10 Surprising facts about rum

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

The guide to rum that you absolutely need...

Rum is one of the most versatile drinks you can find. There are rums to sip slowly as the sun goes down; rums for cocktails; spiced rums; flavoured rums; aged rums and young rums. Whatever the occasion there’s a rum to suit. Here our ten top rum facts…

 

The colour of rum

The first thing you’ll notice when perusing rum bottles is the variation in colour, from clear and colourless to the deepest shades of dark. The tone is due to a combination of ageing in barrels and the addition or removal of colour by other methods. 

The clear white, light or silver rums will have spent a shorter time in casks and often have colour removed through charcoal filtering. Aged rums take on deeper tones while the darkest rums are produced from caramelised molasses or maturing in charred barrels. 

 

Rum, Ron or Rhum

Look at the label and you’ll see that your rum is either labelled “rum”, “ron” or “rhum”, depending on where it’s made. 

The most famous rum producing regions are the Caribbean and Latin America which are either English speaking (rum), Spanish speaking (ron) or French speaking (rhum). 

 

Sugar source

The taste of rum can be markedly different depending on where it comes from, as well as the type of sugar from which it’s distilled. 

The source of sugar for rum is sugar cane, of which there are several varieties, and it can be distilled either from the fresh juice (as is the case with “Rhum Agricoles” from Martinique), molasses (the most common in the English speaking Caribbean islands) or from cane syrup.

 

Navy rum

Strong rum bottled at 57% ABV is known as Navy Rum. This harks back to a time when crews on Royal Navy vessels drank rum but were wary of spilling any in case it spoiled their gunpowder. 

57% ABV is the strength of alcohol at which gunpowder would still ignite even if it came into contact with booze, so all rums allowed on board had to be tested for strength. 

If a mix of rum and gunpowder successfully caught fire it was proof of sufficient alcohol, with 100% proof being the term referring to the magic 57% ABV. Wood’s, Pusser’s and Lamb’s are all popular Navy Rum brands well worth investigating.

 

Splice the Mainbrace

Another nautical term that is still in use, “splice the mainbrace” means have an extra helping of rum or grog. It came about when sailors were rewarded with an extra drink for completing the onerous task of splicing (repairing) the mainbrace—a rope used to secure the ship’s mast.

 

Solera rum

Solera is a process of maturing drinks that originated in Spain (principally with sherry) hat has been adopted by rum makers. The aim is to produce consistently flavoured drinks by ageing rums in barrels for various lengths of time. 

Barrels, traditionally stacked vertically, have the oldest rum at the bottom and the youngest at the top. When a portion of finished rum is taken from the bottom barrel it is topped up with rum from the barrel above, which is in turn topped up from the next youngest rum until new rum replaces the gap in the top barrel. 

To try a rum aged by this method seek out Venezuela’s Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Rum.

 

Cocktails

Some of the most popular cocktails in the world are based around rum, including Cuba’s classic minty cocktail, the Mojito; the citrussy Daquiri; and the pineapple and coconut combo of a Piña colada. 

And, of course, rum and coke—otherwise known as a Cuba Libra—is a favourite of rock stars and Caribbean holidaymakers.

 

Dark ‘n’ Stormy
Another popular rum cocktail involves the combination of rum and ginger, but if you want to make it properly then you need to use Gosling Brothers Black Seal—the Bermudan brand claims to have invented the cocktail and has trademarked the “Dark ‘n’ Stormy” name.

 

Flavoured rum
As proved by the inexhaustible list of cocktails, rums are great at taking on other flavours, so it’s no surprise there’s a huge range of spiced and flavoured rums available. 

A few of our favourites are Dean Man’s Fingers Coffee Rum, Ronmiel Aguere’s Honey Rum, Diablesse Spiced Clementine Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum and Aluna Coconut Rum—but there’s hardly a flavour going that hasn’t been blended with the sugary booze.

 

Rumtopf
There’s a tradition in Germany and Denmark of creating a fruit flavoured rum known as a “rumtopf”. 

 

Every time a soft fruit is harvested some pickings go into the rumtopf pot with sugar where it remains until a suitable occasion calls for it to be consumed (usually Christmas). Gleeful rumtopf celebrators not only get a glass of sweet fruity rum but they also see their harvest turned into a boozy dessert.