The Ultimate Guide to Rum
According to a new study, whisky and vodka are America's top two favorite, most frequently drunk spirits. But this doesn't mean that Americans don't also enjoy rum.
In Hawaii, rum is the most popular spirit. It's also highly popular in states like Florida, Michigan, California, New York, and Texas.
Are you new to rum? Rum is an interesting, often misunderstood spirit. Drunk daily by sailors and pirates, rum was even used as a currency at one point.
Now, rum is still made all over the world. True to its buccaneering roots, rum tends to be subject to fewer controls and regulations in certain countries than other types of spirits.
Whether you want to learn a few rum recipes, get clued up on different styles of rum—or simply learn about its history—we have you covered in this rum guide. Keep reading to find out more about the different types of rum, how to drink it, and more.
The Origins of Rum
Compared to other spirits, rum is a relatively young invention. Rum originated as a byproduct of the sugar manufacturing industry in the West Indies. Rum is first mentioned in Barbadian records from 1650.
At this time, the spirit was known as “kill-devil” or “rumbullion.” Fast-forward a decade or two and it became commonly known as rum.
As you can see, rum is only a few hundred years old. This makes it one of the youngest spirits to be developed. In contrast, beer is thought to date back some 12,000 years, right back to the time when humans began cultivating cereals and grains.
Although rum started out as a byproduct of sugar production, it quickly became a widely consumed spirit. One reason for this was the navy.
The navies used to dole out rations of beer, wine, or whisky to sailors, as it was safer to drink than potentially contaminated water stores. However, beer, which was the cheapest option, didn't keep well in the tropics.
In contrast, rum was cheap, kept indefinitely, and took up less space aboard ship than beer, as it was far more concentrated.
Before too long it wasn't just the navy that consumed copious amounts of rum. Pirates and privateers were renowned for their rum-drinking ways.
Rum didn't just play a big role in naval life and seafaring life. It also became a hot commodity during the prohibition when "rumrunners" would sail up illegal imports of rum from the West Indies to the US.
Legend has it that the first rumrunner was called Bill McCoy. Allegedly, Bill McCoy never watered down his rum, and some believe that this is where the saying "the real McCoy" comes from.
The Rum Industry Today
Today, the rum industry is thriving as much as ever. Sailors and navy men might not be drinking cups of rum every day anymore, but there is a huge market for rum.
Rum is used in a variety of well-loved cocktails. It's also consumed neat, on the rocks, or with water, lime, or soda.
The rum industry has also matured since the early days. Now there are various different types of brewing methods and rums available.
However, as we said above, rum isn't as regulated and controlled as many other spirits. Instead, there exists a plethora of different ways of making rum. The rules around rum-making are mostly determined by regional practices, rather than government regulations.
Thanks to this, rum offers one of the most nuanced experiences when it comes to spirits.
Types of Rum
Because there aren't strict processes for making rum, and rum-making traditions vary from region to region, this has resulted in a beautiful variety of rum types.
Here are some of the broad types of rum that are available today.
French rum is the style of rum produced in ex-French territories such as Guadaloupe, Martinique, and Haiti. The French style of rum is dominated by what's known as Rhum Agricole.
Rhum is typically made from fresh sugar cane juice. Thanks to this, it usually has an earthy taste, more reminiscent of sugarcane than molasses-based rums.
Regulations stipulate that Rhum Agricole has to be aged for at least 3 months.
Like French types of rum, Spanish-style rum comes from islands and countries previously controlled by Spain. These include Puerto Rico and Cuba, the two most famous countries for Spanish rum, and which are responsible for producing the global majority of light rums.
That said, there are many other areas that also produce a Spanish style of rum, such as Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines.
Spanish-style rum typically has a molasses sugar base. Although the Spanish-style rum regions mostly produce light rums, there are many regional variations. For instance, the Canary Islands produce a signature honey-flavored molasses rum, which is a lot darker than the usual light rums from Spanish-speaking regions.
The British territories in the West Indies were no small player in the production of rum, its popularization, and its use as a currency.
Thanks to this, previously British-owned territories also have their own signature style of rum. English rum is typically darker and molasses-based. The British West Indies is also known for its spiced rums and overproof varieties.
Within the British West Indies, there is also a fair amount of deviation and different types of rum.
For instance, Barbados rums often blend pot stills with column stills to create a medium-bodied, balanced, and spicy flavor profile.
Jamaican rum, on the other hand, leans towards more intense, fruity, and full-bodied flavor profiles. Fermentation periods are often longer and have some similarities to sour mash whiskey where the bottom still sediment goes into the following batches.
Demera is another renowned rum region, situated in Guyana. Now, there is only one distillery left in the area, but this distillery produces some of the world's most famous brands of rum, including El Dorada rum.
White and light rum often gets a bad rap for being unmatured and lacking in nuance. However, this isn't true for all white rum.
Many light rums undergo at least 3 years of aging in oak barrels. This process gives them a golden color. After aging, the rum then goes through a charcoal filtering process. This removes the pigment and leaves it with a clear hue.
Cheaper white rums generally aren't aged well, which is why white rum as a whole has a stigma of poor quality. However, if you treat yourself to a good white rum, you might be surprised at the depth of flavor.
For instance, Puerto Rico white rum often features a pleasingly mellow and sweet profile. This is one reason why you'll often find them in tropical cocktail recipes, such as daiquiris and mojitos.
A lot of people assume that the darker a rum is, the longer its aging period. This isn't always true, but it can be a general indication of aging.
True gold rum upholds this rule of thumb. Gold rum isn't as strong as dark rum, but it tends to hold more flavor than lighter rums. It's gently aged, and the medium-body makes it a crowd favorite.
Just like distillers can filter out pigments in rum to turn it clear, they can also add pigments to rum to turn it dark.
Therefore, not all dark rums are actually well-aged. Some people also confuse dark rums with blackstrap or black rums. These contain additional molasses and are a lot sweeter than true dark rum. They're best suited to dark and stormy cocktails.
However, traditionally, dark rum means aged rum. Any good dark rum will list its maturation period on the label.
Dark rums are the best rum for enjoying neat, as they have exceptionally deep, developed flavor profiles. The last thing you want to do is waste a fine dark rum in a cocktail, as this will dilute and obscure the flavor.
Although it's usually not a favorite with rum connoisseurs, spiced rum is a popular option among occasional rum drinkers. Thanks to this, flavored and spiced rums account for over 55% of rums sold currently.
A lot of spiced rums tend to be cheaper and of lesser quality. But, at the same time, there are still some extremely good versions of spiced rum.
Most often, distilleries will start with light rum as a base, and then add various spices, including clove, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and rosemary.
Flavored rum is another popular option. Just take note, a lot of the flavored rums sold nowadays aren't really rum. Instead, they're rum-based liqueurs.
This is the case with most coconut and pineapple rums. If you want to taste a true coconut rum, infused with real coconut, we'd recommend Kōloa Kaua’i’s Coconut Rum. Brewed with water from the Mount Waiʻaleʻale volcano in Hawaii, this is a beautifully nuanced, highly-mixable 80-proof rum.
101 Ways to Drink Rum
Now that we've covered the main different types of rum, let's get down to some drink options. Rum is a very versatile spirit, and if you want to get adventurous, there are 101 different ways to drink and mix it.
Here are some of the most popular rum recipes and drink suggestions to try.
If you enjoy a whisky on the rocks, there's a good chance you might like the taste of rum on the rocks. Simply pour a measure of rum over a couple of ice cubes, add a sprig of garnish (optional), and enjoy.
If you opt for rum on the rocks, we'd recommend you splurge a little on a nice dark rum with a deep flavor profile you can savor.
On the other hand, if you're more of a whisky soda type, you can try this same combination with rum. To freshen things up you can also add a slice of lime, lemon, or orange.
For truly great rums, you can also skip the ice entirely and sip it neat. This can allow you to soak up the flavor notes.
One of the most popular ways to drink rum nowadays is with a cold cola mixer like coke. Go to any bar in the West Indies, Florida Keys, or mainland Florida, and rum and coke is likely one of the most frequent orders.
Of course, you don't have to stick to cola. You can also try out rum and ginger beer or ginger ale. Rum and Sprite is another popular mix.
If soda isn't your thing, you can also go punch-style with rum and fruit juice.
In a Cocktail
Speaking of cocktails, rum is the common denominator in some of the world's favorite tropical cocktails, including:
- Frozen daiquiris
- Mai tais
- Piña coladas
- Dark ‘n stormy
- Jungle birds
Besides these cocktails, rum is also an essential ingredient in rum punch.
Substituting With Rum
Another way you can use rum is as a substitute for other spirits. For instance, you can make a mean old fashioned using rum instead of whisky.
Cinnamon Butter Rum
We couldn't leave you without mentioning cinnamon butter rum. For the colder months, this rum recipe is an absolute winner. All you have to do is gently heat some butter, caster sugar, and sticks of cinnamon until the sugar and butter melt.
Add a measure of spiced rum and enjoy in heatproof mugs or glasses.
Rum in Baking and Desert Recipes
Last but not least, rum isn't just for drinking. There are also a plethora of delicious rum recipes you can try with baked goods, such as rum cake, rum truffles, rum cream pie, bananas foster, rum mousse, and more.
Are You Looking for a Wide Selection of Fine Rum?
Rum is a full-bodied spirit, soaked in history. Besides boasting some rich, nuanced flavor profiles, rum is also a highly versatile liquor. You can sip it neat, on the rocks, in a cooling cocktail, or with your choice of soda.
Are you looking for a wide selection of rum to browse through, at great prices? If yes, we've got you covered.
Browse our extensive rum selection today and have your order delivered right to your door.