Regardless of how exactly it is spelled or where specifically it comes from, rum is a liquor produced by fermenting sugarcane that is sure to delight the taste buds of the most discerning connoisseurs. The history of rum, its specific characteristics and the various different ways of making it all bear witness to its extreme complexity and infinite richness. Marked by the history of colonization, it is imbued with huge diversity that is recognized throughout the world, earning it its reputation in numerous archipelagos. From the Caribbean islands to the Indian Ocean, let’s learn more about the ultimate “kill-devil”…
Everything there is to know about rum making!
Rum is produced in a factory called a rum distillery. It is obtained by distilling sugarcane molasses. Two main manufacturing techniques are used to produce it.
The first of these techniques results in what are known as agricultural rums. The sugarcane juice, or “vesou”, is left to ferment for two to three days with specific yeasts. It can be fermented using either traditional or industrial methods. A wine is then obtained and drawn at 5° or 6° before being distilled. The result of this distillation is what is referred to as “rum”! One ton of sugarcane is required to produce 100 liters of agricultural rum. This technique is the most commonly used in Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The second manufacturing technique results in molasses rum, or rum refined from sugar. With this technique, the vesou is not fermented, but is instead heated until sugar crystals are obtained. During this stage, the water evaporates leaving a solid and sweet residue: molasses. This substance is then diluted in water and fermented to obtain rum. Light rums are made from molasses fermented for 24 hours, while “grand arôme” rums are fermented for 12 days. These include Martinique and Jamaican rums.
Different types of rum where worlds intersect
Each country has its own ingredients and its own methods for making rum. This is what we find with the French style, which is an agricultural rum mainly produced in the West Indies. It comes in three variants: white rum which has an odor of fresh cane; amber rum with its woody and spicy aromas; and finally, aged rum with its inimitable taste.
“Rum” itself refers to English style rum, examples of which include white rum and aged rum. White rum is ultra-aromatic and can be recognized by its particularly fruity notes. It is the result of a long fermentation process and is mainly found in Jamaica. Heavy and oily in the mouth, this rum exudes empyreumatic aromas that are sure to be memorable!
If you want Spanish style rum, then you’ll need to ask for “ron”. These are white, light rums with hints of smoke and are a must – particularly since most Spanish-style white rums are now aged. Indeed, aged rums are more common: mild and with caramelized aromas, they offer a completely different taste experience.
The rums produced off the coast of South Africa are definitely on a par with those that hail from the West Indies! On Reunion Island, the rums produced today are still light and spicy. All the tropical fruits of the island are packed into this delicious spirit that connoisseurs are sure to remember for a long time.
For a short history of rum
Rum first originated on the island of Barbados in the 17th century, and was initially intended for sailors and slaves. Legend has it that pirates would use it to recruit soldiers for the British Navy!
The history of rum is inextricably intertwined with the history of various colonial empires. Over the centuries, France, Spain and the United Kingdom have succeeded in establishing their sovereignty across the globe.
This plurality of cultures and traditions that have sometimes blended together in one particular country is even evidenced in the aromas of rum, whose countless flavor variations from one Caribbean island to another testify to its complex past.
A journey to the rum countries
Discovering Caribbean rum
If you’re traveling to the Caribbean for a little “spirits tourism”, be sure to start your taste odyssey with a little rum from French Guiana. Made from molasses distilled in a still tank, this rum is dark in color and has a round body. Its high concentration of aromas is typical of rums of French origin. Other examples include Toucan Spicy Rum, Belle Cabresse Rum and Punch Rum. To take your discovery experience even further, make a detour to the only rum factory on the island – the Saint-Maurice distillery!
For a better understanding of the French style of Caribbean rum, make a stop in Martinique – the agricultural rum paradise. Its various rum factories, seamlessly integrated into the local heritage, are an opportunity to discover tasty 50° or 55° rums. The Depaz distillery is a good example. Or visit the Neisson distillery to learn about the origins of the famous Zépol Karé and its angular bottle! For accommodation, there is nothing like a short stop at the Habitation Clément: you’ll see its old distillery, which embodies the historical headquarters of Clément rum.
A little further north, Barbados awaits you: the cradle of Caribbean rum, this island is home to three historic distilleries Cockpur, Mount Gray and Foursquare. They still use iron still tanks to concoct their outstanding rums, which include Sixty Six, Malibu, Shellback and many others!
As you visit the Madras, Bellevue, Darboussier and Montebello distilleries… you realize that you are on a journey through the volcanic soils of Guadeloupe! Thanks to the island’s warm climate, you are guaranteed to enjoy a colorful tasting in two must-visit rum distilleries: the Damoiseau distillery and the Bologne distillery. Savor the aromas of an authentic rum as you contemplate the La Soufrière volcano in the distance!
In Antigua, light rums in the spirit of the Bacardi family have been produced for decades. Whether white, old or amber, these beverages are produced by the only rum factory on the island – Antigua Distillery. Not to be missed if you want to better understand the flavors of Cavalier or English Harbour.
You can continue your journey as far as the Virgin Islands, which have belonged to seven different countries over the course of two centuries of history. This cultural mix is reflected in the way its rums are produced – whether they come from American (Nethtropp’s or Cruzan) or English (Callwood) distilleries.
Several kilometers away, the Caribbean waves can take you as far as the rum of Cuba, famous for its Havana Club, Cuban rum par excellence. So make a detour to the Havana Club Rum Museum to better understand the origin of this little caliente touch which is specific to Cuban rums! Spirit tourism enthusiasts cannot end their odyssey without a visit to Jamaica. The Appleton Rum Factory is open to the public so that customers can squeeze their own fresh sugarcane juice. An ideal way to learn more about Jamaican rum-making and bottling techniques!
Short stopover on Reunion Island to enjoy an outstanding rum
If you want to shore up your rum knowledge, head for the Indian Ocean and the three rum factories on Reunion Island that you absolutely have to visit! You can sample the famous Extra Vieux XO rum at the La Rivière du Mat distillery while learning about the expertise of Reunion Island rum makers. Once you’ve seen the Bois Rouge Sugar Factory, why not stop off at the Savanna distillery? This rum distillery produces its own alcohol… as well as its own sugarcane! You’ll learn all the secrets of Reunion Island rum making there. To enjoy your stay even more, why not end your it with a trip to the Isautier family distillery, the oldest rum factory on the island. It has been producing its agricultural rum since 1845. That way, you can enjoy the delicious scent of rum with a Creole dish!