Whether you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, or are a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean, you are definitely familiar with Rum. This spiced liquor played a large role in trade and conquests in the North American region, with strong ties to the Royal navy and piracy, which is actually where the iconic labels and advertisements featuring pirates and drunken sailors originate. In modern times, rum is used in dozens of delicious cocktails, desserts and even as a tobacco flavoring! Get familiar with the origins and production process of this class liquor.
The origins of rum
The origins of rum can be traced all the way back to the 17th century in the West Indies. Islands such as Barbados and Jamaica are rich in sugar cane. This meant that they were able to use molasses, a byproduct that is created from refining sugar from sugarcane, to trade with American colonies, who used it to make rum in order to ration it to their sailors. In fact, British sailors received regular rations of rum up until 1970! Due to the triangular trade routes, rum was spread far and wide across the North and South Atlantic ocean, making it a classic in Britain, the US, the Caribbean and Africa.
How is rum produced?
Rum is made primarily out of molasses, which is a substance that results from the refining of sugar from sugarcane. Sugarcane is first harvested and then drained of its water and sugar content, resulting in molasses, however in some French speaking countries, sugarcane juice is the preferred base for rum. From here, yeast and water is added to the molasses and left to ferment. Faster working yeasts are what create a lighter rum, whereas slower working yeasts allow for a longer fermentation time, and therefore a fuller-bodied tasting rum. After fermentation, the liquid is distilled and then aged for at least a year in wooden casks, after which the final product is blended to make for a more consistent flavour.
The taste of rum
The taste of rum is said to contain a variety of flavors such as vanilla, brown sugar, dried fruit, caramel, cinnamon and more. The longer a rum has been aged, the darker the color and the bolder the flavour. White rums are usually aged for approximately a year and the dark colors are filtered out, creating that softer, milder flavour. The barrel in which the rum has been aged can also affect the flavour of the rum.
What are the various types of rum?
Rum can come in many different flavors and colors. Grades and variations are used to describe rum, though the most common are Dark, Flavored, Light and Gold rum.
Dark rums, quite obviously, are dark in color, and are available in varieties of colors such as black, brown or red. They are classes a grade darker than gold rums and are made from caramelized sugar and molasses. They are also aged much longer than other rums, in charred barrels, which gives them that classically dark color and a spicier taste. Dark rum is typically drunk neat, and is commonly used in cooking. This distinct type of rum comes from islands in the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti and others.
A unique flavour, this type of rum is infused with flavors of fruits, such as orange, pineapple, coconut, lime, banana and more. These types of rum are usually used as flavorings for cocktails, but are also drunk neat. They also tend to have a lower alcohol content, usually less than 40% ABV. The flavors are typically added during the aging process.
This rum, also known as amber rum, is medium-bodied and is typically aged for at least 18 months. They gain their golden color from aging in wooden barrels or white oak casks, that are previously used by bourbon whiskey. This rum is considered the medium ground between light and dark rums, as it tends to have more flavour than a light rum, but is not as dark and bold as a dark rum.
Also known as silver or white rums, this variation of rum tends to have a mild flavour and some amount of sweetness. Light rums are typically aged for less than a year and after this aging period, they are filtered to remove any darker color. Due to its mild flavour, light rums are commonly used in cocktails, such as mojitos or daiquiris, instead of being drunk straight.