With a huge variety of colours and styles, there is a rum for everyone. Here is your quick guide to the different styles of rum - from white rum, golden rum and dark rum, to spiced rum, rhum agricole, demerara rum, and cachaça.
White / Silver Rum If you’re enjoying a Daiquiri, Mojito or a Piña Colada, it almost certainly contains a white rum. The name is a little misleading – most ‘white’ or ‘silver’ rums are in fact clear liquids, as they are young rums which have not been aged after distillation. All styles of rum start life as this clear spirit.
However, some producers create more complex white rums by ageing them for many years (during which time it becomes golden or dark) and then filtering out the colour. The result is a matured and flavoursome white rum.
Golden Rum There is no strict definition of a what makes a rum ‘golden’ but many have been aged in wooden casks for several years, during which time the initially clear spirit draws some colour from the wood.
Golden rums are generally considered to have more complex flavours than young white rums. They can be enjoyed neat but are also used in cocktails which call for a stronger rum flavour. Rums can also be made golden in colour by adding caramel after distillation.
Dark Rum The best dark rums owe their colour to being aged for many years in oak barrels which have been charred or fired. This helps to pass on the strong colours and flavours of the wood to the rum, and produces dark rums which are designed to be sipped neat like a high-quality single malt whisky.
Some dark rums gain their colour not through years of ageing, but because producers add high volumes of caramel, burnt sugar or molasses to the spirit after distillation. These rums are sometimes marketed as ‘black’ rums.
Spiced / Flavoured These rums get their flavour from spices or other substances (natural or synthetic) which are added to the rum after distillation. Commonly-used spices include ginger, cardamom, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, while flavoured rums can include honey or extracts of lemon, lime, cherry, mint, coconut, mango, pineapple and banana. Spiced and flavoured rums can be white, golden or dark.
Demerara Rum Demerara rum originates in Guyana - a small nation on South America’s north Atlantic coast. The sugar cane used to make this style of rum is grown in fields either side of Guyana’s Demerara River – hence the name. The hot and humid climate accelerates the ageing process and contributes to Demerara’s distinctive smoky flavours.
Demerara Distillers Ltd is perhaps the best-known producer of Demerara rum and is famous for using wooden stills that are more than 100 years old. The company uses some of its rum for their own El Dorado brand and sells the rest to rum blenders for use in creating their own rums.
Rhum Agricole Rhum Agricole (or simply Rhum) was originally distilled on French Caribbean islands like Martinique. Whereas most rums are made by distilling fermented molasses, rhum is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice. Depending on how it’s aged, rhum is found in white, golden and dark varieties.
Rhum has an instantly recognisable earthy and grassy flavour. It is characterised by a distinctive freshness without any of the syrupy texture of some big brand molasses-based rums.
Cachaça Like Rhum Agricole, this Brazilian spirit (pronounced kah-SHA-sah) is produced by fermenting sugar cane juice rather than the molasses which are used in most rum production. However, one thing that makes cachaça’s flavours distinct to those of rhum agricole is the use of wood from Brazilian trees in the ageing process.
Most cachaça varieties are bottled as a clear spirit with little or no ageing, and these are known as white (‘branca’) or silver (‘prata’). As with rum, the ageing process (usually for up to 3 years, but sometimes for 10 or 15) creates premium gold or dark varieties, which are often drunk neat.
Cachaça is the key ingredient in a caipirinha. Brazil’s national cocktail, a caipirinha is made by mixing the distilled spirit with sugar and lime. It can also be used as a substitute for rum in cocktails like Mojitos.
Although some consider cachaça to be a subcategory of rum, the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça rejects this idea. The Institute claims cachaça has been made in Brazil since the 1500s and is therefore America’s original spirit, predating bourbon and rum.