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How do you make rum?

08/03/2023 Spirits

From the Caribbean to the Reunion Islands, from Cuba to the Philippines, from the French West Indies to Spain, made all over the world, rum has become a universal drink. It’s a classic but seductive spirit that embodies a whole philosophy of life. Let’s learn a bit more about rum, this spirit with a pirate’s soul that has won us over!

A bit of history

The origin of the word rum (1661) is not certain, although some theories point to a derivative of “rumbullion” or “rumbustion”, words that come from English slang and mean “a great commotion”, “a noisy and uncontrollable bustle”, and that certainly does describe the effects caused by this sweet spirit on those who drink it.

Some say that in ancient Greece they were making a fermented drink from sugar cane, which was introduced to southern Europe by Arab traders. We also know that in the kingdom of Granada a liqueur was made from fermented sugarcane juice.

Some also say that it was the English and French navigators in the 17th century who would transport sugar cane on their ships and discovered the alcohol it produced. 

Rum, a drink of pirates and sailors

Truth or myth, the truth is that rum is intimately related to all kinds of sailors. Rum was the traditional beverage of choice for sailors in the British Navy. 

Talking about rum automatically makes people think of pirates and buccaneers fighting on the deck of a ship, very much in the style of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The history of rum is also worthy of a film. 

To keep them at sea, English sailors received a daily ration of rum (which was known as a “tot”), until July 31, 1970, when this benefit was removed. This didn’t sit very well with the sailors, and they named it “Black Tot Day”, and this in turn has led to a celebration among rum producers and there is even a brand of rum with the name.

The relationship between sailors and rum doesn’t stop there. There is a denomination of this spirit known as “Navy Strength” or “navy rum” and this is made like the ones they used to drink on the navy ships in the seventeenth century and usually has a richer flavour and a higher alcohol content, because they couldn’t just drink any kind of rum on the ships, why? For security reasons.

We have already told you that the history of this spirit is like a movie. This “navy strength” style rum is not just about marketing. For a rum to be authorised to be served on navy ships, it had to comply with the “proof” system, an English measure of a spirit’s alcohol level. The rum had to be 100% proof, i.e., 57.1% alcohol. In the days when navy ships were fighting pirates or escorting merchant ships, it was absolutely necessary to ensure that if there was a rum leak and the gunpowder got wet, it would maintain its combustibility, and this is what happens with 57.1%. This is what the “proof” measure refers to.

On the other hand, the high alcohol content of rum helped to keep it in good condition during the voyage and to keep sailors healthy, protecting them from diseases caused by drinking bad water.

How is rum made?

Rum is a drink made from the distillation of alcohol taken from the fermentation of molasses or sugar cane juice.

Slaves working on Caribbean plantations discovered that molasses, a by-product from the sugar refining process, could be fermented and distilled into alcohol. The origin of rum could be on the island of Nevis, according to a document found in Barbados in 1650. For this reason, production is mainly focussed around the Caribbean, although, as we’ve said, nowadays it is produced practically all over the world.

As with all spirits, a distillation method is chosen for a base product, in this case sugar cane molasses. The most common is the boiler still, but there are some who also use the column still and, as with vodka, there is no precise rule or recipe to establish a single way of distillation to make rum.

Pure demineralised water is added to the alcohol obtained from distillation to adjust the alcohol content. It can then be bottled (white rum) or aged in barrels and can even be flavoured. This is why there are productions all over the world that are so rich in nuances.

The most universal spirit

Who hasn’t tried the classic mojito, a daiquiri or the famous “cuba libre”! Rum is the king of cocktails. A rogue and seductive spirit that is perfect for blending, but also to be enjoyed sip by sip, in its more aged versions. 

These are the most popular styles of rum on the market:

White Rum

This type of rum is bottled directly from the still or spends very little time in the barrel. It is most commonly used for cocktails.

Golden Rum

This is a white rum that spends very little time in the barrel, just enough to acquire colour and flavour.

Dark Rum

This is the favourite of connoisseurs. It is considered “the finest of the rums”. A spirit that ages for long periods in oak barrels, many of them previously used to age other spirits like whisky or cognac. The perfect rum to enjoy neat.

Spiced Rum

A tasty rum that is getting more and more popular, available in white, golden and dark (the most common) flavoured with cinnamon, citrus peel, vanilla and other spices. The light versions are perfect for cocktails and the dark versions are perfect for enjoying on their own.

A good rum must be balanced. Not too sweet or extremely bitter, full-bodied and with a good alcohol content. Rum is so versatile that it can be an excellent aperitif, a perfect companion for desserts and ideal for after dinner or enjoying with a good cigar (for those who like to smoke).

Now, finally, let’s get to the good stuff. We want to recommend three rums to send you merrily sailing away.

Why not give them a go?

3 seductive rums that you won’t want to miss

1. Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar Rum

Brugal & Co. in Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic) produces Brugal 1888 Rum, named after the year the distillery produced its first aged rum. Brugal 1888 is aged twice, in bourbon and sherry casks. A delicious and perfectly balanced rum, with predominant vanilla, red fruits and toffee caramel alongside notes of cocoa and oak. An exquisite rum, to be enjoyed at leisure.

2. Kraken Black Spiced Rum

With a striking presentation, where we see the reflection of the legendary monster from Scandinavian and Finnish mythology that resembles a giant squid, Ron Kraken Black Spiced is a favourite rums among bartenders. It is made in Trinidad and Tobago and is a dark spiced rum flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and other exotic spices, aged for more than a year, offering an unmistakable personality and a versatility that means it can be enjoyed on its own, on the rocks or in interesting mixers.

3. Santa Teresa Rum 

Born in Venezuela, Ron Santa Teresa 1796 is one of the most elegant rums on the market. It is made using the solera system, with blends of up to 35 years old, and each bottle of Santa Teresa contains a portion of the first barrel, the one from 1796. A dry rum that is pure vanilla and honey, with spicy notes and nuances reminiscent of nuts, dark chocolate or raisins. Pure pleasure!

The world of rum is so wide that it goes around the world. Why not continue your journey through the selection of rums we have on Decántalo. You’ll have a hard time choosing a favourite.