Originating in the West Indies around the 1600’s, rum is now a popular liquor around the world. It’s made by distilling sugarcane or molasses, and is therefore known for its sweetness. Despite its sugary base, rum still has its fiery kick of alcohol, as most bottles of rum typically contain 40% alcohol. Some bottles are even overproof and contain more! If you’re familiar with rum, you’ll notice that there are two main kinds: white rum and dark rum.
What is the difference between white rum and dark rum?
The differences between white rum and dark rum include the aging process, flavors, and their uses in a variety of cocktail recipes.
While made of the same ingredients and going through the same process in production, the main differentiator between white rum and dark rum lies in the aging process.
Dark rums are aged in charred oak barrels, which is how they get their colour. The longer the rum is aged, the darker it gets.
Meanwhile, distillers age white rum in stainless steel barrels. Because there is no color in this material for the liquid to pick up, the rum stays white. After aging, white rum is further filtered to purify the contents as well as the color of the drink.
The aging process doesn’t only affect rum’s color. It also impacts the drink’s flavour. Dark rum is often bolder, more robust on the tongue than its light counterpart. Flavors associated with dark rum include molasses, caramel, vanilla, and spices. It also has a slightly burned nose from the charred barrels. On the other hand, white rum tastes milder than dark rum and they tend to be sweeter.
Because of the differences in flavors, white rum and dark rum are usually used in different kinds of cocktails. While it all comes down to preferences, cocktail recipes would specify whether dark rum or light rum is required, as the flavors of each will complement different mixers.
White rum is most commonly used in cocktails where the flavors of the mixers need to stand out more than the flavors of the alcohol. These are cocktails such as:
- Cuban Liberal
- Classic Daiquiri
Dark rum’s bolder flavors will go well in the following cocktails, among many others:
- Rum and coke
- Mai Tai