What is Rum?

Rum is produced from sugar cane or it byproducts such as molasses. It is fermented and then distilled, with the distilled liquid then being aged oak barrels. Most of the rum produced today is made in Latin America or the Caribbean, though rum is a global spirit that is produced all over the world including in Australia.

Classifying rum is commonly based on the colour of the rum. So, for example a rum may be white, golden or dark.

  • White rum is usually clear and labeled “white”, “blanco” etc. Not all white rums are unaged, and in Puerto Rico white rum needs to be aged for at elast one year after which the colour is removed by filtration.
  • Golden rum is aged in oak casks for a few years and so it takes on its amber colour and a more mellow character.
  • Dark rum is aged in oak casks for longer periods than golden rum, so it tends to be more full bodies and expresses more of the character of the oak casks.
  • Spiced rum can be white, golden or dark but the difference is that it is infused with spices.

Rum is as diverse, if not more, than whisk(e)y. They can be aged or finished in different types of casks, which give them even more diverse flavours. Some of English style and pot distilled. Be careful about age statements though, which in my view have three forms:

  • “Solera”: Aged rum can be blended in a “solera” style, which means that the rum may be a blend of rums including the oldest stated on the bottle. For example, Ron Zacapa 23 Solera contains rums aged between 6 and 23 years according to its website, but it still has the number “23″ on its bottle. The problem is knowing what percentage of the rum is six years old.
  • Minimum age: Some rums clearly state that the age marked on the bottle is the minimum age of the rum. This means that you should be careful when relying on the age statement on a bottle of rum, and if you want a 21 year old rum do ensure that it is not a “solera”. Old rums, in my view, are very special because most rum is aged in warm climates which means the rum in the casks is likely to evapourate at a higher rate than in cooler whisky producing climates.
  • Vintage: Some rums are also dated with a vintage, and this is seen for example in rum (or “rhum”) from Martinique.

Rum can be served neat, with ice or mixed in a cocktail. Drink it how you like it!

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