There are some drinks that are defined by their method or place of production. For instance, a single-malt scotch must be distilled in Scotland, tequila only comes from the Tequila region of Mexico, and Cognac comes from the Cognac region of France.
On the other hand, rum doesn't work in quite the same way.
Legally, different types of rum can be made anywhere in the world, yet they're closely tied to certain island regions, including Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, and Guyana. These locations boast the perfectly warm, tropical climate required to produce rum's star ingredient: sugarcane.
Beyond the fact that it's the key player in your beloved Dark and Stormy, how much do you really know about rum? Today, we're breaking it all down, clearing up any confusion, and sharing the unique characteristics that define each kind.
What Is Rum?
Before we dive into all the different types of rum drinks, let's take a step back. What is this spirit in the first place?
One of the most versatile drinks around, rum is technically an alcoholic distillate that's made from fermented sugarcane or a sugarcane byproduct, such as sugarcane syrup or sugarcane molasses.
Traditional, or industrial, rum includes molasses, which accounts for the category's trademark, caramelized sweetness. On the other hand, agricultural rums typically contain sugarcane juice and are a little lighter in flavor and color. Beyond the fact that all types of rum are derived from sugarcane, there aren't many other features that they all share.
The specific characteristics that a certain rum contains will be based on a few different factors, including:
- Distillation method
- Aging process
- Place of origin
Depending on how these traits work together with one another, you could wind up with one type of rum that looks, tastes, and feels quite different from the next. It could also vary in alcohol content, ranging from around 25% to more than 75% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Different Types of Rum, Explained
When it comes to the best rums, each person will have their own preference. Some people might prefer rums that are designed to mix effortlessly into cocktails, such as a Rum Runner or Classic Daquiri. Others want one that's hearty and robust enough to stand on its own, served in a glass with just a splash of water and a slice of lime.
To make things a little more complex, there are also bottles that will fall into multiple different categories! Yet, there's no need to be intimidated by the array of choices. Let's take a look at the most common categories on the market, how to enjoy them, and where to find them.
Light rum is also known as silver rum, white rum, or clear rum. As the name implies, it's totally colorless.
This type of rum has a light body and a pleasantly sweeter, milder flavor, especially compared to dark or gold rums. It also tends to be easier to make (and therefore less expensive to purchase) than more mature types of rum. Light rum is usually only aged for about a year, and then filtered to remove its color.
If it's aged in a stainless steel tank, there shouldn't be any type of color pick-up that occurs. While aging in plain oak casks can yield a slightly deeper flavor, it could slightly tinge the rum. In that case, it can be filtered through charcoal to remove any residual tint.
How to Use It
While it might not look too robust, keep in mind that light rum can still pack a punch. In the U.S., it's usually sold at 80 proof, or 40% ABV. While you can sip it on its own, it's usually used in cocktails that need a little splash of something but don't require a hearty rum flavor, such as:
- Cuba Libre (rum, Coke, and lime)
White rum is also considered the best rum for pina colada cocktails!
What to Buy
At Liquorama, we offer a range of different light rums for you to try and enjoy! Some of the most popular brands include Cruzan Estates, Bacardi, Koloa, Kenny Chesney Blue Chair Bay, Angostura, and Captain Morgan, among others.
Looking for the best white rum? A tried-and-true favorite is the Bacardi Puerto Rican Rum.
The brand's original light-bodied rum delivers a perfectly smooth taste and dry flavor that works well in every cocktail, featuring notes of vanilla, almonds, and delicate tropical fruits. Often heralded as the best rum for mojitos and more, it's a must-have for any bar cart.
Also called pale or amber rum, gold rum is formed when the spirit has a little more time to age or mellow. As it does, it takes on a golden yellow hue and a slightly stronger flavor. In terms of taste aroma, and affordability, gold rums are right in the mid-spot between light and dark options.
These rums are medium-bodied, easily drinkable, and beautifully colored. They get their trademark golden tones as they age in pale oak barrels, though some brands will add extra caramel or coloring to keep the tones consistent.
If you prefer something a little sweeter than pale rum, golden varieties are ideal. They have a touch of extra sugar, as well as a gentle, buttery flavor that makes them great for mixing into cocktails or enjoying on the rocks. Most types of gold rum also feature other types of prominent, warm flavors including vanilla, citrus, coconut, and caramel.
How to Use It
If you need a more potent rum taste in your cocktail, gold rum is great to use. Some of the most popular drinks to make with this variety include:
- Caribbean rum punch
- Rum swizzle
- Rum sidecar
Many recipes, including dessert concoctions, also call for a few ounces of golden rum to balance out the flavor profile. A splash in your favorite bread pudding or cake batter is the perfect way to enhance the taste and add a hint of toasty goodness to any dish.
What to Buy
We offer many kinds of gold rum at Liquorama, with popular brands that include Bacardi, Don Q, Brinley Gold, Mount Gay, Lemon Hart, and more.
One of our top picks is the Koloa Kauai Gold Hawaiian Rum. In addition to its vivid amber appearance, we also love the subtle, sweet hints of molasses, vanilla, and candied apple that it delivers, followed by a slightly acidic, lemony finish.
To be considered spiced, the rum in question has to be infused with herbs and spices. Yet, that's where the classifications stops. There's no limit to the type of herbal additions you can use, so brands are free to offer their own spin.
Experts believe that spiced varieties of rum began appearing centuries ago, when the drink first debuted. Originally, pure or white rum was considered to be extra-potent, and unpalatable for some people. As a result, manufacturers started to add extra ingredients to sweeten and help balance the taste.
Typically, distilled white rum is used as the base for spiced rum. Then, it's macerated with the chosen herbs and spices, similar to the process performed to infuse gin with various botanicals. This process deepens the complexity of the spirit and expands its flavor.
While vanilla and citrus are believed to be among the first spices used, some of the other, newer options include:
- Dried fruit
After the maceration process is complete, molasses is often added to the rum to darken its color before it begins aging.
How to Use It
Spiced rum is warm and filling enough to be enjoyed on the rocks. Yet, it's also a main ingredient in lots of rich cocktails, especially ones meant to be shared with friends and a cozy environment. Some of the most popular drinks that call for this type of rum include:
- Long Island iced tea
- Rum and coke
- Spiced rum mojitos
- Pineapple rum punch
What to Buy
If you're in the mood for a spiced rum cocktail, we have all of the ingredients you need! Sailor Jerry, Blackheart, Bettie Page, Captain Morgan, The Kraken, and Soggy Dollar Island are a few of our favorite brands.
The next time you're whipping up a rum and Coke, try Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum. With its distinctively smooth taste and sharp, spicy edge, it's the ultimate addition to the soda's creamy zing.
Naturally, dark rum has a distinctly dark appearance. However, that doesn't always translate to more flavor, or higher quality.
It's true that most premium brands are aged for a long period of time in charred oak casks, which gives them a deep color and toasty flavor, but this isn't always the case. Some brands simply darken their rum with molasses or caramel coloring, so make sure you understand the difference before buying.
If it's the real deal, you'll know it. True dark rum has unmissable notes of toffee and brown sugar, as well as creamy hints of honey and vanilla.
How to Use It
Use dark rum in cocktail recipes that call for robust flavor profiles. These spirits are stronger and have more pronounced notes compared to light, white, or even spiced varieties. You can also sip dark rum straight, adding just a splash of tonic water on top.
Rum cocktails that often feature dark rum include:
- Rum sour cocktail
- Hot buttered rum
- Mai tai
What to Buy
When researching the best dark rum, brand reputation matters. You want to ensure you're getting an authentically aged product and not one that's been artificially altered. Some of the top ones you'll find a Liquorama include Kula, Papa's Pilar, Pusser's, KISS, and Plantation Overproof.
For a truly special taste, try the El Dorado 15 Year Old Guyana Rum. This 80-proof rum is a powerhouse of flavor, with hints of candied fruit, dark coffee, dark chocolate, nuts, pepper, and vanilla.
Black rum is the darkest and richest variety you can find. These don't just enhance your favorite drinks -- they infuse them with a strong, tropical essence that can completely change their aroma and flavor.
Yet, there's a twist when it comes to this drink. Contrary to popular belief, black rum isn't the darkest because it's aged the longest. In fact, these rums aren't aged for very long if even at all. Rather, they get their trademark color from molasses -- the thick, sweet liquid that's left over when sugar is crystallized.
They're also darker because the barrels they age in are usually charred or heavily fired before the rum is added. During the maturation process, the wood's strong flavors enter the liquid.
How to Use It
Black rum rose to fame during the post-Prohibition era. It was popular because it looked like deeply aged rum but only cost a fraction of the price. Since then, it's become a happy hour mainstay, mostly used in cocktails that also contain lighter, fresher notes of citrus.
Dark rum is also popular in the baking industry, where it adds bold and sweet flavors to cakes, cookies, and candies. Rum drinks that taste great with black rum include:
- Jungle bird
- Rum old-fashioned
- Brass monkey
What to Buy
A bottle of great dark rum can be one of the most versatile additions to your kitchen. A few of the top brands you'll find at Liquorama include KISS, Malibu, Goslings, and Bacardi.
For an authentic, delicious option, pour a glass of Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum. Produced in Bermuda, it has a rich, layered flavor that balances notes of butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla.
Learn More About Other Types of Rum
While these are a few of the most common types of rum on the market, there are many more to consider. This includes categories such as aged rum, navy rum, and eyebrow-raising overproof rum, which contains more than 57.15% ABV. There are also more exclusive types, such as Rhum Agricole, Cachaça, and Aguardiente.
When you get into this exciting and nuanced world, you'll find that there's always a new variety of liquor to discover or brand to try. At Liquorama, we make it easy to find your new favorites. Check out our full collection of rum online and start exploring!