The Varieties of Rum

Some people think that rum comes in four varieties called White (Silver), Amber, Dark, and Spiced.  To real rum aficionados that's akin to saying cars come in four varieties: Gasoline, gaseous fuel, electric, and diesel. It doesn't even scratch the surface of the complexities of rums.  There are a range of preparation techniques and styles that differentiates all the different kinds of rum. There are single-estate rums, blended rums, agricoles, demeraras, soleras, and the black-straps (molasses).

Agricoles are made just with sugar cane juice, aged in oak barrels from France, on the Scottish island of Islay. The source of the cane strongly affects the tasting notes of the final product because of mineral content in the soil where it grew, weather, and other local variations. Agricoles are noted for their very light finish, with a mouth feel that is "thin" (rather than "thick & luxurious"), such as that found in Bruichladdich Renegade Rum.

Demeraras are made from cane grown exclusively in Guyana (formerly named Demerara). Demerara sugar is large and crystalline, and essentially raw. Store-bought brown sugar is merely white sugar with a bit of molasses added.

Demerara is rendered from the first crystallization of cane juice. It doesn't have the heavy taste of molasses, but rather a light, naturally occurring caramel flavor and it retains all the natural minerals.

Black Strap (Molasses) rum was by far the easiest to produce back in the mid-1600s and so it became the "tot" of British navy fame. The daily ration of rum for Sailors ran continuously from 1655 to 1970 for the BRN. If you can still obtain a bottle of this rare, discontinued rum, it will set you back at least $1,000. There are less considerably less expensive alternatives in molasses-based rums.

Soleras (which in Spanish means "on the ground") refers to a blending method where the consistency of long-aged rums is maintained by blending rums that have been aged for decades with younger rums. In this way the flavor remains consistent for a brand.

In a rack of barrels the oldest rums are at the bottom ("on the ground") and they get progressively younger for each additional level of the rack. 20-year-old rum blended with 10-year-old rum renders an average age of 15 years.

The Takeaway

Whether it's Owney's Rum from Brooklyn, New York, brewed in the Prohibition Style that pleases your palate, or the 200 year old tradition of Screech, made up in Newfoundland, Canada, it makes no difference. It may cost $19 per bottle or hundreds—again, it doesn't matter.

Every single rum is different and has something distinct to recommend it. It may not be for you, but somebody labored over its creation; somebody thinks it needs to exist. And every rum is enjoyed by someone. There is a panoply of pleasure out there just waiting for you to come and explore. Do it…


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