This has given rise to a number of attempts to break the wide world of rum into manageable sub-groups that give some indication of style and flavour. The system outlined here is part of an ongoing effort to make the 1,000+ rums stocked by The Whisky Exchange at any given time easier to navigate.
‘For me, this was a passion project,’ says Dawn Davies. ‘I want to see more people drinking rum and I think the way we achieve that is by making it easier for our customers to make informed choices about the product.’
Single distillery rum
Rum from one distillery, made using a traditional pot still – this can include copper alembics like those used to make single malt Scotch or the double retort stills prevalent in Jamaica. These pieces of equipment tend to produce spirits that are lower in alcohol and so higher in the compounds that provide richness and weight. A classic example would be Smith & Cross.
The column still was introduced to the Caribbean in the mid-18th century, following a decades-long push to develop a method for continuous distillation. A traditional two-column setup produces higher strength spirit than a pot still – spirit that is consequently cleaner and brighter but still contains plenty of flavour, which Trois Rivières Blanc Rum shows in abundance.
A blend comprising spirits from multiple still types at a single distillery. Many producers favour this style as combining light and heavy spirits can create layers of depth and contrast. Across the world, many rum distilleries will maintain multiple stills so that they can create a range of different single blends as with Doorly’s 14 Year Old Rum.
Modern column stills are often large, industrial pieces of equipment containing four or more columns and capable of distilling very pure spirits. The higher strength rums they produce are lighter and cleaner than those made with traditional stills. These rums usually make a good base for other flavours like with Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum.
A combination of rums from different distilleries, perhaps across multiple countries. All the components will come from traditional pot and/or column stills. By combining distillates from different origins, blenders can create complex flavour profiles greater than the sum of their parts like with Black Tot Finest Caribbean Rum.
When a producer introduces modernist rum to their blends – or combines only modern column-distilled spirits – the result is blended modernist rum. While generally lighter in character, this style is great for anyone wanting an easy-going profile or a rum that plays well with other ingredients in cocktails and The Lovers Rums is a modern classic.
When combined with the rum flavour camps, the Whisky Exchange Rum Classification system offers a broad idea of what a given rum will be like once it’s in your glass. Each rum listed on the site will also specify the raw materials – molasses or sugar cane juice – and whether colouring, flavouring or other additives have been added. There is always more to do in the quest for greater transparency – more information to be gleaned – but armed with the above, you should be well-placed to pick the rum that’s right for you.