Rum Styles - The Right Rum for the Job
With its roots planted firmly in the Caribbean, rum is an undeniably popular summer drink. But with so many different styles and flavours to choose from, picking the right rum can be confusing.
Rum is produced from a base of sugarcane by products – particularly sugarcane juice and molasses – by fermenting and distilling them. Normally, the resulting liquid is then aged in oak barrels to enhance the taste, but the aging process differs widely depending on the type of rum.
White rum is the most commonly chosen rum and is often referred to as silver or light rum. It is the main ingredient in mojitos, daiquiris and piña coladas, among many other popular cocktails, so it’s no wonder it’s often described as the “most mixable”. The light flavour of white rum lends itself perfectly as a base for many different cocktails. Rather than being aged in charred oak casks like other rums, white rum is aged in plain oak barrels or even stainless steel casks, then filtered before and after the aging process to ensure a light, smooth taste and transparent colour.
Where white rums distinguish themselves in cocktails, rum begins to enter the realm of a sipping spirit with amber, also known as golden, rums. Amber rums, known for their yellowish-orange colour, gain their distinctive colour from moderate oak aging. This period of maturation not only lends a distinctive shade of colour, but adds spice, smoky and vanilla aromas and flavours. The maturation period also softens white rums harsher edges making these rums both enjoyable on their own as well as a base for mixed drinks.
Dark or black rums, on the other hand, are reserved for those with stronger tastes. Aged in heavily charred barrels (which provide, along with addition of caramel, its distinguishing colour), dark rum boasts a much stronger, distinctive flavour. It’s not uncommon to find hints of spices, molasses or caramel. Although a little less flexible than white rum, dark rum is the ingredient of choice in Mai Tais, or simply mixed with Coca Cola.
Far less common in the rum world is overproof rum. The concept of overproof was originally derived from an old method of testing alcohol strength, when the liquid was poured over grains of gunpowder and ignited. If the alcohol content was high enough, the gun powder would explode and the rum would be classified as overproof. This interesting, albeit dangerous testing method, has thankfully not endured to modern day. Now we need only check the label on the bottle…..much safer!
Overproof rum usually weighs in at approximately 75% alcohol content – a point at which any distinguishing taste is usually overpowered by the alcohol. Nonetheless, it is relatively tasteless and can be perfect for adding some flavour to your tropical summer cocktails without offsetting the volume balance of the original drink.