The Complete Guide to All Things Rum

All rum is made from sugar cane, which is where the term "rum" comes from. Rum can be made from sugar cane that has been fermented immediately (to make rhum agricole), or boiled to create a molasses byproduct, from which most types of rum are made.

Column-distilled rums tend to be lighter in flavor, while pot-distilled rums are more full-bodied. Rum is often aged briefly, often in previously used wooden casks, for one reason: climate. The warmer climates where rum is produced mean that any reaction between spirit and barrel happens more rapidly (including evaporation of that precious Angel's Share).

A charred, previously used bourbon barrel, e.g., ensures that the rum won't leach too much out of (or into) the barrel, while still getting some of that precious vanillin (not to mention spice from eugenol and lactones for tropical notes, etc.).

There are a variety of different types of rum, each with its own unique flavor profile.

Types of Rum

White rums are generally lighter in color and flavor than gold rums, which are darker and have a more complex flavor profile due to aging in oak barrels.

Dark rums are aged for longer periods of time than gold rums and have a fuller flavor profile.

Demerera rum is made from sugar cane grown in Guyana and has a rich, dark flavor profile similar to Jamaican rum.

Spiced rums are distilled rums that have been flavored with spices, usually upping the impression of spice often gotten from barrel-aging.

Rhum agricole is made with sugar cane juice instead of molasses and can be white, gold, or dark depending on the terroir (i.e. where the sugar cane was grown).

Naval/overproof refers to any rum that's higher alcohol (50% to 60% and above).

Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugar cane juice and can be white, gold, or aged.

Cocktails are another thing entirely. They generally use light to amber rums (aged/dark), which in theory allows the flavors of other ingredients (like bitters) to shine through more easily.

Here's some favorite rum cocktails:

Mojito: light/gold rum, lime, mint syrup/sugar, muddled with crushed ice

Daiquiri: light/gold rum, lime juice

Martinique Punch: gold or dark rum; pineapple juice; lemon & orange juices; cinnamon

Old Cuban: light/gold rum; sweet vermouth; dry vermouth; lemon twist

Ananas: pineapple-infused rum, golden rum, brown sugar syrup, lime juice

Pegu Club Cocktail: gold or dark rum; dry gin; brandy (don't use Cognac here)

There's no one right way to make cocktails with white rums like Bacardi Superior and Don Q Cristal. Usually they're combined with other light bodied spirits (like gin or vodka). But if you want to experiment with the flavors produced by the different aging processes that produce white/silver/blanco, aged, spiced and dark rums… try mixing them into cocktails!

Some ideas include using them in Daiquiris or Mojitos instead of gold or aged rums. Another idea is using one type of white rum for a cocktail but switching out the base spirit for something else like tequila for a "Cuban Rumba" cocktail or swapping out spirits entirely like adding Campari bitters to your daiquiri recipe but using vodka instead of light/gold rum… These are just suggestions but hopefully get your creative juices flowing!

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