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7 Rum types – Rum Colors and taste difference

7 Rum types - Rum Colors and taste difference

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How different rums are made

Rum is arguably one of the most varied, diverse and exciting spirits, made in many different parts of the world, each with their own approach to distilling and ageing their products. 

At each step of the process, the choices these rum producers make have an impact on the final flavor and style of their finished spirit. There’s the raw material – sugar or molasses – to begin with, followed by the type of still and method of distillation, all the way to the way a rum is aged, and what is added to it. 

As a result of all of this choice, as well as generations of tradition that inform these choices, rum offers near-endless variety. There’s a type of rum for every occasion, and every cocktail.

Types of Rums

Dark Rums - Color, flavour and origins

Dark rums are distinctive, not only in their colour, but in their bold flavors too. As a result they have very particular uses when it comes to cocktails too.

How to distinguish dark rums

As the name suggests, dark rums are darker in color than golden rums, and generally have deeper flavour notes too. These deeper hues and flavors are obtained either by longer ageing in heavily-charred barrels, the addition of molasses or caramel, or a combination of the two. 

This distinctive style is perfect for adding punchy flavors to certain cocktails – a rum punch, for example. There are a few classic rum cocktails that specifically call for dark rum, including the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, the Hurricane and the Painkiller.

What does dark rum taste like?

Oak ageing in heavily charred barrels imparts a distinctive flavor to dark rum, with deep, spicy notes as well as vanilla and caramel. The addition of molasses and/or caramel not only adds some sweetness, not to mention a rich, deep color, but also flavor notes of their own – dark and sweet with a touch of bitterness.

Where is dark rum produced?

Jamaica is well known for its dark rums, as well as Haiti and Martinique. Other rum producing countries such as the Bahamas and Mexico also produce dark rums of their own

Light Rums - Color, flavour and origins

One of the most common types of rum, light rums are one of the most versatile rum styles, able to produce a wide variety of drinks. They’re the spirit used to make some of rum’s most famous classic cocktails such as the Mojito.

How to distinguish light rums

Light rums are usually the lightest types of rum, not only in color but in flavor too. With many other spirits, a clear appearance usually indicates that it hasn’t been barrel aged, but many light rums have in fact spent time in oak. These are charcoal filtered to remove the color, while keeping many of the flavor characteristics from the oak.

What does light rum taste like?

There’s a variety of flavors associated with light rums, but these tend to stay away from the deeper notes of spice and molasses in dark rums, and rather feature lighter sweetness, like icing sugar, combined with citrus and vanilla, and sometimes accompanied by green, grassy flavors from the sugarcane. Overall, the flavours of light rum are, as the name suggests, generally very light.

Where is light rum produced?

Puerto Rico is a major producer of white or light rums, likely the biggest in the world. That said, most rum producers will have a light rum in their range.

Gold Rums - Color, flavour and origins

Time spent in oak imparts flavor and color to rum. These gold rums, therefore, offer a wide variety of flavor profiles, as there are so many different approaches to oak ageing. Type of oak, length of time spent in barrel, climatic conditions… these all have an impact on how a spirit will gain flavor and color from oak. As a result, this is arguably one of the most interesting and varied types of rum.

How to distinguish gold rums

Gold rums are characterised by their distinctive color, obtained from time in oak, and sometimes from the addition of caramel too. This results in a distinctive flavor profile too, with the base spirit contributing notes similar to white rum, but with the addition of vanilla, caramel, spice and more from the barrel.

What does gold rum taste like?

Much of the flavor of golden rum comes from its time in oak barrels. The impact from the barrel can vary significantly, but usually oak not only provides woody notes, but caramel, vanilla and spicy notes too. When caramel is added, this, too, provides sweet notes.

How is gold rum produced?

Gold rum is produced by ageing rum in oak barrels, allowing the oak to impart its flavor characteristics on the spirit. The impact that oak has on a spirit can vary widely based on various factors, but when it comes to rum, the tropical climate of so many rum producing countries is perhaps the biggest. The hot temperatures mean that the impact of the oak is far greater.

Premium Rums - Color, flavour and origins

A growing section of rum production in recent years, premium rums are specifically created to be sipped neat. These are therefore made carefully using top-end production methods, and aged in quality barrels, sometimes for extended periods of time.

What are considered premium rums?

When a rum has been created to contain flavors that don’t need to be masked by mixers, are carefully aged, and usually don’t have any additives like caramel or any other flavoring, it’s considered a premium rum.

Premium rums made using the Solera System

One of the characteristic ways of ageing premium rums is using the solera system originally used in Spain for its sherries and brandies. This traditional method involves a criadera, or multiple levels of barrels. Unaged rum is filled into the top row, and finished rum is taken from the bottom row for bottling. When rum is removed from the lowest level, rum from the level above it is used to top it up, and so on. 

The result is exquisitely and carefully aged rum that’s kept consistent in a way that other ageing methods can’t achieve. It also means that there’s a tiny bit of the very first rum, and every rum since then, in every single bottle.

Spiced Rums - Color, flavour and origins

Spiced rums, as the name suggests, are rums that have certain spices added, and often some sweetness added. A new generation of upmarket spiced rums, without any sweetness, are starting to emerge recently too.

What are spiced rums?

After distillation, and sometimes some ageing in oak, spices are added to rum to enhance its already spicy flavors. In the majority of spiced rums, sweetness is added too. This results in a fun and approachable spirit that is perfect for mixing, usually with cola.

More grown up, drier spiced rums with no sugar added are starting to emerge, offering even more variety and interest when it comes to cocktails, and maybe even for sipping neat.

common used spiced in Spice rums

There are a number of common spices that are almost always used to produce spiced rum, such as vanilla, cinnamon, anise and cloves, although adventurous producers have been known to experiment far more widely when creating this rum style.

Flavoured Rums - Color, flavour and origins

In what could be seen as an extension of spiced rum, some producers use a variety of other botanicals to create an array of flavors.

How are flavoured rums made?

Flavored rums can be made in a variety of ways, but usually they’re created by macerating ingredients in an aged or unaged rum. These macerations contribute not only flavor, but color too.

It’s possible to flavor rum in the same way as gin, by redistilling after maceration.

Of course, some flavored rums are simply made by adding flavorings.

Popular flavours in flavoured rum

There is a long history of pineapple rum being produced, while other flavors include banana, coconut and other tropical fruits. Lime is another popular fruit flavor. In addition, flavors such as coffee and chocolate are common too.

Flavoured rum ABV

Many flavored rums are bottled at lower ABVs than the standard 40%. In some parts of the world, definitions of spirits mean that these aren’t technically rums, but rather classed as “spirit drinks”.

Overproof Rums - Color, flavour and origins

Overproof rums, as the name suggests, are rums bottled at significantly higher alcohol strengths than other rums, which gives them certain specific uses.

What are considered Overproof rums

Rums that are significantly higher than the standard 40% are known as overproof rums. These can be as high as 80%, or even higher. Jamaica is well known for its overproof rums, where these are the most popular styles, but they’re produced elsewhere too. Navy styles of rum are often bottled at higher ABVs.

Overproof rums taste difference

Unsurprisingly, overproof rums are big, bold and sometimes fiery, and also very intense in flavor. This makes them very useful ingredients in punches and cocktails, where just a small amount can go a long way.

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