From Academic Kids

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Three rums, Gossling's Black Seal, Sailor Jerry's Spiced Navy Rum, and Ron Vicaro Silver.
For other uses, see Rum (disambiguation).

Rum is a spirit made from sugar-cane by-products such as molasses and sugar cane juice by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak and other casks. While there are rum producers in places such as Australia, India, Reunion Island, and elsewhere around the world, the majority of rum production occurs in and around the Caribbean and along the Demerara river in South America.

Rum is produced is a variety of styles. Light rums are commonly used in mixed drinks, while golden and dark rums are appropriate for use in cooking as well as cocktails. Premium brands of rum are also available that are made to be consumed neat or on the rocks.

Rum plays a part in the culture of most islands of the West Indies, and has famous associations with the British Royal Navy and piracy. Rum has also served as a popular medium of exchange that helped to promote slavery along with providing economic instigation for Australia's Rum Rebellion and the American Revolution.


Origins of the name

The origin of the word rum is unclear. A common claim is that the name was derived from rumbullion meaning "a great tumult or uproar". Template:Inote Another claim is the name is from the large drinking glasses used by Dutch seamen known as rummers, from the Dutch word roem meaning praise.Template:Inote Other options include contractions of the words saccharum, Latin for sugar, or arme, French for aroma. Regardless of the original source, the name had come into common use by May 1657 when the General Court of Massachusetts made illegal the sale of strong liquor "whether knowne by the name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc., etc."Template:Inote

In current usage, the name used for a rum is often based on the rum's place of origin. For rums from Spanish speaking locales the word ron is used. A ron aejo indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products. Rhum is the term used for rums from French speaking locales, while rhum vieux is an aged French rum that meets several other requirements.

Some of the many other names for "Rum" are Rumbullion, Rumbustion, Barbados water, Rumscullion, Devil's Death, Nelson's Blood, and Rumbo.


Origins of rum

The precursors to rum date back to antiquity with fermented drinks produced from sugar cane juice. Development of alcoholic drinks utilizing sugar cane is believed to have first occurred either in ancient India or China,Template:Inote and spread from there. The Malay people have a cane-based drink called brum that dates back thousands of years. Template:Inote Marco Polo also recorded a 14th Century account of a “very good wine of sugar” that was offered to him in what is modern-day Iran.Template:Inote

The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered that by-products of the sugar production process fermented into alcohol. Template:Inote Later, distillation of these alcoholic by-products concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests that rum first originated on the island of Barbados. Early Caribbean rums were not known for high quality. A 1651 document from Barbados stated "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor". Template:Inote

Rum in Colonial America

After rum's development in the Caribbean, the drinks popularity spread to Colonial America. To support the demand for the drink, the first rum distillery in the colonies was set up in 1664 on current day Staten Island. Boston had a distillery three years later.Template:Inote The rum produced in New England was quite popular, and was even considered the best in the world during much of the 18th Century. Rhode Island rum even joined gold as an accepted currency in Europe for a period of time. Template:Inote Estimates of rum consumption in the American colonies before the American Revolutionary War have every man, woman, or child drinking an average of 3 Imperial gallons (13.5 liters) of rum each year. Template:Inote

To support this demand for the molasses to produce rum, along with the increasing demand for sugar in Europe during the 17th and 18th Century, a labor source to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean was needed. A triangular trade was established between Africa, the Caribbean, and the colonies to help support this need. Template:Inote The circular exchange of slaves, molasses, and rum was quite profitable, and the disruption to the trade caused by the Sugar Act in 1764 may have even helped cause the American Revolution. Template:Inote

The popularity of rum continued after the American Revolution with George Washington insisting on a barrel of Barbados rum at his 1789 inauguration. Template:Inote Eventually the restrictions on rum from the British islands of the Caribbean combined with the development of American whiskey lead to a decline in the drinks popularity.

Rum and the Royal Navy

The association of rum with the British Royal Navy began in 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum. Template:Inote While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lemon juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon directed that the rum ration be watered down before being issued. In honor of the grogram cloak the Admiral wore in rough weather, the mixture of water and rum became known as grog. Template:Inote The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a 'tot' well, until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970.

Rum in colonial Australia

See Also: Rum Rebellion

Rum became an important trade good in the early period of the colony of New South Wales. The value of rum was based upon the lack of coinage among the population of the colony, and due to the drinks ability to allow its consumer to temporarily forget about the lack of creature comforts available in the new colony. The value of rum was such that convict settlers could be induced to work the lands owned by officers of the New South Wales Corps. Due to rums popularity among the settlers, the colony gains a reputation for drunkenness even though their consumption of alcohol is less than levels commonly consumed in England at the time. Template:Inote

When William Bligh became governor of the colony in 1806, he attempted to remedy the perceived problem with drunkenness by outlawing the use of rum as a medium of exchange. In response to this action, and several others, the New South Wales Corps marched, with fixed bayonets, to Goverment House and placed Bligh under arrest. The mutineers continued to control the colony until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810. Template:Inote

Modern rum production

For a long period of time, rum-makers used a very crude production process and their product acquired a reputation as the drink of poor people and of sailors. Over time, and encouraged by the prize offered by the Spanish government, the rum-making process became greatly refined. Major figures in this development included the Cuban founder of the Bacardi company, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, and Juan Serralles, the founder of Serralles Distillers, Inc., in Puerto Rico.


Regional Variations

Within the Caribbean, each island or production area has a unique style. These styles can be grouped by the language that is traditionally spoken.

  • Spanish-speaking islands traditionally produce light rums with a fairly clean taste. Rums from Cuba and Puerto Rico are typical of this style.
  • English-speaking islands are known for darker rums with a fuller taste that retains a greater amount of the underlying molasses flavor. Rums from Jamaica and the Demerera region are typical of this style.
  • French-speaking islands are best known for their agricultural rums (rhum agricole). These rums, being produced exclusively from sugar cane juice, retain a greater amount of the original flavor of the sugar cane. Rums from Martinique and Guadeloupe are typical of this style.

Cachaa is a spirit similar to rum that is produced in Brazil. The Indonesian spirit Batavia Arrack, or Arrak, is a spirit similar to rum that includes rice in its production. Template:Inote

Rum Grades

Rum has several grades and variations, not unlike the age and color of Tequila.

  • Light Rums, also referred to as light, silver, and white rums. In general, light rum has very little flavor aside from a general sweetness, and serves accordingly as a base for drinks. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color.
  • Gold Rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums which are generally aged. The rum can obtain its flavor through addition of spices and caramel/color (a variation often sold as Spiced Rum), but historically gains its darker color from aging in wooden casks (typically oak).
  • Dark Rum classes as a grade darker than gold rum. It is generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavor than either light or gold rum, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. It is used to provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. Some dark rums are considered to be fine and are consumed as sipping rum.
  • Flavored Rum: Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums which they have infused with flavors of fruits such as mango, orange, citrus, and coconut. These serve to flavor similarly-themed tropical drinks which generally comprise less than 40% alcohol.
  • Overproof Rum is rum which is much higher than the standard 40% alcohol. Most of these rums bear greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur commonly.
  • Premium Rum: As with other alcohols, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists for premium and super-premium spirits. These are generally boutique brands which sell very aged and carefully produced rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the addition of other ingredients.

Production Methodology

Unlike some other spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, rum has no defined production methods. Instead rum produced is based on the traditional styles that vary between locations and distillers.


Most rum is produced is made from molasses. Within the Caribbean, much of this molasses is from Brazil. Template:Inote A notable exception is the French speaking islands were sugar cane juice is the preferred base ingredient. Template:Inote

To the base ingredient yeast, and potentially water, are added to start fermentation. While some rum producers allow wild yeast to perform the fermentation, most use specific strains of yeast to help provide a consistent taste and predictable fermentation time. Template:Inote Dunder, the yeast-rich foam from previous fermentations, is the traditional yeast source in Jamaica. Template:Inote The yeast employed will determine the final taste and aroma profile." says Jamaican master blender Joy Spence. Template:Inote Distillers that make lighter rums prefer, such as Bacardi, use faster working yeasts. Template:Inote Use of slower working yeasts causes more esters to accumulate during fermentation, allowing for a fuller tasting rum. Template:Inote


As with all other aspects of rum production, there is no standard method used for distillation. While some producers work in batches using pot stills, most rum production is done using column still distillation. Template:Inote Pot still output contain more congeners than the output from column stills and thus produces a fuller tasting rum. Template:Inote

Aging and Blending

Many countries require that rum be aged for at least one year. This aging is commonly performed in used bourbon casks, Template:Inote but may also be performed in stainless steel tanks other types of wooden casks. Due to the tropical climate common to most rum producing areas, rum matures at a much faster rate than is typical for Scotch or Cognac. An indication of this faster rate is the angels' share, or amount of product lost to evaporation. While products aged in France or Scotland see about 2% loss each year, rum producers may see as much as 10%. Template:Inote

After aging, rum is normally blended to insure a consistent flavor. As part of this blending process, light rums may be filtered to remove any color gained during aging. For darker rums, caramel may be added to the rum to adjust the color of the final product.

Rum in cuisine

Rum has a number of bartending and culinary uses besides straight consumption. One of the earliest uses was in the rum punch known as Planter's punch. While there is no fixed recipe for this drink, the following rhyme is commonly used to describe the cocktail:

One part sour, (lime or lemon juice)
Two parts sweet, (simple of flavored syrup)
Three parts strong, (rum)
Four parts weak. (Water)

Other well known cocktails containing rum include the Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Mojito, Pia Colada, and Zombie. Cold weather drinks made with rum include the Rum toddy and Hot buttered rum. Template:Inote In addition a mixture of water and rum is known as grog. In addition to these well known cocktails, a number of local specialties utilize rum. Examples of these local drinks include Bermuda's Dark and Stormy (dark rum with ginger beer), and the Painkiller from the British Virgin Islands.

When used in cooking, rum may be used as a flavoring agent in items such as rum balls or rum cakes. Rum is also used in the preparation of Bananas Foster and some hard sauces.

See Also


External links

de:Rum es:Ron fr:Rhum la:Rhomium lt:Romas nl:Rum ja:ラム酒 pl:Rum sl:rum fi:Rommi sv:Rom (spritdryck) zh:兰姆酒


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