glass of rum cocktail with lime on wooden table

What Is Rum Made From? Your Full Guide

Rum is a liquor made from sugar cane, and the history of rum as we know it today dates back to the 1650s, though early mentions of rum-like liquors and spirits are mentioned across earlier decades. This sugar cane liquor has both light and dark forms, and different types of rum are intended for use in cocktails or enjoyed neat.

Our article gives you an overview of rum, including what rum is made from, how it’s made, and other important facts you need to know about this liquor. With our guide, you can learn more about this classic spirit and determine if rum is the next liquor you want to add to your collection.

Rum: The Main Facts

Rum traces its origins back to the Caribbean, around the 17th century. This liquor has long been associated with pirates and the Triangle Trade taking place during this time period, and the methods for cultivating sugar cane and creating rum most likely made their way to the Caribbean from Brazil.

Today, there are a few different varieties of rum produced in regions where sugar cane is typically grown. Light, dark, and spiced rums are the most popular, and each of these varieties has a slightly different flavor profile. Light and white rums appear clear or translucent, while dark rums can appear in shades of gold, as can spiced rums.

Rum is typically perceived as a classic drink, and it makes appearances in mixed drunks like the rum and coke or the dark and stormy in addition to being used in cocktails or enjoyed served over ice. In general, rum tends to taste earthy, with a hint of sweetness and oakiness.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Rum?

The alcoholic content of rum tends to vary due to different brands and varieties, though most rums will be 80-proof and have an ABV of 40%. Some rums are considered ‘overproof’ rums, meaning that they have a higher alcoholic content. These versions of rum range between 115 and 151 proof, making their ABV anywhere between 57.5% and 75.5%.

What Is Rum Made From?

Rum is created from sugar cane, and this product features sugar cane exclusively, except for the versions of rum that have been infused with spices to create spice rum. There are a few different types of rum, and they all start with a sugar cane base, though there are different distillation and creation methods that lead to a wide range of rum types.

Common varieties of rum include:

  • Dark rums are crafted from caramelized sugar or the molasses that comes from sugar cane. These appear brown, black, or red in color, and they are aged in charred barrels.
  • Gold rums, also called amber rums, are usually aged, though not as long as dark rums. These rums are a middle ground between light and dark rums.
  • Light rums, often referred to as white or silver rum, are generally sweet without too much of a bold-bodied flavor. They are very popular in mixed drinks, such as the Mojito.
  • Flavored rums are typically crafted from a lighter rum and infused with fruits like mango, orange, pineapple, or coconut after the fermentation and distillation process.
  • Spiced rums are crafted from gold rums and infused with spices like cinnamon, pepper, and cloves in addition to caramel.
  • Overproof rums, which have very high proofs ranging between 115 and up to 160 proof. They are typically used in mixed drinks.

What Is the Primary Ingredient of Rum?

The primary ingredient of rum is sugar cane in any of its forms, including sugar cane juice, white and brown cane sugar, cane syrup, and molasses. Depending on the type of rum being created, any of these sugar cane varieties may be used in the fermentation and distillation process to craft the rum. Some types of rum will feature additional ingredients such as infusions, such as caramel, fruits, and spices.

How Is Rum Made?

Rum is made by harvesting sugar cane, which is typically harvested by hand and with the help of a machete. The sugar cane is then transported to a mill where it is crushed in order to extract the juice. Once the juice of the sugar cane is collected, there are three possible steps to be taken, depending on the distillers’ preferences and the types of flavors they are trying to craft in a rum.

The sugar cane juice can be:

  1. Fermented and distilled, with the help of wild yeast, to create a natural rum. This is the simplest and most direct way to craft a rum.
  2. Cooked down and concentrated into sugar cane syrup. The syrup can then be fermented and distilled, and this method is perfect for ensuring sugar cane syrup can be used for year-round fermentation and not just during the harvesting period.
  3. Processed in order to separate the juice into crystallized sugar and molasses. The molasses is used by distilleries to make rum, and sugar is then sold. The majority of today’s rums are crafted with molasses.

After the sugar cane has been fermented in one of the above ways, it is distilled. This process uses a sealed vessel heated to around 175 degrees Fahrenheit. The fermented sugar cane is placed inside, and the heat allows the alcohol to evaporate from the liquid before being collected to create the raw spirit.

The vessel that distillation is done in does have a significant impact on the rum’s flavor, with pot-stills producing heavier rums and column-stills producing lighter rums. Upon completion of the distillation process, the distillery may bottle the rum, age it in a barrel, or infuse the rum with spices and fruit to create a desired set of flavors.

How Is Rum Distilled or Filtered?

Rum is distilled, something that is done by heating up the fermented liquid, separating the alcohol from the rest of the liquid, and crafting it as its own spirit. Once distillation is completed, the rum is aged, depending on the type of rum being created, and infusions are added to the liquor.

Can You Make Rum Yourself?

It is possible to make rum yourself at home, though this can be time-consuming and involve buying specialized equipment. Out of all of the liquors, rum is one of the easiest to craft at home because it almost exclusively features sugar cane as its base ingredient. That being said, crafting your own rum at home might be considered illegal by your state, and if it is legal, it can be a trial-and-error process to craft a drinkable product.

Always check local laws and consult reliable rum recipes if you are considering making your own rum, though the easiest and safest way to enjoy rum might be to purchase your favorite bottle from the local liquor store or from us here at Speakeasy.

Ready for Refreshing Rum

friends toasting glasses of rum cocktail
Rum is a classic liquor with a long history of production, and there are many different types of rum around today that allow individuals to taste a wide range of rum flavors. Whether you are enjoying your rum in a cocktail or sipping it neat, there is sure to be a type of rum out there perfect for you.
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