There are four main styles of rum. The darkest is Jamaican or “Navy” rum, a heavy, concentrated drink made not only in Jamaica but also in Barbados and the British Virgin Islands. Since the middle of the 20th century, Jamaican rum has lost ground to lighter, more mixable styles.
These “light and white” rums originate from Cuba, but are now also produced by the Cruzan Company in the US Virgin Islands. Once distilled, these rums are filtered through charcoal and then they matured in oak barrels, which may add some colour, and character to the rum.
The third style of rum is Demerara, originating from Guyana and made from molasses. Not as dark as Jamaican rum, Demerara has a golden colour and a strong, fruity style.
In the past, producers added caramel to improve the colour and add a certain sweetness, but today, distillers are tending towards a less-sweet style. They have even launched superior-quality Demerara rums, some of which have been aged up to 15 years. They are one of the finest rums on the market.
The final style is rhum agricole, a drink produced on the French-influenced islands, particularly Martinique. It is usually made by fermenting sugar-cane juice to give a fruity and distinctive spirit. Cane juice rum is also mead in the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, and Haiti. Brazil makes a near-rum, from cane juice and maize distillate, called cachaca. The biggest brand of cachaca sells a staggering 50 million cases a year.
Colour: Deep, dark amber through to gold, and clear for the light rums.
Aroma: Dark and rich; caramel, toffee, raisins, and chocolate.
Taste: Soft and quite light on the palate, with a spicy finish.
Seagram & Sons formed the Captain Morgan Rum Company in 1944, but the heritage of the company dates back much further. Henry Morgan, the daring British buccaneer who became Jamaican governor in the late 17th century. It is now available in almost every country of the world, and is one of Diageo’s flagships.
Captain Morgan produces a range of rums in a variety of styles. The Black Label is a blend of rums, and has the dark toffee and raisin feel of the old Jamaica rums. It has a traditional style, and is full-bodied, smooth, and rich.
The Original Spiced Rum, made in Puerto Rico, was launched in 1983 as one of the first flavoured rums, and today is a big seller. It is a light rum blended with a range of spices and natural flavours, including vanilla and cinnamon.
There is also a sweeter version, Silver Spiced, which is mainly sold in the US, and is great for mixing. Captain Morgan Private Stock is a stronger version of the spiced rum, with more body and character. It is designed to be sopped over ice rather than mixed to create long drinks. Parrot Bay is a flavoured Puerto Rican white rum, available in mango, pineapple, or coconut flavours.
They are light, very sweet and sticky!
Captain Morgan rums are reliable and widely available, and really are fun - a great introduction to rum.
Colour: Light straw gold through to coffee-amber and mahogany.
Aroma: Sweet and light, nuts, spice, tobacco, caramelized fruit.
Taste: Soft and approachable, with vanilla, lush fruit and chocolate.
Havana Club rum dates back to 1878 when Don Jose Archebala founded the distillery in Cardénas, on the coast of Cuba. The Cuban party scene of the 1930s was great for Havana Club, but following the Cuban revolution of 1959, when the island’s distilleries came under state control and the US imposed sanctions on imports from Cuba, sales of the rum fell into decline.
Havana Club is now distributed around most of the world by Pernod Ricard. This has revived its fortunes and turned Havana club into one of rum’s market leaders.
The youngest Havana Club is Anejo Blanco. This is an aged white rum (although the age is unspecified), and is extremely fresh, with notes of cherry and chocolate. It makes a great mixer. The Anejo 3 Anos has golden nutty and soft character.
The Anejo Especial is darker, older and smokier and is the perfect Cuba Libre mixer (with cola and lime wedges). The flagship Anejo Reserva has a dark bottle and dark label, and is a darker rum, with coffee, chocolate and spice. Full of flavour, it is great as a mixer or on its own.
Best of all, though, is the Anejo 7 Anos, considered to be the pride of Cuban rum. This is dark, rich and complex and definitely one for after dinner, on its own.
Colour: Very dark, rich brown with some tinges of red.
Aroma: Treacle, dark sugar, black fruits and wood.
Taste: Quite dry, with banana, caramel, nuts and a spicy finish.
The Lamb’s tradition dates back to 1849 when Alfred Lamb opened a wine-and-spirit business in London. Lamb imported his rum using the system of “early landing”: the spirit was shipped from the Caribbean to the UK in oak barrels, while it was still young, and then left to mature in the cool cellars beneath the River Thames in London.
The cooler conditions enabled the rum to mature more slowly and so develop fuller, deeper flavours than if it had been allowed to mature in the warmer Caribbean climate. Lamb’s is marketed as a navy rum – a name that originates from the practice of the Royal Navy to give its sailors a daily ration of rum. The spirit the sailors drank was thick, dark and sweet and the term “navy rum” is now used to describe a traditional, heavy dark style of rum.
Lamb’s Navy Rum is made from a blend of 18 rums from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad. Aged in oak for up to four years, it is very much in the navy rum style, with a deep brown colour, dark fruits, lots of molasses, and a distinctive note of toffee. It has a deep, mellow flavour and a long finish. Overall, Lamb’s Navy Rum is well-made and reliable; so, if you like traditional dark rum, look no further.
In some countries, such as Canada, you may find that a light, golden Lamb’s rum, called Palm Breeze, is also available.
Colour: Clear gold through to amber, with good intensity.
Aroma: Very fruity and spicy, cinnamon, sherry, mint, and molasses.
Taste: Sweet and well-balanced; good fruit and vanilla, with a fresh, dry finish.
St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands once abounded with sugar and rum. Although most of the sugar has now gone, Cruzan rum continues to be a big success, imported to the US through its owners, Todhunter.
Cruzan is best known for its flavoured rum but it also makes some very good “straight” rum, including light and dark two-year-olds, which both have an excellent balance of fruit and spice, and are perfect for cocktail-making.
One of the straight rums is the elegant, award-winning Diamond Rum. Oaky, soft and gentle, it is a blend of five- to ten-year-old rums, and has a light amber colour and a medium body. The Single Barrel Estate Rum is an outstanding 12-year-old (and another award-winner) and great to drink on its own. The rum is deep and complex, with fine fruit flavours and delicious sweetness, balanced with a distinct spiciness and a dry finish.
No Cruzan entry would e complete without mentioning the company’s fantastic range of light, refreshing fruit rums, Banana, Mango, Coconut, Orange, Vanilla, Pineapple and Citrus rums are all available.
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