Introduction to Rum


A variety of rum products makes it hard to define the family of rum as a group. Light, gold, dark, and spiced rums each have their own unique characteristics. Each country that produces rum has its own laws and tradition, making each country’s product different.



In 1493, Columbus introduced sugarcane to the West Indies. After this, rum was first produced in Brazil, Barbados, and Jamaica. Rum, therefore, was the first spirit produced in the New World.  It was produced throughout South America and the Caribbean by the mid 1700’s. Soon afterwards, it became popular in New England, where it soon began to be produced. The Rum Sling is considered to be the first American cocktail, made from rum, sugar, water, and lemon juice.


Sugar cane makes rum different from other liquors. The juice from the sugar cane is used to make molasses. This molasses is then fermented to make the spirit. After fermentation, it is aged in casks. The kind of cask used in aging determines the color of the end product.

Light Rum:

Light rum is also called White or Silver. It is subtle like vodka and has a sweet flavor. Light rum is aged in a stainless steel tank, and is aged for up to a year. It is then filtered before bottling, giving it a light and clean flavor. Light rum is the most commonly used in cocktails.

Gold Rum:

Gold rum is a medium bodied, with a rich and smooth flavor. This can come from the addition of caramel, or the production of organic compounds called congeners. Oak casks are often used to age gold product. This aging also contributes to the dark and smooth characteristics of this particular spirit. Gold rum is good for sipping, and can be used in darker cocktails in place of light one.

Dark Rum:

Dark rum is a heavy bodied spirit, which is used typically in punch, and is also mixed with light rum in many cocktails like the Hurricane. Dark rums are the richest product. They are aged in charred oak casks, giving them their flavor. In addition to adding a sweet flavor to cocktails, dark rum is also a preferred for sipping. Angostura 1824 and Barbanco 15 year are especially good for sipping.

Blackstrap rum is a subcategory of dark. These are made from the darkest molasses. This molasses comes from the third boiling while refining the sugar. The resulting spirit is dark, rich and thick. Cruzan Black Strap and Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum are two examples of blackstrap.

Flavored Rum:

In the later part of the 20th century, flavoring has become popular. Rum is flavored by adding spices and aromatics during the distillation process. This trend started with coconut and spiced rum, but the variety of flavored rums now outnumbers flavored gin and vodka.

Overproof Rum:

High proof or over-proof  is very strong and often used as a float or dash in cocktails. This type is 75% alcohol, or 150 proof. It can be dangerous if not diluted somehow. Do not use this product , or any overproof liquor in cooking or near an open flame.


Cahacha is a Brazilian rum, which differs from others. Cahacha skips the molasses stage, using pure sugar cane juice for the distillation process. This is the sweetest rum that you can find. It can be tasted in a Caipirinha.