Origins of Rum

Rum, rhum or ron is the product obtained by distilling the ferment of either sugar cane juice or molasses. It comes from many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world including Central and South America, Australia, India, Mauritius, Hawaii and, of course, the Caribbean. It can be distilled either in a continuous still or a pot still and has no requirement to be aged in barrel. It can be any strength above 37.5 % abv with some as high as 80 % abv and can be white, light and elegant, dark, rich and pungent, or indeed any possible combination thereof.

Rum is made from sugar cane, either the raw juice Rhum Agricole or from molasses.

Rums from the English speaking Carribean.

Antigua (English Harbour), Barbados (Mount Gay, Doorlys), Bermuda (Goslings Black Seal), Cayman Islands, Grenada, St Lucia (Admiral Rodney, Chairmans reserve, , St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago (10 cane, Angostura and Caroni) and the Virgin Islands (Cruzan), all produce light and golden rums, and some with great style and finesse. Labels often use proprietary terms for differing qualities and many use age statements, from three year old up through five, seven etc. In some instances terms such as XO are borrowed from the brandy world.

Jamaica( Appleton, Myers and Wray & Nephew) produces pungent high-ester rums, valuable for blending as well as for their own style and forthright flavours. Labels tend to indicate simply white and for the aged, special (gold), often a proprietary brand names and some age statements do actually refer to the minimum age of the blend.

Guyana (El Dorado, XM Rum) is a powerhouse of molasses production and produces a softer style of medium and heavily-bodied rums. The whites tend to be labelled very simply whilst the golden and dark rums generally utilise age statements which refer to the youngest parts of the blends. Many blended white and black rums are sourced from the countries above for bottling in the Caribbean orgin Europe, and these tend to be labelled with brand names and often carry no age statements or qualitative marks at all.

Rums from French Islands

Guadeloupe, Marie Galante (Pere Labatt) and Martinique (la Mauny, Bally, Clement and JM Rhum) produce both agricole and molasses based rums. The agricole have strict rules and follow a defined quality ladder : Blanc and Ambré followed by Vieux (minimum of three years), Hors d’Âge and age statements or vintages. The molasses-based rums are labelled with brand names and rarely carry any other quality statements, many of which are bottled in France.

Haiti (Barbancourt) has only one major producer ; the rums are produced and aged in a similar way to cognac and carry age statements which refer to the minimum age of the blend. Hispanic Caribbean, Central and South American Rums Cuba (Havana Club, Matusalem, Santiago de Cuba), Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala (Ron Zacapa), Mexico, Nicaragua (Flor de Cana) , Puerto Rico and Venezuela (Dilpomatico, Ron Pampero, Santa Teresa) produce light rums, predominantly white and gold and labelled with terms such as silver and blanca for the whites, and añejo, reserva, gran reserva and numerous age statements for the golden. Some are aged in solera systems and the stated age or number on the label can be a reference to the average age of the blend, or the youngest or oldest part of the blend or simply a special number that has been applied to a particular blend.

Brazil deserves a mention on its own. It produces a great deal of the world’s molasses and some traditional rums but cachaça is its main spirit. Many of these do not qualify as true rums as grain and sugar syrup are also used alongside the molasses.

Other Rums around the World

From Australia (Bundaberg) through the Philippines, India, South Africa and the Frenchspeaking islands in the Indian Ocean, many types of rum are produced with brand names providing the best indication of quality. The French tend to be the greatest respecters of the age statement ; the Indian rums tend to have colonial-sounding brands ; the Australians may differ mostly on alcoholic strength, whilst the Spanish-speaking producers will tend towards the reserva and añejo systems.

Rum has become an extremely popular drink, either by itself or mixed in many famous cocktails like Mojito, Cubra Libra, Zombie and Pina coloada to name but a few.


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