10 Rums That Will Spice Up Your Summer for Less Than $30

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A TASTE OF THE TROPICS

Warm weather calls for mai tais, mojitos, daiquiris, and other refreshing rum drinks. But store shelves are crowded, and plenty of rums good enough for sipping neat or on the rocks cost $60 or more. Cheapism.com has ranked 10 of the best bottles available under $30, starting with the results of the 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, which is respected for its tasting methodology and well-known judges. Those scores were cross-referenced with online reviews and, of course, prices. The final list includes three white rums, followed by seven darker rums that have been aged longer, starting with the best.

DIPLOMATICO BLANCO (STARTING AT $28)

It's easy to see why this Venezuelan white rum scores highly in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge year after year. Flavors of sugar cane, fresh green vegetation and earthy minerals are expansive on the palate and finish completely dry. Touted as "a real standout" by the website Spirits Review, this is an excellent white rum for sipping or mixing -- think mojitos.

PLANTATION 3 STARS (STARTING AT $18)

This inexpensive white rum is a good one to keep on hand for summer cocktails. The flavors are diverse, starting off as candied fruit then turning herbal and earthy for a dry finish. The rum earns high scores across the board from The Rum Howler Blog for its clean, focused flavor.

CANA BRAVA (STARTING AT $28)

This Panamanian white rum coats the mouth with its full, creamy, slightly buttery body and the sweet, earthy flavor of fresh sugar cane. This clean yet sumptuous spirit earned the title of "Best Booze Buy" from spirits blog The Pour Fool and makes a summery alternative to vodka.

SOUTH BAY SMALL BATCH NO. 18 (STARTING AT $28)

This classic Dominican rum, made from molasses, caters to those who crave bold flavor. It's smooth and sweet, with notes of spice and caramelized tobacco leaf and a long and luscious finish. The blogger behind The Pour Fool marvels at the quality-to-price ratio.

PLANTATION ORIGINAL DARK (STARTING AT $18)

Intensely rich flavors of caramel, spice cake, and burnt sugar and cinnamon lend a bold sweetness to cocktails made with tropical fruit juice. This powerful Trinidadian rum earns 10 out of 10 from Spirits Review for its flavor and value.

RON ABUELO 7 ANOS (STARTING AT $22)

The flavors in this rum seem to develop with each sip, as candied nuts, molasses, baking spices, and hints of earthiness peek through. Delicious on its own, this Panamanian spirit also adds a lot to classic tiki drinks. Spirits Review calls it "well made, complex, and a great bargain."

PLANTATION GRANDE RESERVE 5 YEARS (STARTING AT $22)

This rum hails from Barbados and reveals surprising depth of flavor -- a range of sweetness from honey and brown sugar to toasted coconut and chocolate. Good enough to be a summer sipper, yet cheap enough to mix into cocktails guilt-free, it's admired by amateurs and professionals alike, earning 92 out of 100 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

CRUZAN SINGLE BARREL (STARTING AT $29)

From St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands comes this deep, dense, and indulgent rum. Although the price is on the high end for this list, it reflects up to 12 years of aging. Touted as one of the best rums under $30 by The Pour Fool, this spirit adds considerable complexity to a cocktail and might be best enjoyed neat. Its big, boozy body is velvety on the palate, with lasting flavors of molasses, vanilla, and spice cake.

BACARDI 8 (STARTING AT $23)

It turns out that the most popular rum brand in the world knows a thing or two about producing good rum. This special reserve is much more complex and flavorful than most people would probably expect from Bacardi, yet the price is in the same ballpark. With layers of flavor including baking spices and chocolate, it's easy to see why this rum consistently scores high marks with consumers and professionals.

CORUBA ORIGINAL (STARTING AT $20)

This Jamaican dark rum packs a lot of flavor into a low-priced bottle. The deep molasses flavor, with notes of banana and chocolate, makes a delicious foundation for a traditional cocktail such as a dark and stormy or a fruity rum punch. Although this rum is not aggressively marketed or widely reviewed, it came away with a score of 92 out of 100 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a particularly excellent performance given the price point.