Last updated: August 16, 2021

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Welcome back! The world of spirits is huge and ever expanding. Rum has been part of this universe for centuries and has become a reference point for high-quality spirits. In this article we tell you what you need to know to choose the best. One of the main characteristics of rum is that it is very versatile, so its use is not limited to consumption for fun.

It has also found applications in topical treatments for pain and as an ingredient in numerous dessert recipes and meat stews. The thing about choosing this type of liqueur is that the variety on the market is enormous, and there are several particularities to be aware of to make sure you get what you are looking for. Among other things you should check the type of rum, the ageing time, aroma and colour, among others. We tell you more about these.




Summary

  • Rum is an alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane, and its preparation process includes the extraction, distillation and ageing of the liquor. Rums that have been aged in oak or cherry wood are highly appreciated, as their quality is usually superior.
  • The most general classification of rum divides them according to their region of origin: French rum, Spanish rum and British rum. French rum is made in Haiti and Martinique and is dry and light. Hispanic rum is dry and sweet and comes from Spain and the Caribbean. And British rum is made in Bermuda, Belize, Barbados and Guyana and is sweet and strong.
  • There are different aspects that define the profile of a good rum, and that you should take into account when making your decision. These include aroma and flavour, but you should also consider its intended use (drinking or cooking) and the denomination of origin. We will talk about these in depth.

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Buying guide: what you need to know about rum

To make sure you make the right choice, you need to have a thorough understanding of the product. That's why we explain what rum is and its place in the world of spirits. You will also find it useful to know the types of rum, and understand which one will meet your expectations.

Rum has numerous uses, including the preparation of cocktails, topical lotions for pain relief and part of a gastronomic recipe. (photo: Magda Ehlers / pexels.com)

What is rum and why is it so popular?

Rum is a liqueur that is held in high esteem all over the world. It is obtained from the fermentation of sugar cane in a process that includes extraction, fermentation, distillation and ageing.

It is important for the quality of the liquor that the ageing is done in cherry wood or oak. This is a liqueur that is consumed both neat and as part of cocktails and similar drinks. It is also used to prepare dishes, including desserts and meats that are marinated in rum. Rum has the advantage of being a very versatile alcoholic beverage, and is appreciated for its quality, aroma and taste. It offers many benefits derived from its various uses, which go beyond drinking to medical treatments.

Advantages
  • It is a versatile liquor
  • It can be enjoyed on its own or with ice
  • It is a good base for cocktails
  • Its applications in the kitchen are numerous
  • It improves with time
  • It is also used to treat pain
  • It is an easy liquor to obtain
Disadvantages
  • Its purchase and consumption is limited to adults
  • Its excessive consumption can cause addiction
  • The best quality ones are expensive
  • Its excessive consumption can cause weight gain

Rum by origin: French rum, British rum and Hispanic rum - what to look out for?

Rum is one of the most appreciated spirits, due to its high quality, its accessibility and its versatility of uses. And there are several aspects that will define your decision when buying one, but the first thing to check is the origin of the rum. This largely defines its profile, flavour, body and aroma. There are considered to be three categories of rum according to its origin:

  • French rum: This is made in the French territories of the Caribbean: Haiti and Martinique, where sugar cane grows in abundance. It is made from sugar cane juice and is dry, light and potent. It also has a designation of origin, which brings prestige to this type of rum. It is produced in three types: white, aged and amber.
  • British rum: This is produced in the British territories of the Caribbean: Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Barbados and Guyana. It is made from sugar cane molasses and is dark and quite sweet because more sugar is incorporated in its preparation. The ageing process is static.
  • Hispanic rum: This is produced in Spain, Caribbean countries and some regions of Central America. It is made from sugar cane molasses and is sweet and dry. In the process of preparing this rum, young aguardiente is mixed with aged aguardiente in large oak casks.
French British Hispanic
Countries of origin Haiti and Martinique Bermuda, Belize, Barbados and Guyana Spain, the Caribbean region
Raw material Sugar cane juice Sugar cane molasses Sugar cane molasses
Particular ingredients Caramel Spices Sugar and caramel
Rum profile Light, dry and potent Dark, sweet and strong Light, dry and sweet
Appellation of origin Yes No No

The category of the rum is one aspect you should check if you want to buy a high quality product. But it is not the only thing to take into account. There are other aspects, such as the type of rum, the taste and the aroma, which define the quality of the rum and cannot be ignored.

Types of rum according to its preparation and distillate

The variety of rums is independent of the region of origin, as it is classified considering aspects such as the raw material used, the type of distillation, the ageing method, the fermentation temperature and the final ethyl concentration.

  • Agricultural rum: This type of rum is produced in French overseas territories, so they belong to the category of French rum and have a denomination of origin. They are aged in oak or cherry wood.
  • Ron añejo: This is a rum made from the burning water of sugar cane, but the particularity is that it must be a rum aged in cherry or oak wood for a minimum of one year. The longer the liquor is aged, the higher its ethyl concentration.
  • White rum: The name of this rum refers to the fact that it has no colour. It sometimes has a yellow hue, which it acquires due to its oak ageing process, but many manufacturers distil this rum to make it transparent. It is most often used to make cocktails and drinks.
  • Frosted rum: This is a very particular and not very popular type of rum. Its main characteristic is that small crystals are formed in the drink, due to an oversaturation of sugar. Hence its name.
  • Light rum: This is the type of rum that is prepared by distilling in continuous stills, so its ethyl concentration is not as high as that of regular rums. It is characteristic of Cuba, as this is where it was most frequently produced and is considered part of the island's culture.
  • Old rum: This rum shares several characteristics with aged rum, as it is also aged in oak barrels, with the difference that it must be aged for a minimum of 3 years. The result is a rum with a high ethyl concentration.
  • Rum liqueur: This liqueur is not rum itself, but a liqueur that is made using processes similar to those used to process rum. It is quite sweet, containing more than 100 g/l of sucrose or glucose equivalent.

Buying rum is not difficult: The variety of prices makes it possible to find something suitable for your budget, and you can get it in a multitude of places. (Photo: Gressei / 123rf.com)

Buying criteria

Choosing the ideal rum is not always an easy task. There are many options on the market that vary in different aspects, and this generally makes the decision more difficult. That is why we list the most important criteria to consider when talking about quality rum:

We explain these criteria in depth, so you can make an informed decision.

Denomination of origin

The appellation of origin is a certificate given to liquors and foodstuffs to prove that it is original from a certain area. This certificate is a sign of the product's prestige and increases its value. In the case of liqueurs, there are many with this certification, and it is identified because it is marked on the label of the bottle. But in the case of rum, only rum of French origin, which is produced in France's Caribbean territories:

Martinique and Haiti, has it. If the rum you choose has this designation of origin, it means that it was manufactured according to high quality standards. British and Hispanic rums do not usually have this certificate, but there are some brands that have taken the trouble to patent it. Even if it does not have an appellation of origin, it does not diminish the rum's prestige, as there are many rums from these regions that are benchmarks of quality. h

What you will use it for

There are many types of rum, and they are all delicious and offer many possibilities, but they have different profiles that work better for some than others. That's why it's important to consider what you will use the rum for before you buy it. If you are looking for a rum to keep in your kitchen and to prepare some special recipes, a smooth, dark rum with a medium alcohol concentration (between 30% and 35%) is recommended.

For cocktails, we recommend white rum, which mixes well with other liquors and does not change the colour of the drink. But this is not limiting, as there are many drinks that are made with dark rum. In this case it is more a question of aesthetics than flavour profile.

Aroma

It is not possible to say what the aroma of a good rum is, firstly because it is difficult to describe an aroma precisely, and secondly because the aroma varies greatly depending on the particularities of the rum. However, there are shades of aroma that a good rum should always have. Rum must be aged in oak or cherry barrels, so the smell of wood is incorporated into the aroma of the spirit.

Also common to all rums is the sweet smell left over from the sugar cane, which is the raw material for its preparation. British rums are particularly sweet. Those of Hispanic origin have spicy tones, while those of French origin have fruity tones. In addition, the aroma of rum is characterised by being penetrating and lingering in the atmosphere for a couple of minutes after closing the bottle.

Flavour

Flavour, like aroma, is an aspect that varies significantly between rums. But it also has a few characteristics that are held in common if the rum is of good quality. Due to the oak or cherry wood in which it is aged, the flavour is imbued with toasted wood tones. This is a trait to look for in rum. Depending on the way it is prepared it can be more or less sweet, but in general it has sweet tones as the liqueur is prepared with sugar cane.

(Featured image photo: Donato Fiorentino / 123rf.com)

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