The Ultimate Guide To Rum

By: Sheena Isokariari

rum in a glass

Rum is not just a rum-tastic drink. It's a whole vibe, a cultural experience! It’s the taste of the Caribbean beaches, the sound of steel drums, and the smell of tropical fruits. Whether you're sipping on a frozen Piña Colada on a hot summer's afternoon or toasting an occasion with a neat glass of the finest rum, we love how this spirit can transport you to another place and time with just a few sips. With help from rum expert Charlotte Barker, we're here to tell you everything you need to know about your favourite sip. Let's dive right in…

What is rum? 

Rum is one of the oldest distilled spirits out there. It can be made from a variety of sugar products: sugarcane juice, molasses, and straight up sugar. It originated in the Caribbean in the 17th century and quickly became popular due to its high alcohol content and long shelf life. Today, rum is an incredibly versatile spirit enjoyed all over the world and comes in various blending styles, from light and fruity to dark and complex.

How is age related to the quality of rum?

The short answer is the overall taste and texture of rum changes with age, so older rum is usually seen as richer in vanilla, subtle spice and flavours that only come out with age.

rum in a bottle

Other factors that affect the taste, quality, and colour of rum include:

the method(s) of distillation
the process of maturing the spirits over time
the blending of various barrels of rum
the raw fermenting materials
the method of fermentation
the types of yeast used to convert sugars to alcohols 

So, how is rum made? 

Rum is made by fermenting molasses, sugarcane juice or sugar. It's a multi-step process…

1. Harvesting

Harvesting provides rum makers with the sugarcane to produce the rum. Back in the day, harvesters would use machetes to cut the stalks as close to the root as possible, collecting the segment with the highest sugar concentration. Today, machines do most of the heavy lifting, but the process still involves washing and chopping the cane into small pieces. 

2. Sugar Extraction

Sugarcane contains 75% water, with the remaining portion being sugar and fibre. To extract the sugar juice, the harvested cane goes through a process of washing, chopping, and pressing. This is how you get sugarcane juice.

The process of making everyday sugar (yes, the stuff you put in your tea) results in a thick, delicious by-product called molasses, which can also be used to make rum. After the molasses, sugar or sugarcane juice is fermented and distilled, it creates a smooth and delicious rum.

3. Fermentation

It's amazing how much goes into creating the perfect bottle of rum. During fermentation, yeast transforms sugars into alcohol, giving rum its unique taste. Producers mix yeast and water with the cane to initiate this process, and depending on the yeast strain and rum style, fermentation can last anywhere from 24 hours to 3 weeks.

Parts of previous fermentations or bits of the used sugarcane can be added at this stage to create some truly unique flavours.

4. Distillation

Distillation is a pretty cool process. Basically, the distillers start with a fermented liquid and then heat it up until it boils. The alcohol in the liquid turns into vapour faster than the water, which is how they extract the good stuff. There are two main methods for doing this - Copper Pot and Column Still. Both have their own benefits, but it really just depends on what you're looking for. 

rum and storage

What is the alcohol content of rum?

It can vary but starts from 37.5% alcohol by volume and only goes up!

So, what does rum taste like?

When it comes to rum, there's a whole world of flavours waiting to be explored. As rum is produced in so many different countries, every country has its own unique taste. But whether it's from the tropical shores of the Caribbean or the bustling cities of South America, one thing remains the same: rum is generally sweet with a touch of richness and smoothness, and always delicious. 

What are the different types of rum? There are lots, and they come in different colours, flavours, ages, and proofs. 

Here are a few of the most popular ones…

Dark Rum

This one is the ultimate drink if you appreciate the finer things in life. It's complex and rich in flavour, aged to perfection in charred oak barrels and you can expect to taste notes of sweet caramel, smooth vanilla, and a hint of spice. Enjoy dark rum neat or in a classic Dark and Stormy cocktail.

White rum

If you prefer a milder and more fruity flavour, white rum is the one. It's either bottled straight away or rested for a short period of time, giving it a smoother taste. Oh, and it's also known as silver or light rum. Perfect for mixing in fruity cocktails like the Daiquiri or the Mojito.

Spiced rum

As the name suggests, spiced rum blends cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice (as well as many more spices) into a rum base. And it spends several years ageing in oak barrels. Try it in a Spiced Rum Hot Toddy on a chilly night.

spiced rum hot toddy

Flavoured rum

If you're looking for something a little sweeter, a flavoured rum is your best bet. It's flavoured by adding spices and aromatics after distillation. Coconut or pineapple rums are the most popular flavoured rum which you can use to create tropical cocktails like a Piña Colada.

Gold rum

These are medium-bodied rums that are often quite rich in taste. Gold rums are aged in oak casks and have a dark look and smooth flavour Best used to mix up Mai Tai's or rum punches.

Overproof rum

And finally, it's the rum that has the highest alcohol content - over 50%. Use this one to mix up a Zombie or a Hurricane.

Is rum gluten-free? 

Yes, pure, distilled rum is gluten-free, as gluten proteins can't be carried over during distillation. But it's good to note some rum brands do add flavourings, spices, or other ingredients after distillation, so always read the label!

Find your ideal rum

So, now you know the basics of rum, here are a few of Charlotte’s favourite rum brands:

Captain Morgan ®

If you're looking for an easy-to-drink, delicious and bank balance-friendly rum, the iconic Captain Morgan® is the rum one. It's been a shining star in the rum world for ages, loved for its sweet, spicy flavour that is perfect for mixing in all your favourite cocktails.

captain morgan spiced gold


Try Zacapa if you're ready to take your taste buds on a truly unforgettable adventure. It's a fancy Guatemalan rum, aged in a variety of barrels, like bourbon, wine and sherry, which gives it a complex and rich flavour that is truly unmatched.

zacapa cocktail rum


It's the bold, full-bodied rum that's rich in flavour. Pampero is a Venezuelan rum with a unique process, which involves ageing the rum in barrels made from American oak. This gives it a distinctive flavour with spice, tobacco, and dark chocolate notes. Try it in a classic Rum Punch or a Rum Sour for a taste of Venezuela.

pampero rum

Now that you've learned all about the wonderful world of rum, it's time to get mixing. Here are Charlotte's 5 top favourite rum cocktails.


Ah, the Mojito. A popular cocktail, and for a good reason. Fresh mint, lime, rum and sugar. What's not to love?

Rum Old Fashioned

Why have a standard Old Fashioned when you can mix it up with a great, aged rum? You'll need sugar and bitters for a new twist on an iconic cocktail.

Captain Morgan's Spiced Hot Toddy

Nothing beats catching up over a Hot Toddy cocktail with your nearest and dearest when the temperature drops. This version is a spicy twist on the traditional recipe.  

Rum Punch

There's nothing like a good rum punch to keep the good vibes flowing. It's really easy to make, and you can batch it too. Oh, and here's an easy-to-remember rhyme to help you nail the perfect punch recipe, "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak." This means rum punch is made with one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts rum, and four parts water or juice. Of course, you don’t have to follow this rhyme exactly, though, but this will help you if needed.

rum punch

Rum and Cola

Rum and Cola is such a classic sip. It's an unbelievably simple yet satisfying cocktail. All you need is cola, a zesty wedge of lime and a decent white rum, like Captain Morgan® 

So, you now know how to serve rum. What food pairs well with it?

Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese

A classic pairing that goes great with rum as the creamy cheese complements the sweetness of the rum, while the fried chicken adds a crunchy texture. 

Glazed pork ribs

Glazed pork ribs are it if you're looking for something savoury to pair with rum. The sweet glaze offsets the smoky flavour of the ribs nicely while also complementing any spiced rums like Captain Morgan Spiced Gold.

Caramel brown butter cake

And if you have a sweet tooth, caramel brown butter cake will satisfy your tastebuds. This delicious treat pairs perfectly with dark rums like Zacapa or Pampero, as the rich flavour of the cake complements the sweetness of the rum nicely, creating an unforgettable combination.

rum cake 

Is rum a good gift?

100%! Rum makes such a great gift as there really is a bottle for every budget, thanks to the variety of brands out there. It's an all-season spirit that makes the perfect gift any time of year, from fruity brands that are perfect for summertime gifting to spicy, caramelly flavours for cold weather months, there's a rum to suit every style.

“Simply put: you can never go wrong with rum! The flavours are always so appealing to anyone that it's bound to be a winner. It also offers such diversity in whether you want to sip it neat, with a little ice, or pop it into an easy and delicious cocktail” - Charlotte

What does the future hold for rum?

The world of rum is constantly evolving, and some exciting trends are on the horizon. One trend that seems to be gaining popularity is craft rum, as more distilleries experiment with unique flavour combinations in small batches. And don't underestimate the power of flavoured rums - no longer just a low-quality option, modern flavoured rums offer complex and well-balanced tastes that make them perfect for sipping or mixing into your favourite cocktail. With so many delicious varieties and opportunities for innovation, the future of rum is looking bigger and brighter than ever. Get ready for some surprises and new favourites in the world of this beloved spirit!

“As rum's popularity grows, it is being taken seriously as a spirit to sip and enjoy on its own. Many whisky drinkers are exploring this category and finding a sweeter, fruitier, more complex spirit than previously thought. Ron Zacapa is the perfect rum to try on its own as it has many layers of rich flavour, all rounded off by its mature age.” – Charlotte  

rum and coke

Let's sum it all up

And that brings us to the end. To sum it all up, rum is a versatile drink of the world. From the iconic Captain Morgan® to premium styles like Zacapa and Pampero, there are plenty of delicious rums out there, and each spirit has its own distinct taste and production process. You can use rum to mix up some many tasty cocktails, like Mojitos or Rum Espresso Martinis or sip them straight. Whatever your style or budget, there's something for everyone. 

This content is not available in your location