Thirsty humans can be a creative lot, making a spirit from a perennial tropical grass.
Rum is produced in over 100 countries today. While many consider the Caribbean to be rum’s home, accounts from the time of Alexander the Great mention the use of sugarcane.
While the exact origin of sugarcane is not known, it was introduced to Europe by the Arabs around 636 A.D. It never took off though, because it needed a longer growing season and warmer temperatures than Europe could offer. Columbus took cane cuttings from the Canary Islands to the West Indies. The early Spanish settlers working in sugar factories in the West Indies realized that the residual molasses from sugar production fermented easily.
The name rum could come from the Spanish ron – chances are good the Spanish were on to distilling before the British decided to use the sugarcane plantations in their colonies as a source of economic growth. It could also be from the Latin saccharum, meaning sugar, or from rombustion, meaning a strong liquid or my favorite, rumbullion, meaning a great tempest.
The two main types of rum depend on which form the sugar cane is in at the time of fermentation. Continue reading