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What Are The Different Types of Rum?

by Scott Connor 08 Jan 2023

Rum is notoriously known as the drink of pirates and sailors. Cheaper to transport and easier to store than other liquors, this adaptable spirit became the staple of the sea and was even used to remedy scurvy in undernourished mariners.1

No longer limited to deckhands and seafarers, rum has become a preferred liquor across all walks of life and is distilled in virtually every country of the globe that grows sugarcane. 

Various approaches to fermentation, distillation, blending, and aging techniques are used worldwide to create different styles of rum, each more excitingly distinct from the other. Read on to explore the unique origins, flavor profiles, and different types of rum. 

What Is Rum?

Most likely you’re already aware of this popular liquor and the tropical kick it can add to your favorite tiki cocktail. A Pina Colada, Dark and Stormy, and Daiquiri are all famed mixed drinks that employ rum as their base.

Most rums are derived from molasses, a dark, syrupy residue left over from the sugar-making process. Other rums, especially those produced in French-speaking islands, use sugar cane juice. In both scenarios, once the sugar product is harvested, it is then fermented, distilled, and aged to concoct this smooth, warming spirit. The main difference between rum and whiskey is that the latter is made from grains. As for Cachaca vs rum, the main difference between the two is distillation process, because Cachaca is distilled only once.

When it comes to rum, age really does matter. The longer rum is aged, the darker and more flavorful it will become. Like other spirits, rum is aged in wooden barrels fashioned out of charred oak, which imparts flavors of vanilla and cocoa into the amber liquor.

Where Does Rum Come From?

The majority of the globe’s rum originated in the West Indies, a cluster of islands in the Caribbean sea, including Barbados, Cuba, and Jamaica.2 Rum is believed to have originated from rumbullion, a strong and slightly unpalatable beverage from the 1600s made from boiling sugar cane stalks.3

Today, while rum distillation technically occurs throughout most of North and South America, it is still most commonly produced in Caribbean regions like: 

  • Jamaica
  • Cuba
  • Trinidad
  • Guyana
  • Barbados
  • Mexico

Types of Rums

Even though a pirate will take any rum they can get their hands on, all rums are not the same. In fact, there are numerous types of rum, each with its own recognizable appearance, taste, and use. 

#1 White Rum 

White rum, also known as light or silver rum, has a milder flavor and lighter body compared to other rums. White rums are aged briefly in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, the aging process requiring only a short 3 to 6 months. Most light rums are 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is common for most spirits.4

This shorter aging process doesn’t allow time for the rum to darken, resulting in a lighter rum that lacks the quintessential amber pigmentation that rum hangs its hat on.

Because of its mellower flavor, this lighter rum, like Bacardi White Rum Superior 80 Proof is most often used in cocktails like a Cuba Libre or Mojito that don’t require a bold molasses flavor. 

#2 Gold Rum 

When asking, “what are the different types of rum?” our list wouldn’t be complete without gold rum. What is gold rum? Also known as amber rum due to its amber or pale color, it’s a smooth, medium-bodied spirit that’s aged for several years. As a result, it embodies a deep gold-colored tint and has a more bold and sweet flavor compared to white rum. 

Depending on the types of barrels used, gold rum can evoke flavors like: 

  • Vanilla
  • Caramel
  • Almond

The sweet palate of gold rum makes it a popular choice for cocktails that require a sharper flavor, like a Mai Tai or Palmetto. Bacardi Rum Gold 80 Proof is a frequented gold rum with many use cases, including being enjoyed neat or on the rocks—or even in the occasional baking recipe. 

#3 Dark Rum 

Dark rum, or black rum, has been fermented and aged for lengthy periods. The aging process for dark rum can extend from 3 to 15 years to achieve a heavy, full-bodied molasses flavor. 

The dark hues of black rum are achieved through the aging process, allowing the rum to adopt the color and flavor of the wooden barrel. Adding extra ingredients, like burnt caramel, can also darken the pigmentation of rum. Keep in mind, though, that these additive tactics don’t impart as much full-bodied flavor as time does. 

Enjoy dark rum neat or on the rocks to truly appreciate its heavy-bodied, distinct flavor profile. While sipping, try picking out flavors like: 

  • Smokey sweetness 
  • Hints of spice
  • Caramel overtones

While dark rum can also be added to cocktails, its valiant presence is best utilized to enhance the taste of decadent cakes, candies, and sauces. 

#4 Spiced Rum 

Spiced, or flavored, rum is a popular choice if you’re hoping to enhance the taste of your favorite cocktails. These rums come in a myriad of flavors, each influenced by the aromas of various spices and flora extracts.

Spiced rum can be infused with natural spices derived from roots, seeds, barks, roots, or leaves to achieve a botanical flavor from ingredients like: 

  • Allspice
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Ginger root
  • Star anise
  • Nutmeg
  • Cassia
  • Vanilla
  • Pepper

This type of flavored rum can also be flavored with fruit extracts. For instance, cherry, coconut, pineapple, black currant, and citrus are all popular (and delicious) varieties. 

If you’re looking to spice up your next mixed cocktail, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Malibu Coconut Rum, Kraken Spiced Rum, and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum are classic choices to add a memorable punch to your next cocktail party. 

#5 Navy Rum 

Navy Rum has an impressive history to complement its excellent taste. From the mid-nineteenth century into the twentieth century, as the Royal Navy sailed the Caribbean sea, they provided their sailors with rum rations. Traveling port-to-port, they picked up various locally-sourced rums, creating a unique blend to gift to their sailors. 

Some ship captains chose to water down their Navy Rum and supplement it with lime to combat scurvy, a condition caused by a prolonged deficiency of Vitamin C in the diet.1

Navy Rum evokes flavors of: 

  • Sweet honey
  • Bitter clove
  • Warm nutmeg
  • Bold molasses

The tradition of Navy Rum is still holding strong in countries like Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad, with a higher strength of about 57% ABV.5 Sailors notoriously mixed gunpowder with their rum mixtures, waiting for it to ignite to confirm its desired proof. (Knowing how much alcohol these sailors consumed, we now know why they needed their sea legs.)

#6 Rhum Agricole 

Rhum Agricole is made with fresh sugarcane as opposed to molasses, giving it a more fruity and earthy flavor than other rums. Because sugarcane can quickly degrade, rhum agricole is fermented and distilled within a couple of days after harvesting and aged for anywhere between 3 months to 3 years.

These techniques of rum production originated in Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barths, and other French-Caribbean islands. Similar to Champagne, Rhum Agricole has a controlled destination of origin (AOC), which is held by the island of Martinique. Essentially, AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole must:6

  1. Be aged for at least 3 months
  2. Adhere to sustainable cultivation techniques
  3. Only be made from fresh sugarcane juice
  4. Be produced using only sugarcane in the Martinique region 

#7 Overproof Rum 

Overproof Rum is any type of rum with an ABV over 50%. These extra-strong spirits are not for the faint of the heart and range in potency from 100 to 151 proof, or 50% to 75.5% ABV.5

In the normal distillation process, the rum product produced has a high alcohol percentage. Most rums are then diluted with water to diffuse their potency. 

But overproof rum, as you might have guessed, forgoes this step. The result is an extremely strong drink that typically needs help from a couple of ice cubes to be enjoyed. 

#8 Premium Aged Rum 

Premium Aged Rum is known for its complex flavor profile and richness. Aged for several years, this rum develops an intense flavor with dark tones. Most aged premium rum is aged in oak barrels, though others use Cognac and Sherry barrels to provide a distinctly reddish tint. 

#9 Single Vintage Rum

Single Vintage Rum is an exclusive classification of rum that comes from a single production year. This type of rum is bottled in limited bulk and aged until its maturity peaks. Due to its rarity, rum collectors and connoisseurs often covet these limited editions upon their release. 

Explore the Best Rum with Barbank

The inference is plain sailing: Rum is no longer just the drink of sailors and pirates. Whether you’re in the mood for a tropical Pina Colada, classic Mojito, or something bold like a Planter’s Punch, rum’s versatility of flavor and depth has you covered. 

At Barbank, we offer a diverse selection of spirits with our online liquor delivery platform that are ready to be shipped directly to your door. No more carrying heavy liquor boxes or running to the liquor store only to find out that your favorite isn’t in stock. We carry an extensive collection to keep your bar—and your glass—full of your favorites.

Explore our global rum assortments, like our Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum to add a kick to your imbibement, or our Shadow Ridge 1893 Navy Strength Rum for a potent spirit full of body and rich history. 

We can’t wait to see what you shake up.


Sources: 

  1. The Guardian. A rum tale about the navy’s favourite drink. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/17/rum-drink-history-how-grog-got-its-name-empire-of-drinks-henry-jeffreys 
  2. Britannica. West Indies Summary. https://www.britannica.com/summary/West-Indies-island-group-Atlantic-Ocean 
  3. British Food in America. Rumbullion & killdevil, or: Rum, the spirit of the Indies. https://www.britishfoodinamerica.com/Another-Caribbean-Number-featuring-Jamaica/the-lyrical/Rumbullion-and-killdevil-or-Rum-the-spirit-of-the-Indies/#.Y61IzuzMIUo
  4. Binghamton University. Standard Drink Sizes. https://www.binghamton.edu/hpps/atod/standarddrink.html 
  5. ARK. Rum Alcohol Content | How Strong is Rum? https://www.arkbh.com/alcohol/types/liquor/rum/alcohol-content/
  6. Rhum Agricole. Protected Designation of Origin. https://www.rhum-agricole.net/site/en/index.php?id=aoc
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