The Story of Caribbean Rum

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Caribbean rum is synonymous with old stories of pirates, slave plantations and new ones of revelry and enjoying life on a sun-soaked island. With every Caribbean island making their own whether as marketable brands or bush rums served in your local roadside bar, can you really say you’ve experienced life if you’ve never had Caribbean rum?

“Caribbean rum producers have spent the past two centuries perfecting the arts of distillation, aging, and blending. Today, almost all rum is aged in oak barrels allowing the spirit to acquire a golden to dark brown hue. Equally, if not more important than aging, the final stage of production is blending – the point at which a number of rums are skilfully combined with the personality of the countries and a shot of heritage to produce something uniquely Caribbean – True Rum,” explains Vaughn Renwick, Chief Executive Officer of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association.

The Art of Making Rum

Making Caribbean rum is a rare art and few master it. According to Authentic Caribbean Rum, “Rum is a liqueur with a minimum base alcohol volume about 35 percent and is made from cane sugar. There are three main varieties of rum: white, gold and dark. The five main factors that affect a rum’s flavor and overall quality are the type of sugar used, the length of time it was allowed to ferment, the type of still used, the length of time it was allowed to age in the barrel, and the strength of the rum at the time it was bottled.

“With the many types of rums, comes various grades and the main forms are light or dark rum. Light rums are not as aged as dark rums; their color is clear in appearance. Rum is stored in casks made out of oak. However dark rum is aged for longer ranging from 3 years up to 12 years. Darker types of rum have an enhanced aroma and flavor unlike the lighter types of rum.” Rums are further enhanced by blending different ones, using vanilla, orange, tobacco and various spices to bring out flavors, which create new varieties.

Rum from St Vincent Distillers Ltd. Rum from St Vincent Distillers Ltd.

7 Different Types of Rum

Light Rums also known as silver or white rum, have little flavor, apart from a general sweetness. As a result, they are often used in cocktails due to their light taste.

Gold Rums also are known as amber rums, are aged for a longer time than lighter rums. Due to the types of casks used to age them, they have a darker hue and a woodsy flavor. They have a stronger taste than the lighter rums and are not as strong as the darker ones.

Dark Rums are known for their particular hues such as brown, red rums or black and this type of rum is a grade darker than the gold rum. They are aged in strong barrels, for a longer time to gives them a stronger flavor. There are small hints of spices together with strong molasses or caramel tinge. Dark rums are commonly used in cooking and are often produced in Haiti and Jamaica.

Spiced Rums are made by mixing different types of spices. Most of these rums are darker in color and are built on gold rums. Spices used on these types of rums include rosemary, pepper, and cinnamon.

Flavored Rums are infused with different fruit flavors. Fruits commonly used are bananas, orange, coconut, mango, citrus, lime or starfruit. Flavored rums are used to give taste to other drinks that have been similarly themed. They are either drank alone or mixed with ice. They have less than 40 percent alcohol.

Overproof Rums usually has about 40 percent alcohol (80 proof); however, it’s common to find rums with over 75 percent of alcohol in the market (150+). The most common example is probably Bacardi 151.

Premium Rums are luxury rums available in the market. They cost higher than the regular rums because of the way they are produced. They are carefully aged and produced to meet high standards, are often drank straight without having to mix with other drinks, and they offer more flavor and character, given the way they are made.

Authentic Caribbean Rum

Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque

All Caribbean countries produce some form of rum, but for some like Montserrat, it is just local bush rum. Currently, twelve Caribbean countries produce rum that bears the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque which is a visual symbol of provenance and quality. Set up by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc. (WIRSPA), it was designed to help consumers identify which rums brands are of exceptional quality.

The list of Caribbean countries producing rum with the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marquee includes Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Antigua & Barbuda

* Antigua Distillery Ltd., makers of English Harbour 5 Years Old

Barbados

* West Indies Rum Distillery, St Michael
* Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd, makers of Mount Gay Black Barrel
* R.L. Seale & Co Ltd, makers of Doorly’s XO
* St. Nicholas Abbey, makers of St. Nicholas Abbey

Belize Rum

* Travellers Liquors Ltd, Belize City, makers of Travellers 5 Barrel Rum

Dominican Republic

* Brugal & Cía, Puerto Plata, makers of Brugal 1888
* Ron Barceló, Santo Domingo, makers of Barceló Imperial

Grenada

* Grenada Distillers, St. George, makers of de Clarke’s Court Old Grog.
* Westerhall Estate, St. David’s, makers of Westerhall 10XO

Guyana

* Demerara Distillers Ltd. East Bank Demerara, makers of El Dorado 15 Years Old

Haiti

* Société du Rhum Barbancourt, makers of Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale Five Star

Jamaica

* Appleton Estate makers of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum
* Hampden Estate, home of Hampden Gold
* National Rums of Jamaica, makers of Monymusk Plantation Special Reserve Rum

Saint Vincent & The Grenadines

* St. Vincent Distillers Ltd, makers of Captain Bligh XO Rum

Saint Lucia

* St. Lucia Distillers, makers of Chairman’s Reserve

Suriname

* Suriname Alcoholic Beverages N.V., makers of Borgoe 8 Years Old Gran Reserve

Trinidad & Tobago

* The House of Angostura, makers of Angostura® 1919

Again, this list of Caribbean rum brands is only those that have the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque. It is by no means a comprehensive list of Caribbean rums. That said, each has a story linked to the rich history of the Caribbean region.

Authentic Caribbean Rum: Brands across the Region

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Welcome to Caribbean & Co. founded by 40something-year-old Ursula Petula Barzey with the aim of becoming the ultimate guide to Caribbean travel. Establish in 2014, Caribbean & Co. has won four travel media awards in recent years.

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