Exploring The Different Types Of Rum
Rum is one of the world's oldest and most popular spirits - in practically any bar around the world, you're likely to find several different varieties being served. Although rum can be enjoyed neat or with mixers, it's also a central component in refreshing tropical cocktails such as Mojitos, Piña Coladas, Daiquiris and Mai Tais.
Unlike other spirits such as vodka, gin, whisky and tequila, rum production is relatively unregulated. This means we can have hundreds of different styles and flavours of rum, with new brands constantly innovating. But at its core, what makes rum, rum? And what are the main different types of rum out there in the market?
What makes rum, rum?
Rum is either made from sugar cane juice or molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar cane. They're fermented and distilled to make a clear spirit. This spirit can be aged in oak barrels, which turns the liquid's colour darker and enriches its flavour profile. The longer it stays inside the barrel, the richer these secondary flavours get, and usually, the more expensive the rum.
The rules and regulations surrounding the definition of 'rum' are somewhat lax. Whisky, for instance, has rules around blending malts and the length of ageing time in order to be considered whisky. Gin needs a certain amount of specific botanicals to be considered gin, and even tequila needs to age a proper amount of time to become reposado, añejo or extra añejo.
With rum, however, producers can play with spices, blends, ageing and colouring to create unique varieties. There's just one rule: rum needs to come from sugar cane.
Sugar cane juice and molasses
There are two kinds of rum. The first comes from sugar cane juice. The other comes from molasses: the concentrated sugar from the sugar cane, without the extra water from the plant. After fermentation, the liquid is distilled either inside a column still or copper pot. The first method is faster and more industrial, with a continuous distillation process. The second produces smaller batches but allows more control over the finished product.
Although there are no rules regarding the location of rum production (as there is with Champagne needing to be made in the French region of Champagne), most rums come from the Caribbean. Yet, each big rum-producing country, like Jamaica, is known for adopting a specific production style.
Types of rum
Rum can vary hugely depending on its country of origin, the type of sugar cane used for production, and even the barrels in which it is aged. Here's an overview of some of the most popular and noteworthy rum types:
White rum, otherwise known as light, silver or clear rum, is one of the most popular types of rum. White rum has a light flavour profile and doesn't have as much body as other types of rum. White or clear rums are usually aged in barrels for about a year and are then filtered to remove the colour. Their mild taste and colourless nature make them perfect for light cocktails, such as mojitos and piña coladas.
At Toti Rum, we produce a fresh and fragrant White Rum, blending pure sugar cane rum with six different styles of molasses rum. This rum is perfect for mixing into refreshing cocktails like Piña Coladas and Daiquiris.
Gold rum, also known as amber rum, usually stays a little longer inside the barrel than white rum and its colours aren't removed. The ex-bourbon oak barrels leave behind light hues of brown, as well as more body and complex flavours (though not as much as dark or black rum). Gold rum is usually the rum used to make popular drinks like the Mai Tai or Zombie - two famous cocktails from Tiki culture.
Dark rums are aged for longer inside the oak barrels, giving them a dark brown colour. The ageing process provides more body and robust flavour profiles. These rums are not traditionally used in mixing cocktails, and most people prefer to sip them by themselves to appreciate the aromas in the spirit.
Our own Toti Cask Reserve Dark Rum can be sipped by itself, or mixed into delicious cocktails such as a Rum Old-fashioned or Toti Tempest (recipes can be found here). Our dark rum is smooth and aromatic, made with a 5-year-old sugar cane rum, blended with premium molasses rums.
Black rum is the richest and darkest of rums. They are usually made from molasses and carry intense caramel flavours. Sometimes rum producers will add some caramel colouring to the spirit to give it darker hues. Black rum is best enjoyed by itself to savour the intensity of its flavour profile, but it can also be enjoyed in iconic cocktails like a Dark And Stormy.
Navy rum is a specific type of rum associated with the British Royal Navy (which dominated many rum-producing Caribbean countries during colonial times). It has a full body as well as a higher alcohol percentage (about 57%) while most traditional rums stay in the 38-40% range. Navy rum is known for its bold flavour, which is often described as being both sweet and spicy.
Overproof rum is a type of rum that has been distilled to a higher proof than standard rum, resulting in a higher alcohol content. While overproof rum can be enjoyed on its own, it is often used in mixed drinks or as an ingredient in recipes. A little goes a long way when it comes to this powerful spirit. Whether you're sipping it neat or mixing it into a cocktail like a Mai Tai, overproof rum is sure to add a kick to your drink.
Premium-aged rum is a type of rum that has been aged for a longer period of time than other types of rum. It is typically made from a blend of different aged rums, which are then aged in oak barrels for an additional period of time. This additional ageing process gives premium-aged rums their unique flavour and characteristics. Premium-aged rums are typically darker in colour than other types of rum and have a richer, more intense flavour, often being used in cocktails or as a sipping rum.
Vintage Rums come from a blend of different rums aged in premium oak barrels for different amounts of time. Vintage rum is typically more expensive than other types of rum, but it is worth the price for its unique flavour. Because of their uniqueness, they tend to be limited edition and usually come from high-end producers. If you are looking for a special rum to serve at your next party, consider vintage rum. Your guests are sure to be impressed by your knowledge of this fine spirit.
Agricole Rum, or Rhum Agricole, is the name given to rums that have been distilled from sugar cane juice instead of molasses. These types of rum usually come from the French Caribbean islands and have an average of 35% ABV, being more artisanal with eccentric flavours. Agricole rum is known for its distinctive earthy flavour. While it can be enjoyed on its own, Agricole rum is also popular in cocktails such as the Daiquiri and the Mojito. If you're a rum lover looking for something different from your usual rum, Agricole rum is worth trying next.
Spiced rum is a type of flavoured rum made from a blend of different spices infused into the spirit, the most common being ginger, vanilla seeds, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. It usually comes at a higher alcohol percentage than regular rums, with 46% ABV. Spiced rum is often used in cocktails, such as the Mai Tai and the Hurricane.
Interested in exploring the enchanting world of rum?
Toti Rums are 100% natural, high-quality spirits that are perfect for sipping neat or enjoying in cocktails. Celebrating rum's unique connection to the sea, we donate 15% of profits to marine conservation. Take a look at our delicious rums here.