Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Where Did the Name Rum Come From?

     “The origin of the word "rum" is overall quite unclear.    In an 1824 essay about the word's origin, Samuel Morewood, a British etymologist, suggested it might be from the British slang term for "the best", as in "having a rum time." He wrote: As spirits, extracted from molasses, could not well be ranked under the name whiskey, brandy or arrack, it would be called rum, to denote its excellence or superior quality.”  The harsh taste early rum was known for, Morewood would later suggested another possibility.  The use of the last syllable of the  Latin word for sugar is saccharum is an explanation commonly believed today.
     No matter what the original source, the name was already in common use by 1654, when the General Court of Connecticut ordered the confiscations of "whatsoever Barbados liquors, commonly called rum, kill devil and the like".   A short time later in May 1657, the General Court of Massachusetts also decided to make illegal the sale of strong liquor "whether known by the name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc.
     Currently the name used for rum is often based on its place of origin.   For rums from Spanish speaking locales, the word ron is used.   A ron anejo, Spanish for "old rum" indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products.   Rhum is the term that typically distinguishes rum made from fresh sugar cane juice in French-speaking locales like Martinique.   A rhum vieux,  French for "old rum",  is an aged French style rum that often must meet several other local requirements.

     There are many other names that rum is known by like, Nelson's blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate's drink, navy neaters, and Barbados water, Haiti has a moonshine like cane spirit known as Clairin.  Newfoundland rum is called screech and there are some low-grade West Indies rums are called tafia.

     Whatever you call it, rum is one the world’s most interesting and flavorful spirits.  Plus my favorite.