Beginner's guide > Types of rum

Most rum is made using molasses – a thick sweet brown syrup that is a product of the sugar refining process. From this basic starting product, plus the addition of yeast and water, comes the world’s vast array of rums. There are many different styles of rum and the choice can be confusing. Here we explain the main categories of rum and the differences between the styles. This may help you when choosing the rum that will best suit your taste, when faced with shelves of different bottles in the shop. We start with the lightest rum and move through to the heaviest.

a selection of rum bottles
White rum
These can also be called silver or light rums (blanco in Spanish) and are usually young. They have little or no colour, as they are only partially aged (or not aged at all, in some cases) and are then filtered to remove any colouration. White rums have pronounced sweet yet subtle flavours and this makes them especially popular for mixing and cocktails, rather than for drinking neat.

Rhum agricole
This is a style of rum that is made using fresh sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It is made mostly on the French speaking Caribbean islands and retains a greater amount of the sugar cane flavour in the final product. Rhum agricole translates from French as ‘farm made rum’ and this reflects the traditional manufacturing methods that are still used today. They are expensive in comparison to molasses based rums and offer light, fresh sweetness with distinct vegetal and spicy notes.

Gold rum
Also sometimes known as amber rum (or oro in Spanish), this style is aged in charred oak casks that have previously been used in the American bourbon industry. They can be aged for anything between one and 10 years. These rums have more flavour and colour than white rums or rhum agricole and are popular either with a mixer or drunk straight. This style of rum is the most common available.

Spiced rum
These rums use gold rum as their base and then have a blend of spices and caramel added. These spices can include cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, vanilla, clove and star anise. Spiced rums have a deeper warm flavour than the gold rums and are perfect for mixing in cocktails. However, they are also popular as a neat drink or over ice.

Dark rum
This style can also be known as black rum. This is due to the dark colouration that is picked up from the heavily charred oak casks used in ageing and maturation. They are also aged for longer than white and gold rums. They have a much richer, sweeter flavour and are full bodied with plenty of molasses and spicy notes. Popularly drunk straight, dark rums are also commonly used in cookery.

Overproof rum
The name refers to the old measuring unit for alcoholic strength, known as the ‘proof’. Overproof or ‘OP’ rums as they are sometimes known, refer to a rum that is over 100° proof (approximately 45% ABV in modern terms) and some can be up to 150-160° (around 80% ABV). These strengths are the natural strength of the rum as it comes from the cask after maturation. Most rums are then diluted with natural spring water to bring the ABV strength down to 35-45%. As a result, an overproof rum has more exaggerated flavours than other rums.

Premium and super premium rum
These rums are produced in small batches or are of greater age than most other rums on the market. They are often distilled by small producers or boutique brands and can be released in limited bottle runs or as a single cask release. Premium or super premium rums fetch high prices, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep rum stable during maturation after a certain age. They show increased character, softness and subtlety in comparison to other styles of rum. One to sit, sip and enjoy!

Please note - the image used in this post is taken from via Google Images.