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.