Dan’s Rum Guide
In America, rum takes a back seat to whiskey. This has been the case since the founding of the country. France backed the 13 colonies in the Revolutionary War, in part, so that it could sell rum produced in French colonies on the American market without the taxes imposed by the British. However, the newly-minted United States eschewed rum, due in large part to its association with the British colonial powers, in favor of domestically-produced whiskey. Appreciating a fine Bourbon or an aged Scotch has a certain panache. In the public eye, rum doesn’t fair as well. There are lots of reasons for this:
- Most people encounter lackluster varieties of rum first and then don’t move on.
- Captain Morgan introduced spiced rum to the American market in the 80s. It, and commercially available spiced rum in general, is an attempt to upsell mediocre rum.
- Malibu Coconut Rum is extremely sweet and heavily flavored. This is also an attempt to make mediocre rum more palatable. That being said, it is delicious when mixed with root beer. Stay classy.
- There is a chicken-and-egg problem with rum selections at bars. Without demand, there is no reason for bars—outside of specialized venues—to stock top-shelf rum. This lack of supply keeps consumers in the dark about what is possible.
- Rum is inexorably associated with pirates in the public eye. Depending on who you ask, Johnny Depp either made this slightly better or much worse. This imagery does not impart any reason to seek out quality rum.
- Despite massive consolidation in the international beverage industry, most rum producers simply do not have the marketing dollars and brand cachet to compete for attention. Bacardi is a notable exception but they only produce column still rums. See Classifying Rum for why this is limiting.
My interest in rum started when I got swept up in the Tiki revival of the aughts. Rum is a delicious, underappreciated beverage. It is also a good value—an equivalent whiskey can cost almost twice a much. This is changing as rum gains popularity. The most visable difference in the last 5 years is the emergence of many mid-tier blended rums packaged in fancy bottles and sold at top-shelf prices.
What’s in a Name?
Rum is part of a larger family of spirits that are derived from sugar cane:
- Rum: spirit made from molasses & molasses byproducts, originally produced by European colonies in the Caribbean.
- Rhum: alternate spelling of rum. The alternate spelling may, or may not, indicate an agricole style rum.
- Rhum Agricole: spirit distilled from sugar cane juice instead of molasses & molasses byproducts. It originated in former French colonies.
- Cachaça: A Brazilian spirit distilled from cane juice, similar to rhum agricole, using process developed by the Portuguese in 1532, thus predating rum production in the Caribbean.
Although it is now produced in countries all over the world, modern rum originated in the Caribbean. But the locale is only one of the aspects of what determines the flavor of a rum. Dimensions of Rum explores the 6 ways rums are differentiated.
Dimensions of Rum
An explanation of the differences in rum
Building a taxonomy
Building your rum cabinet
Rum-based cocktails for easy entertaining
Beginner Tiki Drinks
Easy tiki drinks to get you started