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Rum varieties - everything you need to know

by Honest & Rare Editorial Team
Rum Sorten - alles was du wissen musst

The most important facts summarized for you:

  • There are a total of 19 different types of rum
  • In some cases, there are strict regulations as to which ingredients belong in a certain type of rum and how it is produced
  • the addition of colorants is not prohibited for many types of rum, so the color of the distillate is only of limited significance in terms of quality

Rum varieties from A to Z

Rum is simple and complicated at the same time. Simple because it is made from a very straightforward list of ingredients. Water, yeast, molasses from sugar cane or sugar cane juice.

The rum world is complicated because these simple ingredients are varied in many ways through additives and production processes. This results in countless types of rum and rum names. We have collected the terms for you and sorted them from A to Z. This is the easiest way to find your way around the world of rum varieties.

All 19 types of rum at a glance:

Aged rum

Aged rum varieties taste concentrated, smooth and complex. Due to the slow evaporation in the barrel and the "seasoning" by the wood, the aromas have become increasingly subtle and versatile. Look forward to a flavor concert of vanilla, caramel, coffee, coconut and pineapple.

Aged Rum sind fassgelagerte Rum Sorten
Aged rums are barrel-aged rum varieties

Incidentally, the rum varieties in the warm and humid countries of production mature much faster in barrels than whiskey in Scotland, for example.

If you've ever wondered how the beautiful brown and golden colors get into the rum: At least with high-quality rums, these are not colorants - they are the result of patient storage in wooden barrels over many years.

Black rum

Also known as dark rum. The color of this specialty is not the result of particularly long storage in wooden barrels. Black rum, on the other hand, is only aged in wooden barrels for a short time. Its deep dark, almost black color is created by the addition of colorants.

Black oder auch dunkler Rum bekommt seinen Namen durch seine Farbe. Die entsteht allerdings meistens durch Zusätze
Black or dark rum gets its name from its color. However, this is usually the result of additives

Black rum varieties taste extremely strong and spicy. They are less suitable for drinking straight, but make a good addition to many mixed drinks.

Blended rum

The vast majority of rum varieties fall into the blended rum category. Each distillery stores many barrels from different years of ageing. The master blender mixes ("marries") the different rums to create a consistent, balanced taste. This gives blended rum varieties a recognition value that is typical of the brand.

Incidentally, the blended qualities do not have to come from a single distillery. Even blended rum varieties from different countries are common.

Brown rum

Brown rums are all rum varieties that have been stored in barrels. A freshly distilled rum is colorless, "white".

It only acquires its brown and golden hues through contact with the wood and years of ageing. The barrels have a major influence on the aromas and the degree of coloration. They are made from oak. As a rule, other spirits have already been matured in them.

Braune Rums entstehen durch die Fasslagerung
Brown rums are created through barrel ageing

Storage in ex-bourbon barrels is typical of many types of brown rum. They have been burnt out for bourbon, i.e. for whisky maturation. Depending on the degree of burnout, the color of the stored rum deepens.

Barrel ageing emphasizes the vanilla, caramel and coffee notes of the brown rum varieties. But be careful: sugar caramel can be used to help with the color. An intense color does not necessarily indicate a particularly long ageing period.

Real rum

This term creates confusion, as it implies that there is also fake rum. You can also easily confuse it with the original rum varieties.

Echter Rum stammt immer aus Übersee.
Real rum always comes from overseas.

Real rum always comes from overseas, which is why it is sometimes also called overseas rum. Its basic ingredient is sugar cane, other alcohols or spirits have no place in it. Genuine rum varieties are direct descendants of the original rum.

To be called real rum, the high-proof distillate of the original rum is brought to drinking strength. This is between 37.5 and 50 percent alcohol by volume for genuine rum varieties.

Flavored rum

The world of rum varieties is really complicated. If you think that flavored rum and spiced rum are two names for one and the same drink, then you are mistaken. It is true: Both types of rum contain added flavorings. But depending on the type of these ingredients, a distinction is made between flavored and spiced rum.

Im Gegensatz zu Spiced Rum hat Flavoured Rum meist fruchtige Zusätze
In contrast to spiced rum, flavored rum usually has fruity additives

Flavoured can be translated as "flavoured". This can happen directly after distillation. This flavor-enhanced variety then belongs to the white rum varieties. Alternatively, the distillate is placed in wooden barrels, where it ages and becomes more complex before being flavored.

Most flavored rum varieties are based on white rum. They combine perfectly with fruity flavors. These fruit flavors are the main characteristic of flavored rum varieties. Coconut is a classic. Or other tropical fruits: mango, banana, pineapple.

In fact, almost any fruit is suitable for a flavored rum - but always individually, not as a blend. This type only counts as an actual rum variety if it has an alcohol content of at least 37.5 percent.

Golden rum

This is how goldenrum is made: The fresh distillate is placed in burnt-out oak barrels for only a short storage period. There it takes on its seductive hue.

Goldener Rum wird nur kurz im Eichenfass gelagert
Golden rum is only stored in oak barrels for a short time

But: Golden rum varieties do not have to be aged in barrels. Some have never seen the inside of a barrel in their lives and get their golden look from colorants. Golden rum varieties are well suited to cocktails. They are uncomplicated in taste, spicy and yet mild.

Jamaican rum

Jamaica is considered the cradle of rum distillation. Legend has it that rum was created here naturally - namely from the plant remains of a sugar cane plantation in the intense heat of the sun. This is said to have been around the year 1500.

Since then, enough time has passed to refine the distillation and ageing process in Jamaica and around the world. Jamaican rum varieties are something very special and so typical in taste that connoisseurs speak of the Jamaican style.

Jamaika gilt als die Wiege der Rum-Destillation
Jamaica is considered the cradle of rum distillation

The producers there use pot stills for distillation. These are copper stills, similar to those used for high-quality single malt whiskies. They produce extremely concentrated rum varieties with a strong, complex body, intense spicy notes and pronounced aromas of exotic fruits.

The color of the Jamaican rum varieties is dark, strong and deep. This rum is not for beginners - unless you are tough. If a super strong Jamaican rum leaves you breathless, you can also dilute it with a little soft water.

Artificial rum

There are rum varieties that don't even exist. Artificial rum is definitely one of them. No, this is not rum in a particularly artistically designed bottle. Rather, the "art" is derived from the attribute "artificial". In other words, artificial rum varieties are not rum at all.

Artificial rum, also known as Inländer rum, was invented by the Austrians. They also wanted to drink their rum in the 19th century, but had no colonies. So they invented artificial rum: water, ethyl alcohol, flavorings and colorings. The pharmacist who concocted this astonishingly rum-like drink was called Stroh, and so Stroh rum was born.

Kunst Rum wird gerne im Grog verwendet - und stammt ursprünglich aus Österreich
Art rum is often used in grog - and originally comes from Austria

This soft, sweet-tasting spirit is often used for baking and refining or ends up in drinks and the famous Jagertee. Incidentally, since 1999 all artificial rum varieties must be made from sugar cane-based alcohol.

Original rum

We have already explained the difference between original rum and real rum under the entry "Real rum". Original rum can be described as the progenitor of all other rum varieties.

What goes into the bottle is pure rum. No colorants, alcohol or flavorings have been added. And no distilled water either, as is usually the case to bring rum varieties to a civilized drinking strength.

Original Rum ist immer hochprozentig, denn hier darf - anders als bei allen anderen Rum Sorten - kein Wasser zugesetzt werden.
Original rum is always high-proof because - unlike all other rum varieties - no water may be added.

The result: original rum is bursting with alcohol. Up to 74 percent, in exceptional cases even up to 80 "revolutions" are contained in such a bottle. In other words: original rum is good for hardened drinkers and for tests of courage.

But joking aside: these absolutely unadulterated products also have their raison d'être. Firstly, they allow you to experience what a rum tastes like without additives, i.e. original. Secondly, the strong distillates taste good in mixed drinks or in a very stiff grog.

By the way: when the original rum is mixed with smaller quantities of distilled water, the equally high-proof rum varieties are created. If more water is added, the overproof rum becomes real rum, also known as overseas rum, with a drinking strength of at least 37.5%.

Overproof rum

Overproof is one of the rum varieties with only a slightly lower drinking strength. When a rum comes out of the barrel, it is still bursting with "revolutions", as you have experienced with original rum. But for pure enjoyment, 80 percent alcohol volume is simply too strong.

Overproof rum starts with an alcohol content of 57.15 percent volume. Most of these rum varieties are between 60 and 70 percent. An overproof is bursting with aromas, but the Esther flavor overpowers it. This is why there are only a few overproof-pure drinkers in the rum-loving community.

Auch Overproof Rum ist hochprozentig und eignet sich - wie Original Rum - gut für Longdrinks und Cocktails
Overproof rum is also high-proof and - like original rum - is well suited to long drinks and cocktails

These strong rum varieties are ideal for cocktails and long drinks. This rum does not disappear among the other ingredients, but sets strong flavor accents. Overproof rum varieties are also indispensable for the winter fire tongs punch.

Rhum Agricole

One of the rum varieties praised by connoisseurs. Rhum Agricole accounts for around ten percent of total rum production. It is not made from molasses like the other 90 percent. The basic ingredient is sugar cane juice.

Rhum Agricole varieties come from French overseas departments such as Martinique. These are protected designations of origin (Rhum de la Réunion, Rhum de la Guyane, etc.). They are offered as Blanc with a shorter maturation period and as Vieux in matured quality.

Rhum Agricole wird nicht aus Melasse, sondern aus Zuckerrohrsaft destilliert
Rhum Agricole is not distilled from molasses, but from sugar cane juice

An elegant, slightly nutty character is typical of the younger Agricole varieties. With longer storage, it is enriched with the familiar woody notes of vanilla and caramel.

There are two different types of rhum agricole from Martinique: Rhum Agricole blanc (white rum) with a minimum ageing period of three months in stainless steel barrels; and Rhum paille (straw-colored) or Rhum ambré (amber-colored ) with a minimum ageing period of one year in oak barrels.

Rum blend

Real rum aficionados steer clear of this concoction. Strictly speaking, rum blends do not even count as rum varieties. Just like Austrian art rum, rum blends were born out of necessity.

The Germans in particular excelled in the craft of rum distilling. In the 18th century, Caribbean rum was subject to high import duties. That is why trading houses, particularly in the Flensburg area, set about mixing strong Jamaican rum with agricultural alcohol. The term Flensburg rum blend has since become firmly established.

Rum-Verschnitt eignet sich hervorragend zum Backen und Kochen
Rum blend is ideal for baking and cooking

Nowadays, the proportions of such "rum varieties" are precisely regulated in Germany. Rum blends must contain five percent real rum. The rest may be supplemented with neutral agricultural alcohol. The alcohol content of this mixture must be 37.5 percent. Rum blend is suitable for baking or flavoring. It is not advisable to use it in cocktails or on its own.

Single cask rum

Most rum varieties are "married" before they are bottled. We have already described the process under the entry "Blended rum": The contents of different casks or even the products of different distilleries from different countries are blended together to create a recognizable, easy-to-drink branded product.

But there is another "art form" among the rum varieties that is perhaps even more difficult to achieve and certainly more exclusive: single cask rum. Single cask means a single barrel. This type of drink has a special status among rum varieties, as it has to stand on its own and cannot be polished by marrying different cask bottlings.

Single Cask Rum Sorten sind echte Sammlerstücke, denn sie stammen aus einer einzigen Fassabfüllung
Single cask rum varieties are real collector's items, as they come from a single cask bottling

This is why the distilleries pay particular attention to the outstanding quality of the ingredients of the rum distillate - and of the cask. After all, how a single cask rum tastes after the maturation period, whether it is complex and nuanced or rather flat or aromatically dominant, depends to a large extent on the quality of the oak barrel. How old is it? How big is it? What spirit has been stored in it before? A former sherry barrel gives off completely different aromas to the rum varieties than a bourbon whiskey barrel.

Then it also depends on the storage location, its temperature, its temperature fluctuations and its humidity. In general, rum varieties mature much faster in the hot and humid climate of the Caribbean than, for example, a whisky on the cool Scottish coast. All of these aspects play a role in the maturation of a single cask rum and must be considered by the rum distillers. Once they have selected and matured the material well, wonderful spirits are produced in small quantities in single casks.

Collectors of rum varieties love the single cask. They are naturally limited to a few hundred bottles. The producers number them and also emphasize the uniqueness of these rum varieties through bottle design and packaging.

Solera rum

Most rum varieties are blends: "marriages" of several barrels. The blends may have been stored in the barrels of a single producer; or they may come from different distilleries, or even from different countries. The master blender, i.e. the expert who creates the happy "marriage", takes a little from this barrel and a little from that barrel - until the brand taste is achieved.

Solera Rums sind Blends, die nach einem sehr spezifischen Verfahren gelagert und abgefüllt werden
Solera rums are blends that are stored and bottled according to a very specific process

Rum varieties from the solera process are different. This is an ancient process from sherry production. Several different types of rum are stored on top of each other. The oldest spirits are stored in the lowest barrel and the barrels get younger and younger as they go up. As a rule, four rows of barrels are stored on top of each other.

Solera rum is bottled according to the following principle: The solera rums are bottled from the lowest barrel. However, the bottom barrel is never completely emptied, but is always refilled with rum from the barrel above. This produces beautifully balanced Solera rum varieties of consistent quality.

Good to know: If an age is stated on the bottle, this always refers to the age of the bottom barrel.

Spiced rum

Similar to flavored rum, spiced rum varieties also contain additional flavors that are not created solely by the basic rum ingredients of water, yeast and sugar cane (plus barrel aging).

Bei Spiced Rum Sorten werden Gewürze zugesetzt
Spices are added to spiced rum varieties

While white rum that has not been aged in barrels is generally used for the fruity flavored rum varieties, brown rum is usually used for spiced rum. In any case, the rum must have a minimum alcohol content of 37.5% - otherwise it is considered a rum-based spirit or liqueur.

Spiced rum varieties contain spicy flavors. Vanilla is common, but also cinnamon, cloves, ginger or nutmeg. Not forgetting sugar. While flavored rum with its fruity components is suitable for summer garden parties, spiced rum varieties taste best in the cooler months of the year. Flavored rums are smooth, pleasant and easy to drink.

Rum-based spirits

Flavored rum is often based on white rum and is flavored with fruit. Spiced rum is usually made from brown, barrel-aged rum varieties. Both varieties have one thing in common: an alcohol content of 37.5 percent. Anything below this cannot be called rum. The correct term is: rum-based spirit.

Such blends often contain colorants to give the appearance of barrel ageing that has not actually taken place. The quality of rum-based spir its does not usually reach that of flavored or spiced rum varieties.

Traditional rum

Traditional rum sounds ancient, with long venerable roots in pre-colonial Jamaica. In fact, these rum varieties date back to 2019 and are thanks to the European Union. With this term, it wanted to create a protected designation of origin and at the same time formulate conditions that guarantee the authenticity of these rum varieties.

Tradicional Rum ist eine geschütze Herkunftsbezeichnung
Tradicional rum is a protected designation of origin

A tradicional rum must be distilled from sugar cane that comes from the country of origin. Sugar cane cultivation and distillation of the rum must therefore take place in the same country. It must not have been subsequently sweetened with sugar or colored with dye. Tradicional rum is distilled on column stills - column-shaped distillation devices - is based on molasses and has a pure, sweet and buttery character.

White rum

In contrast to the barrel-aged rum varieties, white rum is not stored in oak barrels. Instead, the clear spirit is stored in steel tanks so that any remaining fuselage can evaporate and its aromas can be harmonized.

Mojito benötigt weißen Rum!
White rum is a popular cocktail ingredient - for example in the mojito

As already mentioned, white rum is used as a base for flavored rum and is particularly suitable for mixing cocktails. It is not advisable to drink it straight.

Where to buy good rum?

As you can see, the world of rum varieties is almost endless. If, after all the theory, you finally want to get into the practice, you should take a look at our rum range. There we have countless types of rum, all of which come from artisanal production and small manufactories. Cheers!

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