The story behind rum is often the most fascinating part of drinking. Not only do you get to sip on a delicious beverage, but you are able to be transported through history and learn about the culture of a people and sometimes even an era. However, It was not always happy times within the the history of making and trade this spirit. Why? Well the first question is What is Rum?

Rum is a liquor distilled from sugar. The sugar may be either pure cane sugar, a syrup, or molasses. No matter the base, the underlying flavor profile of rum is a sweet, toasted sugar. It includes both the light-bodied rums, typified by those of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the heavier and fuller-flavored rums of Jamaica.


The use of sugar cane distinguishes rum from all other liquors. Many of the early Caribbean rums were produced with molasses and “skimmings” from the production of sugar. The skimmings were obtained from the boiling of the sugar cane and were mixed with molasses and “dunder” (leftover sediment in the still). The molasses-cane juice mixture is then fermented and distilled. Pot stills are used in many of the traditional rums, though most now use continuous column stills.

Sugar Cane made for rum

Rums originated in the West Indies and are first mentioned in records from Barbados in about 1650. They were called “kill-devil” or “rumbullion” and by 1667 were called rum. Rum made in the slave trade of the American colonies: slaves were brought from Africa then trade to the West Indies for molasses; the molasses made run into New England, and the spirit traded to Africa for more slaves. British sailors received regular rations of rum from the 18th century until 1970. Rum, the primary liquor distilled during the early history of the United States, was sometimes mixed with molasses and called blackstrap or mixed with cider to produce a beverage called stonewall.

Rum and slave trade routes

Many rums are aged in wood casks. The type of wood used is often the determining factor in the color of rum produced in the end. It is important to note that climate plays a significant role in how long any distilled spirit is aged for, and rum is no exception. The rums produced in tropical climates will generally be aged for a shorter period than those in colder climates. That is why you may see a dark Caribbean rum aged for just three to five years while a North American rum of similar color and oaky flavor may be aged for around ten years.

The majority of rum is bottled at 40 percent alcohol by volume (80 proof). There are some exceptions, including overproof rums which can reach 160 proof. The higher alcohol content makes these a popular choice for lighting drinks on fire.

Rum barrels

Either the history of rum was not the greatest; we soon able to love and appreciate the unique flavors we have today. Of course, this being the full, wide world of spirits, that’s not the end of the story.

Rum, like many spirits, can benefit from aging. Depending on whether a rum’s been pot-distilled (e.g., Jamaica, Barbados) or column-distilled (Cuba), you’ll want to age it more or less aggressively. When rum is aged, it’s aged briefly, often in previously used wooden casks, for one reason: climate.

This spirit is made in warmer climates, meaning any reaction between spirit and barrel is going to happen more rapidly (including evaporation of that precious Angel’s Share).

A charred, previously used bourbon barrel, e.g., ensure 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.).

That’s where the rainbow of rum flavors comes together, with spice, tropical fruit, vanilla, and caramel swirling around in darker rums, and lighter rums showing cleaner, but still tropical fruit, softness, and spice. Is the ticket to a beachy island paradise that you would need in your heaven!

Rum tops

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Post Author: xjasminex

My name is Jasmine. I am a hard-working woman that is a certified chef with a sense of adventure. I experienced within Puerto Rican, French, Thai, and traditional cuisine; nevertheless, I am always open to learning something new. I nice to meet, and I will make you laugh, including but not limited to, I will support anyone the best of my abilities. Check out my food blog at to see more.

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