• Some sources suggest that the first distillation of sugarcane was in Asia, perhaps as early as 430 AD in Korea.

    Sugarcane was brought to the Caribbean with Columbus on his second voyage. His father-in-law was a trader in Indonesia who specialized in the crop.

    Although no concrete records exist, the first Caribbean rums were probably distilled in Barbados early in the 17th century. The popularity of this new spirit spread rapidly throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in the U.S. and in Europe. The first rum to be distilled in the U.S. was made in 1664 and was produced all along the eastern seaboard of the United States. In the 17th century, the British began to give a daily ration of rum to their sailors, and shortly thereafter, also began to distribute limes to combat vitamin C deficiency, also known as or scurvy. This daiquiri, however, was far from the modern version.

    Today rum comes from practically anywhere, but the most widely respected style is associated with certain Caribbean islands, like Trinidad, Martinique and Jamaica. Modern rum is the most varied category of spirits, even without the inclusion of cachaça which is thought to have evolved separately.

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  • There are several distinct styles of rums, but all are made with sugarcane. Some rums are made from cane juice, while others are made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production. The different styles; English, French and Modern, are specific to the regions in which they are produced. Rum can be made using either column or pot stills.

    English-Style Rum
    "Pirate Juice" is an old term used for rum made in the English tradition. English-style rum is classically pot stilled from molasses. Some English-style rums are aged, although most West Indians prefer to drink the un-aged variety. Rums from St-Croix and Jamaican rum are typically high proof, as is navy-strength rum. Jamaican rum is often thought of as dark, but un-aged high-proof rum is the most widely consumed on the island itself. The aged styles are generally produced for export. Also included in this category are rums from the Demerara region of Guyana, and some from Australia and India.

    French-Style Rum
    The French- or Brazilian-style of rum is produced using the cane juice, rather than molasses, because the juice is abundant, and not used in sugar production. These rums are referred to as rhum agricole, literally “agricultural rums”. Rhums agricole can be distilled either in continuous stills or pot stills. Martinique is the only place that can make appellate-labeled rhum agricole. In Brazil sugarcane is also very abundant, and for this reason cachaça is also produced from fresh cane juice.

    The French style of rum evolved when the market for Haitian sugar collapsed following the establishment of sugar beet factories in France by Chaptal beginning in the 19th century. As a result, Haiti began to make rum from fresh- pressed sugarcane juice instead of molasses, which is a by-product of sugar production.

    There is also a rhum industriel produced in the French Islands, which is made from molasses of pretty low quality. Wherever molasses is used in such rhums industriel, it is common to use Brazilian molasses because it is the least expensive.

    Modern Style
    Advances in technology have led to a more international style of rum production, similar to the wide production of Bourbon whiskey. The distillate in the U.S. is smoother, and the wood is more prominent. Many of the Bajan rums are going the same way, as are those from the Virgin Islands.

    This style was created by Don Fecundo Bacardi in Cuba, using column stills and charcoal filtration. Bacardi moved to Puerto Rico after the 1959 Cuban revolution, and this island became a center for rum production in the modern style. Today, Puerto Rico produces 80% of all of the rum purchased in the U.S.

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  • All rum starts with sugarcane. Some is produced using fresh cane juice as a base and some with molasses, both of which are byproducts of sugar production. To begin, the cane juice or molasses is fermented, the slower the fermentation, the more pure and aromatic the result. The yeast used in this fermentation can be either wild, cultured or a starter culture from a previous fermentation called "dunder." This initial fermentation produces a sugarcane "wine" or wash with 4–5% abv. The wash is then distilled.

    Some producers use continuous stills to produce more neutral rum, while others use a pot still to capture more aroma and flavor. The distillation process in the Caribbean is often fairly rustic and the spirit can develop a slightly raw, funky edge due to high levels of impurity. This character is called "hogo."

    Rum is normally aged in casks prior to bottling. Some producers use empty Bourbon casks that mark the spirit profoundly and many aged rums take on the flavor of the barrel in which they were aged. Since most rum is sold as "white rum," it is common to aggressively filter the rum through charcoal to remove the color.

    Thanks to warm temperatures, spirits evaporate up to five times more quickly in the tropics, making it so that rum ages much faster than Cognac or Scotch.

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