Sugarcane is the raw material for rum. This does not mean that the cane gives sweetness to the spirit. It gives a complex variety of flavors and essences called congeners.

 Rum is a spirit made by fermenting and distilling a form of sugarcane juice called Molasses.

It is believed that the word “rum” is probably derived from saccharums, which means sugar or sweet.

Rum, and its fraternal twin, cane spirit, are made by distilling fermented sugar and water. This sugar comes from the sugar cane and is fermented from cane juice, concentrated cane juice, or molasses. Molasses is the sweet, sticky residue that remains after sugar cane juice is boiled and the crystallized sugar is extracted.

Most Rum is made from molasses. Molasses is over 50% sugar, but it also contains significant amounts of minerals and other trace elements, which can contribute to the final flavor. Rums made from cane juice, primarily on Haiti and Martinique, have a naturally smooth palate.

Depending on the recipe, the “wash” (the cane juice, or molasses and water) is fermented, using either cultured yeast or airborne wild yeasts, for a period ranging from 24 hours for light Rums up to several weeks for heavy, full varieties.

History and Significance

The history of Rum is the history of sugar. Sugar is a sweet crystalline carbohydrate that occurs naturally in a variety of plants. One of those is the sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), a tall, thick grass that has its origins in the islands of present-day Indonesia in the East Indies. Chinese traders spread its cultivation to Asia and on to India. Arabs in turn brought it to the Middle East and North Africa where it came to the attention of Europeans during the Crusades in the 11th century.

As the Spanish and Portuguese began to venture out into the Atlantic Ocean, they planted sugar cane in the Canary and Azore Islands. In 1493 Christopher Columbus picked up cane cuttings from the Canaries while on his second voyage to the Americas and transplanted them to Hispaniola, the island in the Caribbean that is now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Portuguese explorers soon did likewise in Brazil.

The Caribbean basin proved to have an ideal climate for growing sugar cane, and sugar production quickly spread around the islands. The insatiable demand in Europe for sugar soon led to the establishment of hundreds of sugar cane plantations and mills in the various English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch colonies. These mills crushed the harvested cane and extracted the juice. Boiling this juice caused chunks of crystallized sugar to form. The remaining unsolidified juice was called melazas (from”miel,” the Spanish word for honey); in English this became molasses.

Molasses is a sticky syrup that still contains a significant amount of sugar. Sugar mill operators soon noticed that when it was mixed with water and left out in the sun it would ferment. By the 1650s this former waste product was being distilled into a spirit. In the English colonies it was called Kill Devil (from its tendency to cause a nasty hangover or its perceived medicinal power, take your choice) or rumbullion (origins uncertain), which was shortened over the years to our modern word Rum. The French render this word as rhum, while the Spanish call it ron.

Locally, Rum was used as cure-all for many of the aches and pains that afflicted those living in the tropics. Sugar plantation owners also sold it, at discounted prices, to naval ships that were on station in the Caribbean in order to encourage their presence in local waters and thus discourage the attentions of marauding pirates. The British navy adopted a daily ration of a half-pint of 160 proof Rum by the 1730s. This ration was subsequently modified by mixing it with an equal amount of water to produce a drink called grog. The grog ration remained a staple of British naval life until 1969.

This naval-Rum connection introduced Rum to the outside world and by the late 17th century a thriving export trade developed. The British islands shipped Rum to Great Britain (where it was mixed into Rum punches and replaced gin as the dominant spirit in the 18th century) and to the British colonies in North America where it became very popular. This export of Rum to North America, in exchange for New England lumber and dried cod (still a culinary staple in the Caribbean) soon changed over to the export of molasses to distilleries in New England. This was done in order to avoid laws from the British parliament, which protected British distillers by forbidding the trade in spirits directly between colonies. This law was, at best, honored in the breech, and smuggling soon became rampant.

The shipping of molasses to make Rum in New England distilleries became part of the infamous “slavery triangle.” The first leg was the shipment of molasses to New England to make Rum. The second leg was the shipment of Rum to the ports of West Africa to trade for slaves. The final leg was the passage of slave ships to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and South America where many of the slaves were put to work in the sugar cane fields.

The disruption of trade caused by the American Revolution and the rise of whisky production in North America resulted in the slow decline of Rums dominance as the American national tipple. Rum production in the United States slowly decreased through the 19th century, with the last New England Rum distilleries closing at the advent of National Prohibition in 1920. The famed rumrunners of the Prohibition era were primarily smuggling whiskey into the United States.

In Europe the invention of sugar extraction from the sugar beet lessened the demand for Caribbean sugar, reducing the amount of molasses being produced and the resulting amount of Rum being distilled. Many small plantations and their stills were closed. Rum production receded, for the most part, to countries where sugar cane was grown.

The modern history of Rum owes a lot to the spread of air conditioning and the growth of tourism. In the second half of the 20th century, modern air conditioning made it possible for large numbers of people to migrate to warm-weather regions where Rum remained the dominant spirit. Additionally, the explosive increase in the number of North American and European tourists into Rum-drinking regions lead to a steady rise in the popularity of Rum-based mixed drinks. Nowadays White Rum gives Vodka serious competition as the mixer of choice in a number of distinctively nontropical markets.

Aged Rums are gaining new standing among consumers of single malt Scotch whiskies, Armagnacs, and small-batch Bourbons who are learning to appreciate the subtle complexities of these Rums. The pot still Rums of Guyana and Jamaica have a particular appeal for Scotch whisky drinkers (it is no accident that the Scottish whisky merchant and bottler Cadenhead also ages and bottles Demerara Rum), while the subtle and complex rhums of Martinique and Guadeloupe mirror the flavor profiles of the top French brandies in Cognac and Armagnac.

Production Of Rum

Rums today are classified into two main groups-

Light bodied– made in column stills, they tend to be crisp and dry with a subtle flavor and aroma. Most of them have only hint of molasses character. Some rum even approach vodka in neutrality.

Full bodied these are made in pot stills. They have a distinct sugarcane/molasses character. Tough they are often called sweet in fact they are not, although they are aromatic round and full in the mouth.

There is some tendency to confuse rum’s color with its taste and body. It is usually thought that lighter the color lighter the body and the blander the taste. This is only partly true. Color (usually caramel) is added to both pot and continuous still runs after distillation. Tough light bodied column, still rums do become mellow and acquire some color, when aged in wood they do not have the potential for developing the fullness of pot still rums.

However, within a group of rums from a particular area color will be a clue as to which are more delicate and which are heavier. The former range from a clear to pale gold and the latter from amber to brown.


Extracting the molasses– The great majority of rum is made from molasses, a dark, sticky by product of the sugar-making process. In molasses making, sugarcane is chopped and crushed between rollers. Then the residue is crushed again. The extracted juice is warmed almost to the boiling point, and then cooled. This very dark solution is treated with lime and heated again. On further cooling, the sugar separates in crystal form, leaving the molasses for use in rum making.

Fermentation– The thick, liquid molasses is diluted with water and allowed to ferment. Fermentation may take 24 hrs for white rum or several days for darker, medium-bodied styles. For very dark rums, fermentation may take two weeks and a substance called dunder is added to the mixture. This is the residue left in the still from a previous batch, similar to the old yeasts used to make sour-mash whiskeys.

Distillation– Dry, light rums are always produced in continuous still. Distilling them to a very high proof eliminates the dark, strong flavored congeners. Dark, pungent rums are traditionally made in pot still and distilled to much lower proofs. This retains the rich flavors.

Like whiskey, rum is sometimes blended. Often, dark rums include both pot-still and continuous-still spirits in the blend.

Rum is distilled in the manner described in the introductory chapter of this book. The choice of stills does, however, have a profound effect on the final character of Rum. All Rums come out of the still as clear, colorless spirits. Barrel aging and the use of added caramel determine their final color. Since caramel is burnt sugar, it can be truthfully said that only natural coloring agents are used.

Lighter Rums are highly rectified (purified and blended) and are produced in column or continuous stills, after which they are usually charcoal-filtered and sometimes aged in old oak casks for a few months to add a degree of smoothness. Most light Rums have minimal flavors and aroma, and are very similar to Vodka, particularly those brands that have been charcoal-filtered. Heavier Rums are usually distilled in pot stills; similar to those used to produce Cognacs and Scotch whiskies. Pot stills are less “efficient” than column stills and some congeners (fusel oils and other flavor elements) are carried over with the alcohol. Some brands of Rum are made by blending pot and column distilled Rums in a manner similar to Armagnac production.

Maturation- For white rum, plain oak casks are used, giving some smoothness but little or no color. Charred-oak casks are preferred for dark rums, such as traditional Jamaican styles. The spirits spend at least 3yrs aging before bottling. Like many other beverages, rum can be diluted with water to reach required alcoholic strength.

Caramel may also be added to intensify the color.

Puerto Rican Rums:

It is the world’s leading rum producing country. It sets the standard for light-bodied rum for which every aspect of production is controlled to achieve clear muted spirits.

Fermentation of the molasses is carefully controlled with the use of special strains of yeast and distillation is done in column stills. Two popular rum styles made in Puerto Rico are white and golden amber.

White rums are dry, light and most Vodka like. By the law they are required to come off the still at no less than 180 degree U.S. proof and can go as high as 189 degree.

They are aged in wood for a minimum of 1 year and then filtered before bottling to remove any color. Bacardi is the world’s most popular white Puerto Rican rum. The golden or amber rums are somewhat fuller and a bit more aromatic than whites. They must be distilled to a minimum of 175 degree U.S. proof and aged for a minimum of 1 year. Captain Morgan & Myers Golden Rich are famous brand examples while gold rums acquire color from the wood. During aging caramel is usually added before bottling to achieve the desired shade. It may add a trace of flavor. All Puerto Rican rums are blended after aging, but only with each other, never with neutral grain spirits. Although 80degree U.S. proof is the standard for Puerto Rican rums, a certain amount of gold rum is bottled at 151degree –this is chiefly used for flambéing while cooking

Jamaican Rum:

Production of this rum differs from Puerto Rican rums. The molasses is reinforced with dunder, which is a skimming agent from previous distillations. This is then fermented with both mild and cultured yeasts. This is followed by double distillation in pot stills, which yields a fairly low proof distillate.

The rums aged for 5-8yrs and after blending are darkened with caramel.

These rums are full-bodied and richly aromatic.


Dark rum- Appleton punch, Myers Original Dark Rum, Lemon Hart,Dagger, Jamaica, Negrita, and St. James.

White and Golden rum– Appleton White and Appleton’s Gold, Old Nick, Tropic.

Classifications of Rum

White Rums are generally light-bodied (although there are a few heavy-bodied White Rums in the French islands). They are usually clear and have a very subtle flavor profile.

If they are aged in oak casks to create a smooth palate they are then usually filtered to remove any color. White Rums are primarily used as mixers and blend particularly well with fruit flavors.

Golden Rums, also known as Amber Rums, are generally medium-bodied. Most have spent several years aging in oak casks, which give them smooth, mellow palates.

Dark Rums are traditionally full-bodied, rich, caramel-dominated Rums. The best are produced mostly from pot stills and frequently aged in oak casks for extended periods.

The richest of these Rums are consumed straight up.

Spiced Rums can be white, golden, or dark Rums. They are infused with spices or fruit flavors.

White Rums are generally light-bodied (although there are a few heavy-bodied White Rums in the French islands). They are usually clear and have a very subtle flavor profile. If they are aged in oak casks to create a smooth palate they are then usually filtered to remove any color. White Rums are primarily used as mixers and blend particularly well with fruit flavors.

Golden Rums, also known as Amber Rums, are generally medium-bodied. Most have spent several years aging in oak casks, which give them smooth, mellow palates.

Dark Rums are traditionally full-bodied, rich, caramel-dominated Rums. The best are produced mostly from pot stills and frequently aged in oak casks for extended periods. The richest of these Rums are consumed straight up.

Spiced Rums can be white, golden, or dark Rums. They are infused with spices or fruit flavors. Rum punches (such as planters punch) are blends of Rum and fruit juices that are very popular in the Caribbean.

Añejo and Age-Dated Rums are aged Rums from different vintages or batches that are mixed together to insure a continuity of flavor in brands of Rum from year to year. Some aged Rums will give age statements stating the youngest Rum in the blend (e.g., 10-year-old Rum contains a blend of Rums that are at least 10 years old). A small number of French island Rums are Vintage Dated.

Rum Regions

The Caribbean is the main re3gion where Rum is produced. Every major island group produces its own distinct Rum style.

Barbados produces light, sweetish Rums from both pot and column stills. Rum distillation began here and the Mount Gay Distillery, dating from 1663, is probably the oldest operating Rum producer in the world.

Cuba produces light-bodied, crisp, clean Rums from column stills. It is currently illegal to ship Cuban Rums into the United States.

The Dominican Republic is notable for its full-bodied, aged Rums from column stills.

Guyana is famous for its rich, heavy Demerara Rums, named for a local river, which are produced from both pot and column stills. Demerara Rums can be aged for extended periods (25-year-old) and frequently used for blending with lighter Rums from other regions.

Haiti follows the French tradition of heavier Rums that are double-distilled in pot stills and aged in oak casks for three or more years to produce full-flavored, exceptionally smooth- tasting Rums.

Jamaica is well known for its rich, aromatic Rums, most of which are produced in pot stills. Jamaica has official classifications of Rum, ranging from light to very full-flavored.

Jamaican Rums are extensively used for blending.

Martinique is a French island with the largest number of distilleries in the Eastern

Caribbean. Both pot and column stills are used. As on other French islands such as

Guadeloupe, both rhum agricole (made from sugar cane juice) and rhum industriel (made from molasses) are produced. These Rums are frequently aged in used French brandy casks for a minimum of three years. Rhum vieux (aged Rum) is frequently compared to high-quality French brandies.

Puerto Rico is known primarily for light, very dry Rums from column stills. All white

Puerto Rican Rums must, by law, be aged a minimum of one year while dark Rums must be aged three years.

Trinidad produces mainly light Rums from column stills and has an extensive export trade.

The Virgin Islands, which are divided between the United States Virgin Islands and the

British Virgin Islands, both produce light, mixing Rums from column stills. These Rums, and those of nearby Grenada, also serve as the base for bay Rum, a classic aftershave lotion.

Guatemala and Nicaragua are noteworthy in Central America where a variety of primarily medium-bodied Rums from column stills that lends themselves well to aging.

They have recently begun to gain international recognition

Brazil produces vast quantities of mostly light Rums from column stills with unaged cane spirit called Cachaça (ca·sha·sa) the best-known example.

Venezuela makes a number of well-respected barrel-aged golden and dark Rums.

The United States has a handful of Rum distilleries in the south, producing a range of light and medium-bodied Rums that are generally marketed with Caribbean-themed names.

Canada’s 300-year-old tradition of trading Rum for dried cod fish continues in the

Atlantic Maritime provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia where golden Rums from

Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica are imported and aged for five years. The resulting hearty Rum is known locally as Screech.

Europe is primarily a blender of imported Rums. Both the United Kingdom and France import Rums from their former colonies in the Caribbean for aging and bottling. Heavy, dark Jamaican Rums are imported into Germany and mixed with neutral spirit at a 1:19 ratio to produce Rum verschnitt. A similar product in Austria is called Inlanders Rum.

Australia produces a substantial amount of white and golden Rums in a double distillation method utilizing both column and pot stills. Rum is the second most popular alcoholic beverage in the country after beer. Light Rums are also produced on some of the islands in the South Pacific such as Tahiti.

Asia Rums tend to follow regional sugar cane production, with white and golden Rums from column stills being produced primarily in the Philippines and Thailand.

Lets Go More Briefly With Pictures of World of Rum


What is rum?

Rum is produced from the fermentation of a sugarcane source. The product of the fermentation process is then distilled to produce different types of rums.

Why do we use molasses in the production of our rums?

Molasses is a final by-product in the production of sugar. In its raw form, no more sugar can be crystallized from it by the factory process, but it still contains a high percentage of sugar. In addition, molasses contains a large number of minerals and non-sugar organic compounds. The non-sugar organic compounds are essential in the production of rum since most of the flavour and aroma characteristic of rum originate in these compounds.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a living process of the yeast cell which converts sugar into rum and carbon dioxide with the liberation of energy.

What are congeners?

During the fermentation process a number of constituents called congeners are manufactured. Only some of these congeners are desirable, and one of the objectives of the distillation process is to remove the undesirable congeners. These congeners, also called rum flavours, are major constituents of heavy-type rums, and are necessary when blending to give the rum its flavour and character.

Why do we distill rum?

The first objective of the distillation process is to separate the rum from the fermentable wash produced during the fermentation process. The second objective is to remove the undesirable congeners from the rum and retain the desirable ones.

What is heavy-type rum?

After the rum has been separated from the fermentable wash during distillation, the condensate produced contains a high percentage of congeners, and it is from this condensate that the heavy-type rums are obtained.

What is light-type rum?

After the desired amount of heavy-type rums is obtained, the remaining condensate is then rectified to produce light-type rums. The light-type rum forms the body of rum during blending, with heavy-type rums being added for flavour.

Once the rum meets the specifications of a premium grade from aging, it can be sold locally or exported as aged rum.

Why do we dilute rums before aging?

After distillation, light-type rums are about 94.5% alcohol by volume. At this strength, evaporation would be too rapid, so the rum is diluted to about 80% before aging.

Why do we age rums?

Aging is an oxidation process during which chemical changes take place which result in an improvement in the rum’s flavour.

Why do we age rums in oak wood barrels?

We use oak wood because it does not contribute any offensive odours or tastes to the rum during the aging process. It has also been proven that rum does not age properly in stainless steel or glass containers.

Why are the insides of the barrels charred?

The staves of the barrels are charred during the manufacturing of the barrel. This charred wood however, actually deodorizes any bad odours in the rum during aging, while also adding some colour to the rum.

How much of the rum is lost due to evaporation during aging?

Since rum is a bonded product, the Customs and Excise Division only allows a 2 percent per year loss so as to ensure that the maximum excise is collected. It is the rum producer’s responsibility to ensure that the loss does not exceed this limit, either through evaporation or negligence.

How long do we age rums for?

Rum Distillers of Trinidad & Tobago Limited ages heavy-type rums for a minimum of 6 years, and light-type rums for a minimum of 3 years. However, we also have rum that is

20 years old.

What is mature rum?

Mature rum is one which in the opinion of the blender has aged enough to have all the specifications and characteristics required for blending the rum. This is judged by the smoothness and mellowness of the rum when appraised.

What is a blend?

A blend is a mixture of light and heavy-type rums of different ages that have been carefully analyses and selected for characteristics specified by a blender for a particular formula. Before blending, the selected rums of a particular type and age are bulked together.

What is bulk rum?

Rum is bulked together before blending to ensure that there is a high degree of consistency in the final blend.

Heavy Type and Light Type: the strength varies between 75% – 80% alc./vol.

Aged Bulk Rums are available in: 1 yr, 3 yrs, 5 yrs, 8 yrs, 10 yrs.

We have a limited supply of bulk rum aged 15 – 25 yrs old.

What is Puncheon Rum?

Puncheon rum is a high proof light-type rum. Caroni Puncheon Rum is 75% alcohol by volume, while Stallion Puncheon Rum is 78%, the strongest rum produced in Trinidad and Tobago for local consumption.

What is Bay Rum?

Caroni Bay Rum is a mixture of high proof light-type rum and bay oil, which is an extract of the bay leaf. It is used primarily as an aftershave and refresh ant.

What gives gold rum its color?

The initial color in a Gold Rum is attained from the barrels during the aging process. A final adjustment to the color is made by adding a food coloring called Caramel. The degree of the color of the rum is the manufacturer’s choice, and can be measured by the use of a tint meter.

Why does White Magic Rum have no color?

White Magic is a light-type rum, which is blended using aged rums. What little colour it attains during the aging process is removed by a chemical process.

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