Rum-Lovers Rejoice: Kirk & Sweeney Gran Reserva

Growing up in Puerto Rico, my first tastes of spirits were, unsurprisingly, all rums. With age and good fortune has come access to finer examples than the cheap stuff of my youth, but rum has never really made it onto my go-to list. Sure, many of them taste terrific, but their high residual sugars - and the nasty hangovers they can impart - are the reason I've tended to stay away. Until now.

The Kirk & Sweeney Gran Reserva Rum from the Dominican Republic ($30) is an outlier. Deepest amber with clarity throughout, the color is a both a leading indicator and a contradiction for what's to come. The clean aromatics are dominated by port/brandy-like brooding raisins and Cognac's mysteriousness. But in the mouth, it's pure Caribbean joyousness. Drier than most white rum, this finely-tuned dark spirit is like a Swiss-engineered watch. Not a drop out of place, with the 80 proof kept well in balance by what is both flavorful body and refined restraint. Everything you've ever loved about rum with none of the cloying baggage. Superb and deserving of at least 95 points. Unreal value at this price. (Sample)

And here's something fun: In an effort to promote the product, Kirk & Sweeney is having a contest to find the nation's top tiki cocktail recipe. The winning entry will receive The Ultimate Tiki Bar Kit for an at-home tiki experience, with a value of $1,000 or more. More info at Kirk & Sweeney