Cuba Excursions and Havana Discovery Tours offer Cuban rum tours to the Museo del Ron in Havana at Calle San
Pedro No. 262 e/ Sol y Muralla where you can sample a variety of Havana Club rums, learn how to make Cuban rum
drinks, You can also tour the Floridita and Bodeguita del Medio which are the two most famous bars in all of
There is also a "museo del ron" in Santiago de Cuba at Calle Bartolomé Masó No. 358 e/ Pío Rosado y
Description and History of Rum
Rum is a distilled beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses and sugarcane juice by a process of
fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak and other casks. While
there are rum producers in places such as Australia, India, Reunion Island, and elsewhere around the world, the
majority of rum production occurs in and around the Caribbean and along the Demerara river in South America. Some
major rum brands include Bacardi, Brugal, Captain Morgan's, Appleton Estate, Havana Club, Stroh, Matusalem, Mount
Gay, Bundaberg, Myers, Malibu Rum, Gosling's, Cruzan, Pusser's, Flor de Caña, Don Q, Ron Abuelo, and Ron Zacapa
Centenario. Prior to Alcohol Prohibition, many of the finest rums were once produced in New England.
Rum is produced in a variety of styles. Light rums are commonly used in mixed drinks, while golden and dark rums
are appropriate for use in cooking as well as cocktails. Premium brands of rum are also available that are made to
be consumed neat or on the rocks.
Rum plays a part in the culture of most islands of the West Indies, and has famous associations with the British
Royal Navy and piracy. Rum has also served as a popular medium of exchange that helped to promote slavery along
with providing economic instigation for Australia's Rum Rebellion and the American Revolution.
The origin of the word rum is unclear. A common claim is that the name was derived from rumbullion meaning "a
great tumult or uproar". Another claim is the name is from the large drinking glasses used by Dutch seamen known as
rummers, from the Dutch word roemer, a drinking glass. Other options include contractions of the words saccharum,
Latin for sugar, or arôme, French for aroma. Regardless of the original source, the name had come into common use
by May 1657 when the General Court of Massachusetts made illegal the sale of strong liquor "whether knowne by the
name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc., etc."
In current usage, the name used for a rum is often based on the rum's place of origin. For rums from
Spanish-speaking locales the word ron is used. A ron añejo indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is
often used for premium products. Rhum is the term used for rums from French-speaking locales, while rhum vieux is
an aged French rum that meets several other requirements.
Some of the many other names for rum are Rumbullion, Rumbustion, Barbados water, Rumscullion, Devil's Death (or
"Kill-Devill"), Nelson's Blood, and Rumbo. A version of rum from Newfoundland is referred to by the name Screech
(see Newfoundland Screech), while some low-grade West Indies rums are called tafia.
Varieties of Rum
Until the second half of the 19th century all rums were heavy or dark rums that were considered
appropriate for the working poor, unlike the refined double-distilled spirits of Europe. In order to expand the
market for rum, the Spanish Royal Development Board offered a prize to anyone who could improve the rum making
process. This resulted in many refinements in the process which greatly improved the quality of rum. One of the
most important figures in this development process was Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, who moved from Spain to Santiago
de Cuba in 1843. Don Facundo's experiments with distillation techniques, charcoal filtering, cultivating of
specialized yeast strains, and aging with American oak casks helped to produce a smoother and mellower drink
typical of modern light rums. It was with this new rum that Don Facundo founded Bacardi y Compañia in 1862.
Dividing rum into meaningful groupings is complicated by the fact that there is no single standard
for what constitutes rum. Instead rum is defined by the varying rules and laws of the nations that produce the
spirit. The differences in definitions include issues such as spirit proof, minimum aging, and even naming
Examples of the differences in proof is Colombia, requiring their rum possess a minimum alcohol
content of 50 ABV, while Chile and Venezuela require only a minimum of 40 ABV. Mexico requires rum be aged a
minimum of 8 months, the Dominican Republic and Panama requires one year, and Venezuela requires two years. Naming
standards also vary, with Argentina defining rums as white, gold, light, and extra light. Barbados uses the terms
white, overproof, and matured, while the United States defines rum, rum liqueur, and flavored rum. Panama uses
"claro", "oscuro" and "añejo".
Despite these differences in standards and nomenclature, the following divisions are provided to
help show the wide variety of rums that are produced.
Within the Caribbean, each island or production area has a unique style. These styles can be
grouped by the language that is traditionally spoken.
Grades of Rum
The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location that a rum was produced.
Despite these variations the following terms are frequently used to describe various types of rum:
* Light Rums, also referred to as light, silver, and white rums. In general, light rum has very
little flavor aside from a general sweetness, and serves accordingly as a base for cocktails. Light rums are
sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color.
* Gold Rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums which are generally aged. The rum can
obtain its flavor through addition of spices and caramel/color (a variation often sold as Spiced Rum), but
historically gains its darker color from aging in wooden casks (typically oak).
* Dark Rum, also known as black rum, classes as a grade darker than gold rum. It is generally aged
longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavor than either light or gold rum, and hints of
spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. It is used to provide substance in rum
drinks, as well as color. In addition to uses in mixed drinks, dark rum is the type of rum most commonly used in
cooking. It was this type of rum immortalized in the song 'The Old Black Rum' by the Newfoundland folk group Great
* Flavored Rum: Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums which they have infused with flavors of
fruits such as mango, orange, citrus, coconut, and limke which is a lime rum found in Sweden. These serve to flavor
similarly themed tropical drinks which generally comprise less than 40% alcohol.
* Overproof Rum is rum which is much higher than the standard 40% alcohol. Most of these rums bear
greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur commonly.
* Premium Rum: As with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists for
premium and super-premium spirits. These are generally boutique brands which sell very aged and carefully produced
rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the
addition of other ingredients.
Unlike some other spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, rum has no defined production methods.
Instead, rum production is based on traditional styles that vary between locations and distillers.
Most rum produced is made from molasses. Within the Caribbean, much of this molasses is from
Brazil. A notable exception is the French-speaking islands where sugarcane juice is the preferred base
To the base ingredient yeast, and potentially water, are added to start fermentation. While some
rum producers allow wild yeast to perform the fermentation, most use specific strains of yeast to help provide a
consistent taste and predictable fermentation time. Dunder, the yeast-rich foam from previous fermentations, is the
traditional yeast source in Jamaica. “The yeast employed will determine the final taste and aroma profile," says
Jamaican master blender Joy Spence. Distillers that make lighter rums, such as Bacardi, prefer to use
faster-working yeasts. Use of slower-working yeasts causes more esters to accumulate during fermentation, allowing
for a fuller-tasting rum.
As with all other aspects of rum production, there is no standard method used for distillation.
While some producers work in batches using pot stills, most rum production is done using column still distillation.
Pot still output contains more congeners than the output from column stills and thus produces a fuller-tasting
Aging of Rum
Many countries require that rum be aged for at least one year. This aging is commonly performed in
used bourbon casks, but may also be performed in stainless steel tanks or other types of wooden casks. Due to the
tropical climate common to most rum-producing areas, rum matures at a much faster rate than is typical for Scotch
or Cognac. An indication of this faster rate is the angel's share, or amount of product lost to evaporation. While
products aged in France or Scotland see about 2% loss each year, rum producers may see as much as 10%.
After aging, rum is normally blended to ensure a consistent flavor. As part of this blending
process, light rums may be filtered to remove any color gained during aging. For darker rums, caramel may be added
to the rum to adjust the color of the final product.