Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane by-products, such as molasses or honeys, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation.
Sugarcane was first introduced to the Caribbean in 1493 by Christopher Columbus.
The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the early 17th century. Tradition suggests rum first originated on the island of Barbados.
By the mid-1700’s, rum was being made throughout the Caribbean and South America. It soon became popular in New England and was produced there as well.
Rum quickly became one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world.
Today, rum is produced throughout the world.
The majority of the world’s rum production occurs in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Rum is also produced in Scotland, Austria, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Philippines, Reunion Island, Mauritius, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Nepal.
There are two main production methods, which are the origin of two distinct spirits:
• “Rum Candy” or “Traditional Rums” made from a by-product of sugarcane – most often molasses
• “Agricultural Rums” made from sugarcane juice then fermented and distilled.
When sugarcane juice or other sugarcane are by-products including molasses allowed to rest, yeast in the air is attracted to the natural sweetness of the liquid. The process of fermentation occurs as sugars are converted by yeast into wines, at approximately the strength of 7% ABV. [Photo below: Rum fermentation]
Fermentation can take anywhere from a few hours (for light rums) to several days (for more complex rums), to several weeks for rums of “Great Aromas”.
Once wine is obtained, distillation begins. Distillation is the action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling.
Once the wine is distilled, the new spirit is either bottled immediately or poured in wood casks to age. Most barrels used in the Caribbean are young Bourbon casks (American white oak), which infuse the rum with vanilla, spicy and slightly smoky notes.
Thanks to the hot and humid climate, the Angel’s share in the Caribbean is 3 to 4 times higher than for spirits aged in France or Scotland – which explains the difficulty to keep a rum more than 8 or 10 years.
Angel’s share is the name given to the amount of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation. In France or Scotland, this is approximately 2% of the contents of each cask each year.
Rums are produced in various grades. Light rums are commonly used in cocktails, whereas “golden” and “dark” rums were typically consumed straight or neat, on the rocks, or used for cooking, but are now commonly consumed with mixers. Premium rums are made to be consumed either straight or iced. Flavored and spiced rums contains spices or other flavor agents. 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.
Rum can vary in color from virtually transparent to red, amber, gold, brown and black.
A variety of cocktails are made with rum, including the Cuba libre, Daiquiri, Mojito, Piña Colada, Mai Tai, Hurricane, Hot Buttered Rum, Planter’s Punch, Dark ‘n’ Stormy, Bumbo, Cable Car, Rum Swizzle and Bacardi cocktail.
The Rum Sling was made of rum, sugar, water and lemon juice and is argued to have been the first American cocktail.
Top 5 Best Selling Rum Brands in the World are:
3. McDowell’s No.1 Celebration
4. Captain Morgan
5. Havana Club
It’s not surprising the most expensive rum comes from an island made legendary by pirates and bad boys who liked their drink: Jamaica. Even British royalty chose this country for their Royal Navy Imperial. J. Wray and Nephew is one of Jamaica’s oldest rum producers, and one of the country’s biggest rum exporters. The parent company was bought by Gruppo Campari in 2012. However, the rum that has claimed the world’s largest price was made long before this — roughly 70 years ago: 1940s bottle of J. Wray & Nephew cost $54,000 and there are only four known bottles left.
The oldest known rum is The Harewood Rum 1780, believed to have been distilled in 1780 in Barbados. In 2011, fifty-nine bottles of the previously-forgotten rum were discovered in the basement of Harewood House, Leeds, UK.
Rum has famous associations with the Royal Navy (where it was mixed with water or beer to make grog) and piracy (where it was consumed as bumbo).
Bumbo is a drink made from rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg.
Rum’s association with piracy began with British privateers trading on the valuable commodity. As some of the privateers became pirates and buccaneers, their fondness for rum remained, the association between the two only being strengthened by literary works such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
The association of rum with the Royal Navy began in 1655, when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica.
Rum has seen a huge upswing in popularity in the last decade, no doubt partly fueled by Hollywood, appearing in such films as the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
The origin of the word “rum” is generally unclear. In an 1824 essay about the word’s origin, Samuel Morewood, a British etymologist, suggested it might be from the British slang term for “the best”, as in “having a rum time.” He wrote: As spirits, extracted from molasses, could not well be ranked under the name whiskey, brandy, or arrack, it would be called rum, to denote its excellence or superior quality.
In the early years of the United States, the amount of rum a candidate gave away also significantly influenced the candidate’s ability to become elected. Generally, whichever candidate was giving away more rum, the crowds would gather to that candidates stump, which would ultimately significantly increase the number of votes that candidate would rece.
George Washington insisted on a barrel of Barbados rum being available at his 1789 inauguration.
Rum has served as a popular medium of economic exchange, used to help fund enterprises such as slavery, organized crime, and military insurgencies.
Some of the many other names for rum are Nelson’s blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate’s drink, navy neaters, and Barbados water.
India is the world’s largest market for rum.
Zacapa is a city in Guatemala which lent its name to the award winning premium rum.