If you’re a rum drinker you probably already know that not all rum is created equally. There are many different types of rum, which each have their own flavors, hues and methods of production.
This popular spirit has a fascinating history. It has been consumed by everyone from pirates (who made the first piña colada) to the Royal Navy, and was even briefly used as a type of currency.
There’s so many ways to enjoy rum, from sipping it neat, to mixing it into a cocktail. Make sure to scroll down to get our classic hurricane cocktail recipe. It uses two different varieties of rum!
Below you’ll learn everything you need to have an understanding of this spirit, from how it’s made, what it’s made from, the different types of rum, and when it’s best to use each variety.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.
What is rum made from?
Rum is a distilled spirit, which is made in every continent except Antartica. It is made from fermenting and distilling sugarcane products including sugarcane molasses, sugarcane juice, sugarcane syrup and sugarcane byproducts.
There are many varieties of rum, because, similar to vodka, rum doesn’t have worldwide regulations or legislation that determine how it is produced.
Different countries have their own rum regulations which yield different products. For example, in the United States, in order to be considered rum, the spirit must be at least 40% ABV (alcohol by volume). In the European Union, however, rum only needs to be 37.5% ABV.
Types of rum
All rum is made from sugarcane products. Most rum is made from sugarcane molasses, but some are made from sugarcane juice, sugarcane syrup or sugarcane byproducts.
The sugarcane undergoes a fermentation and distillation process which yields a clear alcohol. However, chances are, if you’ve enjoyed rum before, you’ve noticed that not all rum sold is clear!
The color of the different varieties of rum depends on how long the rum is aged, the type of vessel it is aged in, and any color additives included in the rum. Rum range from clear to black in hue.
While it’s logical to think that clear rums are younger and dark rums are older, that’s not strictly true. Rum can be filtered to yield a lighter colored spirit, and color additives can be included in the aging process to make a rum darker in color.
Just as rum comes in different colors, it also has a wide spectrum of flavors. The flavoring comes from anything the rum is infused with, how long it is aged, and the vessel in which it is aged.
The main types of rum you’ll find out at a bar or in the store are white rum, gold rum, dark rum, spiced rum, and flavored rum. However there are also other rum types which are sold all over the the world.
Below we will break down how each type of rum is different, suggest the best ways to use it, and give notes on its flavor profile.
Silver rum vs white rum vs light rum
The first type of rum we’re going to discuss is white rum. It is also referred to as silver rum, light rum and sometimes even clear rum. There is no difference between these rums, other than their names, which can be used interchangeably.
White rum is often aged for around a year in stainless steel barrels (as opposed to to oak barrels many other darker rums are aged in which give them a darker hue). It is then bottled and sold.
However, it’s important to note that since there is no worldwide production standard for rum, while that is usually produced that way, it is also not always the case. Sometimes white rum is aged for longer periods of time in oak barrels, and then filtered to remove any color.
White rum is slightly sweet, with a light aroma and body. It has a milder flavor than other aged rums.
Because of its delicate flavor this variety of rum is a popular choice for cocktails like mojitos, pina coladas, and daiquiris. These rum drinks need a type of rum which is able to blend with the tropical flavors of the cocktails without overpowering them.
This rum variety is, as its name suggest, golden in color. Gold rum is aged in oak barrels, often for anywhere between 1-5 years. The time spent aging in these barrels gives this type of rum a golden color.
Sometimes gold rum even takes on a more amber hue. As mentioned earlier, there aren’t set regulations for rum in general, let alone the colors of the different types of rums.
So while some of the color is from time spent aging in oak barrels, some rums have caramel color added to them to maintain a more uniform hue for the particular distiller.
Gold rum is medium bodied, with a deeper, richer, flavor than white rum. It still has a sweet and mellow flavor, but typically has more depth than a white rum.
This rum is also good in cocktails, but can be sipped neat or on the rocks, if you prefer.
This type of rum is usually aged for anywhere between 3-5 years. Dark rum is often aged in heavily charred oak barrels to give it a darker color.
Sometimes caramel is added to enhance its hue. As with all other types of rum, there are no regulations as to how long it is aged, or if caramel should be added or not.
Dark rum is a great option for sipping neat or on the rocks. This variety of rum is generally more full bodied, and has a deeper flavor with notes of vanilla, molasses, and caramel.
In addition to sipping dark rum, you can also use to to make cocktails which have a warm profile, like hot buttered rum.
It’s also a great type of rum to use when balancing out cocktails with multiple varieties of rum like mai tais, rum punches and hurricanes. Make sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for our hurricane recipe, which uses both light and dark rum.
This variety of rum is named for its color. Black rum has the darkest hue you’ll find on the market; it is so dark that it appears black.
While having a dark hue can often signal that a spirit has been aged for a long time, that is not the case with black rum. It is a relatively young rum which has caramel and molasses added to it to darken it and give it the appearance of an aged rum.
This young rum has a lower price point, and a lighter flavor profile, so it mixes well with citrus and tropical based cocktails. This type of rum doesn’t pair well with boozy, alcohol forward, cocktails because its delicate flavor is easily overpowered by stronger flavors.
Black rum is also used as a float in cocktails to give the drink a more dramatic appearance and is a great choice for cocktails like a dark n stormy, where appearance is at the forefront of the cocktail.
Premium aged rum
This type of rum is aged for longer than other varieties of rum. As it ages in oak barrels it takes on a darker color, and a more nuanced flavor profile.
Premium aged rums have a greater depth of flavor and are the ideal variety of rum for sipping neat or on the rocks like a fine whiskey, scotch or aged tequila. Because they takes longer to produce, they are often one of the more expensive rum types.
Another factor that contributes to premium aged rum’s cost is what is called the “angel’s share”. As rum ages, some of the spirit is lost to evaporation, and this portion is called the angel’s share. Of course, the longer the rum ages, the more rum is lost to the angels, which results in a higher price.
In the United States, there are a couple of different ways age must legally be indicated on a bottle of rum. If a bottle of rum has an age statement, it must say either “__ years old” or “aged __ years”. In both cases, this number corresponds to the youngest rum in the bottle.
Most rums are blends, and contain rum which may be different ages. However, if an aged rum has the above age statement on it, you can be sure that all of the rum in the blend is at aged at least the number of years on the bottle.
Though not required, United States age statements for rum can also indicate how long each rum in the bottle has been aged.
For example a bottle may say “25% rum 4 years old, 30% rum 5 years old, 45% rum 6 years old”. This gives a more comprehensive understanding of the types of rum you’re drinking.
Sometimes a rum is labeled “xo” or “añejo”, but those labels don’t give an indication of a rum’s age. Unlike tequila, which has regulations for being labeled añejo, rum does not have a regulation for that term.
In the United States, any other ways numbers are displayed on a bottle of rum don’t actually indicate age. They are instead a marketing technique.
While we call this spirit “rum” in English, it has different names in other languages. In Spanish it’s called “ron” and in French, it’s called “rhum”.
This particular variety of rum is made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice (unlike most rums which are made from sugarcane molasses). It originally came from the French Caribbean Islands, and while the majority of it is still made there, it is also produced in other locations.
When looking at rhum agricole, you’re likely to come across Rhum Agricole Martinique AOC. The abbreviation AOC is a French protected designation of origin which stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.
AOC is a classification similar to Italy’s DOC and DOCG which are used for wines like Prosecco.
To be considered an AOC rum, the rum must adhere to a specific set of regulations. These include but are not limited to the defined geographic location, harvesting procedures, production requirements, aging terms, alcohol percentage, labeling rules and more.
To make flavored rum, a rum is infused with sugar, spices and botanicals. Spiced rum is also under the broader umbrella of “flavored rum”.
The botanicals used in flavored rum are are often fruits like citrus, pineapple, cherry, mango and blackcurrant. They also include flavors like coconut, chocolate and mint too.
Surprisingly, depending on where you are located in the world, flavored rum may or may not technically be considered rum. In the European Union, one of their rum regulations states that rum can’t be flavored.
In the United States, flavored rum is considered rum, so long as it’s at least 40% ABV (80 proof). However, many flavored rums are lower than 40% ABV, so they are instead classified as low proof flavored liqueurs.
One example of “flavored rum” that is not technically rum is Malibu coconut rum. Since it’s only 21% ABV (42 proof) It’s technically classified as a coconut liqueur because it doesn’t meet the alcohol threshold to be rum.
This type of rum is great to use as a mixer, because you can pair its flavor profile with lots of different fruit juices to make delicious cocktails. If you’re looking for inspiration, try this earl grey paradise punch which uses Malibu coconut rum.
Classified under the broader category of “flavored rum”, spiced rum is created by infusing a rum with sugar, and spices. These rums are not “spicy” but instead take on the flavors of the spices with which they are infused.
Common spices infused in this variety of rum are vanilla, anise, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Spiced rum can also be infused with botanical elements that pair well with the spices, such as oranges.
Spiced rum is a great addition to make spiked fall drinks like apple cider and rum based hot toddies. The spices in this type of rum pair well with those autumnal drinks.
This rum has the strongest percentage of alcohol by volume, more than any of the other types of rum. Overproof rum is any rum over 50% ABV (100 proof). Due to its alcohol content, overproof rum is highly flammable.
Rum regulations in the United States don’t allow rums over 155 proof to enter or be sold in the United States. For this reason, if you search for overproof rum, you’re likely to see a lot of them sitting at 151 proof (75.5% ABV).
When rum undergoes the distillation process, it usually yields a spirit between 160 and 190 proof. After the aging process, the rum is then diluted to reach the typical 40% ABV (80 proof), except in the case of overproof rum, where it is diluted to just under 155 proof.
Overproof rum gives a strong kick to any cocktail in which it’s included. One of the most popular cocktails to us this variety of rum is the zombie cocktail (which also contains light rum and dark rum too!).
Navy rum aka navy strength rum
The term “navy” in navy rum refers to the British Royal Navy, not the color navy. Sailors from the Royal Navy were allocated a daily alcohol ration, known as a “tot”.
In early years, this tot was a ration of beer. However, since the beer was kept in oak casks, it would frequently spoil.
When the sailors encountered rum in Jamaica that was 54.5% ABV they realized it wouldn’t spoil the way beer did. Many wanted to switch their daily tots to rum.
In 1731 a regulation was passed that allowed sailors to have their daily tot consist of half an imperial pint of rum (10 oz!) which was served in two equal portions at two different times in the day.
This rum tot changed over the years, and was eventually abolished. The last rum tot was handed out on July 31, 1970, which is known as Black Tot Day.
If you want to try this variety of rum in a cocktail we suggest using it in cocktails like the painkiller, and the grog cocktail.
Facts about rum types
Did you enjoy learning those about the different varieties of rum? Here are some fun rum facts for you to enjoy!
- After fermentation and distillation, all rum is clear.
- There are no worldwide regulations for rum, which is why there are so many different rum types.
- Unlike other spirits, the color of rum isn’t as important as you would assume. Rums develop a darker color when they are aged, but many locations allow caramel color to be added to rum to deepen its hue.
- Rum is called by different names depending on the language. In English it’s rum, in Spanish it’s ron, and in French it’s rhum.
- No varieties of rum over 155 proof are legally allowed in the United States.
Share this post about the different types of rum with your friends on twitter:
If you enjoyed learning these facts about rum types, don’t forget to share them with your friends. Here’s a tweet to get you started:Want to drink rum but don't know where to start? Check out our guide to the 10 different types of rum for when to use each one! 🥃 #RumTypes #TypesofRum Click To Tweet
Did you enjoy learning those about the different types of rum? Here are some fun facts about rum for you to enjoy!
- The European Union does not recognize “flavored rum” as a type of rum. The United States allows flavored rum to be considered rum so long as it’s over 40% ABV (80 proof).
- Unlike the United States where rum has to be at least 40% ABV (80 proof), in the European Union rum only has to be 37.5% ABV.
- The terms white rum, silver rum, light rum and clear rum all mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
- With aged rum, the age on the bottle correlates to the youngest rum in the blend. So if a rum is labeled “aged 5 years”, it means that every rum in the bottle is at least 5 years old.
- Generally white rums are aged in stainless steel barrels, while darker rums are aged in oak barrels.
- Lighter rums are typically used to make cocktails, while darker rums are often enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
Rum national days
If you enjoyed learning about the different types of rum, you’ll be excited to know there are actually several national days of the year dedicated to rum and rum cocktails.
We’ve listed them in chronological order for you below:
- National Hot Buttered Rum Day – January 17
- National Pina Colada Day – July 10
- National Mojito Day – July 11
- National Daiquiri Day – July 19
- National Rum Day – August 16
National days of the year are a fun way to celebrate odd and unusual foods, animals and items that you come into contact with. Be sure to check out this national day’s guide for more fun days to learn about the history of national days, and why we celebrate them.
Looking for more fact-based posts like this one about rum types?
If you enjoyed learning about the different rum varieties, be sure to also check out the posts below to learn more fun facts about some of your favorite things!
There are also many foods and drinks that symbolize the different holidays of the year. All of these holidays foods and drinks have special meaning at their respective times of the year and have a fascinating history.
Pin this post on the different types of rum for later
Would you like a reminder of this post about the different rum types and when to use them? Just pin this image to one of your trivia boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
*You don't have to have freshly squeezed orange and lime juice to make this recipe. However, it will taste nicer if you can use freshly squeezed juices! **To make the layered hurricane cocktail effect in the photo, make the cocktail as directed. If you don't mind omitting the layered look, or if you want to make this cocktail in bulk, you can add the grenadine to the cocktail shaker with the rest of the ingredients. ***Pouring the mixture from the cocktail shaker gently on top of the ice is the best way to maintain the layers in the hurricane cocktail. As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases. Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 3gSugar: 30gProtein: 2g
*You don't have to have freshly squeezed orange and lime juice to make this recipe. However, it will taste nicer if you can use freshly squeezed juices!
**To make the layered hurricane cocktail effect in the photo, make the cocktail as directed. If you don't mind omitting the layered look, or if you want to make this cocktail in bulk, you can add the grenadine to the cocktail shaker with the rest of the ingredients.
***Pouring the mixture from the cocktail shaker gently on top of the ice is the best way to maintain the layers in the hurricane cocktail.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.
Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.
FACT CHECK: Our editorial staff aims to be accurate and fair in all posts. If you see something that doesn’t appear correct, please click here to contact us. Always the Holidays reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.