So many different rums, they all taste great, but why the different names? Here's an explanation from us here at The Summerton Club.
These names highlight the colonial influence on rum production, with the colonising nation imposing its production methods and ensuring the resulting flavour profile was to their liking.
The French have Rhum or Rhum Agricole, which is made from pure sugarcane juice. Fresh sugarcanes are pressed to release their juice, which must be fermented within 24 hours to prevent wild yeasts starting the process naturally and impacting the flavour, before distillation. The result is aromatic, with fruity and floral notes and a hint of cane juice.
Due to the time-pressure on production, distillers must have direct access to both the sugarcane and a mill, meaning rhum has not spread significantly from its origins in the French Caribbean, therefore rhum only represents 2% of world production.
The British have Rum or Traditional Rum and Navy Rum, which is made from a byproduct of sugar-making process, molasses, a method originating from sugarcane plantation slaves in the Caribbean in the 17th century. The molasses is mixed with water, fermented and distilled creating a very aromatic spirit, with heavy, spiced notes.
Rum's association with the Navy started when the British fleet captured Jamaica in 1655, allowing the Navy to use the island's rum production as their sailor's daily ration of liquor. The rum ration was only abolished over three centuries later, in 1970, and ensured a consistency in flavour over time.
The Spanish have Ron, also made from molasses and similarly can be called Traditional Rum. Whilst produced in a similar way to rum, the Spanish influence on flavour has ensured that ron is more subtle, coming across lighter and smoother. Ron is the most widely consumed of the varieties, as it is commonly used on cocktails and its sweeter taste, often with hints of caramel, cocoa or coffee, make it the easiest entry-point for novices.
As molasses is easily stored and transported, rum and ron can spread to cooler climates where sugarcane can't grow, aiding rum/ron's spread across the world, from Austria to Japan, Canada to South Africa.
Some of you might be aware that the age statement varies across Rum, Rhum and Ron, we can come back to that another time.