Oak-barrel aging brings to mind Cognac and whiskynot rum. But 37-year-old Tim Haughinberry is challenging that idea with his amber-colored Montecristo Rum, a blend of rare rums aged in barrels once used for Kentucky bourbon. The blend of 12- and 23-year-old rums is lusciously rich, with hints of toasty oak, vanilla and butterscotch. Based in Las Vegas, Haughinberry was working as a distributor for Montecristo cigars when he had the idea for a rum with the same name. "In Cuba, rum, not Cognac, is traditionally drunk with cigars," he says. Once Haughinberry had the name, the task of finding a rum to fit wasn't easy. To make his first-ever spirit, Haughinberry visited distilleries in the Caribbean and South America and tested more than 100 different rums overall before choosing the aged ones that he uses in his blend. Processed and bottled in Guatemala, Montecristo is available in 44 U.S. states. It already has a growing restaurant following, from Michael Mina's Seablue in Las Vegas to Nobu, Blue Smoke and Gramercy Tavern in New York City. Credit its versatility: The rum is complex enough to sip like Scotch, and its smooth, round flavorunlike the acidic burn of younger, clear-colored rums that may only be aged for six monthsmixes beautifully in cocktails like the mojito ($30; 800-844-9650 or www.montecristorum.com).
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