Although grapes and grain are the two most important raw materials used in distillation, they are by no means the only ones used. In addition to sugarcane juice, sugarcane molasses is produced as a byproduct of sugar refining and is a fermentable substance. In the creation of rum, both are utilized as the starting point. Rum as a spirit may be found in a variety of colors and flavors, ranging from the virtually vodkalike Blancos of Puerto Rico to the more complex and flavorful Aejos of Jamaica.

From Puerto Rico to the hearty deep-hued Demeraras of Guyana, with some very unique variances in between, there are some very significant differences.


Tasting notes: The agave plant, a native of Central America, is the fermentable base for many other distilled spirits, of which tequila is the most well-known, although it is by no means the only example.

In addition to distilled spirits, liquors may also refer to flavored spirits that have been enhanced with flavorings. Liqueurs are created by adding a sweetener. Bitters may be made by combining various plants with a liquid. The fact of the matter is that people will drink anything that can be fermented and then distilled.


During the 1730s, the Royal Navy began to provide a daily ration of a half-pint of 160° proof rum. Afterwards, this ration was changed by combining it with an equivalent quantity of water to form a drink known as “grog.” The grog ration was a fixture of British naval life until 1969, when it was replaced by a new system of rationing.

In many ways, the history of rum is similar to the history of sugar. Sugar is a sweet, crystalline carbohydrate that occurs naturally in a wide range of plants, including fruits and vegetables. One of them is sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), a tall, thick grass that originated in the islands of present-day Indonesia in the East Indies and is now grown around the world.

Chinese merchants propagated the plant’s cultivation across Asia and eventually into India. As a result of their efforts, Arabs spread it across the Middle East and North Africa, where it caught the attention of Europeans during the Crusades in the eleventh century.

As the Spanish and Portuguese started to expand their horizons into the Atlantic Ocean, they established sugarcane plantations on the Canary and Azores Islands. Christopher Columbus collected cane cuttings from the Canaries on his second journey to the Americas, and while on his third voyage to the Americas, he transplanted them to Hispaniola, a Caribbean island that is today shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Portuguese explorers followed suit in Brazil not long after.

When it was discovered that the Caribbean basin had a perfect environment for cultivating sugarcane, the industry soon expanded across the region’s islands. In response to Europe’s voracious want for sugar, hundreds of sugarcane fields and mills were quickly established across the continent’s different colonies including those of the English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch empires.

These mills crushed the cane after it was harvested and extracted the juice from it.
When this fluid was brought to a boil, bits of crystallized sugar formed. Melazas (derived from the Spanish word for honey, miel) was the name given to the leftover unsolidified fluid; molasses was the name given to it in English.

In spite of the fact that it includes a substantial quantity of sugar, molasses is a thick and sticky syrup.
As soon as the sugar was blended with water and left out in the sun, sugar mill operators realized that they were onto a winner. It wasn’t until the 1650s that this once-waste product began to be transformed into a liquor.

To distinguish it from other spirits, it was known in the English colonies as Kill Devil (either because of its proclivity to cause a bad hangover or because of its perceived medicinal properties, your choice) or rumbullion (whose origins are unclear), which was eventually shortened to the word rum we know today. This term is referred to as rhum in French, and ron in Spanish, depending on who you ask!

Rum was formerly thought to be a panacea for a variety of aches and ailments that plagued tropical dwellers. Owners of sugar plantations supplied it to navy ships stationed in the Caribbean at a discount in order to promote their presence in local seas and therefore deter roving pirates.

This naval-rum relationship popularized rum, and by the late seventeenth century, a lucrative export economy had emerged.

Rum was exported from the British islands to Great Britain (where it was blended into rum punches and eventually overtook gin as the most popular spirit in the eighteenth century) and the British colonies in North America, where it became immensely popular.

This rum export to North America, in return for New England timber and dried cod (still a culinary staple in the Caribbean), was quickly replaced by molasses shipment to New England distilleries.

This was done to get over British restrictions prohibiting direct commerce in spirits between colonies, which protected British distillers. Smuggling rapidly became common since this regulation was only partially followed.

Molasses was sent to New England distilleries to be used in the production of rum, and this became known as the “slavery triangle.” The shipping of molasses to New England for the production of rum was the first step of the journey.

The shipping of rum to West African ports in exchange for slaves was the second leg. Slave ships made their way to sugar estates in the Caribbean and South America, where many of the slaves worked in the sugarcane fields.

The American Revolution disrupted commerce, and the growth of whiskey manufacturing in North America resulted in rum’s supremacy as the national drink of the United States gradually fading.

Rum production in the United States dropped steadily over the nineteenth century, with the final New England rum distillery shutting in 1920, when National Prohibition was enacted. During Prohibition, rumrunners mostly smuggled whiskey into the US.

After the discovery of sugar extraction from the sugar beet in Europe, the demand for Caribbean sugar declined, resulting in a reduction in the quantity of molasses produced and, therefore, in the amount of rum distilled in the Caribbean.

Many small plantations and distilleries were forced to shut their doors. For the most part, rum production moved away from the United States to nations where sugarcane was cultivated.

The proliferation of air conditioning and the expansion of tourism are two factors that have contributed significantly to the contemporary history of rum.

When sophisticated air conditioning became available in the second part of the twentieth century, it made it possible for significant numbers of people to travel to warm weather countries where rum continued to be the dominating alcohol.

Aside from that, the rapid growth in the number of North American and European tourists visiting rum-producing countries has resulted in a constant rise in the popularity of rum-based mixed cocktails.

White rum is already giving vodka a serious run for its money as the preferred mixer in a number of regions that are not traditionally associated with the Caribbean.

Customers of single malt Scotch whisky, cognac, and small-batch bourbon are learning to appreciate the subtle nuances of aged rums as they learn to enjoy the subtle complexities of aged rums as they learn to appreciate the subtle complexities of aged rum.

Scottish whiskey consumers are particularly fond of Guyana and Jamaican pot still rums, which are made using a traditional method of distillation.

In fact, it’s no coincidence that Cadenhead, a Scottish whiskey trader, and bottler, also matures and bottles Demerara rum. The delicate and nuanced flavors of Martinique and Guadeloupe’s rhums are reminiscent of the taste profiles of the world’s best French brandies, such as Armagnac and Cognac.


Spirits like rum (and its cousin, cane spirit) are produced by distilling fermenting sugar and water together. derived from the sugarcane and is fermented from cane juice, concentrated cane juice, or molasses. It is a simple sugar that can be found in many foods.

Sugarcane juice is cooked and crystallized sugar is removed, leaving a delicious, sticky residue behind. Molasses is the result of this process.

Molasses is used in the production of the majority of rum. Molasses comprises more than 50% sugar, but it also includes large levels of minerals and other trace components, all of which may add to the final taste of the finished product. Rums produced largely in Haiti and Martinique from cane juice have a naturally smooth taste.

Depending on the recipe, the “wash” (the cane juice, or molasses and water) is fermented for a time ranging from twenty-four hours for light rums to several weeks for heavier, full kinds, with either cultured yeast or airborne wild yeasts used to do the fermentation.



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is a process that involves the separation of rum from its liquid form

Pot stills or column stills may be used to make rum. The stills used have a significant impact on the rum’s ultimate flavor. The clear, colorless liquids that emerge from the still are all rums. The final hue is determined by barrel aging and caramel additions. Only natural coloring ingredients are used in caramel since it is made from burned sugar.

Lighter rums are highly rectified (purified) and made in column or continuous stills, then charcoal filtered and occasionally stored for a few months in old wood barrels to enhance smoothness. The majority of light rums are fairly close to vodka in terms of taste and scent.

Pot stills, like those used to make cognacs and Scotch whiskies, are employed to distill heavier rums. Congeners (fusel oils and other taste components) are carried over with the alcohol in pot stills, which are less efficient than column stills. Golden and black rums are made using these stronger rums.

Some rum brands are manufactured by combining pot- and column-distilled rums in the same way Armagnac is made.

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The Caribbean is where the majority of the world’s rum is produced. Almost every major island group produces its own kind of rum.
Both pot and column stills in Barbados make light, sweetish rums. Rum production started here, and the Mount Gay Distillery, which opened in 1663, is the world’s oldest running rum distillery.
Column stills in Cuba yield light-bodied, crisp, clear rums. Shipment of Cuban rum into the United States is now prohibited.

The Dominican Republic is known for its matured, full-bodied rums produced in column stills.
Guyana is well-known for its rich, heavy Demerara rums, which are made in both pot and column stills and are named after a nearby river. Demerara rums may be matured for a long time (varieties as ancient as twenty-five years are available) and are regularly blended with lighter rums from other locations.

Surinam and French Guyana, both neighbors, create full-bodied rums.
Haiti continues the French tradition of producing full-flavored, extraordinarily smooth-tasting rums by twice distilling in pot stills and aging them in wood barrels for three or more years. The clandestine moonshine business in Haiti continues to supply the voodoo religious ceremonial commerce.

The majority of Jamaica’s rums are manufactured in pot stills, giving them a rich, fragrant flavor. Official rum categories in Jamaica range from mild to extremely full-flavored. Jamaican rums are often utilized in mixing.

Martinique is a French island in the Eastern Caribbean with the most distilleries. There are both pot and column stills in use. Both rhum agricole (made from sugarcane juice) and rhum industriel (made from molasses) are manufactured in Guadeloupe and other French islands.

These rums are generally matured for at least three years in repurposed French brandy barrels.
Rhum vieux (aged rum) is often likened to premium French brandies.

Column still rums from Puerto Rico are recognized for being light and extremely dry.
By law, all Puerto Rican rums must be matured for at least one year.
Trinidad is known for its light rums, which are made in column stills, and has a large export market.


are a group of islands off the coast of the United States.

The Virgin Islands, which are split between the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, both make light rums by blending rums from column stills. These rums, as well as those from Grenada, are used to make bay rum, a traditional aftershave lotion.


Central America produces a wide range of column-distilled rums, mostly medium-bodied and well-suited to maturing. They’ve only recently started to gain international acclaim.

SOUTH AMERICA is a country in South America.
South America produces a large quantity of primarily light rums using column stills, with cachaça, a Brazilian unaged cane spirit, being the most well-known example. With a variety of well-respected barrel-aged golden and black rums, Venezuela defies the trend.

NORTH AMERICA is a country in North America.
In the southern United States, there are a few traditional rum distilleries that produce a variety of light- and medium-bodied rums with Caribbean-themed names. Prichard’s Distillery in Kelso, Tennessee; the Rogue Distillery in Newport, Oregon; and the Triple 8 Distillery in Nantucket, Massachusetts are just a few of the modern artisan distilleries manufacturing rum.

In the Atlantic Maritime provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, where golden rums from Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica are imported and matured for five years, a 300-year-old practice of bartering rum for dried codfish persists. Screech is the name given to the robust rum that results.

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Europe is mostly known for blending foreign rums. Both the United Kingdom and France import rum for maturing and bottling from their former Caribbean territories. To make rum verschnitt, heavy, dark Jamaican rums are imported into Germany and combined 1:19 with neutral spirit. In Austria, inlander rum is a comparable product.


In a double-distillation procedure that employs both column and pot stills, Australia produces a significant volume of white and golden rums. Rum is the country’s second most popular alcoholic beverage, behind beer. Light rums are also made on several South Pacific islands, such as Tahiti.


In Asia, rum production tends to follow regional sugarcane production, with white and golden rums made predominantly in the Philippines and Thailand using column stills.


“All mezcal is tequila, but not all tequila is mezcal.”
—Advertising slogan for tequila
TEQUILA, its sister spirit mezcal, and other agave spirits date back at least 2,000 years, when one or more Indian tribes living in what is now central Mexico discovered that the juice of the agave plant fermented and turned into a milky, moderately alcoholic drink if left exposed to air.
The finding was widely publicized in agave-growing regions. The Aztecs termed this drink octili poliqhui, which was later changed into pulque by the Spaniards (POOL-kay).