How is rum distilled?
The pot still is the oldest, traditional method of making rum. It consists of a large, bulbous kettle with a goose neck at the top – the vapours collect here and are transferred to a condenser. Pot stills can only be used to distill in batches, with two distillations needed to bring the spirit to the required proof (around 70°). Due to this process and the shape of the still, the distillate retains a lot of the congeners (components that give the rum its taste). Pot stills make for heavier rums, rougher on the edges – they need time in oak to be domesticated – but with unique aromatic characteristics. Jamaican and Guyanan rums are typical of this style.
The column still was invented in the 19th century and took root in Cuba around 1900. It’s a much more efficient method of distilling as the column still can be used continuously. It makes it easier to reach higher proofs and to obtain purer alcohols. Multicolumn set-ups are even more efficient, and can produce almost neutral spirits with very few congeners. Typical of the Cuban method, Havana Club rums are made from an aguardiente produced in a continuous column still, blended with a sugarcane distillate from a multicolumn still. This creates the light rum style.
An intermediary style of rum is made of a pot/column blend, mixing the heavier pot-still rums with the lighter column rums. This opens a lot of possibilities in terms of flavour profile.