What Ingredients Are In Rum?
The primary ingredient needed to make rum is sugar cane. However, rum is made in a variety of different territories, which each have their own methods for preparing it to make rum.
Generally, most rum will be made from molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar refinement. Also known as “black treacle” in the UK, molasses is a syrupy residue that was used as a cheap alternative sweetener until the 20th century as sugar became cheaper in the United States.
After sugar cane is harvested and stripped of its leaves, it is pressed or crushed to extract cane juice. The resulting juice is then concentrated by boiling it, which eventually crystalises the sugar and produces the molasses. The sugar cane juice may be boiled three times, which results in different grades of molasses:
- A Molasses: The sweetest grade thanks to its higher sugar content.
- B Molasses: Slightly bitter flavour following a second boiling.
- C Molasses: Dark, thick, strong in flavour, and also known as blackstrap molasses.
With each boiling, more sugar is extracted and the syrup loses its sweetness. Historically, blackstrap molasses had few uses whereas the other grades could still be exported as a cheap sweetener. Therefore, 18th-century slaves would ferment it into beer and even distil it to produce liquor.
How Molasses Is Used To Make Rum
Old Sugarcane Press
Today, any grade of molasses can be used to make rum and distilleries may use a combination of them depending on the flavours that they wish to produce.
The molasses is then mixed with water and yeast so that it may ferment. Usually, the yeast is of a certain strain but occasionally wild yeast is used instead by artisanal producers. For instance, Jamaican rum will often use “dunder”, a yeasty foam that can be taken from previous fermentations.
Slow fermentation will ensure a greater amount of byproducts and impurities that contribute to more complex flavours. Meanwhile, fast fermentation will result in crisper, lighter properties often desired in white rum.
The syrup then undergoes a distillation process using either column Coffey or pot stills after it has properly fermented. We cover these steps in our guide to how rum is made.
Rum Made From Sugar Cane Juice
Not all rum production depends on molasses. Indeed, former French colonies are celebrated for their “rhum agricole”, which uses the sugar cane juice instead.
As France has produced its own sugar from sugar beets since 1811, the French Caribbean market crashed and its sugar refineries quickly fell into debt. Therefore, they quickly adapted by fermenting the primary ingredient rather than the byproduct.
As we explain in our guide to the different types of rum, rhum agricole features a distinctively herbaceous flavour profile and lighter body thanks to its use of sugar cane juice.
Initially, French rhum was regarded as inferior compared to its British and Spanish peers as it had previously been banned to protect the French brandy market.
However, after a phylloxera outbreak devasted French vines in the mid-19th century, rum production significantly improved as its demand boomed.
Finally, some craft rums may be made from turbinado sugar. Similarly, an ingredient best avoided is dehydrated sugar cane juice, which is sometimes used to make cheap rum.
Where Sugar Cane Is Grown For Rum
As mentioned above, rum is made in across a large geographical area. Given that the sugar cane is usually locally sourced by the distilleries, it can yield in different flavours according to the soil and climate where it is grown.
That being said, there are a few distilleries in isolated areas that import molasses from other places.
For instance, much of the rum distilled in the Caribbean use molasses imported from Brazil save for a few exceptions. However, the aforementioned rhum agricole must rely on local sugar cane juice.
Nevertheless, where the sugarcane is grown will also contribute to the rich variety of different flavours that rum can produce.
What Is Spiced Rum Made From?
Spiced rum is one of the most popular types of rum to drink. It’s particularly popular as a cocktail ingredient but is smooth enough to consume neat.
Like white rum and dark rum, it is produced through a distillation process. However, unlike most premium dark rums, it is rarely aged for more than a year.
While it ages, it is sometimes darkened with colouring agents, which results in a lightly-coloured hue. Afterwards, some of the following herbs and spices are added to the beverage:
- Cassia Bark
- Citrus Peel
Bear in mind that these aren’t always natural ingredients and some spiced rums can contain flavourings instead.
Sometimes producers also introduce sugar to give it a sweeter, more palatable and rounded taste. Additional woodiness can be made by adding either oak chips or “boise”, a wood-based syrup.
On some occasions, spiced rum may feature fruit such as lime, coconut, and pineapple. However, it shouldn’t be confused with “rhum arrangé”, which consists of macerating fruit in white rum.
One of the most popular spiced rum is Captain Morgan. It was initially produced in Jamaica but then moved to Puerto Rico. Today, it operates mostly in the United States Virgin Islands and is one of the largest producers of rum.
Is Rum Good For Your Health?
People may claim that drinking rum holds many health benefits. Indeed, it was issued to sailors instead of French brandy as part of a grog to ward off scurvy.
Assuming that it is a dark rum produced with no additives, rum may decrease cholesterol and prevent peripheral artery disease as alcohol thins the blood.
Aged rums are usually free of any sugar after being distilled. Therefore, they ironically help in lowering the risk of diabetes. Meanwhile, it may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Additionally, a rum drinker supposedly has a 38% lower risk of contracting kidney cancer as well as reduce risks of thyroid cancer and lymphoma. Moderate consumption can also boost bone mineral density.
As alcohol is a disinfectant, it may also soothe sore throats. It can also be applied topically to clean the skin. Once again, it must be rum made without any additives or it would have the opposite effect!
Finally, remember that rum is distilled alcohol. Therefore, only moderate use will likely have any positive effects. Needless to say, it can quickly become very unhealthy if you consume too much!
Is Rum Gluten-Free?
Indeed, pure distilled rum is gluten-free as it’s made from molasses and sugarcane. Therefore, it shouldn’t pose any risk for people who are sensitive to the protein or suffer from Celiac’s disease.
However, be wary of spiced rums and rum that contains additives. These can be particularly difficult to anticipate as they add other ingredients to rum that are sometimes concealed as “proprietary recipes”.
Additionally, industrial rums that are made in large facilities that also make other distilled spirits may be contaminated by cereal-based alcohol. Although these are normally fine as they have been distilled as well, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Therefore, consider opting instead for smaller, artisanal brands that focus on premium rum. Check out our guide to the best rum to buy online for some suggestions.
How Many Carbs In Rum?
Any pure form of distilled alcohol is completely free of carbs as they are removed during the process. It makes no difference whether they are made using pot stills or column stills.
As mentioned above regarding its gluten content, this may change if it’s a spiced rum or features any additives. Therefore, it’s best to opt for high-quality premium rum if you’re concerned about your carb count.
How Many Calories Are In Rum?
All pure alcohol will be quite low in calories as much of it is removed during the distillation process. This can be particularly surprising since it’s initially made from sugar!
Nevertheless, a 1 Oz (15 ml) shot of pure rum should contain no more 64 calories. Of course, the number of calories can increase if you’re drinking a spiced rum.
Similarly, some dark rums may feature other additives, including sugar or caramel, which may add to your calorie intake. As we suggested for the carb and gluten considerations, look for high-quality premium rum.
Finally, it’s important to be mindful of any additional ingredients if you’re mixing it into a cocktail!
Having now learned about what rum is made from, check out more of our rum resources: