Rum used to be categorised as Light, gold and dark, however, rums today are undergoing a complete reclassification as they explain cask types & move more toward the whiskey consumer. Premium rums are made to be consumed either straight or on the rocks whilst light rums are often preferred in cocktails.
Mount Gay Rum is the oldest documented rum in the world, with a deed that states on Feb 20, 1703 there was a working copper pot still located in St Lucy in the north of Barbados. Barbados is a tiny island located in the East of the Caribbean and is the home of rum.
The beverage has famous associations with the Royal Navy and pirates in movies. It has also served as a popular medium of economic exchange. The first distillation of rum in the Caribbean took place on the sugarcane plantations there in the 17th century. Plantation slaves discovered that molasses could be fermented into alcohol. Then, the distillation of these alcoholic by-products concentrated the alcohol, producing the first modern rums. Most rum is produced from molasses, which is made from sugarcane.
Yeast and water are added to the base ingredient to start the fermentation process. There is no standard method used for rum distillation. While some producers work in batches using pot stills, most rum production is done using column still distillation. The ageing is commonly performed in used bourbon casks but can be performed in other types of wooden casks or stainless steel tanks. The ageing process determines the colour of the rum. When aged in oak casks, it becomes darker, whereas rum aged in stainless steel tanks remains virtually colourless. Due to the tropical climate, common to most rum-producing areas, rum matures at a much higher rate than is typical for whisky or brandy. After ageing, rum is normally blended to ensure a consistent flavour, the final step in the rum-making process.
The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location where rum was produced.
Dark rums, also known by their colour, such as brown, black, or red rums, are classed a grade darker than gold rums. They are usually made from caramelized sugar or molasses. They are aged longer, in heavily charred barrels, giving them much stronger flavours than either light or gold rums.
Flavoured rums are infused with flavours of fruits, such as banana, mango, orange, pineapple, coconut, starfruit, or lime. These are generally less than 40% ABV (80 proof). They mostly serve to flavour similarly themed tropical drinks but are also often drunk neat or with ice.
Gold rums, also called “amber” rums, are medium-bodied rums that are generally aged. These gain their dark colour from ageing in wooden barrels. They have more flavour and are stronger-tasting than light rum.
Light rums, also referred to as “silver” or “white” rums, in general, having very light citrus flavours. Light rums are sometimes filtered after ageing to remove any colour. Their milder flavours make them popular for use in mixed drinks, as opposed to drinking them straight.
Premium rums, as with other sipping spirits such as Cognac and Scotch whisky, are in a special market category. These are generally from boutique brands that sell carefully produced and aged rums. They have more character and flavour than their “mixing” counterparts and are generally consumed straight.
Spiced rums obtain their flavours through the addition of spices and sometimes, caramel.
Most are darker in colour and based on gold rums. Among the spices added are cinnamon, rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, pepper, cloves, and cardamom.
Rum is extensively used in cocktails such as Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Mojito. It is used in a number of cooked dishes as a flavouring agent in items such as rum balls or rum cakes. It is commonly used to macerate fruit used in fruitcakes and is also used in marinades for some Caribbean dishes.