Kendie Williams has probably forgotten more about drinks than we’ll ever know. It’s why she’s an award-winning master mixologist at the ultra-luxurious Four Seasons Resort Nevis. It also makes her the ideal person for some expert advice on National Rum Day selections.

Williams is an island girl from the Caribbean, where rum is a staple. Her tropical background has led her to favor bolder spirits with flavors like vanilla, caramel, and toffee with a hint of spice. “Dark rums are usually smoother on the palate and never need much to enhance the taste,” explained Williams. But for cocktails, she leans towards the lighter side and white rums.

“The flavors are a lot less intense and tend to blend better when adding fruit purées or other liquors,” said Williams. “Bacardi is the superior blending rum for cocktails.”

But when it comes to purchasing rum, Williams acknowledges that there are different factors to look out for when selecting your bottle. The aging process is different for each rum: dark rum needs more time to achieve maximum flavor and is aged in charred oak barrels, while white rum is aged in stainless steel barrels. Rum quality is also based on the proof percentage and style of rum.

“You have to remember, picking the perfect rum is all about the appearance; meaning the color, the smell, and of course, the taste,” shared Williams. “When it comes to rum, age is good, but you always want to make sure it’s smooth.” 

To celebrate National Rum Day, here are some favorites from Williams’ personal collection.

Ron Zacapa XO, Guatemala

Appearance: Dark with an intense amber color
Aroma: Caramel, walnuts, and orange peel zest
Taste: Fruity and floral notes

“This rum is very smooth from beginning to end,” said Williams. “The balance of the sweetened fruits, spices, and the added chocolatey smooth finish will be delicious as a liquid dessert.”

El Dorado 15, Guyana

Appearance: Vibrant amber color
Aroma: Toffee, prunes, and molasses
Taste: Sweet spices, thick notes of dark brown sugar

“This rum is creamy and thick, making you want another glass at the end of the night,” according to Williams. “It’s perfect as a dessert rum over a big cube of ice, that can help soften the alcohol taste and make the flavors come out more.”

Zaya Gran Reserva Rum 12 years, Trinidad

Appearance: Dark bronze rich color
Aroma: Sweet caramel, vanilla, spicy and smoky
Taste: Caramel, nutty, oak, and smoky

“This one is very different from the rest; it has a dominant vanilla taste that’s inviting,” Williams observed. “With the slightly smoky flavor in the finish, I would recommend complementing this rum with a cigar.”

Appleton 50 years, Jamaica

Appearance: Dark amber, almost molasses color
Aroma: Honey, molasses, and bananas
Taste: Licorice hints, maple sugar, and vanilla cinnamon

“This rum has so many welcoming flavors, making it ideal for any meal period. It’s one of my favorite rums; it doesn’t need anything and should only be used as a sipping rum.”

Diplomatico Ambassador, Venezuela

Appearance: Deep dark amber
Aroma: Banana, apricot, and licorice root
Taste: Fruity, warm spices, and tobacco

“I prefer a sweeter rum, and this one always does the trick with its primary notes from the banana and apricot. It also pairs very nicely with spicy dishes or even as a pre-or post-dinner sipping rum.”

Crowned Monkey Rum 14 years, Four Seasons Resort Nevis

Appearance: Light golden caramel color
Aroma: Vanilla with hints of aromatic floral scent
Taste: Dry bourbon and oak notes, quickly turns to a creamy smooth mouthfeel with notes of burnt caramel and hints of vanilla

“This rum is true to my heart because it was created for our property specifically and can only be found here. This rum doesn’t need much and can easily be a sipping rum. However, we created a light cocktail called The Peak. Using the rum, we stir in vanilla sugar syrup and cherry bitters, smoke it with cherry wood in our smoker to give the look of the clouds floating atop the glass.”