What is Rum?
Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels.
- Dark rums, also known by their particular color, such as brown, black, or red rums, are classes a grade darker than gold rums. They are usually made from caramelized sugar or molasses. They are generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels, giving them much stronger flavors than either light or gold rums, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. They commonly provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. In addition, dark rum is the type most commonly used in cooking. Most dark rums come from areas such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Martinique.
- Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits, such as banana, mango, orange, citrus, coconut, starfruit or lime. These are generally less than 40% ABV [80 proof]. They mostly serve to flavor similarly-themed tropical drinks but are also often drunk neat or with ice.
- Gold rums, also called “amber” rums, are medium-bodied rums that are generally aged. These gain their dark color from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred, white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon whiskey). They have more flavor and are stronger-tasting than light rum, and can be considered midway between light rum and the darker varieties.
- Light rums, also referred to as “silver” or “white” rums, in general, have very little flavor aside from a general sweetness. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color. The Brazilian cachaça is generally this type, but some varieties are more akin to “gold rums”. The majority of light rums come from Puerto Rico. Their milder flavors make them popular for use in mixed drinks, as opposed to drinking them straight.
- Overproof rums are much higher than the standard 40% ABV [80 proof], with many as high as 75% [150 proof] to 80% [160 proof] available. One example is Bacardi 151 or Pitorro moonshine. They are usually used in mixed drinks.
- Premium rums, as with other sipping spirits such as Cognac and Scotch, are in a special market category. These are generally from boutique brands that sell carefully produced and aged rums. They have more character and flavor than their “mixing” counterparts and are generally consumed straight.
- Spiced rums obtain their flavors through the addition of spices and, sometimes, caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with caramel color. Among the spices added are cinnamon, rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, or pepper.