Have you ever wondered what gives all the different types of Rum their colors? Rum is one of the few spirits that comes in a range of colors and flavors, from light and fruity to hot and spicy to deeply dark and mellow. If you are unsure which rum is for you, a good start is often to be found simply by looking at its color, different colors of rums can help you to find the one that suits your palate.
There are white rums, golden rums, dark rums and black rums. There are also three main ways in which a rum is made, which gives a clue as to its coloring. Traditional rums are made from molasses, cane syrup or fresh sugar cane juice. Traditionally, each color of the rum is and indicator of the age of the rum. The type of sugar used to make rum is not as important as how it is made and rested.
White rum is in general, the youngest type of rum. It is unaged or maybe a year or two spent in barrels. It is then filtered to remove any color that it got in the barrels and bottled. Most white rums have a mild to neutral flavor, and are best used in cocktails. White rums generally are not for sipping, they tend to be a bit harsh and have little mouth feel. There is a taste for unfiltered ‘hot’ rum that is just a step or two above moonshine for flavor. This type of white rum is very young , most has a higher percentage of alcohol and a burning effect in the mouth.
If rum is allowed to age undisturbed for a few years in a good oak barrel, it will begin mellow and develop a light golden color from the wood. A good palate will pick upon tastes of spices, citrus and or wood. Be careful in any of the golden rums, because there are some of the producers that will add brewer’s caramel to unaged rum to give you the illusion of being in a barrel.
Dark rum is in general aged for more than two or three years in oak barrels, picking up a copper or mahogany color. These rums will provide a rich flavor profile that is very sippable and satisfying compared to the golden rums. While technically a dark rum, black rums have a unique flavor profile due to their unique aging process.. For this reason they are favorites in many dishes and mixed drinks. These rums are treated differently than many light rums. The black run is aged in heavily charred whiskey barrels or other oak barrels that are heavily charred before use. This treatment releases much of the wood’s flavor into the developing rum.
This is where the colors and flavors come from in traditional rums, but be aware that many rum producers will add brewer’s caramel to enhance the colors after they are reduced from the high percentage of alcohol of the rums in the barrels as they are aged down to the traditional 40% that most spirits are bottled at. This is a common practice that gives the brand a color consistency and back matching the color that came from the barrel in the first place. There are others that will take rums that have spent less time in the barrels who add the caramel and other additives to give you the impression that they spent more time in the barrels than they actually had.