Which Rum is Right for Your Palate?
Rum has a history as rich as its depth of styles, flavors, and aromas – you’re cheating yourself if your only experience drinking it has been with a Coke.
Depending on the unique conditions in which its source material was grown, as well as the techniques utilized in its production (and there are many), this delightful spirit can range from sweet and floral, to dark, smokey, and everything in between.
While it’s true that a rum’s source material must derive from sugar cane, other limitations do not necessarily apply: standards are only set by the product’s country of origin. Because the category lacks the same restrictions as a Bourbon or whiskey, it’s no surprise that rum has evolved to be one of the most versatile spirits in the world.
To help you decide where to start on your rum tasting adventures, we’ve provided some guidance on some of the most common types of this delightful spirit so you can figure out what works best for your palate. Good luck!
But don’t be fooled! Just because this rum is clear doesn’t mean it hasn’t seen the inside of a barrel. In Venezuela, for example, where the government requires rum products to be aged at least two years, brands have found ways to clarify their aged white rum products. Diplomático’s Planas is aged for up to six years and then charcoal filtered to remove color while softening its fruity and creamy flavors for a delicate finish.
In the US, most white rums are sold at around 80-proof or 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). They also tend to be less expensive than other styles of rum and more popular for use in cocktails.
Gold rums, sometimes referred to as “pale” rum, can be aged comparatively longer than its clear cousin – but usually not long enough to take on the complexities of a darker style.
Depending on the wood and length of time spent aging, gold rums can retain more characteristics from the barrel, including warm vanilla, almond, coconut, and bright citrus notes. This is also why they are popular in a variety of baking, dessert, and cocktail recipes.
Of course, it’s also common for younger white rums to be dyed with a caramel coloring to resemble a more aged product – and yes, these can be labeled as gold rums. You’ll quickly find that in the rum world, some research might be necessary to find out the real age of a product and whether or not additives have been introduced.
Dark & Black
Dark and black rums are those that have been aged for much longer periods of time; however, you should know by now that’s not always the case.
As with any aged spirit, the longer it spends in the barrel, the darker it will be in color – and the more flavorful! Well-aged styles of these rums are often matured in heavily charred barrels so they tend to develop a richer, more complex profile akin to that of a whiskey or Bourbon. Sweet, bold, and spicy, these full-bodied spirits are great for sipping.
Dark and black rums can still contain added flavors or color, but the more premium, higher grade varieties tend to yield fuller, nuanced flavors. Cheaper versions may be more caramel or molasses-heavy on the palate due to additives introduced after distillation.
Spiced or Flavored
Due to lax guidelines, rums can be infused with a variety of spices and flavors resulting in a range of iterations. Low-proof liqueurs, alcoholic syrups, and rum creams are often considered a part of this category.
Additives is spiced or flavored rums can be used to enhance the existing flavors in a rum, or add heat and complexity to a spirit. With combinations of aromatic fruits, seeds, roots, leaves, bark, or flora, there’s bound to be a rum you enjoy!
Of course, these four types aren’t the only varieties of this delightful spirit: Navy rum is a traditional, dark rum that pays homage to its history with the British Royal Navy. Rhum agricole is made exclusively from raw sugarcane juice, giving the spirit its signature bright, grassy flavors. Cachaça is another vegetal rum, but made with the exceptionally sweet sugarcane juice grown in Brazil. The list goes on and on!
Wherever you choose to start your rum tasting journey, just remember these three tips: (1) color is not an accurate way to determine the age of a rum; (2) keep an open mind – and palate; (3) and remember to have fun!
Interested in learning more about the process of distilling? Check out Moonshine University’s 6- Day Distiller Course. You’ll experience intensive, practical, and hands-on learning from industry experts. By the end of the course you will have knowledge of all the components of distillery work – from laying the first brick to getting a finished product on the shelf. Learn more.