Different styles of rum
Rum is one of the most varied spirits there is. Each country or area of production is a genuine « terroir » with its own traditions and production techniques, natural conditions and drinking habits.
There are two main production processes, giving two quite distinct types of spirit :
- Sugar-mill rum or traditional rum, made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production
- Rhum agricole, made from fermented and distilled sugarcane juice
Traditional rum is the original spirit, predating rhum agricole. However, sugar production in the Caribbean became less and less profitable after the sugar price collapsed in the late 17th century as a result of anti-slavery campaigns and the discovery of sugar beet in Europe. French farmers decided to stop producing sugar altogether, and thus stopped producing molasses which were a by-product, and decided to make only rum.
There are three main styles of rum today :
- English-style rum, of which rums from Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana are the best examples. The oldest style of rum, these are esteemed for their quality and are the richest and most aromatic. The result of medium to long fermentation, they are often distilled in pot stills and the vast majority are cask-aged for several years. As a rule, the age mentioned on the label refers to the youngest rum used in the blend.
- Spanish-style rum, which were later arrivals on the rum market. These are light rums with a more « rectified » taste. In most cases they are white (i.e. not aged), the result of short to medium fermentation and are distilled in column stills. Most of them come from Cuba, but they are also made in the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. In most cases, the age mentioned on the label refers to the average age of the various rums (Solera) or to the oldest rum in the blend.
- Rhum agricole or agricultural-style rum, made exclusively from cane juice, these rums have a fruity nose and a relatively dry mouthfeel, with more vegetal notes. These elegant and unusual rums come from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island and Haiti. Except rhum agricoles produced in Haiti, these rums are generally distilled in column stills. Cachaca is a Brazilian spirit made from fermented cane juice, like agricultural rum.