Rum is a delicious distilled spirit and is typically mixed with other beverages to make various cocktails. When we think of rum, we envision tropical regions mostly in the Caribbean. We also think of pirates and Jack Sparrow drinking rum on huge ships sailing across the sea.
While rum is mostly associated with Caribbean countries like Jamaica, rum is currently made all over the world. Countries include the Phillippines, Kenya, U.K. and the U.S. It is frequently produced in places with tropical climates. The availability of sugarcane is crucial to rum production, and warm regions favor the harvesting of this crop.
This, however, is not the only determining factor of rum production and the beverage has been produced in several countries outside of the tropics. This article will give a small background on rum and explore the areas where rum is produced.
What is Rum?
Rum is a liquor — or a distilled alcoholic beverage — that is made from distilling fermented sugarcane juice or molasses.
Sugarcane products are mixed with water and yeast until the sugars in the mixture convert to alcohol. The resulting liquid, called the wash, is placed into a heated distillation unit, or a still. The still heats the wash and evaporates the alcohol, which is collected and condensed into liquid again.
The clear, distilled alcoholic liquid is aged for at least several months (to several years) in oak barrels or metal containers, during which the liquid experiences additional alcohol evaporation and changes in color, composition, and flavor.
After aging, the liquid is often blended with other aged rums to maintain consistency. Once bottled, the rum is complete.
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Rum In Asia and the Pacific
Though modern rum is strongly associated with the Americas, fermented sugarcane liquors may have had their start in Asia. Shidhu, a distilled sugarcane liquor, is mentioned in the Indian traditional medical text of the Ayurveda — dating back at least to the 7th century A.D. (possibly earlier).
In more recent times, India’s colonial status under the British has brought rum distilleries to the country. In 1855, Edward Abraham Dyer established India’s first rum distillery in the city of Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, India. As of 2018, India is the world’s second-largest producer of sugarcane in the world, and several local rums are produced there.
Rum is also produced in the Philippines, Nepal, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, and Japan. As much of the Asia/Pacific region has tropical or sub-tropical climates, it is ideal for growing sugarcane and facilitates rum production.
Rum In Africa
Like Asia, much of Africa has a climate suitable for growing sugarcane. Though only 5% of the world’s sugarcane is produced there, 83% of all sugarcane in Africa is grown in the sub-Saharan region.
Since colonial times, rum production has developed there. Brands like Kwilu rum in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tipto Tinto in Mozambique, and Mainstay International rum in South Africa, are all examples of rums produced in Africa.
Other African rums include those produced in Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Reunion Island.
Rum in the Caribbean
Rum is an important part of the history, culture, and economy of the Caribbean — perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world. With the historical wealth of entire empires depending on slavery and sugarcane production, the rum trade was a mainstay of Spanish, French, Dutch, and British colonists there.
In the Caribbean, rum varies by region. The British territories produce darker, molasses-based rums, such as those produced in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Bermuda.
Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other French-influenced regions have produced lighter sugar cane juice-based rums.
The former Spanish colonies of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico produce Anejo (aged) rums, those aged in oak barrels.
Rum in the Americas
Like the former Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, the countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Guatemala produce Anejo and other rums.
Modern rum may have actually been based on the Brazilian fermented sugarcane liquor cachaca.
The United States and Canada have several regional rum distilleries.
Rum in Europe
Though less commonly produced in Europe, there are several rum distilleries in France, Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.
In conclusion, rum can be made all over the world, whether with local or imported sugarcane products. Though the drink has strong roots in the Caribbean, its production has spread in popularity and is now enjoyed worldwide.