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Magazine

The New Rum Frontier

You’ll struggle to find another spirit which boasts as much personality as rum. It’s made all over the world in a huge range of different styles and flavours. However, for years the most common way to describe it has been by colour – something that often has little correlation to its flavour

Our Head Buyer Dawn Davies MW has been working tirelessly to find a new way to describe rum and are pleased to present our own classification system. Evolving the work of industry legends Luca Gargano and Richard Seale, it breaks rums down by how they are made, giving more of an insight into their character and flavour than simply their colour.

But don’t worry, we’re not losing the old colour classifications, just adding more detail to help you find the rums that are best for you.

TRADITIONAL CLASSIFICATIONS

White Rum
While it might seem obvious that a clear rum is unaged, that’s not always the case. While many have never seen the inside of a cask, some are charcoal-filtered to remove any colour. These are generally lighter rums, but there are many exceptions, especially when you delve into the world of sugar cane juice rums – see below.

Golden Rum
This category of rum encompasses almost all of the famous aged rums as well as most of the high-end rums much loved by the new generation of rum connoisseurs that are currently pushing producers to experiment and create ever-more interesting spirits. Golden rums range from the fruity and delicate to rich and spicy, with almost every style possible appearing along the way.

Dark Rum
This category covers a huge range of flavours, from the rich and treacly to the dry and spicy, with their colour coming from age, added colouring or a mixture of both. The colour may not be a reliable indicator of age or flavour, but there are some fantastic favourites in here, showing quite how wide the church of rum-making is.

Sugar Cane Juice Rum
Sugar cane juice rums (also sometimes called rhums) are punchy and pungent, and the true essence of the sugarcane plant. Made purely with freshly-pressed sugar-cane juice rather than the more-common molasses, they are the speciality of French-speaking Caribbean islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. They are often called ‘agricole rums’, but as rum made to Martinique’s strict regulations carry a Protected Designation of Origin – AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole – we refer to them as ‘sugar cane juice rums’ to try and reduce confusion.

Spiced and Flavoured Rum
Spiced and flavoured rums have never been so popular, and lend themselves to mixing and the world of long drinks, whether in a spicy Cuba Libre, Rum Buck, or simply added to ginger beer. Recipes vary, but you’ll typically find notes of cinnamon, clove, vanilla and a touch of citrus in spiced rum, and a whole world of fruit in flavoured rum.

THE SPECIALITY DRINKS CLASSIFICATION

We’ve divided the world of rum up into six categories, broken up across single distillery rums and multi-distillery marriages:

Single Traditional Column
Rum made at one distillery in traditional column stills. These create high-strength spirits but can still produce highly flavoursome rums. 

Single Traditional Pot Still
Rum made at one distillery in traditional pot stills. These produce lower-strength spirits that are usually weightier in style than column-distilled rums.

Single Traditional Blended
A blend of traditional pot still and traditional column still rums from the same distillery.

Single Modernist
Rum made at a single distillery using modern multi-column stills. These produce high-strength spirit with less character than traditional rums.

Blended Traditionalist
A blend of rums from multiple distilleries that only includes single traditional spirit.

Blended Modernist
A blend of rums from multiple distilleries that includes single modernist rum.

THE FUTURE

As anyone who came to our Raising the Back Bar portfolio tasting this year can attest, we’re hugely proud of our new classification. We hope you will find it useful, both in stocking your bars and communicating the exciting world of rum to your customers.

With sales of rum soaring and consumers seeking authenticity and story in their drinks, we believe that moving away from simple colour delineation is the future. We hope to see this system adopted by the rum industry, ushering in an era of greater transparency to go with its success. We’d love to hear what you think!