Extract from Ulf Einarsons Book ” A Guide for all Distillers and the science behind” about Rum, Spirits and Distilling

Rum – Introduction

Rum is an alcoholic beverage, distilled and produced from sugarcane by-products or can be produced from sugarcane juice. It is not sure where the name Rum is coming from but one idea is that it may originate from the Latin word of Sugar – “Saccarum” – or the name may originate from a British slang meaning “best”. This alcoholic beverage is from the process of fermentation and later distillation. Today are many Rums aged in steel tanks and many are aged in wooden casks. Rum is the number third most common alcoholic beverage in the world and is often used as a drink ingredient. Many varieties are as complex as Cognac or whisky and are drunk pure. The West Indies and parts of South and Middle America is the origin for the majority of Rum that is produced in the world today. But other countries such as Sweden, USA, Australia, Spain and China produce Rum in a small scale.

How do you get rum from sugar cane?


The most important thing to when it comes to how rum is made are the base ingredients which includes molasses or sugar cane juice, yeast and water. The use of molasses or sugar cane juice is what makes it different from every other liquor. The molasses from the sugar cane or its juice is mixed with yeast and water. The majority of the rum produced in the world is made from molasses that has been colon distillated, in French areas called “rhum industrielle”. Distillation can be done in either in a colon still or a pot still, the later one give a more flavorful alcohol that can be matured, normally Oak barrels.

There are two main varieties: Light and Dark rum. Some manufacturers bottle the Rum directly while others still go ahead to age them. Rum is exactly as whiskey and cognac normally a blend from different barrels and distillation batches – to make up the desired taste.


Maturing – Aging of Spirits and Wine


There is no overall international law that decides how long the alcohol should be matured to be called rum. In hot climate like in the West Indies and Guangxi province can the barrel evaporation (Angels share) can come up to 10% but this make the rum develop its flavors palate much faster than for instance whiskey from the much cooler Scotland where the barrel evaporation normally is only 2%.

After the rum has been matured 12-18 months it is time for the rum blender to test the ready product, he try all the barrels and decides how they are to be blended in order to get an even taste of the marketed product.

Light rum is often matured only a few months whereas Dark rum is matured much longer. Some countries has set up a frame of rules that say at least one year for a dark rum, but vey frequent is the rum is matured much longer than that

The maturing is either made in steel tanks or oak barrels. Light rum is often matured on steel tanks and would have a rather neutral taste. Dark rum is often matured on oak barrels and then on the smaller sized ones 220 liter – In the US, only new barrels are used for aging whisky and they can only be used once. A lot of these once-used barrels end up in the Caribbean at the rum distilleries, aging rum.


The importance of barrel maturing is difficult to overestimate. It is suggested that up to 75% of the final character on a whisky´s final character is in one way or another is origination from the oak barrels. It is not always that evident because it does vary a lot, depending on: The size of the barrel, how full, Oak activity, eventual previous usage of the barrel and storage conditions. What is happening during aging is a number of complicated chemical processes who are more or less slow. Normally it is referred to as additive, subtractive and interactive maturing.

The Whiskey color have is entirely from the oak barrels provided no sugar coloring agent (E150c) is used at the bottling. It is the tannins in the oak that provides the coloring and as a rule not the Sherry wine that perhaps was the previous usage for the barrel. The exception would be red wine barrels that could provide a light hint of pink or red in the final color.


American Oak                                                           European Oak



The master blender of a fine spirit is often the “rock star” of the organization, possessing great talents and abilities necessary to produce the unique products of that brand. There are mysteries and closely guarded secrets involved in the aging and blending of fine spirits. In many cases, aged rums are blended and then stored in barrels again to further mature and “marry the flavors” before bottling the final product. Blending offers an opportunity to potentially create more complex, perhaps more balanced rums by combining the best qualities of several marques

Light  variety’s of Rum

Light rum also called White or Silver. Light rum is purified and blended before distillation to later be matured on stainless tanks, up to one year to get a more mild taste. Afterwards they are often carbon filtered so that the product is completely water clear. It has a sweet soft and delicate rum taste – particular those that have been filtered – which make the rum very suitable to use in cocktails.

Flavored rum is often light rum infused with different spices and fruit flavors, like mango, oranges.

Barrel matured rom is rum that has been matured on barrels for a longer time and commonly get add on names as Reserva, Añejo or a number based on how many maturing years.



Dark variety’s of Rum

Black rum normally called Black or Black label, is even darker than the golden rum. This type is matured relatively long ideally on dark burn oak barrels to generate a dark color. Sometimes is black caramelized sugar added to generate yet another even darker color tone. This types flavor is it very strong and a bit candy like, and traces of spices. The best varieties are pot still distillated.  Black rum is enjoyed pure and is also suitable in cooking and in fine bakery products.

Golden rum normally called Gold or Amber. Rom that has been matured longer time than light ones and achieved a more golden color this rum can be given additional aromas through spices and some golden sugar color. Normally it is sold as Spiced rum.

Rum is usually divided in three different styles:


Rum from Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Guatemala are counted as the Spanish style. The dark rum from this area has often an expressed sweet mild spicy flavor mixed with tropical fruit aromas together with the complex Oak flavors from the barrel maturing.


Some light rum from above countries has complex taste obtained from different mixing of barrel and steel tank matured spirit.

Pot still generates more flavors and gives a more concentrated taste. After the first distillation a very flavorful liquid is produces that in the Spanish speaking areas is called aguardiente.


This style is predominant above all on Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. It is drier than the Spanish style with less spiciness. In this type you can find flavors of Chocolate, mature Bananas and citrus fruits. This rum is made from molasses*) and the wash is fermented for a long time which is significant for this type. Typical is also the distillation

in a pot still and that the darker rum is matured on second hand American bourbon barrels. The most powerful and strong tasting rum, predominantly dark ones originates from Jamaica and Demerara.

*) Molasses look like a black syrup and is a byproduct from sugar production and contain 55% sugar but also a big portion of minerals and trace substances which can have importance on the final flavor.

In a typical fermentation of rum, water and yeast are mixed with molasses in large vats to begin the process of converting sugar to alcohol


FRENCH Style  

It is mainly Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti that produces the French style, this rum is often flowery and herbal in taste and can develop a more structured barrel character and any of the other types. Taste is often dry. If the rum is produced from fresh sugarcane juice that has been fermented it will be called “Rhum Agricole” that really do carry some of the sugarcane taste. Rum made from molasses is called “Rhum Industrielle”. Rhum Agricole can be matured on cognac barrels, which generate somewhat roughness and a similarity to precisely cognac. In the French influenced areas the rum regulations are much stricter for the production of rum.                             In Brazil is “Cachaca” Rum produced from sugarcane juice, many times distilled on a colon still.


History of Rum

The Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the famous “reeds that produce honey without bees” in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. They adopted and then spread sugarcane agriculture. Arabic merchants began to trade in sugar from India and knowledge spread further to berber empire during 11th century to what is now Morocco and southern Spain. Christoffer Columbus brought with him sugar plants from the Canary Islands on his second voyage 1493 to the West Indies and introduced them to the Island Hispaniola (now Cuba) where the growing conditions was proven ideal for the cultivation.

The Caribbean Islands became a big area for the production of sugar and generated a lot of molasses. Soon it was found out that if this molasses was mixed with water and exposed to the weather it started to ferment. This was suitable for distillation to something called “Rum” and around 1650 that processing way really took off and became very popular in the English colonies of America.

The oldest rum bottle in the world was found onboard the Swedish Navy ship Wasa that sunk 1628. That ship was found perfectly preserved and the entire ship can today be seen at the Wasa museum in Stockholm.

Oldest rum bottle made of the metal Tin, from the ship Wasa

Rum distilleries were later founded in different places in American firstly in Staten Island and then Boston. Rum had its role to play in the economy during that time as it was used as a trading commodity.                                  Rum also became a payment method in the early days of the colony –  a currency !.

At that time Rum was promoted as a remedy for all kinds of diseases and illnesses, it was sold cheaply to the Navy to encourage their presences to deter and scare pirates away. During 1730 the English Navy introduced a ration of Rum on their ships, which later was mixed with same amount of water – resulting in a beverage called GROG.

After this did Rum spread with trading vessels and became quickly a very popular spirit all over the world and replaced Gin. As the industrial revolution spread, Europe learned how to produce sugar from sugar beets which that influenced a lot the demand of the Caribbean sugar. That leading to that the production of rum was later limited to the areas where sugar canes were growing.

In the modern time has Rum again become very popular thanking much to the international tourism where many traveled to warm climate areas and rum was re-discovered in a much bigger scale.

Rum Today

Rums both then and in recent times are produced in different grades. Dark colored rum and golden colored rums are usually drunk neat or straight. It is also taken with ice cubes; most people even use it for cooking. The dark rums are mixed with caramel and are commonly used for cooking. The light colored rums which are referred to as silver or white rum and have little flavor are mostly used for cocktails. Premium rums are aged rums with more character and flavor and are usually consumed straight. There is the flavored rum that is normally infused with fruit flavors like Orange, Mango, Coconut and Banana; they are consumed neat or on the rocks.