Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rum classifications - a complete list

As part of our rum consulting practice, we are frequently asked by our clients about the different types of rum available in the world. Most of them are only aware of differences based on color and are very surprised to learn about all the variables that can affect how a rum tastes. Following is a brief summary of the different types of rum, along with explanations that we hope will help you understand the complexity and diversity in the rum industry. These categories are not mutually exclusive (i.e., you can have a Pot Stilled, Naval Style, Aged rum).

Following is a list of all the classifications we have identified and cataloged. This post will focus on the first category, leaving the rest for subsequent blog entries.

  • Classifications of rum based on raw material
  • Classifications of rum based on fermentation method
  • Classifications of rum based on distillation method
  • Classifications of rum based on age
  • Classifications of rum based on blending technique
  • Classifications of rum based on style
  • Classifications of rum based on added flavors
  • Classifications of rum based on alcohol strength
  • Classifications of rum based on color
  • Classifications of rum based on marketing hype
  • Summary
  • References

Rum types based on raw material used:

Sugarcane Juice: many French rums (rhums) are made from 100% sugarcane juice, which is then fermented, distilled and aged. These rums tend to contain a high level of floral/herbal aromas and clearly differentiated from molasses-based rums. In French-speaking rum-producing countries, rums made from sugarcane juice are known as "Rhum Agricole," to differentiate them from "Rhum Industriel," which is made from molasses.

Molasses: when sugar processing plants extract sugar from the sugarcane juice, they boil the juice until crystals start to form, leaving behind a thick liquid known as molasses. Depending on how long they boil the juice and how much sugar they take out, one is left behind with Grade A Molasses (highest quality - highest percentage of fermentable sugar left), Grade B Molasses (slightly lower quality than Grade A), Grade C Molasses, Grade D Molasses and, finally, Black Strap Molasses (lower quality). The better rums in the market are made using higher quality molasses because they container a higher percentage of fermentable sugars and a lower percentage of chemicals (used to extract sugar crystals) that can interfere with yeast during the fermentation of the molasses.

Other: a couple of distilleries (in Eastern Europe, possibly elsewhere) have distilled alcohol from fermented sugar beet extracts and have attempted to sell the resulting alcohol as Rum. Fortunately they have faced opposition from larger markets and have not been able to export the product as such. Rum is made exclusively from sugarcane or its byproducts, anyone telling you otherwise is lying to you.

Luis Ayala is an author and rum consultant with Rum Runner Press, Inc. To learn more about rum, please visit or

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