Behind the Label: Rum (Dark and White)

The word ‘rum’ is derived from the British word ‘rumbullion’, which means ‘a great tumult’, and is thought to have been adopted by English settlers in Barbados, used to describe the Caribbean liquor.

One of the oldest spirits in the world, rum was first distilled in this island region following European colonisation and the introduction of sugar cane, resulting in a thriving sugar industry. This resulted in an excess of molasses, which after some experimentation, was fermented and distilled into the drink we know today. The industry was made possible by the free labour of slaves, and it is thought that it is the enslaved population that first discovered the alcoholic beverage.

Rum is produced from molasses or the juice and syrup from sugar cane. These starting ingredients are combined with water and the natural yeast, to create a beer-like drink with a low alcohol percentage. This is then distilled to create rum, usually with the same equipment used to make other spirits: pot stills, producing a heavier rum, or continuous stills, leaving a lighter rum.

Is that the difference between dark and white rums? Well, it’s actually in the ageing where a greater distinction is created. White rums are aged in stainless steel barrels, preserving the clearness of the original light rum, while dark rums are cask aged. You’ll typically find dark rums in areas with French or English histories, while white rums are typically rooted in Spanish colonies.

The best way to drink rum, just like with whisky/ey, is with a splash or water of ice or neat (in a small glass, warmed between your hands). It’s also found on cocktail menus in classics like the Mai Tai, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pińa Colada and Mojito.