Busting Myths and Other Fun Stuff

Rum, the sugarcane spirit is evoked in myths, legends, and tropical locations. But is this true, or is the perception of what rum is now changing?
From rum sweetness to its origins, there are many common beliefs spread about rum that simply aren’t true. Here, we’ll dispel 10 big myths about rum, so you can enjoy this versatile spirit with confidence.

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1. Rum is Sweet. 

While some rums are sweetened, spiced, or flavoured, the spirit off the still is not sweet. Just because it’s made from a base of sugar doesn’t mean it’s sweet. Molasses for distilling has residual sugars but isn’t generally sweet to taste, it can be bitter. EU law states sugar content must be less than 20 g per litre, which compared to most morning breakfasts, isn’t that sweet. But, for rum geeks the topic of sugar in rum is always simmering.

However, often people drink rum in cocktails which are made with sugar syrup, or sodas that can also lead to sweet perception. You can always ask for light versions, and sweeter spiced rums can be balanced with a bitter, citrus or dilution. So, now you know it’s a myth to call rum sweet unless you add a dollop of sugar or dosage.

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2. Rum Is for Summer Vibes.

 Yes, Rum is often enjoyed as a mixed summer drink. Rum is enjoyed year-round, and many winter cocktails feature rum. Festive Coquito in Puerto Rico, hot buttered rum to name a few – check out here. Many don’t even know rum is the spirit that is central to their drink experience. Rum is more and more being enjoyed on its own, on the rocks, diluted with water, or mixed in a variety of serves.

But it is not limited to the beach bar. It is enjoyed alongside a high roller fine Cognac or Single Malt occasion. This versatile spirit is used in savoury cocktails and many cooking recipes in cooler climates, check out the Rhum Baba dessert made famous in Paris.

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3. Rum Is Only Made in Sugarcane Growing Regions.

Rum is not only made in the Caribbean or the Tropics where sugarcane grows. Rum is produced in 100 countries. It’s made in all but 1 state in the USA, which has by far the most producers. Historically, the Caribbean and Americas dominated trade, nowadays Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing region.

The geography of volcanoes, humidity, and soils dictate sugarcane growing and most cane juice rums are made locally because the fresh juice spoils. It can be frozen, or dehydrated to yield the same results as cane juice rum as yet.

However, molasses the base for most rums made today is a shelf-stable product that can be shipped anywhere. So, distillers or blenders can make rum with this virtually anywhere. Check out our map for producers in the Arctic Circle; Alaska, Iceland, and in many chilly climates of Europe.

But, if you want to see cane juice rum being made, you need to visit in-season much like the grape harvest at a winery.

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4. Don’t Be Fooled by Language.

“Rhum” is the French word for rum used in French-speaking countries and doesn’t mean anything else, or state how the rum is made. It doesn’t always mean it’s cane juice rum, there are big producers of molasses rum in French Rhum. The same applies to the Spanish word ‘Ron’ meaning rum. It doesn’t mean charcoal filtered or solera aged, terms often associated with Spanish or Latin rums.
The names Rhum and Ron don’t define how the rum is made, and neither does the English word “rum.” So, next time you see Rhum, don’t assume it’s always cane juice rum or made the same as AOC Martinique Rhum, cause that’s one of those myths.

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5. Brands Create Label Confusion. 

This is not always true. Yes, Rum bottle labels can display ambiguous marketing, and lack transparency which is not helpful to customers. But, it’s not always the producer’s doing. Many laws forbid elaboration on labels and make it difficult for brands to be more creative or share more technical data. EU law, Cuban law, and the USA TTB labelling regulators dictate what can be shown on the shelf.

So, if you want to learn more about an expression it’s best to check out brand websites where they can elaborate more on their processes and provenance of the liquid. It’s not always the brand’s fault so don’t get snagged on that myth. However, we know that many brands could do more to be transparent about their product, so not off the hook!

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6. Tropical Ageing Doesn’t Speed Up Time.

Some tropically-aged rum in the Caribbean can have up to 8% angels share maturation losses per year. Jamaica is around 6%. That’s spirit evaporation lost to the air due to humidity and casks being porous. After 10 years, it could see half the barrel disappear.

You might hear people say the Caribbean ages 3-5 times faster than rum in cooler climates like 2-3% annual losses in Europe. Stating a 5-year-old Caribbean rum is like a 15-20 years old spirit in Europe, is not true.

It’s a myth. Maturation losses are highest in the early years and some distillers top up casks after a period of time. But, comparing spirits age numbers like this doesn’t consider flavour nuance and is not backed by science, yet. So, enjoy the rum, and focus on flavour, not numbers or random statements that might sound cool but aren’t really.

IMAGE 8 Colours

7. Aged Rum Is Always Better.

Aged rum isn’t always better than unaged rum. It’s all to do with the profiles a taster enjoys. Aged rum can have a more rounded and complex flavour profile, but also astringency and less freshness. Unaged rum can be equally enjoyable, and flavourful; with bright and fresh flavour notes, or aromatic especially if long fermentation.

Compare long-fermentation unaged rum to long barrel-aged rum that had a short fermentation. They are completely different philosophies of distillers. It all boils down to you the taster’s palate choices and likes. Where do you hang your hat?

IMAGE 9 White Rum

8. White Rum isn’t Complex.

Is white rum unaged, uninteresting, light, and just for mixing? Many white rums are multi-column distilled light, and crisp with mass market appeal and for sure designed for mixing. But those are aged, 2 years by law in Cuba, 1 year in Puerto Rico, then charcoal filtered to be a clear spirit.

White rum can have a multitude of flavours and enjoy neat, over ice, or diluted with water. French agricultural cane juice white rum, and molasses overproof rum are strong flavourful unaged rums (sometimes called 151). Best known for Jamaican long fermentation, this white rum has inspired a new wave of rum distillers shaking up the ‘white rum’ subcategory. Also, check out Haitian Clairin, and Mexican Charanda, and explore clear rum as it’s one of the most vibrant trends driving rum today. Check them out on our our world rum map

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9. Forget The Myth; Rum Is Unregulated.

Rum is regulated. Every country has liquor laws, and how rum spirit is made differs, between EU law, the US, law, in Australian law, rum must be aged a minimum of 2 years, Cuba’s D.O.P aged a minimum of 2 years, as does the Dominican Republic D.O. and Venezuela D.O.C. Jamaica has a Geographic Indication, as does Guyana which is protected in EU law. AOC Martinique and PGI Guadeloupe Rhum are highly regulated and stipulate specific processes and conditions.

However, some countries are more flexible. And, many brands source bulk rum, and add elements that can strip the essence of the original spirit that goes unchecked. It’s important to know brands and their blenders are not always distillers, many experiment with their own know-how. So that’s why there’s such mixed results. It’s worth researching what matches your values to make an informed decision. See the producers our map 

IMAGE 11 Rum Numbers

10. Don’t Take Numbers at Face Value.

The rum age number on the bottle isn’t always a minimum age. Many quality producers take a lead set by Scotch whisky and use the youngest age as the number as a clear indicator on the label of linear ageing. The EU and the USA follow these best practices. However, some rum producers use a number as an ‘up to’ or average age, like Latin rums using the solera system for ageing. The maturing casks are linked and spirit is drawn or added to create bottlings.

Central American rums sometimes have a number circled which looks like an age statement but isn’t so is more creative. Also, in Latin rums, the Añejo, or Extra Añejo etc age definitions are not universally specific in number, so leaves it open to interpretation, unlike the strict naming convention in AOC Martinique – check out our painless guide here


Myths are perpetuated because of what is lacking. In the absence of clarity, something has to fill the gap. Many industrialised rum producers treat the spirit like a commodity, not dissimilar to their refined table sugar. So, do not feel the need to bend to modern consumers’ desire for transparency. 

In The Caribbean, WIRSPA was set up as an inter-country body to protect authenticity, provenance and quality for rums in the region. If other regions like Latin America bolted down universally agreed age naming it could really help build trust and dispel a few myths.

So, the next time you reach for a bottle of rum, remember that not everything you’ve heard about this beloved spirit is true. With a newfound understanding, you can appreciate its complexity and versatility, and savour it year-round whether in a cold chilly hometown, or on vacation. 

Cheers to debunking myths and exploring rum in your own way!

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