Being in the Rum making business, we find that South Africans generally do not know much about the spirit. Here are 7 interesting facts for all the budding Rum connoisseurs out there.
Not all rums are sweet
Most rums are made from molasses, a byproduct of sugarcane, through a process of fermentation and distillation, after this process all that remains is alcohol. Thus rum in its natural state like all other spirits is sugar free, and the natural sweetness of rum comes from one of the alcohol types that simulate sweetness on the palate. Some rum producers do add sugar to the distilled rum product to sweeten, smooth it out or make it seem more thick and luxurious. However, you won’t find this in authentic rum producing countries like Barbados, Jamaica, and Martinique which have regulations that prohibit adding sugar and other preservatives. At Cape of Storms Distilling Company, all our Rums are also sugar free.
Not all rums are from the Caribbean
Closely connected to the rise of slavery and the history of the Caribbean region, rum was initially discovered, produced and perfected on sugar plantations in the Caribbean during the 17th century. However, not all rums today are from the Caribbean. In fact, rum has become a global spirit and is now made on all continents except Antartica. The top selling rum brand across the globe is McDowell’s from India followed by Barcardi from Puerto Rico and Tanduay from the Philippines. The top five rum markets are India, the United States, the Philippines, France, and the United Kingdom.
Rhum is French for rum
Rhum with an H refers to French style rum that is made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. The official name is Rhum Agricole and this style of rum is traditionally made in former French Caribbean and African colonies such as Martinique which labels its rum AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole. With this type of rum, you can expect a funkier and grassier flavour with less pronounced vanilla or caramel notes.
Ron is Spanish for rum
Just as the French have a different way of spelling rum, so do the Spanish. If you’re in a Spanish speaking country, then rum will be spelled Ron. Beyond the French and Spanish variation, there are also other names for rum. In fact, rum has many unofficial or fun names including Aguadiente, Brebaje, Barbados Water, Clarin, Demon Water, Guildive, Killdevil, Nelson’s Blood, Red Eye, Pirates Drink, Navy Neaters and Tafia. As for the origin of the word rum itself, it is thought to be from an old English word called Rumbullion that was used to describe cane spirit in Barbados during the mid-1600’s and is meant as an “uproar or tumult.”
Age statements on rum bottles can be confusing
The number listed on a rum bottle labels does not always correlate with the actual age of the rum. The reason for this is because some rum brands use a Solera method which blends older and younger rums to create a finished product. Age statements on these rum blends may refer to the average age or the oldest rum but the portion may be quite small. Rums from former British colonies in the Caribbean like St. Kitts do not produce Solera blends. Thus the age indicated on a Kittian rum will be the actual age of the rum. That said, in major rum markets like the United States, regulation dictates that for Solera rum blends, the minimum age must be listed and this is the youngest rum in the mixture.
Not all aged rums are dark
There are different types of rum including gold, dark, white, spiced, flavoured and overproof. Aged rum tends to be dark, but there are also some aged white rums. Aged white rum is created by charcoal filtering an aged rum, this takes away the dark color but leaves the rich dark rum flavour. An extremely popular aged white rum is Barcardi with origins in Cuba but now produced in Puerto Rico.
There are different ways to experience and savor rum
Rum is often paired with ginger beer or fruits juices, but there are other ways of drinking this global spirit. For premium rums with complex flavours and aromas, its best to drink neat or with a splash of water or cube of ice. Premium rums also work well in classic cocktails such as Old fashions and Manhattans. A growing trend is to pair rum with different types of food including chocolate and marshmallows. Enjoying a glass of premium rum neat while smoking a cigar is also another favourite pairing.