Rum and its “spirit twin” cane spirit are both created through the process of distillation of water and fermented sugar. The sugar is derived from sugar cane and is fermented from the juice of that cane, molasses, or cane juice concentrate. Molasses is the sticky, sweet residue that is left over once the juice of a sugar cane has been boiled and the sugar crystals extracted.
The majority of rum is made from molasses. In fact, molasses is constituted of more than one-half sugar. It also contains high levels of certain minerals and other trace elements that contribute to the golden liquid’s final flavor. Rum that is derived from cane juice, particularly in Martinique and Haiti, have a palate that is naturally smooth. Depending on the specific rum recipe involved, the “wash” (molasses and water, or cane juice) is fermented using either an airborne wild yeast or a cultured yeast. This fermentation period ranges from one day for light rum and up to several weeks for fuller and heavier varieties.
Rum is distilled in the ways described in the Introductory section of this book. The specific still chosen does, however, have a tremendous impact on the final character of the rum. All rum initially comes out of the still as a colorless, clear spirit. Barrel aging and the addition of caramel determine rums’ final coloring. As caramel is essential burned sugar, it may be truthfully stated that only natural coloring agents are employed in rum distillation.
Lighter rum is highly rectified (blended and purified); they are produced in columnar or continuous stills. After distillation is complete, light rum is generally charcoal-filtered and often aged in older oak casks for several months in order to add a certain degree of smoothness. The majority of lighter rum has very minimal aromas or flavors; thus, they are very similar to Vodka. This is particularly true of those rum brands which have been charcoal-filtered. Heavier rum is generally distilled in pot-style stills which are similar to those used to produce Scotch whiskies and Cognacs. Pot still as not as “efficient” as columnar stills. As a result, many congeners such as fusel oils and various flavoring elements are transferred to the alcohol in the rum. Some Rum brands are created by combining columnar and pot-distilled rums in a fashion that is very similar to Armagnac production.
White rum is generally very light-bodied, although there are some white rums found in the French Islands which are heavy-bodied. White rum is typically clear and has a flavor profile that is very subtle. If such rum is aged in oak casks to convey a smooth palate, it is then typically filtered to extract any coloring. White rum is mainly used for mixing purposes and blends especially well with fruit flavors.
Golden rum (aka “Amber rum), is typically a medium-bodied spirit. Most of it has been aged in oak casks for several years. This lengthy aging process imparts a smooth mellow palate to the rum.
Dark rum has historically been very rich, full-bodied, caramel-dominated liquors. The best dark rum is primary produced via pot stills and are often aged for extended periods of time inside oak barrels. The richest dark rum is drank “straight up.”
Spiced rum may be golden, white, or dark. All spicy rums are infused with fruit flavoring or spices. Rum punches like Planter’s punch are actually blends consisting of fruit juices and rum. Rum punches are quite popular in the Caribbean.
Age-Dated and Anejo rum varieties are aged from various batches or vintages which are subsequently mixed together in order to ensure a flavor continuity in rum brands from one year to the next. Many aged rums are accompanied by Age Statements which set forth the youngest rums in the blend (i.e.; 10-year-old rum contains a rum blend that is a minimum of ten years old.) A few French Island Rums are Vintage-Dated.