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Preparation of Rum

Rum is created from fermented sugarcane by-products. It was man-about-town Christopher Columbus who first brought sugarcane via the Canary Islands to the island of Hispaniola. The crop thrived in the warm climate, and sugar mills sprang up all around the Caribbean. It was eventually discovered that molasses (a by-product of sugar production), once fermented could be distilled into alcohol.

To produce rum, first the molasses is boiled down and left to ferment. Most light rums are made in column stills and then charcoal filtering delivers a high level of purity and a neutral flavor. Oak cask aging can be employed if only for a short time to add some character.

Darker rums often employ pot stills, which are common in cognac and Scotch production, and then are aged to perfection. Casks formerly holding cognac or brandy may be used, and in fact, some aged rums are likened to fine cognacs, armagnacs and single-malt scotches. They may be sipped from a snifter as an after-dinner drink.

Fast Facts

  • Lord Byron sagely writes in Don Juan: "There's nought no doubt so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion."
  • The first rough rum had a notorious reputation. In the 1650's it was described as being "a hellish and terrible liquor."
  • Their early incarnations were dubbed: kill-devil, devil's death, redeye, rumscullion and rumbullion - later shortened to rum. No one seems sure if rumbullion got its name from this 17th century English word meaning "a great tumult" or if the word entered the English lexicon because of rum's special powers. It might have also come from the same Creole word meaning "stem stew".
  • Various other theories exist on the origin of the name. It could be from the French word for aroma - arome, from the Latin word for sugarcane - saccharum officinarum, or from Rom - meaning gypsy.
  • Yet another moniker, Nelson's Blood, came from the legend that Admiral Nelson's body was shipped back to England in a barrel of the stuff. Others claim it was brandy.
  • From the 17th century to the 1960's, the British Navy issued sailors a daily ration of rum to ease the hardships of a life at sea. Grog eventually evolved to temper its incredibly high (160!) proof.
  • By the 18th century, rum replaced gin as the drink of choice in England. Rum bars and rum punches took the country by storm.
  • Its popularity grew so strong in American colonies that the threat of a rum tax helped set off the famous Boston Tea Party. Rumís role as Americaís favorite tippler lasted all the way up to prohibition. Scotch then crept in as the nationís choice.
  • Due to rumrunners' activities during Prohibition, the waters off of Long Island were known as "Rum Row".
  • Caiprihna - the Brazilian cocktail - is made with South American rum called Aguardiente de Cana or in particular, Cachaca from Brazil.
  • By law, Puerto Rican rum, "ron" must be aged at least 1 year

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