Exploring the Different Kinds of Rum

What do Mary Poppins, Martha Washington, and Anne Bonny all have in common? It’s not terribly bad fashion sense, if that’s what you’re thinking. According to the Beach Reporter, it’s the fact that all three had a taste for rum. Before you gasp in horror, hear us out.

Mary Poppins clearly stated in the 1964 film that she took a spoonful of rum punch as her daily medicine. She allegedly followed it with a cinnamon chaser. Former First Lady Martha Washington is well known to have served rum to guests of her husband. And, as for Anne Bonny, what else needs to be said other than the fact that she is one of the most famous female Caribbean pirates?

The Historical Importance of Rum

To understand the different kinds of rums, a short history of the drink is necessary. Rum is a liquor distilled from sugarcane juice or molasses. Its history dates back to the Caribbean and the 17th century. Although Asian cultures have been drinking sugarcane juice for centuries, it was the plantation slaves in the Caribbean that figured out how to distill it.

By the mid-1600s, rum had taken over the Caribbean as the alcoholic beverage of choice. It quickly made its way to North America via trade routes, and from there it went to Europe and beyond. That’s when we began to see different varieties of the drink being produced.

It should be noted that rum was considered currency for quite a while in colonial America. We were also largely responsible for popularizing molasses as the basis for the mash. It was a lot easier to produce molasses than it was to get enough sugarcane from America’s limited agricultural production.

Different Types of Rum

As luck would have it, there are now many different kinds of rums with characteristics tied to age, distillation methods, and various ingredients that might be added. Think of rum like a donut. Donut varieties may look and taste a little different, but they’re all good in their own way.

The three most common types of rum are known as light, amber, and dark. Guess how they got their names? If you guessed color, you win the prize. You can get back to us on that later.

Moving on, light rum has no color and a very non-intimidating flavor. It is for those who prefer drinks that are tasty but that won’t reach out and slap you in the face. Light rum has the shortest aging time and is repeatedly distilled to remove as many impurities possible.

The most common amber rums have the color of a fairly weak coffee. Some would say its flavor is about as appetizing as well. Both the color and flavor come from the wood casks in which the rum is aged, so the color can vary from a light gold to a rich amber.

Dark rum is for the drinker who doesn’t mind a somewhat offensive odor and taste. It is the longest aged of the rums, thus it’s nearly black color. Dark rum is also the most popular choice for the rum-based cocktails served by the mixologist down at your local watering hole.

Other Types of Rum

Beyond the three main types of rum you can also choose from spiced, flavored, overproofed, and premium rums. Rum Wisdom does a great job outlining all of them in a way that’s easy to understand; even if you’re reading after you have a couple of cocktails. Let’s talk about one in particular.

Overproof rum is the rum of big boys. Where most others have an alcohol content of about 40%, overproof clocks in at 75% or greater. Talk about slapping you in the face! Overproof rum will not only do that, it will curl your toes, set your throat on fire, and give you a wedgie worse than what you got in sixth grade gym class. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Special Considerations

The Rum Club lists a couple of special rums on its website, including something known as cachaca. This rum is special inasmuch as it is made from sugarcane juice rather than molasses. For a rum product distilled from sugarcane juice to be considered legitimate, it must be distilled in a country that produces sugarcane.

In other words, you can’t harvest sugarcane, ship it to the Ukraine, and then use it to make legitimate cachaca. Once that sugarcane leaves its country of origin, rum producers are out of luck. Of course, since there are no official regulations in place, this is all up to the honor system. Any distillery could claim just about anything and no one would be the wiser.

So there you have it. We hope you enjoyed our brief walk through the different types of rums. Suffice it to say that this sweet, tasty, distilled spirit is popular all over the world. And the best part is you don’t need to be a pirate to enjoy it. Although that does help.