Rum Spirits Guide

Sugarcane leaves and stalks cut and sliced
Sugarcane is the base ingredient for making rum

(Classified by color) (Colonial styles: French,  English,  Spanish)

The Difference Between Rum and Rhum

A rum’s stature is determined by the quality and uniqueness of the base ingredient. One key distinction between the British-Caribbean style spelled r-u-m and the French-Caribbean island style spelled r-h-u-m is the French version uses sugar cane juice, while the British uses molasses.

Pouring black molasses
Pouring black molasses
sugarcane juice pitcher with stalks
sugarcane stalks and juice

Sugar cane juice has more available sugars and ferments easily, whereas molasses must be mixed with water to ferment. Rhum agricole tends to be more expensive because it is produced from the more coveted sugar cane juice.

Rums are classified by their color: light, gold or dark, with darker rums having more flavor from barrel-aging and additional herbs and spices.

Light Rums

Light rums, also referred to as “silver” or “white”, generally have less flavor aside from a general sweetness. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color. The majority of light rums come from Puerto Rican producers. Their milder flavors make them popular for use in mixed drinks, not often for drinking straight. Light rums are included in some of the most popular cocktails, including the classic Cuba Libre (rum and Coke).

The Classic Cuba Libre made with Light Rum and Coke

Gold Rums

Gold rums, also called “amber” rums, are medium-bodied rums that are often aged. These gain their dark color from aging in bourbon whiskey barrels. Gold rums have more flavor and are stronger-tasting than light rums and are considered midway between light and the dark rum.


Dark Rums

Dark rums are known for their darker hues, including brown, black and red. These classes are a grade darker than gold rums. Dark rums may include caramel for added color.


Within the Caribbean, each island or production area has a unique style. For the most part, these styles can be grouped by the country of the language traditionally spoken. Due to the overwhelming influence of Puerto Rican rum, most rum consumed in the United States are produced in the “Spanish-speaking” style.

Bacardi Gold
Bacardi Gold

English-speaking Caribbean islands are known for darker rums with a fuller taste that retain a greater amount of the underlying molasses flavor. Rums from the Bahamas, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Belize, Bermuda, Saint Kitts, Jamaica.

Appleton Estates

Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum
Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum

Goslings rum from Bermuda, famous for the classic Dark & Stormy drink recipe

Goslings Black Seal Black Rum

Ten To One dark rum is a masterful blend of 8-year-old Barbados and Dominican column still rums, combined with high-ester Jamaican pot still rum, and Trinidadian rum. Aged in American white oak ex-bourbon casks. The brand takes its name from a phrase by Dr. Eric Williams, Trinidad and Tobago’s legendary first Prime Minister. When rallying to preserve the first Caribbean federation of 10 countries, he famously said, “One from 10 leaves zero,” the idea being that we are stronger together than apart. 


Ten To One Dark Rum, Trinidad & Tobago

French-speaking islands are best known for their agricultural rums called Rhum agricole, the French term for rum distilled from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice. These rums retain a greater amount of the original flavor of the sugar cane and are generally more expensive than molasses-based rums.

Rhum Clement from the French speaking islands of Maritnique 

Rhum Clément
Rhum Clément

Rums from the Spanish colonies traditionally produce añejo rums with a fairly smooth taste. Rums from Cuba, Colombia, Gautemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Venezuela and the U.S. Virgin Islands are of this style.

Brugal Anejo Rum from the Dominican Republic 

Brugal Super Anejo Rum

Flor de Caña is made by Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL), a subsidiary of Grupo Pellas. Grupo Pellas controls more than 20 companies in the country and boasts $1.5 billion in annual sales, equal to 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Controversy surrounds the rum factories pollution control. Carlos Pellas is the major shareholder in the company is a close friend of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Carlos Pellas is considered Nicaragua’s first billionaire. His nickname is “the sugar king.”

Flor de Caña

Overproof rums are much higher than the standard 40% ABV (80 proof), with many as high as 75% (150 proof) to 80% (160 proof). Overproof rums include, Wray & Nephew, Bacardi 151 and Pitorro moonshine.

Wray and Nephew white overproof rum from Jamaica
Wray and Nephew white overproof rum from Jamaica

Spiced rums are typically aged for the same length of time as black rum. Spices and caramel colorings are added to give it a signature sweet spice taste. Spices include: rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, pepper, cloves and cardamom.

Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum

Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits This infusion of flavors occurs after fermentation and distillation.Various chemicals are added to the alcohol to simulate the tastes of food.

Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay Coconut flavored rum


U.S. and Brazilian governments have established that all Brazilian sugarcane spirit arriving in the U.S. must be named “cachaça.” We won’t call it rum, but we will add to the list of distilled spirits made from sugar cane and produced by the country of Brazil. Cachaça is made from sugarcane juice, similar to rhum agricole.

Pitu Brazilian Rum, Cachaca



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