Whether you like drinking it in a cocktail or sipping a dark aged one, among all spirits, rum certainly offers the widest range of tasting possibilities. It’s one of the most appreciated liquor all over the world and it met everyone’s taste, from pirates to classy gentlemen. So it’s better to know more about it and see what types of rum are on the market nowadays.
A bit of history
Discovered after the Spanish, French and English colonial conquests, rum was originally the drink of slaves and sailors. Used as a decoy by pirates to get drunk on the hubs of the British Navy (in order to recruit!), it is still today tied to this past of adventures and tumults.
Whether it is called rhum (French), rum (English) or ron (Spanish), this sugar cane distillate remains the common denominator of the Caribbean islands and South American countries, each one expressing different cultures and traditions.
Depending on the type of distillation and depending on aging, rum shows a diversity of aromatic profiles that make it a leader in the distillates chart.
Main rum styles
Although rum can be produced in every corner of the world, the one considered most prestigious comes from the Caribbean or Latin America. Marked by their history, the Caribbean produces three major types of rum with colonial influence: Hispanic, British and French. An influence that is found in the names given to the rums and that allows to assign three typical products.
Hispanic types of rum
The ron produced in Cuba, in Guatemala, in Panama, in the Dominican Republic, in Nicaragua, in Puerto Rico, in Colombia and in Venezuela, therefore of Hispanic tradition, are processed starting from molasses and distilled in column stills offer a very gentle character and sweet, with refinements in barrels that previously contained Hispanic wines or Porto.
British types of rum
Rums originating from Jamaica, from the islands of Grenada, Barbados, Saint Kitts, Trinidad or from the area of Demerara in Guyana, that is of British origin, have preserved their traditional distillation mode in copper stills. More loaded and typical, these rums are mainly processed starting from molasses. Among the most evocative families, there is the Navy Rum, distributed daily to sailors for more than three centuries.
French types of rum
France is the only country to have equipped its overseas territories with a legal framework that regulates the production and appellations of rum: the French Antilles, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Marie-Galante are recognized so much for their rhum agricole or rhums z’habitant developed from the fermentation and distillation of pure fresh sugar cane juice and their traditional rums, unlike Réunion which, besides producing them both, also produces Grand Arôme rums in obvious British style.
Due to the lack of strict legislation, the aging of rum and the appellations that distinguish it differ from one producer to another. Thus, a traditional rum can be produced either from vesou (cane juice) or from molasses. Nevertheless, with regard to the French overseas departments, the term traditional applies to rums that have an impurity rate (TNA) equal to or greater than 225g/HAP.
There are two main categories of traditional rums according to their manufacturing process:
- Rum agricole
Obtained exclusively from the distillation of fresh sugar cane juice produced mainly in the French Antilles, agricultural rum, also called rum z’abitant, developed from the second half of the 19th century, following the lowering of the price of sugar.
- Molasses rum
Elaborated starting from what remains from the production of cane sugar after the concentration of the juice for heating and the elimination of impurities (molasses in fact) this rum can be called industrial rum if it is obtained by direct fermentation or Grand Arôme rum (TNA> 500g / HAP) if fermentation takes place in the presence of vinasse (residual liquids from rum distillation) and if it is produced in certain geographical areas (Martinique, Jamaica, Réunion).
Rum categories by aging
Old rums, to benefit from the appeal of rum vieux (antique rum), must age at least 3 years in oak barrels.
White rums, instead, either vesou or molasses, are an excellent base for the preparation of cocktails. Many have an alcohol content of over 40% and could stay in steel vats or large barrels for several weeks in order to round off their aromas. There are also white rums that, coming from countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua) in which to be called rum must have at least 3 years of aging in barrels (in Nicaragua 4), they are bleached by filtration with activated carbon, resulting white rums but with amber-colored rum aromas.
Amber rums have generally rested for 18 months in oak barrels, mostly ex-Bourbon, but their color can also be influenced by the presence of caramel or syrups.
Dark rums enter directly the tasting rum category. These rums are the result of two and more years aging in oak barrels: for rums aged in the place of production, the climatic conditions are such that 4 years in oak barrels are enough to obtain an old rum, with an aromatic profile complex.
Spiced rums result from the maceration of spices (ginger, cinnamon, etc.) and flavouring in a white rum, thus offering a series of aromas and flavors for all tastes.
Some rum bottlers offer vintage bottling with aging in more or less “exotic” original drums. This practice, largely inherited from the whiskey industry, gives no guarantee of the quality of the rum, to the extent that the notion of vintage does not exist. As for refinement, its value depends directly on the competence of the Master Distiller.
Let’s discover now some of the best rums according to my experience. I would like to recommend you some rums that I find particularly good.
Top sipping rums
- El Dorado 15 – Guyana
- Zacapa XO – Guatemala
- Plantation XO – Barbados
Very good sipping rums
- Edmundo Dantes 15 – Cuba
- Zacapa 23 – Guatemala
- Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – Venezuela
- Santa Teresa 1796 – Venezuela
- El Dorado 12 – Guyana
Rhum agricole worth trying
- Rhum J.M – Martinique
I hope that you liked the article and you find it useful to help you understand the main differences among rums. Now you only have to relax and enjoy a good one either straight or in a cocktail!