filtered in order to preserve the natural flavors of the raw cane sugar molasses. The line includes a white rum, rye whiskey barrel-aged amber rum, coffee infused rum and a French oak-aged After Dark rum with mocha and caramel notes.
    Photo courtesy of Tailwinds Distilling

  • Roulaison Distilling Co

    Roulaison Distilling Co
    New Orleans

    Roulaison Distilling Co. prides itself on pushing the creative limits of rum. The New Orleans distillery takes a historic approach to distilling its flagship rum – a robust spirit with notes of pineapple and banana with a spicy, piney finish.
    Photo courtesy of Roulaison Distilling Co

  • Lyon Distilling Company

    Lyon Distilling Company
    St. Michaels, Md.

    Rum lovers have numerous options to choose from at Lyon Distilling Company. This micro distillery on the Chesapeake Bay makes white rum, dark rum, Sailors Reserve Rum, Overproof White Rum and Overproof French-Oak Finished Rum (the later two at 126 proof).
    Photo courtesy of Lyon Distilling Company

  • New Holland Artisan Spirits

    New Holland Artisan Spirits
    Holland, Mich.

    Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum, distilled by New Holland Artisan Spirits, is made from in-house fermented cane sugar and molasses and barrel-aged in a combination of virgin, wine and whiskey oak for at least six months. Freshwater Superior Single Barrel Rum ages in a single "honey barrel" before getting bottled at barrel strength.
    Photo courtesy of New Holland Artisan Spirits

  • Cutwater Spirits

    Cutwater Spirits
    San Diego

    Three Sheets Rum from Cutwater Spirits in San Diego comes in three varieties, a white rum, barrel-aged rum and a spiced rum. All start with pure cane sugar and are distilled in a hybrid pot and column still.
    Photo courtesy of Cutwater Spirits

  • Calwise Spirits Co

    Calwise Spirits Co
    San Diego

    Blonde Rum, Calwise Spirit Co.'s twist on the classic white rum, is made from fermented U.S.-grown cane sugar rested in Chardonnay barrels to give it complexity without sacrificing its versatility. Bold and rich, Calwise Spiced Rum has flavors of clove, cinnamon and vanilla – perfect for sipping.
    Photo courtesy of Calwise Spirits Co

  • Malahat Spirits

    Malahat Spirits
    San Diego

    Handmade in San Diego in small batches, Malahat Spirits rums are named after the five-masted schooner that once delivered spirits to Southern California during prohibition. Multiple types of molasses go into the five rum varieties, including a silver rum, spiced rum, ginger rum, black tea rum and Cabernet barrel-aged rum.
    Photo courtesy of Malahat Spirits

  • Richland Distilling Company

    Richland Distilling Company
    Richland, Ga.

    Richland Distilling Company uses only two ingredients in crafting its fine spirits: pure, unrefined cane sugar syrup and natural water. That's it. Single Estate Old Georgia Rum starts by distilling pure cane juice, then aging the rum in new American white oak barrels for at least 32 months. Sugar cane comes from the proprietor's own estate, and the water is pulled from the Georgia aquifer.
    Photo courtesy of Richland Distilling Company

  • Allegheny Distilling

    Allegheny Distilling

    Maggie's Farm Rum, crafted by Allegheny Distilling in Pittsburgh, was one of the first producers of craft rum in the state since prohibition. Rums are made from scratch in a Spanish copper potstill. The White Rum starts with raw turbinado sugar rather than molasses, while the Spiced Rum is infused with eight spices. The distillery also makes aged and unaged Queen's Share, made from redistilling a collection of end-running.
    Photo courtesy of Allegheny Distilling

We asked a panel of American spirits experts to nominate 20 of the best craft rum distilleries in the USA, and four the past four weeks, our readers have been voting daily for their favorites. Many of these distilleries work in small batches using locally-sourced ingredients. Many are family-owned. All take pride in crafting unique rums worthy of sipping as well as mixing.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Craft Rum Distillery are as follows:

  1. Wicked Dolphin - Cape Coral, Fla.
  2. Tailwinds Distilling - Plainfield, Ill.
  3. Roulaison Distilling Co - New Orleans
  4. Lyon Distilling Company - St. Michaels, Md.
  5. New Holland Artisan Spirits - Holland, Mich.
  6. Cutwater Spirits - San Diego
  7. Calwise Spirits Co - San Diego
  8. Malahat Spirits - San Diego
  9. Richland Distilling Company - Richland, Ga.
  10. Allegheny Distilling - Pittsburgh

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Emily Arden Wells (Gastronomista), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Brian Christensen (Artisan Spirit Magazine), Laura Johnson (Distillerista) and Arthur Shapiro (Booze Business) were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of the American craft spirits industry.

Congratulations to all these winning distilleries.

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AlertThe Experts

Emily Arden Wells

Emily Arden Wells

Emily Arden Wells

Martin Cate

Martin Cate

Martin Cate

Brian Christensen

Brian Christensen

Brian Christensen

Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson

Arthur Shapiro

Arthur Shapiro

Arthur Shapiro