Quite a broad category as it's not governed as closely as say whisky, there's loads to explore in the world of Rum.
We cater for a growing range of all things sugar-cane derived - from classic Caribbean rums to fantastic European ones too.
Famously associated with the Royal Navy where tots of rum were given to sailors on a daily ration (and mixed with water or beer to make Grog), Pirates (who called it ‘Bumbo’) and as a form of currency in organised crime and military insurgency.
Rum is also forever associated with the Caribbean where the major brand names will be recognised – however not the largest production.
Rum comes in many styles which depend on it’s geographic location and production methods.
Defined in styles such as British, French and Spanish or as white, golden or dark. It can feel like a bit of a minefield, but don’t be put off. There are some fantastic rums to explore.
Rum and rum types
All rums come from the same main ingredient – and that’s sugar cane although some producers use molasses ferried from the cane, and others use the cane directly.
Rum is made across the world where sugar cane grows – or can be imported. However, the most recognised and celebrated region associated with rum is of course the Caribbean.
As the Caribbean was colonised by three European countries, their influence was felt and their occupation left their mark on rum making traditions.
British style of rum is a heavy mark rum, meaning it is distilled in short pot stills giving lots of character. This was because it was traditionally used in the British Navy (the practice was abolished in 1970).
Two important sources of rum for the Navy were Jamaica and Guyana. The nature of these rums are high-ester – making them strong in flavour and quite pungent. Therefore, they are sought by blenders to give depth and flavour to their rum.
Barbados is also a rum producer under the ‘British style’, however the rum is smoother and less pronounced than Jamaica and Guyana.
French style of rum will be likely to be linked to the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Only these rums can be labelled Rhum Agricole. In colonial times, the French preferred their own farmers who grew beet for sugar. Therefore, in the caribbean, they favoured using sugar cane rather than molasses.
It’s the use of sugar cane which gives French style rum a very pronounced vegetal flavour with strong esters. Because of this, the rums are favoured for mixed drinks however some of the aged French-style rums are mellowed by longer maturation.
Think of Spanish style rum, and you’ll not be mistaken for thinking of some well-known Cuban rums.
This is the most popular of white rums and are made using newer technology that British or French style.
They are lighter and easier on the palate and therefore used widely in cocktails such as Mojito.
Usually based on Gold / Amber rums, Spiced rums have additional flavour added through, you guessed it, a combination of spices such as aniseed, cloves, rosemary and cinnamon.
These rums are often quite dark although cheaper brands will just add in more caramel.
Despite the above, Brazil is actually the world’s largest producer of rum. To put this into perspective, the scale of production is greater than that of the global production of Vodka..
Although the majority is consumed in Brazil, we do still get to see some in the UK, with the main one being Caçhaca which is made from sugar cane.
Caçhaca varies in style and quality although the majority are unnamed and have a vegetal and grassy profile as it is derive from cane rather than molasses.
Defining rum by it’s colour can be helpful – however this comes with a note of caution as many methods can be used to add or remove colour from rum to suit consumer preferences.
Although completely clear, white rum has had a period of oak maturation – however, any colours gained from that are removed by filtration. It is a convenient way of identifying rums which are multi-distillery and multi-island – i.e.; blended.
Golden (or Amber)
The colour on the whole, will come from a period of maturation in oak casks although caramel may be added for consistency. These rums will be classified as ‘medium sweetness’. These rums are more carefully selected with low and heavy marks giving them more of a complex character than white rum.
There’s two camps here; the first is Amber rum which have undergone and extended period of maturation and the second are rums which have had a large amount of caramel added but may be completely unaged.
The aged rum will have a ‘rancio’ flavour profile – black bananas / old leather. Nice!
There’s no overarching body controlling and standardising rum labelling.
For example, XO in Cognac terms would mean the youngest spirit if 6 years old. In (some) rum blends, XO would mean the rum in a blends age from between 6 and 25 years…
Caçhaca is a type of rum from Brazil. See the Brazillian section above.
In the same way that some drinks get a “gunpowder proof” label, it’s a way of defining a very strong rum.
Overproof refers to an old British method of measuring alcohol content; British sailors would mix some rum with some gunpowder and would see if the mixture would burn. If the alcohol content was high (57.15% abv and above) it would burn. If lower, it wouldn’t.
Confusingly for those who follow US strength labelling, these strong rums may have been called “100% proof”.
This system of “gunpowder”, “overproof” and “underproof” is still used on some labels, however it is not an official term to define a bottle’s content.
Browse other spirits