When or where the word rum originated is not clear. Some feel it comes from rumbullion, a word that means a big hubbub, while others argue it could have Latin, French, or even Dutch origins. Although no one knows for sure how exactly the spirit got its name, it is known that by May 1657, rum was a commonly used term. That date was important because, at that time, strong liqueur sale became an illegal practice thanks to the General Court of Massechusetts.
Currently, different regions use different words when referring to rum. Ron is used by those in Spanish-speaking regions and rhum is used by those regions where French is the prevalent language.
Rum has a very long history. Sugarcane juice-based fermented drinks more than likely originated in ancient China or India. Their popularity grew and spread and eventually rum came on the scene. During the 17th century, rum distillation first took place in the Caribbean on sugarcane plantations. Slaves there found that molasses, which is created while refining sugar, could easily create alcohol when fermented. It would later be found that distillation could create a true rum when impurities were removed.
Rum quickly spread from the Caribbean to Colonial America, where, in 1664, the first distillery was created on what is known today as Staten Island. Just three years later, Boston would also have its own distillery. From there, its popularity would keep on growing.
Today, much like it was done in the Caribbean so many years ago, many rum brands are created from molasses and a fermentation process, during which water and yeast are added to begin. They type of yeast used depends on the specific brandís producer, and each type will lend its own unique aroma and taste to the final product. Just as the fermentation process varies by the producer, so does the distillation process. Some prefer using column stills and some feel that column stills work much better. Others, still, use a combination of the two. Once the rum has finished with the distillation process, it is time for the spirit to be aged. The rum is aged in either stainless steel tanks or wooden casks, and in many countries, the spirit is required to age for a minimum of one year. This process is a very important one because it determines the rumís color. If aged in an oak cask, the rum will be dark. If aged in the stainless steel tank, the final product will have almost no color. To complete the entire production procedure, the rum is blended. During this final stage, the addition of caramel may be used to give dark rums the desired color, while further filtering helps light rums to eradicate any colors that may have been produced while being aged.
Rum is divided into various grades. Light rum is slightly sweet and virtually flavorless. Gold rum is medium-bodied. Spiced rum is darker in color and is flavored with spices. Dark rum has been aged longer, is darker in color, and has a stronger flavor. Flavored rum has been infused with various flavoring agents. Overproof rum contains more than 40% alcohol. Lastly, premium rum is flavorful and best when consumed alone.