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Rum vs. Whiskey: What Are the Differences? – Pusser's Rum


When it comes to popular liquors, both Rum and Whiskey stand out to consumers and spirit lovers alike. With their dynamic tasting notes and versatile usage, these two spirits serve as an amazing base for some of your favorite cocktails, and do quite well on the rocks or neat, too! 


So exactly what are these two spirits? What makes them both so unique and how can they best be utilized? To put it simply, both Rum and Whiskey are distilled spirits … but in completely different ways (which we’ll get into momentarily). In this article we will explore the unique characteristics each of these spirits have to offer while providing practical advice on how you, a valued spirit lover, can best use them in your own life!



INGREDIENTS Sugarcane, Molasses  Fermented grain mash which can include corn, rye, barley and wheat
PRODUCTION METHODS Fermentation, Distillation Fermentation, Distillation
AGING/MATURATION Typically aged in wooden caskets Typically aged in oak caskets
FLAVOR PROFILES & NOTES Can be sweet or fruity, with notes of vanilla, caramel, coffee, brown sugar Can be smoky or woody, with full-bodied notes of butter, maple, pepper or nutmeg 
POPULAR BRANDS Mount Gay, Ten To One, Appleton Estate, Diplomatica Reserva, Havana Club Jack Daniel’s, Jameson, Macallan, Hibiki, The Dalmore



Rum and whiskey are both celebrated spirits that are enjoyed by many and created through fermentation and distillation. Simultaneously, whiskey and dark rum both go through an aging process, though the durations do differ. Dark rums age anywhere from 3 to 20 years while whiskeys are generally aged for a minimum of 10 years. On the other hand, white rums are aged for no more than 3 years and sometimes not at all! 


Both white and dark rum are produced from sugarcane and molasses while whiskey comes from a mixture called grain “mash,” which derives from corn, rye and barley.  



Though rum and whiskey are both fermented and distilled, the ways those processes unfold can differ. To begin, producing whiskey involves a step called “mashing” before fermentation while rum does not. 

  • This is where grains are mashed and merged with water to convert starches into fermentable sugars. 
  • The main difference is in the fermentation process. Instead of crushing and juicing, the grains are milled and mixed with hot water to create a porridge type of mixture, which relieves the sugary starches from the grains so that yeast can convert them to alcohol. 
  • Because the wash is different for each of these spirits, the taste and characteristics will, of course, differ and create these two distinct liquors. 



How a spirit ages and matures will greatly affect and impact its taste. When it comes to whiskey and rum, the biggest difference you’ll note is the aging duration. 

  • For rum there are two things to remember: white rum is aged up to three years (or sometimes not at all) and dark rums can be aged up to 20 years. 
  • The length at which they are matured will affect the tasting notes, with white rums carrying notes that are more flowery or reminiscent of honey or vanilla and dark rums carrying notes of cinnamon, chocolate or banana. 
  • Also, remember rum is most commonly aged in oak barrels, contributing to the richness in its flavor. 
  • Whiskey is also aged in wooden barrels but often in colder climates and for longer periods of time.
  • The key difference to remember is that while some aging times for rums can vary from “not at all” to 20 years for some dark rums, to create whiskey, it must be aged at least three years and for some, an average of 10 years. 
  • Both spirits absorb the smoothness and richness from the oak and wooden barrels they age in. 



Both rum and whiskey are known for their signature flavors, which can be described as smooth and bold simultaneously. The flavors each of these spirits carry are robust, but carry different tasting notes due to a handful of factors including: 

  • Ingredients that make up the wash: Rum, whether dark or white, comes from sugarcane and molasses and will therefore carry and undertone of sweetness while whiskey’s derived from cereal grains like corn, barley, rye and wheat, which give whiskey a denser overall taste. 
  • Ageing: As mentioned, white rum can be aged up to three years or sometimes not at all. This creates a flavor that is light and effervescent, with tasting notes of vanilla, clove or coconut. Dark rum is aged anywhere from 3-20 years, resulting in a bolder, heavier taste with notes of chocolate, spice, cinnamon and black cherry. Whiskeys are always aged, whether it be for four years or 10, and thus have more time to sit and retain different flavorings from the wooden barrels they’re stored in. Whiskey’s taste can be described as smooth, with tasting notes of almond, clove and cocoa. 




It’s important to note that rum is almost always sourced and produced in a tropical climate like the Caribbean or parts of South America, while whiskey’s roots can be traced back to Scotland, and current production can take place anywhere from the UK to North America.

  • The key difference in regional sourcing for these two esteemed spirits is climate temperature. Rum comes from sugarcane, which grows in warm, humid areas, while whiskey is produced and distilled in colder climates. 
  • Rum is known to be a tropical spirit because it history can be traced back nearly 50 years to the Caribbean. Whiskey, on the other hand, can be traced all the way back to 1,000 – 1,200 AD, in Ireland and Scotland, when monks would distill grains because they didn’t have access to grapes like they did in mainland Europe. 
  • The first written record of whiskey appears in the Irish Annals of Clonmacnoise around 1405.
  • Today, whiskey is largely produced in Scotland, Ireland, the United States and Japan while rum is largely produced in Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, Puerto Rico and other tropical climates. The tasting notes reflect the various sourcing locations and provide rum lovers with a more fruity, tropical blend while the northern climates and their heavier tasting notes shine through in whiskey. 



Simply put, there are countless ways to enjoy whiskey and rum! Some folks like to sip these spirits and others prefer to craft countless cocktails out of them. At the end of the day, there’s no wrong way to enjoy them (except maybe in excess) but we wanted to highlight a few great “go-to” cocktails for those early on in their explorations. 


  • For White Rum Lovers, some of the popular cocktails include daiquiris, mojitos, coquitos and of course, the Piña Colada. 
  • For Dark Rum Lovers, some classic cocktails you might enjoy include the Mai Tai, rum punch and the Dark & Stormy. 
  • For Whiskey Lovers, some cocktails that stand out are the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Whiskey Sour and the Hot Toddy. 


Of course, there are many spirit lovers who enjoy their whiskey and rum neat or on the rocks, but for the cocktail-curious crowd, the options are infinite. 




Again, the white rum you select should be driven by the cocktail you plan to make. Certain brands naturally favor specific cocktails so it’s best to buy, stir and mix accordingly! 


Best White Rum For Daiquiris

If you are looking to make an unforgettable Daiquiri (Strawberry, Classic, Hemingway, etc.) we’d recommend going with Ten To One, a top-shelf producer that combines flavors and ingredients from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. It contains notes of jasmine, honeysuckle and lemongrass. 

The Perfect Daiquiri



Best White Rum for Piña Coladas

Whether you’re set to enjoy a Piña Colada on a beach in the Bahamas or at your best friend’s pool party, one way to make this classic cocktail even more irresistible is by using Plantation 3 Stars, a premium rum rooted in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica that’s known for their aromatic flavors and signature tasting notes. According to, its hints of chocolate, root beer and even toasted biscuits complement the pineapple and coconut flavors in the Colada. 




Best White Rum For Mojitos

The mojito is a classic rum cocktail that is both robust and refreshing. Though it has only a few ingredients, its signature taste is loved by many and is best achieved by using a white rum like Havana Club Añejo Blanco. This rum recipe dates back to 1934 and is aged twice before bottled. It’s known for its complex notes of vanilla and oak and also works well as a sipping rom or Daiquiri base. 



Of the two, dark rum is probably the more popular choice for the sipping crowd, but there are plenty of vivacious and flavorful cocktails to craft with dark rum. 


Best Dark Rum For Mai Tais

With aromatic notes of spice, molasses and banana, Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum is an excellent base for Mai Tais. This Jamaican blend can be described as earthy and complex, enhancing the eclectic tastes that the Mai Tai offers. 

Mai Tai Master 6_edited.jpg



Best Dark Rum For Painkillers

For those who don’t know, the Painkiller is loosely known as the Piña Colada’s more subtle cousin, as it is more fragrant with the addition of fresh orange juice and nutmeg. It is recommended to craft this cocktail using Pusser’s Rum, which is produced in the British Virgin Islands and has a long history of being the rum of choice for the British Royal Navy. It is high proof and easy to enjoy. 




Best Dark Rum to Make a Dark & Stormy

The Dark & Stormy is essentially a mule but with a dark rum as its base. It is a layered and almost sultry drink that is ambitious in flavor and dynamic by nature. For this cocktail, we recommend using Goslings Black Seal Rum, a company founded in Bermuda in 1806 by James Gosling. The rum, mixed with ginger beer and lime, creates a cocktail fit for any season or occasion. 




Whiskey is a versatile spirit that is often enjoyed on the rocks, neat or in craft cocktails. It has a robust and seasoned flavor and can be used as a base for many of your favorite libations. 



The Old Fashioned is a timeless cocktail that feels festive and soothing all at once. It carries hearty and eclectic tasting notes that can range based on which whiskey you use as a base. Food & Wine recommends Knob Creek 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey as an Old Fashioned base since it contains flavors like white peaches, melted chocolate, graham crackers and cloves, setting just the right tone for a classic Old Fashioned, which is also made with bitters, some sugar and an orange peel for garnish. Of course, no Old Fashioned is complete without its signature oversized cube, which is sometimes coated in light sugar, so be sure to get those ready before preparing this beloved cocktail. 

Best Whiskies for an Old Fashioned




Known as the cocktail cousin to the classic Old Fashioned, the Manhattan is a full-bodied whiskey beverage that is made with sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters for a memorable taste. Tasting Table recommends Law’s Whiskey House, a Colorado Rye, when making a Manhattan. This locally-sourced whiskey brand boasts cooling notes of wild mint and fennel that enhance the complex flavors of a Manhattan. Garnish with 1-3 maraschino cherries! 


Made with simple syrup, lemon juice, citrus and whiskey (or bourbon), one of the most complementary whiskeys to use for a whiskey sour is Nikka Days, with floral and fruity tasting notes that won’t overpower the cocktail. This Japanese whiskey is a top-shelf brand that can also be sipped and enjoyed alone or on the rocks, according to


At the end of the day, finding your ideal sipping whiskey is subjective and completely up to one’s taste and preference. Different whiskey’s will carry different tasting notes and trying them out will help you arrive at one that best fits your own taste. For those who enjoy the aromatic flavors that is synonymous with whiskey, we recommend Nashville Barrel, with notes of caramel, cinnamon and vanilla or Lock Stock & Barrel if you’re looking to splurge. This contains tasting notes of honey, plum and vanilla and is produced in limited capacity. 


When it comes to liquor intake, one of the first things spirit lovers look at is calorie count. Of course, the calorie count between the liquor you choose and the cocktail you make could vary greatly based on added ingredients, but on its own, the amount of calories is pretty clear. 

  • According to Women’s Health Magazine, one shot of rum (which is a little bit over one ounce) contains 97 calories (0 grams of fat and 0 grams of sugar) while whiskey, bourbon and scotch contain roughly 105 calories (0.03 grams of carbs per ounce and 0.03 grams of sugar). 
  • Again, the difference is not drastic and, of course, it’s important to remember that any added ingredients your desired cocktail calls for will ultimately affect the final calorie count. 



Rum and whiskey are both dynamic and rich spirits that can be enjoyed on the rocks, neat or in a cocktail. Determining which one is better is completely subjective and preferential and will also depend on which kind of cocktail or drinking experience you’re going for. 

  • For coladas, daiquiris, A Mai Tai and tropical punches, we recommend going with a rum selection. 
  • For an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, it’s more common to select a whiskey or bourbon, but there are many spirit lovers who enjoy making these cocktails with rum. 
  • Rum runs on the sweeter side while whiskey is typically more smokey or peaty (earthy). 
  • Both rum and whiskey are robust and eclectic and we’d recommend experimenting with both (responsibly, of course) to come to your own conclusions! 




To sum it all up, both rum and whiskey are fermented and distilled spirits that are versatile in nature, use and even taste. 

  • Rum is made from sugarcane and molasses while whiskey is made from cereal grains like corn, barley, wheat and rye, which contribute to its full-bodied overall taste. 
  • Dark and white rums differ in taste and that is largely due to how long they are each aged. White rum is aged up to three years and sometimes not at all while dark rum is aged anywhere from three to 10 years. 
  • Whiskey is always aged and that is one of its key characteristics. How long it is aged for and whether it comes from Scotland, Japan or North America will contribute to its overall taste. 
  • Both whiskey and rum serve as decadent and aromatic bases to some of your favorite cocktails but can also be served on ice or neat. This is subject to taste and may take experimenting to find the one that’s right for you.


The two spirits have a lot in common, but as we have seen, many notable differences. Both can and should be used creatively and enjoyed responsibly, whether on ice, on its own or in a crowd-pleasing cocktail. 

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