The Story of Rum

The history, makings, and best bottles of rum

There is a lot of questioning as to where exactly rum was “invented” originally. Because so many different countries produce rum, it has been difficult to pinpoint, but it is known that the production of sugarcane spirits was taking place in South America by Europeans before sugar was the cash crop of the Caribbean. After that came to be, the production of rum took place in several different countries around the globe.

Rum is the product of sugarcane after it is fermented and distilled. The process starts with the sugarcane, which is first harvested by hand, then transported to a mill where it is crushed by a machine, which extracts the juice from the sugar.

After the juice has been extracted, there are three different possibilities for production. First is to ferment and distill the juice right away, as it is done in Martinique and Guadalupe. This produces a rum that preserves the characteristics of the cane. Second is to cook down the sugarcane juice into a syrup that will then be fermented and distilled. The third possibility is to process the juice into molasses and crystallized sugar. The sugar is sold as a sweetening product and the molasses goes to a distillery to be fermented and distilled into rum. This process is the most common one for making rum.

Once the rum is distilled, there are a variety of ways to alter the product. Some rums are bottled and sold fresh from the still. A lot of rums are aged (rum anejo), which alters the character of the spirit. Some rums are infused with herbs, fruits and spices or different juices to produce a flavored rum. With all of the possibilities and variations that can take place, from the cane itself to the production after it has been distilled, rum is the most diverse of all the distilled spirits.

Below are my tastings notes on a few rums that I enjoy. Try them for yourself and let us know what you think!

Flor de Cana 7 Year Aged: Light golden color. On the nose, sharp but very full-bodied. Notes of cocoa and peaches. Light and floral on the palate. Raspberries, strawberries, hints of dark chocolate. Very crisp finish.

Ron Zacapa Gran Reserva: Deep brown color, amber. Spicy on the nose but very smooth. Oatmeal, wheat. Sweet and slightly creamy going down. Notes of vanilla, cinnamon and clove.

Brugal Extra Dry: White rum, very alcohol forward on the nose. Sharp with a bit of a kick, but with afternotes of vanilla. Slightly bland on the palate but creamy on the back of the throat. Smooth, slightly grassy, with a hint of cocoa at the end.

— Sara Kay, The Spir.it