Rum, from molasses to tiki: Part I

For a few weeks now I’ve been doing research about rum, even specific Belgian made rum. Many of you must have felt it simmering just below the surface, the rum scene is on a rise!

In these coming posts, I want to explore what that rum scene has to offer. From the British Navy in colonial times to the cocktail socialites in the present day tikibars, it has always been an inspiring spirit. So much is happening in the rum scene today I definitely wanted to shed some light on it. 

This is the first part of a three-part blogpost about rum and what lives in the rum scene (mainly in Belgium). In this blogpost, I will focus on the different types of rums. In next posts, I’ll talk about the Belgian spiced rums in a tasting and about the tiki bar hype and the rum cocktail scene.

For the people who have no idea what the spirit really is, a short introduction. Very broadly said, rum is a distillate made from sugarcane byproducts like molasses (refined sugarcane/sugar beet that become a syrup) and sugarcane juice. However, in reality a lot of different types of molasses are used to make rum.

Now, that being said there are a lot of different rum types. I actually had no idea it was so diverse. Here I listed the most common types of rum and how they are used. 

White or Clear rum: This is a rum type that is mostly used in cocktails. These rums are often aged one or more years and filtered to remove color hence the name… These are not the most complex rums and are mostly dominated by sugar cane aromas. However, the difference in rum quality out there is huge! A lot of these “cheaper” rums have too much alcohol or bad off-flavors.

Gold or Pale Rum: these are already a few degrees better in complexity than the white rums. This type of rum ages for several years before bottling. The color comes from the barrels which gives the rum that amber-ish color. Here the types of barrel will have an influence on the flavors of the rum. This one can be used to drink neat or to combine in a cocktail. The combination in a cocktail is of course much harder since the gold rum is far more complex than a white rum.

Dark Rum and Black Rum: I’m combining these two types since they can practically live besides each other. On one hand, you have dark rum which aged for many years, making it very complex. The color can range from golden to black.  On the other hand, you have the black rum which is a rum that retains a lot of its original flavors from molasses. It’s mostly used in the kitchen and has a very potent charred and woody flavor.

Flavored and Spiced Rum: these are rum blends that are extra flavored with spices like vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, clove. Etc… It gives the rums a more complex or pronounced aroma. Practically all Belgian rum is spiced rum. Meaning it’s rum made in the Caribbean but spiced and bottled here in Belgium. I’ll get deeper into these rums on my next post where I’ll explain more in my tasting.

Premium Aged Rum: The old rums, anejo, pure gold, are but a few names for them. These are the heavily aged rums. Because of the loss of the angel share (yep I’m using a whisky reference here) they are expensive but also extremely complex. Sometimes these are used in cocktails, but in all fairness these ones are to be savored neat.

Vintage rum: While most rums are blended, these rums came from a specific vintage and are in many cases limited editions. In some of these rums the quality rating of cognac is used as well, making a rum XO (Extra old rum) for example.

Navy Rum: Personally, my favorite kind of rum. The Navy rum is a very strong rum. The story of the Navy rum goes back to colonial times where the British Royal Navy used to give its sailors rations of rum with lime in order to prevent scurvy.

Well in all fairness It used to be rations of brandy, until the British captured the island of Jamaica. Nevertheless, the stories about rum in the Navy are plenty and have becomes mythes on its own.

Overproof Rum: These are the alcoholic heavy rum’s (over 50% ABV). While most rums are blended and then diluted these are not. Some of these are even cask strength!

Rum Agricole: This type of rum is mostly made in the Martinique region. This rum used fresh cane juice instead of molasses. Because of that it has more of its original sugarcane aromas.
Btw, interesting to know is that Martinique has the only AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) mark in the rum industry!

So, as you can see it’s insane how many types of rum are out there!
Our Belgian scene has many rums as well, the majority of these rums are spiced rums. There is however a distiller in Seraing that actually distills his own rum as well, Dr. Clyde Distilleries.

The distillery was founded in 2015 by Pierre-Yves Smits. Pierre-Yves was a historian with a mission to make quality distillates without losing its artisanship. He started his journey by making a brown sugar spirit and an Absinthe. In 2016, he also started to distill his own rum.

Today the distillery has 3 rums:

White (50% ABV) 
This rum is made by using a biological sugar cane syrup that is fermented for 3 weeks and distilled in a pot still. With 50% ABV quite strong for a white rum. There aroma's are mainly caramel and sugar cane. 

Classic (60,2% ABV)
This is the undiluted and unfiltered white rum that is fast aged in French oak. The rum has a lot of vanilla and caramel aroma and definitely packs a punch!

Spiced (40% ABV)
The spiced rum is a nice combination of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and almonds which make it a soft and elegant spiced rum.

Nice story and definitely worth a try! Respect to Pierre-Yves for creating these authentic products.

Interested in visiting?
Pierre-Yves Smits – Master Distiller
48, Rue du Commerce
4100 Seraing

There you have it, a small taste of the rum scene in Belgium. In my next post, I’ll talk about my tasting of Belgian spiced rum. Little teaser, it really blew me away what we have to offer here!

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