All about craft Rum
Rum is one of the oldest distilled spirits, beginning its history in the Caribbean and South America, then gaining popularity across New England, to now being rum being produced and enjoyed all around the world.
What makes rum different to other spirits is that it is fermented from a giant grass plant that is known as sugar cane. Rum can be produced from sugarcane in a variety of different ways, whether that be directly from the plant itself, harvesting the sugarcane juice, or from a molasses, which is a thick, dark, syrupy byproduct produced during the refining of sugar. Thanks to this, rum has a deep, roasted, sweet flavour.
For good rum production, the molasses should have at least 52% sugar, which for a rum distillery is sometimes difficult to obtain, because a good sugar refinery would produce a bad molasses, as they would have refined out as much sugar from the juices as possible.
Rum really got its start due to a waste problem. In the 1700’s, sugar farmers in the Caribbean were facing an industrial waste problem because as they were boiling their sugar cane juice, then leaving that thick syrup in clay pots to cure, a thick liquid would seep out of the pots. That thick liquid was the molasses, and while a lot of the workers would eat the molasses, there was still an overwhelming amount of excess.
Luckily however, at some point one of the planters figured out a use for it, and that was mixing with the skimmed top of the cane juice and then fermenting it. That gave a very general base for distilling and started being used as a tool for trade as well as something drinkable. At the time it also was also rumoured to be known as “kill devil” as it had very strong effects but a quite undesirable taste. But this kill devil created the base for what we know as rum today.
Rum can be distilled in two different stills, which are column stills or pot stills. Column stills being the most recent of the processes, are generally used for larger production and consistent quality control. Pot stills are the original ways of distilling and are used more for time and for more flexibility as you distil, but do produce less product, which ends up being perfect for small batch craft distilleries.
Rum comes in multiple different varieties, with the most popular being dark rum, white rum, and spiced rum.
Dark rum is simply a term to describe rum that is not light. It has the richest flavour profiles of all rum and is very often aged in charred oak whiskey barrels. As well as adding a nice sweet flavour to cocktails, dark rums are also the best for sipping.
White rum has a much lighter flavour and a more mild body than any dark rums. They are often aged for a year in stainless steel tanks and then filtered to remove the colour and also to give it that lighter body. These are best used for cocktails that don’t require a strong rum flavour.
Spiced rum, or flavoured rum, became more popular in the 20th century and is all about adding spices and aromatics during the distilling process. Whilst spiced rum is used for cocktails, it is also famously known for being added into fruit cakes and various festive desserts.
There are also a handful of other types of rum, like gold rum, which is aged in oak barrels but not nearly as long as dark rum, or royal navy rum, also known as overproof rum, which is rum that has an alcohol percentage of 50-60% or above.