What is rum? Like all spirits, it is the product of distillation. Distilling involves taking an alcoholic liquid, like beer or wine for example, and heating it in order to increase its percentage of alcohol through the process of evaporation. With rum, the base liquid comes from either sugar cane or molasses made from sugar cane. This is why the final product often reveals notes of molasses, brown sugar or barley sugar.
Depending on the region of production, farming practices and growth period, rums will present a variety of different qualities. Agricultural rums (or cane juice rums), for example, are generally more flavourful and have more of a perfume because they are made with artisanal methods using only sugar cane. On the other hand, many non-agricultural rums produced from molasses are equally delicious and feature strong perfumes due to their long aging process in oak barrels.
As an initiation into the world of rum, I suggest starting with the excellent 12-year-old El Dorado from Guyana. Produced in the Demerara region, this is a typical rum of that area, with an intense perfume of sweet spices, caramel and licorice. It has a smooth texture, and the alcohol is kept in check by a slightly sweet finish and other attributes. It’s perfect for drinking straight, but also great for making the best Cuba Libre you’ve ever tasted.