1 17th Century – Plantation Rum. The 1600’s saw the ‘invention’ of rum by slaves working the Caribbean sugar plantations. It was found that the by-product of sugar manufacturing – molasses – could be fermented and then distilled into alcohol. Debate rages whether the first discovery was made in Barbados or Brazil. 1664 saw the first American rum distillery open on Staten Island.

2 1655 – Royal Navy switches daily ration (or ‘tot’) of booze from brandy to rum. This was eventually diluted and had lemon or lime juice added for prevention of scurvy. This mix is known as ‘grog’. The RN discontinued the tradition of the daily rum ration on the 31st of July 1970 – and this date has been mourned by British sailors as ‘Black Tot Day’ ever since.

3 1674 – Sugar Act. Also known as the ‘Plantation Act’ was a tariff applied to all non-British Caribbean sugar and molasses entering the American colonies. The act granted a virtual monopoly of the American market to British West Indies sugarcane planters. Early colonial protests at these duties were ended when the tax was lowered two years later.

4 1862 – Bacardi Founded. The Bacardi brand was founded by Bacardi Masso in 1862. Today it is not only the largest rum brand in the world, but is also the largest privately held, family owned spirits company in the world. Some say their success stems from the use of a proprietary strain of yeast which is still used in fermentation to this day.

5 1900 – Cubra Libra invented. Perhaps the most popular – and even iconic – rum cocktail. Rum, Coke and lime. Many claim it was invented during the Spanish-American war of 1898 when US troops entered Cuba bringing Coca-Cola with them.

6 1920 –Prohibition. Prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1920’s saw a huge wave of American tourists heading to Cuba where the rum flowed like water! This both changed America’s taste for rum and propped up many rum distilleries whilst their contempories in Scotland and Ireland struggled with the closure of the US market.

7 1953 – Viva La Revolution! The beginning of the Cuban civil war in ‘53 saw the Bacardi family on the side of Castro. By [what would turn out to be] a bad lack of judgement they switched sides and supported Che Guevara. However by 1959, Che was defeated by Castro, and the the Bacardi family was stripped of their assets and sent into exile. Luckily, the Bacardi family had established facilities in and assets in the Bahamas, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

8 1962 – Cold War politics. After the communists under Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959, America placed commercial, economic and trade sanctions on Cuba. This meant that any Rum made in Cuba could no longer be sold in the US.

9 2012 – World Trade Organisation complaint against the USA. IN 2012, Caribbean nations threatened the USA with a complaint to the WHO about US subsidies to major companies (Bacardi and Diageo). These concerns still simmer with the small Caribbean producers. By offering large tax incentives for companies to move to US territories (ie the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), it is felt that the USA is unfairly eroding Caribbean market share of the rum market.

10 Current Day. A new age has begun in the last 10 or so years with the ‘discovery’ of premium rums that stand on their own as a drink. Whilst rum-based cocktails remain hugely popular, a new breed of craft distilleries had blossomed both in Australia and abroad bringing many independent offerings to the market. More and more people are finding that good rum can be enjoyed, savoured and explored without the need for mixers, juice or cocktail shakers. And that’s where we come in…


•acre – Unit of surface measurement equal to 43,560 square feet,or 0.4 hectare.

• age statement – The number of years a spirit has been aged in wood; in the US, the age statement must represent the youngest spirit in a blend.

• agricole – (French) – Agricultural. Rhum agricole is rhum made from fresh cane juice, as opposed to rhum industriel, which is made from molasses.

• aguardiente – (Spanish) – Literally “Burning water.” Generic for hot, strong, unaged sugar cane spirit (esp. Columbia and other South American regions.)

• aldehyde – Colorless volatile liquid, obtained from alcohol by oxidation. Aldehydes are responsible for floral and fruit aromas in rum, are a natural part of the fermenting and distilling process, and can be good in small quantities.

• alembic – (French) – pot still

• analyzing column – First column of a multiple-column still, also known as the beer still.

• añejo – (Spanish) – There is no requirement as to how old rum has to be to be designated añejo. Most añejo rums are aged more than a couple of years, although a few are not, and may be colored with caramel for effect.

• appelation d’origine contrôlée – (French) – Designation for spirits from a specific region and to particular standards; also used on wine and spirit labels in France.


• babash – Locally made rum, generally illicit.

• bagasse – The fibre left once sugar cane is crushed. Commonly burned to fire the boiler for distillation.

• beer – In the rum industry, beer refers to fermented molasses.

• beer still – First column in a four-column still. Is also called the ‘analyzing column’.

• brix – Describes the percent of suspended solids in a liquid. 50 brix would denote 50% suspended solids by weight.


• cachaça – Brazilian sugar-cane spirit made from sugar cane juice and distilled to less than 54% alcohol by volume.

• caramel – Caramel is introduced to many aged rums by aging them in oak barrels that have been charred (burned) on the inside. Caramel is also frequently added to aged rums to increase the colour of the rum.

• chairman – Person who sits in front of and directs the operation of a small pot still.

• chêne – (French) – Oak. As in barrels for aging rhum.

• coffey still – The original column still design by Aeneas Coffey.

• column still – A sophisticated 19th Century innovation that replaces the pot still with stacks of evaporators called columns. Typically, column stills will have two columns of different design that perform different functions in the distilling process.

• copper still – Copper is generally accepted to produce the best spirits due to the interaction between the copper and acidic components in the fermented wine.


• Demerara – Associated with the Demerara River in Guyana, NE South American continent demerara rum, demerara sugar. The site of one of the first sugar/rum producing regions of South America.

• distillation – Process of concentrating a component of a mixture by heating the mixture and then collecting and condensing the vapor.

• distillerie – (French) – distillery.

• dock rum – Rum aged in barrels at sea in the holds of ships, or in wharf warehouses in Britain. Now rare, dock rum was once a ubiquitous aspect of the rum trade.

• dunder – Fermented wash.


• esters – Chemical compounds formed by the reaction of alcohol and acids during fermentation. Esters are present in small quantities after distillation, and are also formed during aging in wood. Esters are responsible for fruit flavors in rum.


• falernum – Low alcohol blend of rum, cloves and sugar cane syrup first produced in Barbados. Generally used as a sweet mixer.

• fermentation – Process of yeast (either naturally occurring or artifically introduced) converting sugar into alcohol.

• foudre de chêne – (French) – large cask, generally 35,000 to 65,000-liter capacity, used for storing rhum blanc or aging rhum paille.

• fusel oil – Light oils formed during fermentation that accumulate during distillation. Generally, fusel oils are an undesirable toxic by-product and too much can contribute to hangovers. These oils are removed in multiple column stills or through successive distillat

• fût – (French) – barrel, generally accepted to be less than 650 liters.

• fût de chêne – (French) – oak barrel used for aging.


• gallon – Liquid measure of four quarts, 231 cubic inches, or approximately 3.8 liters.

• gooseneck – Connects the pot or kettle of a pot still to the condenser or retorts.

• grand arôme – (French) – rhum industriel made from fermented molasses and vinasse.

• guildive – (French) – rhum


• heads – The first condensate that comes from the still. Also called high wines. The heads are also the flat ends of a barrel.

• hectare – Metric unit of surface measurement equal to 10,000 square meters, or 2.471 acres.

• high wines – The first liquor that comes from the still, also called heads.

• hogo – Fusel oils that can be seen floating on top of crudely distilled rum; name for locally distilled rum, generally illicit.

• hosghead – a wooden barrel of about 42″ in height and 36″ in diameter across the head. In the 18th century when sugar was shipped in hogsheads, this vessel would contain between 1600 and 1700 pounds of sugar.

• houillage – (French) – Recasking, the annual ritual where rum from the same production year is used to fill other barrels of rum to replace the volume that has evaporated (the “angels share.”) hydrometer – Device that compares the density of a sample with the density of water to directly indicate the alcohol content of the spirit.

• hydroselection column – Typically the third column of a four-column multi-column continuous still.


• imperial gallon – Equal to 277.42 cubic inches.

• industriel – (French) – industrial. Rhum industriel is made from molasses, as opposed to fresh cane juice.


• leeze – Residue left after the alcohol has been distilled from the fermented wine, also called vinasse.

• lele – (French) – naturally grown swizzle stick with generally five branches that grow perpendicular to the stem.

• let off – Term used at some of the older distilleries for leeze, or what is let off after distillation.

• liming – Derived from the term for 18th century British sailors, a reference to relaxing. In the islands, liming includes drinking rum with friends and sharing the news of the day.

• liter – Volume of one kilogram of water, 61.05 cubic inches.

• low wine – The last liquor that comes from the still, low wines contain less alcohol than the seconds that precede them.


• maitre rhumier – (French) – master distiller

• melasse – (French) – molasses

• millésime – (French) – vintage

• molasses – The thick black liquid that remains after all of the commercially producible sugar has been recovered from sugar cane juice.

• multiple-column still – An extensive distillation aparatus where multiple continuous stills are combined for improved flexibility and efficiency.


• overproof – Distilled spirit bottled at more than 50% alcohol by volume, or 100 US proof.


• paille – (French) – pale-straw-colored rhum that has aged less than the three years required to be called rhum vieux.

• pimento dram – Jamaican allspice liqueur with a rum base.

• pot still – The simplest type of still, consisting of a large pot-like bottom, where the fermented wash is heated, and topped with a gooseneck and condenser. A pot still may also incorporate one or more retorts. Marketing people commonly represent pot still rum as be

• proof – In the US, proof is twice the alcohol content measured in % Alcohol by Volume. 40% abv is 80 proof.

• proof gallon – (US) – A standard U.S. gallon at 100 proof, or its alcoholic equivalent. For example, 1 gallon of 200 proof spirits (100% abv) would equal 2 proof gallons; 10 gallons of 80 proof spirits (40% abv) would equal 8 proof gallons. TTB Circular 85-8


• rectifying column – Second column of a multiple-column still.

• reserve – Used to denote something special, such as limited production, but too-often used to market spirits which are neither limited production, nor special.

• retort – Closed vessel used to double-distill alcohol as an accessory to a pot still. Hot vapor enters the bottom of the retort and heats the liquid in the retort to vaporize the alcohol in the liquid.

• rhum – (French) – rum. Differentiates between the products of the French West Indies (rhum) and the products of the English-speaking islands (rum.)

• rhum agricole – (French) – rhum made from fresh cane juice, as opposed to molasses.

• rhum industriel – (French) – rhum made from molasses, as opposed to fresh cane juice.

• rhum paille – (French) – straw-colored rhum aged less than the three years required to be called rhum vieux.

• rhum vieux – rhum that has been aging in a barrel for more than three years. The barrel must be less than 650 liters.

• rum – Spirit distilled from the fermented sugar of the sugar cane plant. This sugar may be in the form of fresh juice, cane syrup or molasses.


• seconds – The second alcohol from the still, representing the most desirable “cut” between the heads and tails. This is the ethyl alcohol we drink and the best product from the still.

• still – Derived from the verb “distill,” the aparatus for extracting and condensing alcohols from fermented sugars. All liquor is produced in stills of one sort or another.

• strong – Referring to rum that is more than 50% alcohol by volume.

• sucerie – (French) – sugar factory.


• tafia – (French) – rum, rhum bullion

• tails – The last condensate collected from the still, also called the low wines.

• tres vieux – (French) – very old rhum, generally aged more than ten years.


• vesou – (French) – sugar cane juice.

• vieux – (French) – old. Rhum vieux is rhum that has been in a barrel of less than 650 liter capacity for more than three years. In the French islands, the first of July is the anniversary date for rhum. All rhum in the barrel by July first is one-year-old on this date.

• vin – (French) – wine, refers to fermented sugar cane juice.

• vinasse – (French) – residue left after the alcohol has been distilled from the fermented wine. Also known as leeze.


• wash – Mixture of yeast, water, and molasses to be fermented.

• wine – In the rum industry, fermented sugar cane juice.


The main ingredients in rum are sugar (sucrose), yeast and water. The sugar can come from a variety of sources depending on location and availability. Most commonly molasses is used, but sugar cane juice, crushed cane or even refined sugar can be used to make rum.
Other ingredients may include various spices and essences to add flavour and also caramel for colour.

Stage 1 – making the ‘Wash’

The wash is made by firstly dissolving the sugar in hot water. The sugar source is added to 50 degree water and stirred to dissolve. It is then let cool to around 26 degrees C at which point yeast is added.

Stage 2 – Fermentation

The wash is fermented for around 1-2 weeks and when ready for distillation is called ‘beer’.

Whilst this sounds simple enough, there are a few different ways this is accomplished.

The yeast itself is a variable. Most distilleries introduce a specific strain of yeast to their wash. However, some distilleries still use open-top fermentation vessels to allow ‘wild’ yeast from the air to settle into the wash.

The actual distillation process is variable as well. Foursquare Rum Distillery, for instance uses a computer –controlled gradual method of heating the wash and introducing the molasses over a 24hr period. They also use a particular yeast imported from South Africa.

Some rum producers, on the other hand use open-top fermenting which allows wild yeast to inoculate the wash.

Stage 3 – Distillation

The distillation stage aims to separate (and collect) the ethanol from the fermented beer. Essentially, the beer is heated up until the alcohol evaporates and this evaporated alcohol is collected via a condensation apparatus that cools and condenses the alcohol back into liquid which is collected.

Types of Stills

Two main types of stills are used. Firstly, the pot still. This type of still is basically a large pot which is heated to release the alcohol. Each time the still is run, it needs to be fillled with the wash (or ‘beer’ in the case of rum), run to get the alcohol, and then must be emptied of the spent wash and cleaned ready for re-use.

As per the diagram (Pot Still 1 .png) the mash (or ‘beer’) the main pot is filled with the mash (fermented molasses/sugar). Heat is applied (usually via steam or gas fired these days) and thi causes the alcohol to evaporate from out of the mash. This evaporated alcohol travels into a condenser where cold water is used to cool down the pipes that the evaporated alcohol is in until in condenses as a liquid. This liquid can be re-distilled once, or even twice more (making it triple distilled). At the end of each distillation, the remains of th mash need to mbe removed from the pot so another batch can begin IE: – this method requires distillation to be carried out in batches.The second type of still is the continuous batch column still. This allows wash to be continuously fed through the still whilst alcohol and waste are continuously removed. A much more efficient form of distillation – and mash can be run continuously through the still as alcohol and waste are continually removed as well.

The mash is fed into the first column (the ‘analyzer’ column) and steam is used to heat the mash. As the mash is heated it causes the alcohol to evaporate off. This collects in collecting plates that run all the way up the column. Each plate has a higher concentration of alcohol then the plate below it.

Alcohol is collected from one or more of the higher plates and this is then run into a second column known as the ‘rectifier’. This is where the low- %abv is concentrated through a series of condenser plates (similar to the ones in the Analyzer). Once again – steam is added to evaporate the alcohol. Each successively higher plate in the column will collect a higher and higher percentage of alcohol.

Stage 4 – Maturation

Depending on the type of rum being produced, maturation can be months or years. Normally, rum is matured in ex-bourbon casks, but other woods (such as ex-madeira) are being used more and more often these days.

During maturation, a percentage of the alcohol evaporates out of the barrel this is known as the ‘angel’s share’.



Lets have a look at all of the different descriptions used of rum.

White Rum

As the name suggests, a clear spirit. Apart from that – there is no limits to what a white rum can actually be – so it may be a pot still or column distilled rum, it may be unnamed or it may be aged and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour form the barrel. So really, this term on it’s own is only good for describing a rums appearance.

White Rum

Gold rum

Gold Rum

Another ‘loose term’ like ‘white rum. But generally, slightly more complex than white rums due to short period of aging in oak barrels.

Dark Rum

Aged for longer periods of time, with darker, fuller flavour profiles.

dark rum
Demerara Rum

Demerera Rum

While many rums are made from sugar cane grown in Brazil, Demerera is made from cane grown in Guyana, Slow fermentation of the beer combined with long ageing give a rich, dark flavor profile similar to Jamaican rum; distilled using old stills, thought to be indicative of how rum used to taste.


Made with sugar cane juice instead of molasses, so terroir (i.e. where the sugar cane was grown) is an important factor; can be white, gold, dark, etc., with flavors that incorporate vegetal notes into the complex rum backdrop.

Rum Agricole
Navy Rum


Refers to any rum that’s higher alcohol (50 to 60% and above).

It’s rather interesting to think about the ‘invention’ of rum as the answer to problem of industrial waste – but to the Caribbean sugar farmer of the 17th century it was just that! The industrial waste in question is, of course, molasses. For every two kilos of sugar produced, approximately 1kg of molasses is left behind.

The 17th century saw a huge rise in demand for sugar – once the sweetener of kings and royalty, it was fast becoming a staple and indispensable ingredient in British population at large. British sugar farmers of the 17th century found that large scale production could be profitable in the Caribbean, at the expense of the slaves bought in to work the farms.

It’s no surprise then, that at some point the poor white workers and the African slaves discovered fermentation of the molasses could make an alcoholic brew. And at some point a bright spark decided to distill the fermented molasses .. and VOILA! Rum was born!

So where does the word ‘RUM’ come from? Well, no one is actually sure. One theory is that it comes from a Malay word ‘brum’ (a fermented sugar cane drink). Although this name was not taken up widely in the Caribbean where (I kid you not) ‘Kill Devil’ became the popular name for that drink.

Another theory for the origins of the word ‘rum’ is the Latin word for ‘sugar’ which is ‘saccarum’.

I guess the most popular and romantic explanation is that ‘Rum’ became popularly used to abbreviate ‘Rumbullion’ or ‘Rumbustion’ – used to describe a great uproar!

The words Rum, Rhum and Ron has been used since the mid-17th century and the first record of the word was found in Barbados in 1688.