Rum has taken the world by storm. Originating in the brutal world of the 17th-century transatlantic trade, there are now rum producing countries pretty much everywhere. From modern Australian rum distilleries to the Caribbean sites where rum production began, everyone's trying to turn sugarcane juice into a good night out. But who's doing it best? That's what we've tried to figure out.
Our journey starts in the Caribbean. Rum was born in Barbados, and the country continues to produce some of the best rum in the region. As a centre for sugar plantations in the West Indies, Barbadians distilled the spirit as early as the 1640s, and the world's oldest rum distillery, Mount Gay, opened there in the early 18th century. 1703, to be precise! Rum has maintained its popularity over the years, and the island is now famous for its exceptional light and dark rums. If you want traditional rum, it doesn't get better than Barbados.
The Philippines' vibrant sugar industry makes it one of the world's best rum producing countries. Though not quite as old as Mount Gay's distillery, sugar production has encouraged the creation of rum in the Philippines for over 200 years. Boasting smooth and complex white and gold rum, the country produces the highest-selling brand in the world, Tanduay. You may not think of South-East Asia when we say rum, but the quality of the spirit made here shows that the best rum isn't just found in the West Indies.
Listing Jamaica's major distilleries is like reading a rum hall of fame. Home to names like Appleton Estate and Hampden Estate, this Caribbean island produces excellent traditional rum that's made a little differently. Jamaica's rum producers let their molasses naturally ferment with preserved yeast and opt for uncommon distilling methods. This choice leaves the end product with high alcohol content and a signature flavour of ripe fruit 'hogo'. Another historic centre of sugar production, Jamaican rum has been appreciated and refined for centuries.
Australia is a modern rum pioneer. From the 1808 rum rebellion to today, the spirit is intimately wrapped up with the country's history. We're proud to be a part of this thriving scene at Illegal Tender Rum Co. where we produce award-winning Australian rum with a focus on local, high-quality ingredients. Originally imported from other parts of the world, rum production down under started in 1884, when the Beenleigh Distillery received its licence. These days, Australian rum distilleries are producing world-class spirits across the country. If you're looking for spiced or white rum, there's never been a better time to look close to home to find it. For a taste of authentic Australian rum, we recommend our 'Distiller's Cut' gold rum.
The United States is not typically placed among rum producing countries, but that doesn't stop Americans from producing top-notch rum. Due to its involvement in the transatlantic trade, distilleries have been making the spirit in New England since the 18th century. Though prohibition brought tough years to the United States' old rum producers, rum has survived and thrived in America through to the present. Today rum enthusiasts have much to celebrate in the US of A. Inventive producers in New York and other American cities are mixing up new blends of the world's rums, while Hawaii's unique sugarcane varieties contribute a distinct flavour to the world of spirits. Puerto Rico, an American territory, also has a lot to offer. The place is home to Bacardi, a hugely famous rum brand, and over 80 other labels are available to sample if you find yourself on the island.
Like Jamaican rum, Cuban rum offers distinctive flavours. Cubans make rum Spanish-style, which means the country's sugarcane is turned to making drier, clear spirits with slightly higher alcohol content. Cuban rum, particularly the island's white rum, is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, emphasising the complex flavours that oak barrels and charcoal filtering have helped to create. With Havana Club only the most famous example, Cuba offers a punchy rum selection when you're looking to embrace your inner Ernest Hemmingway.
Rum may be among the many triumphs of India's ancient civilisations. Sugarcane has been distilled into alcoholic beverages on the South Asian subcontinent since the time of the Roman Empire. India is now the world's biggest rum consumer and is home to the oldest distillery in Asia. Rum is done slightly differently in India. The country's best rum is dark and sweet, a love letter to molasses. If you're looking for richly spiced rum, Indian brands should be on your mind.
Rum producing countries with histories of French colonisation approach the spirit slightly differently. 'Rhum Agricole' is made from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Martinique rum sticks to this tradition: sugarcane cut when the sun rises must be pressed before sunset. The island's flair for rum extends from light rums to spiced rum. 'Shrubb' is the local term for spiced rum, and families across Martinique produce their own blends at home. Need to convince someone how great rum is? Booking them a flight to Martinique would be a good (if expensive) start.