Have you ever walked into a bar feeling like you want to try something new? You peruse the back bar feeling brave and the brightly coloured rum bottles catch your eye. You ask for a rum to which the bartender responds “which rum would you like?”. Well that’s thrown you a curveball so you awkwardly squint at the spirit shelf and pick one out at random – golden rum, that sounds nice I will have one of those. The bartender then asks “would you like that neat, over ice, with coke, ginger ale or ginger beer?” In panic you play it safe and order a gin and tonic, phew.
The Different Types of Rum
This blog covers the styles of rum, the difference between them and how they are typically served. The thing to bear in mind is that although other spirits can vary massively in flavour profile, rum is much more versatile. I genuinely believe that if you like spirits, whether brandy, gin, vodka, whisky etc, then you will like rum; but because it can be so varied in style you may have not found the right rum for you. Hopefully this will give you a better insight into the different categories and styles, and help you order a rum with confidence in the future.
To discover what style of rum you like you need to start by sipping some neat. I am not talking about doing shots or making you sit in a leather armchair in front of an open fire with a cigar and tasting glasses. When you pop open the bottle for the first time pour some into a glass – it doesn’t matter what glass – it can be tall and skinny, short and wide or a champagne flute for all I care. Have a smell and taste neat, make sure you let it sit on your tongue for a couple of seconds. Remember your first sip of neat alcohol can be a shock to your palette, so have a second sip before you then finish the rest with a mixer. At first you may have no idea what you are smelling or tasting, or what you should even be looking for but if you do this with every spirit you get your hands on you will instantly start to see differences in flavour and quality, even if you don’t know what those flavours are or the proper terminology. It really doesn’t matter when you are slowly learning what kind of spirits you like.
As all rum starts as a white rum, I feel like this is the best place to begin. White rum is what we end up with when we have double distilled our wash. Remember colour isn’t passed through the distillation process, meaning it always comes off the still transparent/ white. This then can then be bottled as white rum or be turned into one of the other styles. Typically speaking people have a negative association with white rum. You might compare it to bad vodka? Bland, boring and sometimes very harsh. We have found people tend to over dilute it with coke and have had one rough night out on a cheap rum, resulting in them not liking rum at all or having the wrong idea about how delicious and complex white rum can actually be.
Since the launch of our Jester White Rum, we’ve been giving out neat samples to the public, retailers and bar staff. It’s been amazing how surprised people are when they realise that white rum can have flavour, complexity and smoothness. Well-crafted white rum can be enjoyed by any drinker no matter what your taste is. If you’re a whisky drinker a rich and fruity white rum can be enjoyed neat or on ice. If you are more of gin or vodka drinker then a lighter more delicate style can be enjoyed with a tonic, ginger ale, or coke with a squeeze of lime of course!
Spiced Rum is the most popular style being made in the UK. Brands are often importing a white rum base made by someone else and then adding additional flavour, colour and sugar into the spirit to create their spiced rum.
Our Jester Spiced Rum is made using our 100% British made Jester White Rum as the base which we distil again with our spices, fruit and citrus. We use spices such as sweet mace and cinnamon, aromatic nutmeg and warming clove which make for a light-bodied dry rum boasting fruity notes. We then add a drop of caramel at the end to give it that classic spiced rum colour. In terms of production spiced rum is kind of like the gin of the rum world i.e. distilling botanicals within the spirit.
Alternatively, producers might make their spiced rum in the style of a berry/fruit gin when you leave the chosen spices to macerate in the liquid for a period of time allowing the alcohol to extract flavour and colour.
When you start trying spiced rums neat you will very quickly realise that some are extremely sweet where others are more spiced. You will almost instantly work out if you prefer a more classic spiced rum or one that has had sweeteners and flavours added after distillation. It’s always worth checking the ABV as some “pineapple spiced rums” for example are less than 37.5% ABV making it a rum liqueur rather than actual rum, these tend to be slightly sweeter in style. Personally, I would tend to drink spiced rum with either coke or ginger ale depending on that rum’s specific flavour profile.
Black, Golden, Dark and Barrel aged. It’s like you are saying the same thing but in four different ways for ultimate confusion, however there can be a really big difference.
The common mindset is that all of these are barrel aged and in actual fact many rums do have colouring, caramel or flavours added after distillation to give the illusion of a barrel aged spirit.
You know it is barrel aged when it has a number on the bottle indicating the number of years that it has been in a barrel, or it will simply state that it’s a barrel aged product. Both will have a little write up giving you information about what barrel it has been aged in which plays a huge factor in that rums flavour profile. We are currently barrel aging our own rum, using an assortment of different barrels to enable us to launch a range of exciting single cask and blended aged rums from next year onwards. It is a whole new level of skill to carefully select the right barrels with the best barrel aging and blending regimes to produce spirit that can rival a good whisky, so challenge accepted! Watch this space.
I would say aged rums are normally enjoyed by brandy and whisky drinkers but you don’t know until you try!
It’s normally encouraged that you should drink dark and barrel aged rum neat or over ice but if that is not for you try making a short drink with either coke, ginger beer or ginger ale. Generally speaking ginger ale suits a lighter style of spirit better as it’s a carbonated water with a ginger flavour added whereas ginger beer is actually brewed, suiting richer dark spirit better due to its strong spicy nature.
Of course, all these rums can be used in cocktails and mixed into some tasty classics, but that’s something we will have to talk about another day. In the meantime, keep sipping spirits neat and playing around with different rums and I am sure you will find the serve for you. Join us on the rum road and follow our journey on social media, we have lots of exciting rums on the way!