If you have started to look for different rums when out or over the internet you may have started to see a change in certain spellings of rum. You may have noticed an ‘h’ being added to certain rums. This is not just a difference in spelling due to the region or place where the rum is made but there is actually a material difference in the manufacture of the rum from a very early stage of the process.
When the islands in the Caribbean were invaded and colonised they were done so by four major civilisations; English, Spanish, Dutch and French. All except the Dutch began distillation of rum on a large scale and as a result have different textures and tastes to each other. The English rums are deeper and full bodied rums e.g. Mount Gay from Barbados. The Spanish were crisper and lighter e.g. Brugal from the Dominican Republic. Both created rum using the molasses produced when making sugar from the sugar cane crop.
The French however not only used this process to make rum, but also decided to use rum made from sugar cane juice. They make a sugar solution from this called ‘vesou.’ Made in this way it is officially called Rhum Agricole, but usually shortened to Rhum. A major difference between molasses and cane juice is that molasses are very stable and can and are shipped all over the world. Cane juice however, is prone to degeneration and as a result is sourced locally so that it is fresh for the distilleries. It is also important to know that currently, Rhum makes up only about 3-5% of all rum production in the world.
As you can imagine using a different ingredient very early on in the production of a rhum would result in different flavours being found in Rhum than Rum. An example of a couple of well-known Rhum Agricole include Rhum JM and Clement both from Martinique. Next time you are at a bar, why not ask to try a Rhum and see how you find the difference between them