Rum Styles – Rum Styles from around the world

Rum Styles - Different rum Styles and origins from around the world

Rum has a rich and varied history that’s tied to the history of various countries around the world. It’s a spirit that’s woven into the story of the colonisation of the Caribbean, for example. It is also inextricably linked with the navies of various nations. These events and institutions have had a direct impact on the flavor characteristics of rum made in these places.

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Different regions where rum is produced

While the very first origins of rum are lost in time, some think a form of it was produced as early as the 7th century. The rum that we know today, however, has its origins in the Caribbean.

It’s thought that slaves working on plantations in the colonised islands of the Caribbean discovered that they could create a spirit from molasses, the by-product of sugar production. One island that lays claim to being the first producer of rum is Barbados, with distilleries whose history goes back to the start of the 18th century.

Crucially, the countries that occupied each island had an influence on the rum produced there. While these islands changed hands over the years, each has a dominant influence from one of just a handful of imperial powers – Spain, England and France. This is generally reflected in the language still spoken in these countries.

It was the regions controlled by the English that first had real success with their rum production, and this early style is therefore the one associated with these countries, including Jamaica. This is characterised by fuller-bodied, pot-still rums.

The Spanish, meanwhile, didn’t allow its colonies to produce rum, as it competed with the country’s own brandy production – something that England didn’t have. When it did lift these restrictions, new trends and production techniques meant that the Spanish colonies made a lighter, softer style.

France’s colonies, such as Martinique, were producing rum throughout all of this time too, but in the early 1800s there was a move to reduce France’s reliance on sugarcane. This resulted in a surplus of cane, which distillers began to use directly, rather than the by-product molasses. This style of sugarcane juice rum, or rhum agricole, remains the dominant style in France’s former colonies.

Rum is most often associated with the Caribbean and the Americas. The country that produces the most rum, or at least produces the world’s biggest brand of rum, is a surprising one: the Philippines.

Spanish rum style - Characteristics of Spanish rum

List of countries that produce Spanish rum

Lighter, more approachable Spanish style rums, that derive more of their flavor from barrel ageing than from distillation, are produced in former Spanish colonies such as:

  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Puerto Rico
  • Cuba
  • Colombia

Spanish-style rums and the solera system

One of the methods of production that some distillers in the countries borrowed from Spanish producers of sherry and brandy is the solera system of barrel ageing. These traditional Spanish wines and spirits, and later rums aged using the solera system, benefit from this particular method.

The solera system in rum is the same as it is for sherry and brandy. A series of barrels, or criadera, is set up, in which new, unaged spirit is filled into the barrels at the top, and the finished rum is taken from the bottom barrel to be bottled. These barrels at the bottom are filled from the barrels above them, and so on, creating a continuous system of maturation that ensures consistency and complexity.

Spanish rum flavour

Spanish styles of rum tend to be softer, gentler and more approachable, taking their major characteristics from the barrel rather than the spirit, because the spirits tend to be more neutral, distilled in column stills.

Many former Spanish colonies produce a style of light rum that is first aged in barrel and then charcoal filtered to remove color. This trend began in the middle of the 20th century and remains popular today.

English Rum style - Characteristics of English rum

List of countries that produce English rum

The former colonies of the British empire tend to still produce rums that are rich with spirit character and high in flavor compounds, or esters. These countries include:

  • Jamaica
  • Guyana
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Barbados
  • Saint Lucia

English rum flavour

Commonly made using pot stills, but sometimes including lighter column-still spirits, English-style rums tend to be very flavorful, sometimes with challenging flavors, and distinctive molasses notes. These rums also tend to be darker than Spanish style rums.

French rum style - Characteristics of French rum

List of countries that produce French rum

Former French colonies such as:

  • Martinique
  • Haiti
  • Guadeloupe

 

retain a rum making tradition that dates back to the days when France was discouraging sugar production in its colonies, resulting in a surplus of sugar cane. Instead of using molasses, the by-product of sugar production, distillers began to use sugar cane juice to produce what is known as rhum agricole.

French rum flavour

The use of sugar cane juice instead of molasses makes French-style rums particularly distinctive, with overt grassy, vegetal notes one of their major defining characteristics.

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