Rum and Number Labeling. Ok, so you go to the store and look at the rum shelf searching for a new one to buy. There’s a general notion that longer aged spirits are smoother and more complex (and often more expensive too), so you search for the age on the bottle. You see numbers, and the first assumption might be that the number represents the number of years it’s aged for…I mean, why else would there be a random number on the bottle? Wellllll, not so fast.
Just like any industry, sales are important, and consumer marketing is thus vital to sales. Companies know you’re looking for that number (and a higher number usually means they can hike up the price), so they may put a deceiving number on that bottle that really means nothing at all. It doesn’t mean the rum in the bottle is necessarily bad or low quality, but it does mean you’re not getting what you might be led to think you’re getting.
How to avoid this trap? Look very closely for the phrase “aged _ years/años” on the label. If it doesn’t specifically say that (and be careful, they can be tricky!), then what’s inside likely isn’t aged for that long. In this photo, all 6 rums have numbers, but if you inspect it, the top 3 (Zacapa, Flor de Caña, Banks) do not say those words exactly, while the bottom 3 (Doorly’s, El Dorado, Appleton) do. Does it mean one is better than the other? No, taste preference is personal, so drink what you enjoy, but know what you’re getting.