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   Historically, rum is the first spirit of the New World, initially produced in Brazil, Barbados, and Jamaica in the wake of Columbus’s introduction of sugarcane to the West Indies in 1493. By the mid-eighteenth century, rum was being produced all over the Caribbean, in South America, and in New England, where it was the favorite spirit. The Rum Sling of that era (rum, sugar, water, and lemon juice) could have been in the running as the first example of an American cocktail, if only it had employed bitters.


   Rum is made from molasses, sugarcane juice, or concentrated syrup made by reducing the free-run juice of the pressed sugarcane. There are three basic types of rum (well, actually four if we include the new flavored and spiced rums): Light-bodied rum, sometimes called white or silver, spends up to a year in barrels and is filtered before bottling, rendering it very subtle, such as Bacardi Light. Medium-bodied rum, sometimes called gold or amber, is richer and smoother in character as a result of the production of congeners (organic compounds produced during fermentation), or the addition of caramel, or occasionally through aging in wood barrels; fine examples include Mount Gay, Appleton Gold, and Bacardi 8. Heavy-bodied rum is a category shared by blended and colored dark rums like Myers’s, Gosling’s, and Bacardi Black, typically used in rum punches, and full-bodied, well-aged “brandy style” or sipping rums like Angostura 1824, Barbancourt 15 year, and Demerara El Dorada 25 year.


   The new fourth category, spiced or aromatic rums, taste exactly as they’re labeled because of the addition of spices or aromatics in the distillate. Flavored rums, however, were developed only a few years ago, with the introduction of spiced and coconut rums, and now they are surpassing vodka and gin in terms of flavor options. After the success of Bacardi Limón, several companies entered the flavor category aggressively. Cabana Boy, a maker of Trinidad rum bottled by White Rock Distillers of Maine, now offers eight flavored rums, and Cruzan Rum from St. Croix now offers seven flavors. Old standards like Malibu, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, and Bacardi Spice are still best-sellers, too. Recently a new subcategory of juice-enhanced rums emerged with the release of Bacardi Tropico.

Value Brands


* Ron Castillo White, Puerto Rico

* Fernandes “Vat 19” White, Trinidad

* Rhum Barbancourt White, Haiti

* Angostura Old Oak White, Trinidad



* Appleton Special Gold, Jamaica

* Palo Viejo Gold, Puerto Rico

* Fernandes “Vat 19” Gold, Trinidad

* Brugal Gold, Dominican Republic HEAVY

* Coruba Dark, Jamaica

* Cruzan Estate Dark 2 year, St. Croix

* Fernandes Dark, Trinidad

* Ron Matusalem Classic Black Cuban Tradition, Florida


Super-Premium Brands


* Rhum Barbancourt 15 year, Haiti

* Appleton Estate 21 year, Jamaica

* Sea Wynde, Jamaica

* Pyrat Cask 23, Anguilla

* Bacardi Reserve Baccarat Bottling, Puerto Rico

* Zaya 12 year Gran Reserva, Guatemala



* Angostura 1824, Trinidad

* Pyrat XO Reserve Planters Gold, Anguilla

* Pampero Rum Aniversario, Venezuela



   Where did rum get its name? One theory employs the Latin name for the species of grass we call sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum, both of which words end in “rum.” The Spanish called it ron, the Swedes and Russians called it rom, the French called it rhum. The English, however, didn’t mince words when they called rum “kill-devil.” In his book Rum, Romance, and Rebellion, Charles William Taussig writes that the word rum was derived from the West Indian word rumbullion. But Anton Barty-King and Hugh Massel, authors of Rum Yesterday and Today, find the origin of the word in Chaucer, who writes of “a stormy people delitynge ever in rumbul…” Taussig cites a 1676 periodical describing the substance as “made of sugar canes distilled; a hot, hellish and terrible liquor made on the island of Barbados.”


DeGroff, Dale. The Craft of the Cocktail (Kindle Locations 676-769). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale.

Premium Brands


* Bacardi Silver, Puerto Rico

* Bacardi Limón, Puerto Rico

* Mount Gay Premium White, Barbados

* Wray & Nephew White Overproof, Jamaica

* Rainbow Spirits White Rum (50 percent of Profits to AIDS Research)

* El Dorado White, Guiana


* Mount Gay Eclipse, Jamaica

* Bacardi Gold, Puerto Rico

* Occumare, Venezuela

* Lemon Hart, Guiana and Trinidad

* Appleton Estate VX, Jamaica

* Barbancourt 3-Star 4 year, Haiti



* Bacardi 8 year, Puerto Rico

* Barbancourt Rum 5-Star 8 year, Haiti

* St. James Rhum Hors D’Age, Martinique

* Mount Gay Extra Old, Barbados

* British Navy Pusser’s Rum, British Virgin Islands

* El Dorado 12 year, Guiana

* Myers’s Dark, Jamaica

* Gosling’s Black Seal, Bermuda (but made from rum purchased on other islands)

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