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Rum

Rum is such an evocative spirit. It transforms, transcends and instantly transports the drinker to the sun-washed shores of the West Indies; white sands, palm trees and blue seas. It always has a sense of joviality, in part thanks to its Caribbean origins, and also because of the unabashed decadence surrounding a libation made from sugar.

The kind of sugar used is one of the key differentiating factors in rum production. In the Spanish and British Antilles, for example, rum is traditionally distilled from molasses - a by-product of sugar production. In the French Caribbean islands, however, sugarcane juice (sometimes called sugarcane honey) is used instead of molasses. Countries like Martinique and Guadeloupe are famed for producing spirit distilled from sugarcane juice, known as rhum agricole - French for 'agricultural rum'. The spirit is often made in a way that more closely resembles the distillation of some of the famous French brandies, such as Cognac or Armagnac. Younger varieties often exude a tangy, herbal flavour, whilst the aged varieties (often matured in Cognac casks) will offer up subtlety and complexity, just like any fine aged spirit.

The Caribbean has been cultivated for sugar for centuries, and the various occupiers, be they Spanish, French or English, have their own terms for the spirit; Ron, Rhum and, of course, Rum, respectively.

As far as British involvement with the spirit, there has always been a strong connection with the Royal Navy. Indeed, at one time the Navy afforded their sailors a half pint of rum as part of their daily ration. The rum was traded and export grew in large part because of the export possibilities that sea travel brought about.

Many competing arguments exist as to the origins of the term "rum”. The most convincing is that it is a shortened version of "rumbullion” – a word meaning great uproar and noise, and a good reminder of the often violent, dramatic history of rum. Other terms have existed, including "kill devil” which was used to describe spirit distilled from molasses.

Due to the huge geographical territory in which rum is produced, there are many variants in production, the type of still being one of the most obvious. Usually, pot stills are used to distil thick, rich, aged rums (El Dorado 15 and El Pusser’s are good examples). Continuous column stills, on the other hand, are used to produce white spirits best associated with cocktails.

Maturation is an interesting aspect too. White rums are either unaged or aged only very briefly. Classics such as Bacardi Superior are crisp and tangy and work brilliantly well in cocktails. Gold rums tend to be a mix of spirit old and new, and also work nicely in cocktails, with an increase in complexity and flavour. For the connoisseurs of sipping spirit, however, dark rums are the preference. These can be tremendously refined and delicious, thanks in no small part to the tropical nature of the climate. The hot weather allows Caribbean rums to mature particularly rapidly - at as much as thrice the rate of Scotch Whisky . In this respect a 15 year old rum is the equivalent of a 45 year old whisky!

Other geographical factors come into play too, and some of the top rum-producing countries have attained their own unique style.

Jamaica is perhaps one of the most prolific rum nations today, with its own unique style. Prior to distillation, the molasses are typically allowed to ferment for a great length of time. This is then followed by distillation in pot stills. The result is intensity and body, often with notes of tropical fruit and banana. Appleton Estate and Wray and Nephew are superlative examples.

Barbados is another prime rum territory. One of the original islands to begin rum distillation, Barbadian rums are often superbly balanced, with deliciously aromatic tendencies. There are three main distilleries on the island (West Indies Rum Distillery, Mount Gay and Foursquare), and each makes use of pot stills. These are easy-drinking rums, with some of the longer-aged variants (Doorly’s XO, for example) working brilliantly as sipping spirits.

Guyana is one of our favourite rum nations, thanks in no small part to the heavy, Demerara rums bottled in the El Dorado range. These are full-bodied spirits, traditionally the main constituent in British Navy rum. Made in a mix of pot stills and column stills, there is quite a variety of flavour to be found. Where once there were more than 200 distilleries, today there is only one. We suggest you seek out El Dorado 15 for an example of just how good Guyana rum can be!

Latin America is home to the lighter, fresher cocktail rums. The popularity of such spirit (with the advent of the recent cocktail revolution) has transformed the place into the most prolific region of all. It all started, however, with Bacardi, originally produced in Cuba before the country's factories were nationalised. Today, Bacardi is made in Puerto Rico, and the classic Carta Blanca remains a mainstay for many cocktails including the Daiquiri. Countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela and Trinidad play hosts to some of the world's top distilleries. Brands such as Ron Zacapa, Brugal and Pampero - among many others - are well worth a look.

Whilst not always thought of as a true rum, this introduction would not be complete without a mention of Cachaça. The famous spirit, made almost exclusively in Brazil, is traditionally enjoyed as part of a Caipirinha cocktail, and its production closely resembles Rhum Agricole. It is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, and is bottled at between 38% and 54%ABV. One interesting aspect is the legally permissible addition of up to six grams of sugar per litre, giving the spirit additional sweetness. Varieties are sold both aged and unaged, with the former being a more premium style thanks to the extra complexity imbued by the use of wooden barrels. To sample some fine Cachaça, look for the superb distilleries Germana and Abelha. We recommend you enjoy the aged varieties neat, whilst the tangier white Cachaça is best drunk in the aforementioned Caipirinha - a cocktail made simply with two shots of Cachaça, half a lime and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Delicious!

Recently, rum has surged in popularity. Its regard as a fine cocktail mixer is good and widespread and a number of the world’s most popular drinks are rum-based - the Daiquiri and the Mojito being two prime examples. It is only recently, though, that our beloved rum has really been enjoyed en masse as a standalone beverage of true merit, and this new direction is excellent, for rum is as much a connoisseur’s libation as any other dark spirit. Like all dark spirits, a stemmed tulip glass is best for optimum palate entry and for focusing the aroma.

Rum

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A young, light rum from Green Island, a great producer of rum in Mauritius. This is distilled from molasses in a four column still, and the rum in the bottle is aged for between 3 and 5 years in oak...  More info
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From the beautiful Island of Mauritius, all the way out in the Indian Ocean, comes the cracking New Grove Oak Aged Rum. A spicy, sensual blend of rums aged between 1 and 15 years. Perfect on ice for a...  More info
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Bacardi Superior
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Let us introduce the world's most popular spirit… No backbar is complete without the classic white rum Bacardi Carta Blanca, originally produced in Cuba - at the first distillery there was a colony of...  More info
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J. Bally Rhum Ambre
(70cl, 45%)
Delicious gold rhum agricole made in Martinique, J Bally Ambre is brilliant on the rocks, or in a Mai Tai…  More info
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Diplomático Reserva
(70cl, 40%)
A very good aged rum from Diplomático in Venezuela. This is mix of both potstill and column still rums. This was awarded a Gold Medal at the Rum Experience 2007 in London.  More info
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This gorgeous pot still rum comes from the Diamond distillery in Guyana. It was matured in a bourbon barrel from 2003 to 2013, when it was bottled by Svenska Eldvatten in Sweden for their Rum Swedes...  More info
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Appleton Estate Gold is a special blend of rums distilled in pot and column stills. These are matured separately before being hand-blended. This is aged in refill Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey...  More info
User Rating:  Rating (2.5/5)
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Single cask pot-distilled Jamaican rum anybody? Thought so. Another excellent release from Duncan Taylor, 221 bottles of this 13 year old rum from Hampden distillery were filled in February 2014.  More info
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Mount Gilboa
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This is triple distilled in pot stills at the same distillery in Barbados that makes Mount Gay. A wonderfully refined, characterful rum.  More info
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Diplomático Añejo
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A supple, medium bodied rum from Diplomático, this Añejo is a blend of both continuous and pot still rums and is aged for around 4 years.  More info
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Elements 8 Cacao Rum
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A premium St. Lucian rum infused with criollo cacao beans, which would work well in a variety of cocktails.  More info
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$56.15
New Grove Spiced Rum
(70cl, 37.50%)
Superbly spiced rum from the island of Mauritius, which sits in the Indian Ocean. New Grove have struck a fine balance between classic sweet rum notes of citrus and honey and the hot notes driven by...  More info
$40.17
Angostura 5 Year Old
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A mix of both light and full bodied rums produced in Angostura's five column still set up. It is aged for between 5 and 8 years in American Oak Bourbon barrels. The results are fruity, caramel rich...  More info
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Doorly's 5 Year Old
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A very tasty Bajan rum, this 5 year old from Doorly's is a balanced spirit, typical of the region, and offers plenty of tropical fruit.  More info
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Doorlys 3 Year Old
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This white rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados is perfect for a variety of rum-based cocktails.  More info
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Bacardi Black
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A lovely dark rum from stalwart producers Bacardi. This is rich, full and spicy and works brilliantly in a variety of cocktails…  More info
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Delicious rum from Trinidad which, like a lot world-travellers, spent some time in France. Unlike other globe-trotters, who probably spent their time in France looking at pretty pictures in the...  More info
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This is a dark rum from Clarkes Court which is aged in ex-Bourbon casks to give it it's amber hue and oaky flavour.  More info
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Ron Abuelo 7 Year Old
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A 7 year old rum from Panama made by Varela-Hermanos. Ron Abuelo is made using distillery grown sugar cane and is aged in white oak barrels.  More info
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A Dominican rum, distilled in continuous stills and matured for an average of a decade using the solera system, the brand was started in Cuba in 1872, though eventually it emigrated, following the...  More info
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A handsomely packaged, beautiful little rum from El Dorado (one of our all-time favourites when it comes to Rum). This 5 year old Gold rum is fruity, rich and intensely buttery, and we have a feeling...  More info
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