Havana Club’s essential guide to rum
The first Caribbean rum was almost certainly made by slaves, in the style of Brazil’s cachaça. Working on the sugar plantations they discovered that molasses –until then considered a useless waste product –fermented in the sun. Pot stills were installed to purify the liquor, and both rum and molasses became a lucrative part of the British-run triangular trade between the Caribbean, the Colonies and Africa. Meanwhile, in Cuba rum remained as moonshine until 1796, when the Spanish crown lifted its ban on rum distilling.
Rum is notoriously difficult to categorise. One way to navigate throughthe maze is with reference to the islands’ colonisers. As the European powers raced to grab as many of the fertile Caribbean islands as they could and establish sugar-producing colonies, each developed their own style of rum. Spanish-style rum, British-style rum, or French-style rum is still often used to classify the different kinds of rum.
There are so many exceptions, however, that classification by style is becoming outdated. The easily perceived distinctions between white rum, gold rum and dark rum suggest that the colour of rum could provide a useful guide–but this, too, has its pitfalls.
Cuban rum, in particular, is so unique thanks to its terroir, history, and the Cuban process of distilling that it defies convenient categorisation.
In the end, it is only by exploring rums and learning about rum distilling and rum ageing that you will truly know the astonishing range and complexity of the spirit.