Rum, and its fraternal twin, cane spirit, are made by distilling fermented sugar
and water. This sugar comes from the sugar cane and is fermented from cane juice,
concentrated cane juice, or molasses. Molasses is the sweet, sticky residue that
remains after sugar cane juice is boiled and the crystallized sugar is extracted.
Most Rum is made from molasses. Molasses is over 50% sugar, but it also contains
significant amounts of minerals and other trace elements, which can contribute to
the final flavour. Rums made from cane juice, primarily on Haiti and Martinique,
have a naturally smooth palate.
Depending on the recipe, the "wash" (the cane juice, or molasses and water) is fermented,
using either cultured yeast or airborne wild yeasts, for a period ranging from 24
hours for light Rums up to several weeks for heavy, full varieties.
Distillation of Rum
Rum is distilled in the manner described in the introductory chapter of this book.
The choice of stills does, however, have a profound effect on the final character
of Rum. All Rums come out of the still as clear, colourless spirits. Barrel ageing
and the use of added caramel determine their final colour. Since caramel is burnt
sugar, it can be truthfully said that only natural colouring agents are used.
Lighter Rums are highly rectified (purified and blended) and are produced in column
or continuous stills, after which they are usually charcoal-filtered and sometimes
aged in old oak casks for a few months to add a degree of smoothness. Most light
Rums have minimal flavours and aroma, and are very similar to vodka, particularly
those brands that have been charcoal-filtered. Heavier Rums are usually distilled
in pot stills; similar to those used to produce Cognacs and Scotch whiskies. Pot
stills are less "efficient" than column stills and some congeners (fusel oils and
other flavour elements) are carried over with the alcohol. Some brands of Rum are
made by blending pot and column distilled Rums in a manner similar to Armagnac production.
Classifications of Rum
White Rums are generally light-bodied (although there are a few heavy-bodied White
Rums in the French islands). They are usually clear and have a very subtle flavour
profile. If they are aged in oak casks to create a smooth palate they are then usually
filtered to remove any colour. White Rums are primarily used as mixers and blend
particularly well with fruit flavours.
Golden Rums, also known as Amber Rums, are generally medium-bodied. Most have spent
several years aging in oak casks, which give them smooth, mellow palates.
Dark Rums are traditionally full-bodied, rich, caramel-dominated Rums. The best are
produced mostly from pot stills and frequently aged in oak casks for extended periods.
The richest of these Rums are consumed straight up.
Spiced Rums can be white, golden, or dark Rums. They are infused with spices or fruit
flavours. Rum punches (such as planter's punch) are blends of Rum and fruit juices
that are very popular in the Caribbean.
Añejo and Age-Dated Rums are aged Rums from different vintages or batches that are
mixed together to insure a continuity of flavour in brands of Rum from year to year.
Some aged Rums will give age statements stating the youngest Rum in the blend (e.g.,
10-year-old Rum contains a blend of Rums that are at least 10 years old). A small
number of French island Rums are Vintage Dated.
The Caribbean is the epicentre of world Rum production. Virtually every major island
group produces its own distinct Rum style.
Example of dark, spiced, and light rums.
The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location that a rum
was produced. Despite these variations the following terms are frequently used to
describe various types of rum:
Light Rums, also referred to as light, silver, and white rums. In general, light
rum has very little flavour aside from a general sweetness, and serves accordingly
as a base for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove
any colour. The Brazilian immensely popular Cachaca belongs to this type.
Gold Rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums which are generally aged.
These gain their dark colour from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred white
oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon Whiskey).
Spiced Rum: These rums obtain their flavour through addition of spices and, sometimes,
caramel. Most are darker in colour, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly
darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened
with artificial caramel colour.
Dark Rum, also known as black rum, classes as a grade darker than gold rum. It is
generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavour
than either light or gold rum, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a
strong molasses or caramel overtone. It is used to provide substance in rum drinks,
as well as colour. In addition to uses in mixed drinks, dark rum is the type of rum
most commonly used in cooking.
Flavoured Rum: Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums which they have infused
with flavours of fruits such as mango, orange, citrus, coconut or lime. These serve
to flavour similarly themed tropical drinks which generally comprise less than 40%
alcohol, and are also often drunk neat or on the rocks.
Overproof Rum is rum which is much higher than the standard 40% alcohol. Most of
these rums bear greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur
Premium Rum: As with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists
for premium and super-premium rums. These are generally boutique brands which sell
very aged and carefully produced rums. They have more character and flavour than
their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the addition of other