Rum has been around awhile—America was basically founded by rum-swilling patriots who dreamed up democracy after a few rounds of the good stuff from the islands. It’s been filling drinkers’ tummies for so long, in fact, that it’s high time we straighten out a few misconceptions about the spirit. Get wise to these five false rumors and erroneous myths that plague rum.
Rum Is Full of Sugar
This is one of the most prevalent boozy myths around, but science says you need to wake up to reality. What goes into the still (sugar) does not come out the other side (that’s kind of the whole point of distillation). Although the quality of the sugarcane or molasses is important to making good rum—just as the quality of the grain impacts a bourbon or good apples make good brandy—those sugary bases don’t actually yield sugary booze. Sugar is completely eliminated during distillation.
While most high-quality rums are bottled without additives after distillation and aging, some rums are in fact sweetened with sugar. If you’re watching your sugar intake, just be sure to check the label or do a little research before buying a bottle.
Rum and Rhum Mean the Same Thing
It’s not a typo or a weird Francophile distiller trying to use his high school French; your bottle says “rhum” for a reason. Rhum Agricole is a specific, protected designation for rum made on the island of Martinique. This rum is made from fresh pressed sugarcane juice, which can result in a funkier, fresher, more vegetal rum.
Rum Is Only Made in the Caribbean
Because sugarcane can be successfully harvested in pretty much any vaguely tropical climate, any equatorial nation can bring unique tastes and practices to the category. While many Caribbean countries proudly produce distinctive styles of rum, the islands aren’t the only places to make decent booze from molasses. Distillers in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia and even right here in the United States put out serious rum worth considering the next time you’re at the liquor store.
Light and Dark Are the Only Kinds of Rum
Unlike types of tequila that are simply broken down by age or whiskeys that are defined by mash bill, rum types are a bit more nebulous and confusing (you can thank colonialism for the differing styles across nations). White rum (aka light / silver rum) is full of bright flavors like an unaged spirit, but many are aged briefly for balance, and then charcoal filtered to remove color. Gold rum is usually aged in oak barrels, though there’s no international designation for how long. Dark rum is aged longer, usually after being distilled in pot stills; but again, there’s no clear age definition.
You may hear people refer to rums by where they originated, as individual countries (especially in the Caribbean) have unique laws surrounding distillation. But it’s hard to generalize every rum from a particular nation, so it’s best to stick to the designations above.
Spiced Rum Is Always Cheap Swill
Despite the bad reputation spiced rum has picked up from resort bars serving sugary cocktails drowned in sodas or fruit juices, the spiced rum category is growing with new, quality bottlings coming out all the time. These new rums favor spice over sickly sweet sugar and typically boast flavor profiles packed with baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove, tropical coconut, citrus, coffee, chocolate, and pepper.