Is it Rum, Rhum Agricole or Cachaça?

RUM styles based on the production method used…

With so many options available at our local liquor stores it can be overwhelming to find our next great RUM. We hope the brief summary below will help you narrow down your choices during your next RUM quest. Have fun!

RUM is a spirit made using various production methods and in many locations around the globe. SUGARCANE is the raw ingredient behind ALL RUM styles, from clear Cachaça to Rhum Agricole, to Cuban RON blanco to dark Jamaican Navy RUMs.

Cachaça, from Brazil, and Rhum Agricole, from the French West Indies, are distilled directly from fresh-pressed SUGARCANE JUICE. Most other RUMs are made from MOLASSES, the thick, black, syrupy byproduct of the SUGAR production process. The disparity in consumption is startling, since SUGARCANE JUICE RUMs (Rhum Agricole & Cachaça) account for only about 3% of all RUMs while molasses-based RUMs comprise the other 97%!

Both production methods claim they produce the best RUM. In reality BOTH SUGARCANE JUICE and MOLASSES produce amazing RUMs, they simply have different characteristics. SUGARCANE JUICE RUMs can be earthy, grassy or mineral-like in nature, MOLASSES-based RUMs can vary from floral to spicy to delicately sweet.

RUM production involves many aspects of which all must be mastered when utilizing either SUGARCANE JUICE or MOLASSES.

“To state that one style is better than the others should be avoided as they all have unique characteristics, which should simply be enjoyed!”


  • Cachaça – a variety of RUM made from SUGARCANE JUICE that originates only from BRAZIL.
  • Started on the 16th century when Portuguese settlers fermented and then distilled SUGARCANE JUICE.
  • Cachaça comes in 2 types, UNAGED (clear and colorless) and AGED (gold to topaz).
  • Unaged Cachaça is preferred for caipirinha cocktails, a drink made from lime juice, sugar and Cachaça.
  • Aged Cachaças is more of a sipping libation. Most are matured in wood for up to 3 years, some for 8 to 15 years.
  • Cachaça is more frequently consumed straight in the United States.
  • Brazil’s Cachaça has become one of the world’s highest-production spirits by volume.
  • Almost all Cachaça that Brazil produces each year is consumed domestically; only around 1 percent is exported.


  • Made directly from SUGARCANE JUICE, just like Cachaça.
  • Produced on the French-owned Caribbean islands, such as Martinique and Guadeloupe.
  • The Rhum Agricole style emerged by necessity rather than by choice, when France stopped buying its SUGAR from the Caribbean. The French colonies there, now deprived of their key SUGAR market, stopped producing MOLASSES, and to cut their losses began making RUM straight from SUGARCANE JUICE.
  • Rhum Agricole lacks the caramel (burnt sugar) taste found in most MOLASSES-based RUMs.
  • There are very few international regulations or appellations for RUM.
  • Rhum Agricole is made from SUGARCANE juice itself, and distilled at less than 96% volume and has the specific organoleptic characteristics of RUM.


  • RUM’s origins are in the 17th Century Caribbean.
  • Colonists found a way to produce alcohol, not just for intoxication, but as a way to make safe / drinkable water.
  • Due to its climate the Caribbean is not well suited to viticulture, or grain crops;  Without grapes and grains, colonists found themselves unable to produce wine, brandy or beer.
  • With the rise of the Caribbean SUGAR industry, came: SUGARCANE.
  • SUGARCANE is NOT native to the Caribbean; it was introduced by Europeans.
  • It was first cultivated by the Spanish early in the 16th Century, soon after Columbus’s voyages of discovery.
  • The boom from Europe’s demand for  SUGAR caused large parts of the Caribbean to be planted in SUGARCANE.
  • The primary byproduct of table sugar production is MOLASSES, the black syrup created by repeatedly boiling SUGARCANE JUICE in order to extract sugar crystals.
  • After the process has run its course, the resulting MOLASSES still contains about 25 percent sucrose and 20 percent glucose and fructose.
  • It is these remaining sugars that can be converted into alcohol and then distilled into RUM.
  • In its early days, RUM was produced by a large number of relatively small producers.
  • Most plantations had their own pot-still for distillation, a way of using the MOLASSES left over after SUGAR production.
  • Industrialization centralized both SUGAR production and RUM production, resulting in a smaller number of large-scale producers.
  • The SUGAR producers now sell their MOLASSES in bulk to the distilleries, very few of which grow their own SUGARCANE.
  • The European Union defines RUM as “a spirit drink produced exclusively by alcoholic fermentation and distillation, either from molasses or syrup
  • Beyond that, the styles of RUM we know today are governed almost entirely by age-old tradition and modern-day branding.
  • Many RUMs are aged in OAK barrels, which deepen their aromatic profile and color.
  • The longer a RUM spends in barrel, the darker it gets. DARK RUM (which includes brown, black and red rums) has the deepest color and is generally aged in barrels which have undergone heavy charring.
  • WHITE RUM (also known as SILVER or LIGHT) is sometimes filtered after aging, to ensure its clarity and lack of color. Don Facundo Bacardi is widely credited with developing this technique.
  • Terms such as VIEJO (old) and AÑEJO (aged) are used to distinguish those RUMs that have been aged for an extended period.
  • Some RUMs are FLAVORED after production, most often with COCONUT (as in Malibu), lime, orange and banana.
  • SPICES such as cinnamon, ginger and pepper are also commonly used, and SPICED RUM is now recognized as a category in its own right.
  • RUM is used in a number of the world’s most famous cocktails, such as the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre, the Mojito and the Piña Colada.
  • DARK RUM  has proved popular when mixed with cola drinks and ginger beer.
  • Spirits such as Single Malt Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac and Armagnac are governed by internationally recognized appellations, there are few such controls on RUM.

I hope the summary above gives you a basic understanding of how RUM is made and the different styles of RUM based on the production method used. SUGARCANE JUICE for Cachaça and Rhum Agricole, and MOLASSES for ALL other RUMs…

The table below contains various products for you to try for each style of RUM, and each category and subcategory. The products listed were the winners of the The Rum & Cachaça Masters 2018. You can learn more about the RUMs, the judges and the process followed here:

Salud Amig@s!!! Please drink responsibly…
-Capt Tony

Recommendations from The Rum & Cachaça Masters 2018 results



* RUMs in BOLD means that Capt Tony has already tried them and can give you his opinion.

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