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Rum & Cachaça

Key Takeaways:
  • Rum is a distilled alcoholic drink made from fermented sugarcane, molasses or sugarcane juice

  • They can be unaged (sometimes called white), aged (sometimes called gold), spiced (some spices include; cloves, anise, cinnamon, pepper etc.)

  • Rum is synonymous with the Caribbean and surrounding areas.

The first distillation of rum in the Caribbean took place on the sugarcane plantations there in the 17th century. Enslaved plantation workers discovered that molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic byproducts concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first modern rums.

Tradition suggests this type of rum first originated on the island of Nevis. A 1651 document from Barbados stated, "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Devil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor." However, in the decade of the 1620s, rum production was also recorded in Brazil and many historians believe that rum found its way to Barbados along with sugarcane and its cultivation methods from Brazil.

Rum is a distilled alcoholic drink, by fermenting and distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. The distillate, a clear liquid, is usually aged in oak barrels. Most rums are produced in the Caribbean, Latin America and other countries.

The variables that can differentiate one style from another include such obvious matters as the time in oak and the type of oak (or other woods, in the case of Brazilian cachaça), whether pot stills or continuous stills are employed, whether flavors or spices are added, and perhaps less obviously, whether molasses, cane syrup or the freshly extracted juice of the cane is used to create a fermentation.

Techniques and styles vary not only from country to country, but often within countries. Jamaica is known for dark and heavy rums. But in fact, the most popular in Jamaica is a white rum with a high proof, 124 degrees, called Wray & Nephew. In the rundown that follows, you'll note that the decision to use molasses, cane juice or syrup might be the most important factor in the style of the rum.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, rum was widely produced in New England, all from molasses imported from the Caribbean. Even today, much of the molasses that Caribbean and other countries utilize for rum production is supplied by Brazil.

Quality rums are produced on every habitable continent and in a myriad of styles. Moreover, the sugar cane plant doesn't originate in the Caribbean, as most believe, but hails from somewhere in the Far East, perhaps Indonesia. A distilled spirit from sugar cane may have been the basis for what is the earliest known large scale distilling; it took place in what is now modern day Pakistan over 2,500 years ago.



Cachaça (ka-SHAH-suh) is made from sugarcane juice and comes only from Brazil, the world's largest sugarcane producer. It is bottled from between 38 to 51 percent alcohol and is produced by as many as 30,000 small distillers. Cachaça comes in a trio of classifications: unaged (1 year in wood), aged (2 to 12 years in wood), and yellow (immature spirits that have caramel or wood extracts added so they can appear older).


Key Points & Opinion
  • Rum has a huge variety

  • Most people know white rum and spiced rum

  • Wray & Nephew (Jamaica)

  • The Real McCoy (Barbados)

  • El Dorado (Guyana)

  • Leblon (cachaça)

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