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In the simplest terms, rum is a distilled spirit derived from sugarcane or molasses and their byproducts. While the history of rum is complex and sometimes even disputed it’s largely agreed that rum’s origins date back to the 17th century in the Caribbean, specifically the island of Barbados, according to Insider.com

To produce rum, the sugarcane or molasses must go through a process of fermentation and distillation. The difference between rum that comes from molasses and rum that comes from sugarcane is the alcohol content. Rum derived from sugarcane holds an alcohol content of 5 percent while rum from molasses has an alcohol content of 10 percent, according to alimentarium.org

What Makes Rum Distinct?

Though rum often gets blanketed as its own category, what most people don’t know is that there are many different types of rum. And while the process of creation and distillation is the same for all types of rum, there are six different types of rum you should know about before ordering your next drink. 

TYPE OF RUM  POPULAR BRANDS POPULAR COCKTAILS TASTE/FLAVOR AGING ABV
White Rum Bacardi, Ten to One, Dipolmatico Planas, Don Q Cristal, Captain Morgan Piña Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito, Coquito  Subtle, Sometimes vanilla, citrus or tannin  1-2 years in stainless steel casks (or not at all) 37-43
Dark Rum  Dipomatico Ambassador, Flor de Cana 12, Papa’s Pilar Dark 24 Rum Mai Tai, Rum Punch, Dark & Stormy, Bahama Mama, Hurricane, Painkiller Deep or smoky  2 years in Charred oak barrels  37-43
Gold or Pale Rum Neptune Gold Rum, Atlantico Reserva, Tortuga Gold Rum Honeysuckle Daiquiri, Canchanchara, Caipirissima, King’s Jubilee Soft oak, dry vanilla, ginger or toasted almond 1.5 years 37-43
Premium Aged Rum  Chairman’s Reserve 2005, Moneymosk 2010, Foursquare Shibboleth Five Island Flamnigo, Old Cuban, Pyrat Negroni, El Padrino  Vanilla, cinnamon and dried fruits 5-7 years 43-80
Vintage Rum Appleton Extra, Cubaney 15, Angostura 1824, Rhum J.M. 1997 Best for Sipping, Neat or on the rocks Oak, vanilla, butterscotch and maple Varies 43-80
Overproof Rum  Hampden Estate, Don Q 151, Hamilton 151, Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum punch, scorpion bowls, Swizzle Dry & grassy initially, banana, coconut Varies 70-80

1-White Rum

While we may have a bias and certain affinity toward it, white rum (otherwise known as silver rum or light rum) is one of the most popular among drinkers. White rums are the lightest in taste and flavor and are typically aged three to six months in tropical climates, or up to a year in colder ones. SOME ARE NOT AGED AT ALL. 

 

Distinct from other types of rum, which are aged in oak barrels, white varieties are distilled in stainless steel casks, according to themanual.com. After distillation, the rum is filtered of impurities and made suitable for sale. White rum’s alcohol content is consistent with other types of rum and often make for a great cocktail base for drinks like Pina Coladas, a Mai Tai or Mojito!

2-Dark Rum

Unlike white rum, which is aged quite quickly or sometimes not at all, dark rum can age for years! According to therumlab.com, dark rum (also known as black rum) obtains its rich color because it is not filtered after the aging process. 

 

Dark rum tends to be a favorite among those with a sweet tooth because of it’s decadent and almost chocolatey flavor. Dark rum makes a perfect base for a punch and works well with Hurricanes, Bahama Mamas and a classic painkiller cocktail. 

 

3-Gold or Pale Rum

Gold rum, which is also known as pale rum or amber rum, falls somewhere between the light and the dark rums most people are familiar with, according to ilmarts.com. It is aged in wooden caskets, like dark rum, which gives this spirit its signature color and distinct taste that many describe as both sweet and reminiscent of cocoa, banana and vanilla! 

 

Whether you call it gold, pale or amber rum, this liquor provides the most promising base for drinks like Planter’s Punch and a Banana Colada. 

 

4-Premium Aged Rum

For decades, rum was placed in a separate category than other spirits to which the aging process had no place. Recently, that has changed and consumers have begun to appreciate the taste of a matured rum. Of course, the difference between premium aged rum and all other types is the aging process itself. 

 

Due to its origins and production in warmer climates, rum generally ages 2-3 times faster than other spirits, according to Chilled Magazine. With that, a rum that’s matured 10 or more years is sure to be classified as a premiere spirit. Because of its maturity, it’s known to taste smoother than other types of rum and can even be consumed on its own, without mixers! Premium aged rums include Angostura 1824, Appleton Extra, Santa Teresa 1776 and more. 

 

5-Vintage Rum

Vintage rums are the most specific and usually come from the French Islands, where the growing and processing season run shorter, according to Rob’s Rum Guide. The distinction between vintage rums and their (usually younger) counterparts is that to achieve a vintage status, bottling companies will usually distill and bottle rum from certain harvest periods. 

 

Vintage rums are labeled with the year they were distilled and often their origin sites as well. Some examples are Rhum J.M. 1997 Vintage from Martinique and the 1998 Vintage from Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados. Again, much like premium aged rum, vintage rum is often best enjoyed on the rocks or neat. 

 

6-Overproof Rum

Often more difficult to find outside of the Caribbean due to regulations (The U.S. regulations prevent rums over 155 proof from entering the U.S.), overproof rums generally run higher than the 80 to 100 proof you’ll see in the states. 

 

These more rare rums are often used in cooking recipes that call for rum to be ignited in flame or certain punches. Some examples of overproof rums that you might find in the United States are Bacardi 151, Cruzan 151 and Bruddah Kimio’s Da Bomb 155, according to Rob’s Rum Guide

 

Is Rum an Upper or Downer?

Like tequila, rum is actually known to be an upper rather than a downer meaning it is lighter than the whiskeys and cognacs, according to Interview Area. What does this mean? Essentially, this means that your mood while consuming rum will be on the lighter, more loquacious and effervescent side, than anything else.  

 

Which Type of Rum is Best for Sipping?

Much like a whiskey or scotch, we recommend an aged rum or dark rum for sipping or enjoying on ice. This is because of the robust, fuller and even chocolatey flavors that seep through in these. Some dark rums that work well for sipping are Appleton Estate’s Signature Rum Blend, Facundo Paraiso, Don Q Reserva 7 and Ten To One’s Dark Rum, according to Town And Country Magazine

 

Does Rum Actually Have Health Benefits?

Before we dive into this, it’s important to stress the importance of consuming alcohol responsibly and within moderation. With that, there are a few health benefits to highlight when it comes to rum. While we are not doctors or medical experts, research shows that rum (in moderation) can essentially curb the effects of a cold due to its powerful antibacterial properties. It’s also shown to help relax muscles and possibly even reduce cholesterol, according to BeBodyWise.com. Since it contains relatively few calories, no carbs or sugar, it is often seen as one of the less sinister spirits when it comes to health and weight loss.

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