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Facts and features

Facts and features (4)

From seed to sip – how rum is made

How does your rum go from a straw of grass to an expensive top shelf rum? It all begins with the tropical grass called saccharum officinarum or sugar cane. It had been used for thousands of years in Asia before the Europeans “discovered” it. It was brought to the Caribbean by Cristopher Columbus in 1493. The sugar cane grown today is a hybrid of several different species of cane to get a good mix of characteristics to make it suitable for the region where it grows.

In the tropics it's possible to get two harvests per year. The fields are first cleansed by fire and the cut either by machete or machine. After cutting it's brought to a sugar mill or distillery to get chopped up and crushed so all the juice can be extracted. Normally the juice gets boiled so the sugar crystallizes and can be separated from the remains. For cane juice rums the cane juice gets fermented and distilled without the sugar production.

Unlike some other spirits, rum has no defined production methods. Instead, rum production is based on traditional styles that vary between locations and distillers.



Sugarcane is harvested to make sugarcane juice and molasses. The fields are normally torched before harvesting to cleanse the fields from leaves, snakes and other animals. Due to the tropical climates in which sugar cane is grown it can be harvested two times a year. Sugar cane can either be manually harvested by cutting with a knife or mechanically cut which is most widely practiced today. After cutting the cane should be crushed as soon as possible.

Most rum produced is made from molasses. A notable exception is the French-speaking islands, where sugarcane juice is the preferred base ingredient.


Crushing and extraction

At the entrance of the grinding mills, cane is first minced by a series of knives. It is then crushed by a battery of mills. Each mill is set differently so that the clamping action is becoming stronger.

For a better extraction cane is sprayed with water after each grinding. Cane juice collected in channels is filtered and then pumped to the fermentation tanks or boiled for sugar production. Molasses is produced by the boiling of the juice, which separates crystallized sugar from this dark treacly by-product. The molasses is delivered from the sugar factory to the distillery where it is pumped into storage tanks.


Recycling powering the operations

At the outlet of the mill, bagasse (sugar cane fiber remaining after extraction of the juice) is fed to the furnace to be burnt. It serves as a fuel for the furnaces that heat the boiler water and turn it into steam. Steam might be used for driving the mills, distillation columns and sugar production. The power generated by the bagasse allows the distillery to be completely independent on one hand and to have a low carbon foot print from an ecological point of view..



Yeast and water are added to the base ingredient to start the fermentation process. This is done under controlled conditions where ph, temperature and degrees Brix (sugar content, sucrose as percentage by weight) is carefully monitored. The sugar content can't be too high or too low so molasses needs to be diluted. While some rum producers allow wild yeasts to perform the fermentation, most use specific strains of yeast to help provide a consistent taste and predictable fermentation time.

Dunder, the yeast-rich foam from previous fermentations, is the traditional yeast source in Jamaica. "The yeast employed will determine the final taste and aroma profile," says Jamaican master blender Joy Spence. Distillers who make lighter rums, such as Bacardi, prefer to use faster-working yeasts. Use of slower-working yeasts causes more esters to accumulate during fermentation, allowing for a fuller-tasting rum. Fermentation takes two to three days. The yeast converts uncrystallised sugar to ethyl alcohol, called a ‘wash’, and carbon dioxide (CO²) gas which can be sold as a separate product. In the end, it says that the tank is "dropping", which means that its surface is smooth. This gives a cane wine containing between 3.5% and 7% alcohol vol. A lot of the rums flavour originates from this stage of the process.



As with all other aspects of rum production, no standard method is used for distillation. While some producers work in batches using pot stills, most rum production is done using column still distillation.

Continuous Column Stills use a method in which fermented molasses (wash) is added to the top of the column, while steam is injected at the bottom. This process of adding the steam and the wash simultaneously allows the alcohol vapours to rise to the top of the column into the condensers where they are condensed to form liquid rum. Each Continuous Still has the versatility to produce both heavy or light bodied rums depending on the addition of varying degrees of congeners.

Pot still output contains more congeners than the output from column stills, so produces fuller-tasting rums. The production of these rums, unlike that of the continuous still rums, is done in batches. A quantity of fermented wash is put into the pot and boiled. The vapours released are trapped in the condensers to produce high gravity rum. After all of the wash has been distilled, the pot is emptied and the process is repeated.


Cooperage and Aging:

Many countries require rum to be aged for at least one year. This aging is commonly performed in used bourbon casks, but may also be performed in other types of wooden casks or stainless steel tanks. The aging process determines the color of the rum. When aged in oak casks, it becomes dark, whereas rum aged in stainless steel tanks remains virtually colorless. Due to the tropical climate common to most rum-producing areas, rum matures at a much higher rate than is typical for Scotch or Cognac. An indication of this higher rate is the angels' share, or amount of product lost to evaporation. While products aged in France or Scotland see about 2% loss each year, tropical rum producers may see as much as 10%. The size of the barrels makes a huge difference since small barrels means more wood contact for the rum. Oak barrels are usually torched on the inside, and the fire opens up the wood and the carbon helps to filter the rum. It also adds flavour and sweetness due to the charring of wood sugars. Ageing at ambient temperature under tropical climatic conditions contributes crucially to the mellow smoothness of the final spirit, with its complex flavours and rich aromas.Ageing at ambient temperature under tropical climatic conditions contributes crucially to the mellow smoothness of the final spirit, with its complex flavours and rich aromas.



After aging, rum is normally blended to ensure a consistent flavor. Blending is the final step in the rum-making process. The final step is carried out by the Master Blender. It is his careful selection and hand crafting which adds individuality and style to the final blend. All the complex elements of the blend are then allowed to marry together until the desired aroma and flavour are achieved. As part of this blending process, light rums may be filtered to remove any color gained during aging. For darker rums, caramel may be added to adjust the color of the final product.



When the rum is ready in the blending tanks, it is filtered once more and then bottled. The rum is then ready for distribution.





Source: Cane is able by Cap'n Jimbo




History of rum

This is a very early version of this section, it's still in it's fact finding stage so just consider it a collection of notes. I am curious about the pre 1600's. Someone somewhere must have distilled sugar cane before they started doing it in the Americas and I want more information about that.

Sugar has been produced in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. It was not plentiful or cheap in early times and honey was more often used for sweetening in most parts of the world. Originally, people chewed raw sugarcane to extract its sweetness. Sugarcane was a native of tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species seem to have originated from different locations with Saccharum Barberi originating in India and Saccharum Edule and Saccharum Officinarum coming from New Guinea.

Sugar remained relatively unimportant until the Indians discovered methods of turning sugarcane juice into granulated crystals that were easier to store and to transport. Crystallized sugar was discovered by the time of the Imperial Guptas, around 5th century AD. Indian sailors, who carried clarified butter and sugar as supplies, introduced knowledge of sugar on the various trade routes they travelled. In South Asia, the Middle East and China, sugar became a staple of cooking and desserts.

The triumphant progress of Alexander the Great was halted on the banks of the Indus River by the refusal of his troops to go further east. They saw people in the Indian subcontinent growing sugarcane and making granulated, salt-like sweet powder, locally called Sharkara (Devanagari:शर्करा,Śarkarā), pronounced as saccharum (ζάκχαρι). On their return journey, the Macedonian soldiers carried the "honey bearing reeds" home with them. Sugarcane remained a little-known crop in Europe for over a millennium, sugar a rare commodity, and traders of sugar wealthy.

Crusaders brought sugar home with them to Europe after their campaigns in the Holy Land, where they encountered caravans carrying "sweet salt". Early in the 12th century, Venice acquired some villages near Tyre and set up estates to produce sugar for export to Europe, where it supplemented honey which had previously been the only available sweetener. In the 15th century, Venice was the chief sugar refining and distribution centre in Europe.

In August 1492, Christopher Columbus stopped at La Gomera in the Canary Islands, for wine and water, intending to stay only four days. He became romantically involved with the governor of the island, Beatriz de Bobadilla y Ossorio, and stayed a month. When he finally sailed, she gave him cuttings of sugarcane, which became the first to reach the New World.

The sugar cane plant was the main crop produced on the numerous plantations throughout the Caribbean through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, as almost every island was covered with sugar plantations and mills for refining the cane for its sweet properties. The main source of labor until the abolition of slavery was African slaves. These plantations produced 80 to 90 percent of the sugar consumed in Western Europe. In the 19th century sugar dominated Martinique, Grenada, Saint Croix, Jamaica, Barbados, Leeward Islands, Saint Domingue, Cuba, Guyana and many other islands that were run by French or British owners. During the late 19th and 20th centuries the sugarcane industry came to dominate Puerto Rico's economy, both under the colonial rule of Spain and the United States of America.

Sugar was the most important crop throughout the Caribbean, although other crops such as coffee, indigo, and rice were also grown. The sugar was best grown on relatively flat land that was near the coast where the soil was naturally yellow and fertile, so mountainous parts of the islands were less likely to be used for sugar.

In the mid-17th century sugar cane was brought into the British West Indies by the Dutch from Brazil. Upon landing in Barbados and other islands, they quickly urged local farmers to change their main crops from cotton and tobacco to sugar cane. With depressed prices of cotton and tobacco due mainly to stiff competition from the North American colonies, the farmers switched, leading to a boom in the Caribbean economies. Sugar was quickly snapped up by the British who used the sugar for cakes, and sweetener in teas.

During the colonial period, the arrival of sugar culture deeply impacted society and economy in the Caribbean. It not only dramatically increased the ratio of slaves to free men, but also the average size of slave plantations. Early sugar plantations made extensive use of slaves because sugar was considered a cash crop that exhibited economies of scale in cultivation; it was most efficiently grown on large plantations with many workers. As a result, slaves were imported from Africa to work on the plantations. For example, before 1650 more than three-quarters of the island’s population was white. In 1680, the median size of a plantation in Barbados had increased to about 60 slaves. Over the decades, the sugar plantations became larger and larger. In 1832, the median plantation in Jamaica had about 150 slaves, and nearly one of every four bondsmen lived on units that had at least 250 slaves.

For about the next 100 years Barbados remained the richest of all the European colonies in the Caribbean region. The colony's prosperity remained regionally unmatched until sugar cane production grew in geographically larger countries such as Saint-Domingue, Jamaica and elsewhere. As part of the mass sugar production, the process gave rise to other related commodities such as rum, molasses, and Falernum.

In the 1740s, Jamaica and Saint-Domingue (Haiti) became the world’s main sugar producers. They increased the production by using an irrigation system that French engineers built. The engineers also built reservoirs, diversion dams, levees, aqueductsand canals. In addition, they improved their mills and used varieties of cane and grasses.

After the abolition of slavery in Saint Domingue as a result of the Haitian Revolution, Cuba became the most substantial sugar plantation colony in the Caribbean, outperforming the British islands.

After slavery, sugar plantations used a variety of forms of labour including workers imported from India under contracts of indenture. In the 20th century, large-scale sugar production using wage labour continued in many parts of the region.

By the early 21st century many Caribbean islands were no longer producing sugar. However, sugar is still grown in Jamaica and Cuba, among other countries.

Sugar was a luxury in Europe prior to the 18th century, when it became more widely available. In 1795 Etienne de Bore and two Cuban workmen produced the first granulated sugar in Louisiana (and North America). This made it more usable for export and sugar became a major commodity crop in the colony (soon to be part of the United States.) By later in the 19th century, sugar became considered a necessity.

This evolution of taste and demand for sugar as an essential food ingredient unleashed major economic and social changes. It drove, in part, colonization of tropical islands and nations where labor-intensive sugarcane plantations and sugar manufacturing could thrive. The demand for cheap labor to perform the hard work involved in its cultivation and processing increased the demand for the slave trade from Africa (in particular West Africa). After slavery was abolished, there was high demand for indentured laborers from South Asia (in particular India). Millions of slave and indentured laborers were brought into the Caribbean and the Americas, Indian Ocean colonies, southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, and East Africa and Natal. The modern ethnic mix of many nations that have been settled in the last two centuries has been influenced by the demand for sugar.

During the Napoleonic Wars, sugar beet production increased in continental Europe because of the difficulty of importing sugar when shipping was subject to blockade. By 1880, the sugar beet was the main source of sugar in Europe. It was cultivated in Lincolshire and other parts of England, although the United Kingdom continued to import the main part of its sugar from its colonies.

The precursors to rum date back to antiquity. Development of fermented drinks produced from sugarcane juice is believed to have first occurred either in ancient India or China, and spread from there. An example of such an early drink is brum. Produced by the Malay people, brum dates back thousands of years. Marco Polo also recorded a 14th-century account of a "very good wine of sugar" that was offered to him in what is modern-day Iran.

The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, can be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic byproducts concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests rum first originated on the island of Barbados. However, in the decade of the 1620s, rum production was recorded in Brazil.

A 1651 document from Barbados stated, "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor."

The origin of the word "rum" is generally unclear. The most probable origin is as a truncated version of rumbullion or rumbustion. Both words surfaced in English about the same time as rum did (Coromines states 1651 as the first recording of "rumbullion", and 1654 for "rum" -1770 for the first recording in Spanish of ron), and were slang terms for "tumult" or "uproar".

Regardless of the original source, the name was already in common use by 1654, when the General Court of Connecticut ordered the confiscations of "whatsoever Barbados liquors, commonly called rum, kill devil and the like". A short time later in May 1657, the General Court of Massachusetts also decided to make illegal the sale of strong liquor "whether knowne by the name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc."

In current usage, the name used for a rum is often based on its place of origin. For rums from Spanish-speaking locales, the word ron is used. A ron añejo indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products. Rhum is the term used for rums from French-speaking locales, while rhum vieux is an aged French rum that meets several other requirements.

Some of the many other names for rum are Nelson's blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate's drink, navy neaters, and Barbados water. A version of rum from Newfoundland is referred to by the name screech, while some low-grade West Indies rums are called tafia.

Colonial North America

After rum's development in the Caribbean, the drink's popularity spread to Colonial North America. To support the demand for the drink, the first rum distillery in the British colonies of North America was set up in 1664 on present-day Staten Island. Boston, Massachusetts had a distillery three years later. The manufacture of rum became early Colonial New England's largest and most prosperous industry. New England became a distilling center due to the technical, metalworking and cooperage skills and abundant lumber the rum produced there was lighter, more like whiskey. Rhode Island rum even joined gold as an accepted currency in Europe for a period of time. Estimates of rum consumption in the American colonies before the American Revolutionary War had every man, woman, or child drinking an average of 3 imperial gallons (14 l) of rum each year.

To support this demand for the molasses to produce rum, along with the increasing demand for sugar in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, a labor source to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean was needed. A triangular trade was established between Africa, the Caribbean, and the colonies to help support this need. The exchange of slaves, molasses, and rum was quite profitable, and the disruption to the trade caused by the Sugar Act in 1764 may have even helped cause the American Revolution. In the slave trade, rum was also used as a medium of exchange.

Eventually, the restrictions on rum from the British islands of the Caribbean, combined with the development of American whiskey, led to a decline in the drink's popularity.

Colonial Australia

Rum became an important trade good in the early period of the colony of New South Wales. The value of rum was based upon the lack of coinage among the population of the colony, and due to the drink's ability to allow its consumer to temporarily forget about the lack of creature comforts available in the new colony. The value of rum was such that convict settlers could be induced to work the lands owned by officers of the New South Wales Corps. Due to rum's popularity among the settlers, the colony gained a reputation for drunkenness, though their alcohol consumption was less than levels commonly consumed in England at the time.

Australia was so far away from England that the convict colony, established in 1788, faced severe food shortages, compounded by poor conditions for growing crops and the shortage of livestock. Eventually it was realized that it might be cheaper for India, instead of England, to supply the settlement of Sydney. By 1817, two out of every three ships which left Sydney, went to Java or India, and cargoes from Bengal fed and equipped the colony. Casks of Bengal Rum (which was reputed to be stronger than Jamaican Rum, and not so sweet) were brought back in the depths of nearly every ship from India although taken to shore clandestinely, to the dismay of the governors. Englishmen living in India grew wealthy through sending ships to Sydney "laden half with rice and half with bad spirits."

Rum was intimately involved in the only military takeover of an Australian government, known as the Rum Rebellion. William Bligh became governor of the colony, he attempted to remedy the perceived problem with drunkenness by outlawing the use of rum as a medium of exchange. In 1808, in response to Bligh's policies, the New South Wales Corps marched with fixed bayonets, to Government House and placed Bligh under arrest. The mutineers continued to control the colony until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The close (and not so close) relatives of rum


Rum has a lot of relatives in the world, some are closely related and others not. Some are more or less pirate copies with the only thing making it a rum is that someone somewhere decided to put the word “rum” on the label. I have been pretty inclusive in this book and leave it up to the reader to decide where she or he wants to draw the line. That being said and considering the size of this work most of my initial work will be directed at what I consider to be proper rums.


Arrack, Indonesian spirit that is similar to rum but includes rice in it's production.


Aguardiente is a strong alcoholic drink that might be made from a sugar cane basis


Aguardiente de caña is a strong alcoholic drink made from a sugar cane basis


Altissima, Swedish “rum” made from sugar beets.



In Brazil, a beverage known as cachaça or pinga, considered distinct from traditional aguardiente, is made from sugarcane. Cachaça, like rum, has two varieties: unaged (white) and aged (gold). White cachaça is usually bottled immediately after distillation and tends to be cheaper. It is often used to prepare caipirinha and other beverages in which cachaça is an ingredient. Dark cachaça, usually seen as the "premium" variety, is aged in wood barrels, and is meant to be drunk pure. Traditionally, no herbs are used to flavour the cachaça, and its flavour is influenced by the fermentation agent, time spent in the cask, or type of wood from which the barrel is made.


On 14 November 1996, it was concluded in analysis that cane aguardiente and cachaça are similar, but distinct, products. Cane aguardiente was thereafter defined in Brazil as an alcoholic beverage of between 38% and 54% alcohol by volume, obtained by simple fermentation and distillation of sugarcane that has already been used in the sugar-production process, and which has distinct flavour similar to rum. Cachaça, on the other hand, is an alcoholic beverage of between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume, obtained by fermentation and distillation of sugarcane juice which may have added sugar up to 6 g/L.


Čajni is a Croatian Inländer Rum.


Cane Juice In West Africa, and particularly in Liberia, 'cane juice' (also known as Liberian rum or simply CJ within Liberia itself) is a cheap, strong spirit distilled from sugarcane, which can be as strong as 43% ABV [86 proof].


Charanda is an alcoholic liquor derived from sugar cane, similar to rum. Typically the drink is associated with the state of Michoacán in Mexico, in particular the Tarascan-populated areas in the vicinity of Uruapan. The flavor is a buttery sweet, similar to vanilla and is usually served at room temperature. This liquor has been around for hundreds of years before the conquest by the Spanish, which is one of the reasons the Tarascan named it Charanda in their native language, as opposed to rum (sugar cane comes from Asia). Charanda Urauapn Blanco and Charanda El Tarasco Reposado was first imported into the US in 1996 by California Wine & Spirits Company. The California based importer founder, Mark Howard distributed in California and Illinois. Charanda is now being imorted and distributed by California based company OAG Liquor Importers, Inc. in Carlsbad, Ca. The founders of OAG Liquor Importers are Octavio Corona, Art Paclibar and Gustavo De La Cruz. Charanda comes in many brands just like any other distilled spirit. Some of the most popular to name a few and currently imported to the United States are Charanda Tres Extra Reposado, Charanda Tarasco Blanco, Charanda Tarasco Reposado, Charanda Tarasco Añejo, and Charanda Uruapan Blanco.


Clairin In Haiti, a beverage known as kleren or clairin (French spelling) is made from sugarcane. Kleren is clear, but it is often combined with fruits or roots to create something called "tranpe."


Domači is a Croatian Inländer Rum.


Grogue also known as Grogu or Grogo (derived from English grog) comes from Cap Verde and is an aguardente made from sugarcane. Santo Antão has for decades been the home of the best Cape Verdean rhum. Its production is fundamentally artisanal, and nearly all the sugarcane is used in the production of grogue. The cane is processed in a press known as a trapiche. When the sugar cane is harvested, the juice is extracted in the trapiche, and left to ferment for 8-9 days. Then it is distilled in the "lambique". Unfortunately, much grogo today is made from imported, refined, sugar instead of sugar cane, and this clearly reduces its quality. In addition to pure grog, people drink pontche

(grogo sweetened with sugarcane molasses and condensed milk) and a variety of liqueurs made from tangerines, coconut, coffee, peppermint or other herbs.

Source: [1][2][3]


Guaro is a liquor made in many places in South and Central America. A clear liquid distilled from sugar cane juices, it has a slightly sweeter taste than comparable liquors. Guaro is a popular alcoholic drink in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala, although in many places the word "guaro" can refer to almost any liquor. The name "Guaro" came from Central America. Colombians call it Aguardiente. Sometimes guaro is referred to as a "soft vodka" because it has a lower alcohol content than vodka.


Guaro (Colombia) In Colombia aguardiente known as guaro,is an anise-flavoured liqueur derived from sugarcane, popular in the Andean region. Each department of Colombia holds the rights to produce it, but aguardiente produced in one region can be sold in another. By adding different amounts of aniseed, different flavours are obtained, leading to extensive marketing and fierce competition between brands. Aguardiente has 24%–29% alcohol content. Other anise-flavoured liqueurs similar to aguardiente, but with a lower alcohol content, are also sold. Aguardiente has maintained, since the Spanish era, the status of the most popular alcoholic beverage in the Andean regions of Colombia, with the notable exception of the Caribbean region, where rum is most popular. In general, aguardiente is rarely drunk in cocktails, and usually drunk neat.


Guaro (Costa Rica) In Costa Rica, aguardiente is known as guaro. In this form it has 30% alcohol and has a neutral flavour. Guaro is tightly controlled by the Costa Rican government to help prevent clandestine production. The government nationalized its manufacture in an effort to quell the clandestine production of liquor. The Fabrica Nacional de Licores (National Liquor Factory) was founded for this reason, and currently produces the only legal brand, Cacique Guaro. Clandestine liquor production is still prevalent, but it is seen more as a tradition than a business as it would be difficult to compete with the nationally produced guaro. The illegal version of the product is often called Guaro de contrabando ("smuggled guaro") and is produced by various methods, all through distillation, but with different base ingredients, typically fruits or sweets from other sources, molasses from sugarcane or simply sugar.


Hajos is a Hungarian type of Inländer rum.


Inländer Rum is a spiced rum that is produced in Austria by mixing ethyl alcohol, water and flavourings. It was originally made due to the lack of colonies making sugar cane hard to get in sufficient quantities. Since January 1 1999 the alcohol base must be from sugar cane according to a EU directive


Rum Verschnitt is a German blend of neutral alcohol with heavy dark high ester rums most often from Jamaica. It was done for tax reasons since there was heavy customs duties to be paid for imported spirits.


Seco from Panama, is also a spirit similar to rum, but also similar to vodka since it is triple distilled.


Tafia is a kind of cheap rum made from sugarcane juice. It is normally not aged.


Tea-rum is a Hungarian Inländer Rum.


Tuzemak from the Czech Republic, formerly called Tuzemský rum (English translation: domestic rum) is a term for a traditional Czech alcoholic beverage. It is a substitute for true rum. Tuzemský rum is produced from potatoes or sugar beets, diluted and flavoured by rum essences. EU regulations allow the name "rum" to be applied only to products made from sugar cane. As a result, from 1 January 2003, this product is sold under other names like "Tuzemák" or "Tuzemský".





What is rum?

What is rum? What isn't rum? The wikipedia definition of rum is “Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane by-products such as molasses, or directly from sugar cane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels.” and this is pretty accurate. Due to a lack of international established standards almost anything alcoholic that has been in the vicinity of a sugar product gets called rum. Some regions and countries have strict standards for what is and what is not rum, unfortunately they all differ.


If it were up to me a product called rum should be distilled from a sugar cane product or by-product, like molasses, sugar cane juice or sugar cane honey. It should be aged for at least three years in oak barrels and all additives like colouring and sweeteners etc should be listed on the label. All age statements should of course list the youngest component of the rum, and it should be at least 40% alcohol by volume. I would also like to see specified on the label if the rums has been abused by chill filtration or similar. This is however very far from the current state of the rum business.

What about the mixing rums you might ask, they are all white mostly unaged rums. Yeah, what about it? If you buy a three year old white rum you will have a much nicer drink than if you mix it with cheap unaged rocket fuel. For the long term success of rum I think it is better to go towards a minimum requirement that ensures that all products sold as rum are of decent quality. It will be more expensive for the producers but it might be better for them in the long run. For me to talk about the long term success of a product that has been around since the 1650's is of course a bit rich...

Rum is produced all over the world even in places to cold to grow cane but the most producers are located in central and south America and the Caribbean Islands. Rum can be called Ron (Spanish) or Rhum (French) also depending on where it is made. Young rums are mostly made to be drink mixers while aged rum is better enjoyed as they are without any additions. The last few years there has been an increasing amount of super premium rums. They are normally aged for a very long time and sold in bottles made to impress at silly amounts of money. I have a feeling many of these super or ultra premium rums are mostly collectibles and not really meant for consumption.

Dividing rum into categories is a very popular thing to do, specially on the internet. There are numerous ways to do it and all have plenty of exceptions which means that they are in the end pretty meaningless. I make it simple for me and stick to sippers vs mixers but there is a noticeable difference between the molasses based rums and the cane juice based rums I have tried. Molasses based rums tends to be sweeter and cane juice rums tends to be a bit drier, more like a cognac. More “serious rum experts” divides rums into region from which it originates or the language spoken in that region. You will see a lot about English vs Spanish vs French style rums or Jamaica vs Cuban vs Barbados vs Guyana vs Martinique styles. Some people use the even more stupid system of dividing rum according to their colour. Considering how much colour is normally manipulated with carbon filtration alternatively adding of caramel colour or molasses this is borderline insanity. Most of these systems has some core of truth to them of course, otherwise people wouldn't have adopted them to begin with but on the other hand as mentioned earlier these systems all have exceptions. Rums that falls outside the frames of the categorizations. This is a can of worms I will not get further involved in even though I admit it might make for some nice discussions during a rum tasting session.


 Different types of rum

There are many types of rum and even more ways of categorizing them. The main difference is if they are made from molasses or cane juice and if they are aged for a decent amount of time or not.

Rum made from molasses

Traditional rum is made from sugar cane, most commonly from the molasses that remains after the sugar factory has extracted as much sugar as is possible. The molasses are then diluted with water and fermented before distillation.

Sugar cane juice rum

Rum can also be made directly from fermented sugar cane juice. Rums from Haiti, Reunion and Martinique are known for this. The French calls rum made from molasses Rhum Traditionelle or Rhum Industrielle and cane juice rum Rhum Agricole.When France began to make sugar from sugar beets, sugar prices plunged heavily. The anti-slavery laws had also made sugar production in the French islands more expensive. The debt ridden sugar factories could not survive solely on sugar production so they used fresh cane juice for fermenting and distilling into rum.

Except rhum agricoles produced in Haiti, these rums are generally distilled in column stills. Cachaca is a Brazilian spirit made from fermented cane juice, like agricultural rum.

Martinique is most well known for Rhum Agricole because French law allowed for (and current European Union law allows for) an "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" (protected designation of origin) of "rhum agricole AOC Martinique" for rums produced on the island of Martinique that meet certain standards.

Rhum Agricole is usually distilled to 70% alcohol (140 proof in the U.S.) and then watered down to 40~55% (80-110 proof)when bottled. It may be aged as little as a few months (3 months at least for AOC rhum agricole) or for several years. After three years of aging in Oak Barrels it may be called "rhum vieux," or "old rhum".



Navy rum

The association of rum with the Royal Navy began in 1655, when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum. While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lime juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon had the rum ration watered producing a mixture that became known as grog. While many believe the term was coined in honor of the grogram cloak Admiral Vernon wore in rough weather, the term predates his famous order. It probably originates in the West Indies, perhaps of African etymology. The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a "tot," until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970.

Today, a tot of rum is still issued on special occasions, using an order to "splice the mainbrace", which may only be given by the Queen, a member of the royal family or, on certain occasions, the admiralty board in the UK, with similar restrictions in other Commonwealth navies. Recently, such occasions have included royal marriages or birthdays, or special anniversaries. In the days of daily rum rations, the order to "splice the mainbrace" meant double rations would be issued.

The Royal New Zealand Navy was the last naval force to give sailors a free daily tot of rum. The Royal Canadian Navy still gives a rum ration on special occasions the rum is usually provided out of the commanding officer's fund, and is 150 proof (75%). It is consumed on the order "up spirits".

Navy rums are usually a blend of primarily overproof Jamaica and Guyana rums plus others. The closest you can get to buying a proper navy rum would be Pussers Rum. Pussers bought the original recipe for the blend from the British Royal Navy.


Spiced rum

Spiced rums obtain their flavors through the addition of spices and, sometimes, caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with caramel color. Among the spices added are cinnamon, rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, or pepper. As a related category there is the flavoured rums that are mostly meant for mixing.


Flavoured Rums

Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits, such as banana, mango, orange, citrus, coconut, starfruit or lime. These are generally less than 40% ABV. They mostly serve to flavor similarly themed tropical drinks but are also often drunk neat or with ice. There are also a lot of artificially flavoured rums available competeing with the flavoured Vodkas that are mostly suited as drink mixers.


Proof, over proof and under proof. What does it really mean?

Alcohol is in Europe normally measured in Alcohol by Volume and expressed in percent. Earlier degrees Guy-Lussac was used. The main difference is that alcohol by volume is measured at 20° Celsius and Guy-Lussac is measured at 15° Celsius. On the bottle it might say 40% Alc by volume or 40° G-L.

The alcohol content can also be expressed as Proof and of course we have two different systems for this that are not compatible. In the U.S.A. Proof is twice the alcohol by volume and in the U.K. it's 1.75 times the alcohol by volume and expressed as degrees Proof. Since 1980 the U.K. has changed to alcohol by volume though.

In the U.K. concept for Proof, 100° Proof is equal to 57.15 % ABV and was the point were gun powder doused with rum would still ignite. It was a simple test to see if the daily rum ration in the navy vessels had been watered down or not. On some rum bottles you can see the alcohol content described as for example 30° Under Proof, meaning 70° Proof which equals 40 % ABV.


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Most of the above categories are rather clear and undisputed but when you dive deeper into the categorization of rum you end up in a big mess and whatever system you use there will always be a lot of exceptions if you don't choose the path of inventing a new category for each exception you find of course. The absolutely worst system is by colour so it is of course the most commonly used one.


White Rum

Light rums, also referred to as silver or white rums, in general, have very little flavor aside from a general sweetness. Consequently, they often serve as bases for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any colour. The Brazilian cachaça is generally this type, but some Products: are more akin to "gold rums". The majority of light rums come from Puerto Rico. Their milder flavors make them popular for use in mixed drinks, as opposed to drinking them straight.

Gold Rum

Gold rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums that are generally aged. These gain their dark colour in theory from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred, white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon whiskey). They have more flavor and are stronger-tasting than light rum, and can be considered midway between light rum and the darker products.


Dark Rum

Dark rums, also known by their particular color, such as brown, black, or red rums, are classes a grade darker than gold rums. They are generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels, giving them much stronger flavors than either light or gold rums, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. They commonly provide substance in rum drinks, as well as colour. In addition, dark rum is the type most commonly used in cooking. Most dark rums come from areas such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Martinique.


Aged Rum, Premium Rum etc

Premium rums, as with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, are in a special market category. These are generally from boutique brands that sell carefully produced and aged rums. They have more character and flavour than their "mixing" counterparts and are generally consumed straight.

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Rum can also be categorized according to regional differences or the language spoken where they were produced. Let us start with the language categorization which at the moment of writing is the one that feels best for me.


English style

English style rums are darker, heavier rums like Jamaica, Demerara and Barbados rums. This is the oldest style defined by medium to long fermentation, pot stills and cask aging for several years.


Spanish style

Spanish style rums are lighter, smoother rums from the Spanish speaking regions. They have usually short to medium length fermentation and are distilled in column stills.


French style

French style rums are cane juice rums from places like Haiti, Reunion, Guadeloupe and Martinique.


Categories according to countries that have had a historical influence on rum

Finally there is categorization according to the style of the countries that have created their own characteristic styles. Dave Broom in his book “Rum” suggests Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana and French style rums. Some wants to add Barbados to this or even more countries.

The reasoning behind these are that Cuban style rums are light smooth rums like Havana Club, French Style are the cane juice rums, Jamaica are produced with dunder and are quite dark and heavy also the original Navy Rum, Guyanas Demerara Rums that has also been a component of the Navy Rums, are full flavoured and have a long history of rum making. Barbados was probably the first place in the Americas were rum production started. This may have made sense before but today with our mega corporations only the small companies make “authentic” rum. Some say this categorization is good so rums gets compared to rums of similar style and not to something that are worlds apart. I can to some extent agree with that.

Today it's either about high volume sales or ultra premiums that sell for ridiculous prices. The rums are doctored and manipulated to suit the taste or the imagined taste of the market. The reason we still have some “real” rum left is that these smaller companies doesn't have the financial muscles to step up their game and compete with the Bacardi Superiors and Captain Morgans. This is something I am very grateful for but I also realize that none of the producers are into it for some ideological reason or commitment to rum, it's all about market share and money. Whatever unholy blend of rums from different countries or styles and doctored up with added sugar and caramel colour that sells is what will be produced. That there still are some niche rums left is just something to be appreciated while it lasts. My guess is that they will sooner or later either be bought up by the rum giants or go out of business since they can't compete with large scale production.

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