Rum, Rhum, Ron
Rum, Ron or Rhum is basically any name given to a spirit which is distilled from sugar and/or molasses. While many might think its origins are from the Caribbean, pirates and sailors, the fact is, rum was being produced in New England in the Northeastern United States prior. Eventually all the distilleries were moved south to the Caribbean, simply because that is where all the sugar was, and of course cheap slave labor made it far more economical and practical. Now rum is synonymous with the Caribbean and vice verse.
Rum is where we get the word “proof” from. If you poured some on to gunpowder and it ignited, it was “proofed” (proven to be pure). If not, it was was probably under 40% alcohol. Overproof rum is anything above 100 proof or 50% alcohol such as Bacardi 151, or Plantation Overproof. There are several, but those are the most common you might find on the shelf in liquor stores.
Rum is a bit different from other spirits simply because its not made of grain, but sugar, or the molasses that were once thrown away. It is a sweeter spirit, but a more complex one. The “Angel Share” (the part of the spirit which evaporates) is almost double. So 10% of every barrel will evaporate and disappear, as opposed to 7% of whiskey and less than 5% of vodka.
The best rum in the world is basically regarded as Cuban, just like its cigars. There is something about the climate of Cuba which has the perfect amount of sun, rainfall,soil and temperature to produce the finest sugar, tobacco, citrus and rum. La Havana is probably the best known brand. The Cuban Government and Bacardi are in legal battles over the name. Once the communists took over Cuba, many cigar and rum producers fled while keeping their brand name. This is why you will often see the same brand name such as Bacardi Rum or Partagas cigars produced in two different countries. While in 2015 US President Obama lifted a lot of trade embargos on Cuba, their products are still very hard to find legally.
While you might not see a lot of it, Venezuelan rum is actually even better than Cuban rum. Again, due to political restraints and embargo, you won’t find a lot of it, but Venezuelan rum is legal for trade, but not well marketed here in the USA. Personally, Diplomatico Reserva is far better than any of the Cuban brands I have ever tasted. It sips more like a cognac or brandy rather than a light or gold rum which is great mixed.
And here is the next issue, rums that are silver or white (clear) are very different from those that are aged like gold, or dark, which are nearly black, thick and full with flavor. The of course you have the spiced rums. These are generally lower in proof but have a great taste to them if you like spices. Other flavored rums such as coconut, orange, etc, are simply mixing rums and I really don’t give them any regard in the realm of “real” rum.
Here are my personal rankings of rum, with no scientific ratings other than my preference:
- Diplomatico Reserva (Venezuela)
- La Havana Anejo Especial (Cuba)
- Neptune Gold
- Santa Teresa Black (Venezuela)
- La Havana Anejo (Cuba)
- Banks 7 Gold
- Banks 5 Silver
- Appleton Signature Blend
- El Dorado
- Meyer’s Special Dark
This is an ongoing list and I will add to it as time goes on and I have the opportunity to taste the growing number of rum brands becoming available quite often.