Things to Know About Rum
“There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion.” – Lord Byron
Rum is a timeless, unique alcoholic beverage with a rich history and to appreciate while you drink, it’s only right that you get to know a little more about it.
Rum – fermented and distilled from sugarcane by-products or sugarcane juice, then commonly aged in oak barrels – is mainly produced in the Caribbean and Latin America but also in South Africa, India, Scotland, United States and many other countries. It is an impressively diverse spirit ranging from light and dry to dark and rich, thus, still embraced by a curious cocktail culture today. The origin and nature of rum is well-known and easy to access on the internet, so we will delve into these lesser-known facts instead.
They have no classification system
Unlike cognac and bourbon, rum is not regulated by any sort of strict definitive classification system. With rum, individual countries have their own standards. This means that any spirit starting with some form of sugarcane can be referred to as rum. Consequently, rums can range from clear and gin-like to dark molasses-heavy brews.
Rums are categorised by colour
If you absolutely need to differentiate between rums, it’s important to note that they are commonly categorised by colour. These are the light or white rums, gold or amber rums, dark rums and black rums. Light rums are the mildest. They are sweet and generally have little flavour. Gold and amber rums have spent more time in some sort of barrel than the light rums and have a stronger taste. Dark rums have been barrel or cask-caged for even longer and taste a little like whisky while black rums are as rich as Guinness.
Rums have specific terms for identification
Similar to when identifying French wine labels, rum can be identified by specific terms. Rums identified as “rhum industriel” are those which were made from sugarcane by-products while the ones identified as “rhum agricole” are seasonal rums made from the juice of fresh sugarcane.
That your rum is sweet isn’t necessarily a bad thing
Rum is sweet or dry depending on three factors: the duration of its aging process, the type of barrel it aged in and the form of sugarcane used. The degree of dryness with rums in general is significantly diverse. Common dry rums like Brugal Extra Dry are no better than sweet rums like the vanilla-scented Old Monk 7 Year from India. They were just made differently.
Rum is your best bet against a hangover
Even in Barbados, the birthplace of rum where it’s been distilled since 1703, people fear rum-induced hangovers so much that most resort to vodka. In reality, all light-coloured spirits including vodka, gin or filtered rum is your best bet for pain prevention. You aren’t more prone to a hangover with rum, and besides, a glass of water and banana before bed won’t hurt.
Rum has medicinal properties
Rum was especially useful for armies at war until a couple of decades ago. The British Army for instance, gave rations of rum it called “tot o’ rum” to its sailors because a mixture of rum and wine kept the risk of scurvy at bay. It was the added dash of lime to the mix that actually prevented scurvy.
Rum owes a great deal to advancements in air-conditioning and tourism
The latter half of the 20th century saw the development of modern-day air-conditioning, and this made it possible for large numbers of people to migrate to warmer regions in the world where rum remained the dominant spirit. Naturally, the massive increase in tourists in such regions led to a rise in rum’s popularity.
Rum was at the core of the slavery triangle
From the late 16th to the early 19th century, rum was at the epicentre of the slavery triangle. The first leg of the triangle had to do with the shipment of molasses to New England from the Caribbean to produce rum. After this, came the shipment of rum to West Africa to trade for slaves and the last leg of the triangle involved the passage of slave ships to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and South America where slaves were put to work in the sugarcane fields.
The most expensive rum is nameless
The most expensive rum in the world doesn’t have a specific name but makes up for that in price. This rum was bottled in the 1940s by the Jamaican distillers Wray and Nephew, and contains blends that experts say date as far back as 1915. The bottle has been displayed at Europe’s first Rum Festival (RumFest) and there are only four such bottles remaining in the world! These bottles are valued at a whopping $40,000 each.
Admiral Nelson was preserved in rum
The infamous Admiral Nelson who died in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar is said to have had his body preserved in a cask of rum before finally being laid to rest. As a result of this incident, rum was referred to as “Nelson’s blood” for a while. It is not known for sure whether the cask was full or mostly empty.