Now that we’ve dealt with the basics as to how rum is made (see blog 2), we thought it’d be worth exploring the different types of rum and how they differ from each other. In this entry, we’ll take a look at the main categories of rum from the perspective of the mass-market and explain why their mistakes inspired us to take our revolutionary approach.
Before we set off on this voyage, we want to make clear from the outset that the only thing John Paul Jones rum has in common with the everyday stuff is the use of sugarcane. We hope, in time, to be seen as a category onto ourselves; the future is one where there are only two types of rum: JPJ and everything else.
What are the 4 types of rum?
White rum / Light rum
This colourless, transparent liquid is what you’re left with after you’ve distilled sugarcane and filtered the liquid. All rum starts out as white rum. The resultant spirit is normally quite rough and has a neutral, fairly harsh flavour. Most mass-produced white rum stays like this, hence why light rum has become known more as a spirit to be used in cocktails, where its flavour is masked by other ingredients. White rum is normally unaged, and any flavours (vanilla, coconut etc.) it has are almost always synthetic and have simply been added to the spirit before bottling. It’s also commonplace to add lots of sugar to white rums to take the edge off. Yikes.
JPJ Ranger is a white rum, but that’s about the only similarity we can think of to the above. We only use the finest-quality spirit, distilled in the birthplace of rum, which we then flavour by steeping the rum in food-grade, real ingredients. These botanicals include crisp apple, zingy lime, fresh rosemary stalks and our trademark spiral wrack seaweed, which we harvest from the beach a stone’s throw from where John Paul Jones was born. Ranger is the first white rum to be infused with seaweed, and you can see this ‘first of its kind’ mentality doesn’t end there. The result is a glorious botanical white rum with a briny coastal finish. There’s no need to inundate Ranger Rum with other ingredients: simply add good-quality tonic and savour the flavour of honest ingredients.
Dark rum / heavy rum
Dark rum is quite simply white rum that has been aged in wooden barrels. The spirit adopts its colour from the barrels during the ageing process. Or at least it should. Unfortunately, however, this is rarely the case with most dark rums you see on supermarket shelves. Your everyday dark rum is actually white rum with added burnt sugar (caramel) to give it colour. It’s never seen a barrel. Any flavours you get from it come from synthetic ingredients which they’ve added to make the rum taste like it’s developed flavour from ageing in wood.
Lowland Rum is our signature expression of a dark rum. We take the white rum (the same premium spirit that we use in Ranger) and age it, in Scotland, in charred American oak barrels. This is a natural process. Over time, the white spirit takes on subtle notes of flavours from the wood, along with its lovely deep amber colour. We then steep the aged spirit before bottling, using knobs of fresh ginger, black peppercorns and our signature spiral wrack seaweed. Our refusal to take shortcuts or use anything than quality botanical ingredients results is a dark rum of incomparable quality. Try it and see for yourself.
Aged rum is the term for rum that has seen wood (i.e. that has been aged in barrels). By and large, the barrels will be dark wood, and will impart colour and flavour to the spirit. Not all aged rum is dark in colour, however, as some white rums are aged , then have their colour stripped by carbon filtration. This is quite rare, however. Again (and you might notice a pattern here), many mass market rums have sugar added post ageing to simulate the roundness and viscosity that only exposure to barrels can bring authentically.
JPJ Lowland Rum is aged in the UK using charred American oak. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only rum available who use this choice of wood. Typically used in the production of bourbon, our barrels have had a layer of charcoal burnt into the inner layer of the wood. This ‘char’ layer removes the harshness of the alcohol, rounding the mouthfeel and adding a touch of unique flavour. Over time, the rum develops exceptional notes of smoke, vanilla and spice. It should go without saying that we do not use any misleading colouring or chill filtration.
We then, of course, infuse the rum with the raw ingredients mentioned above, before bottling. In the case of Ranger Rum, we don’t age it, but we do steep it in seaweed and other ingredients to give it the unique and exceptional flavour. One thing is consistent however: we use no added sugars—our liquid has no rough edges to smooth over. No corners cut. Just quality.
Spiced rum or Botanical rum
Spiced Rum is rum (white or dark) that has had flavour added before bottling. Almost all manufacturers don’t bother to age these rums, as they’re destined to be drowned in mixer anyway, so they are caramel coloured to trick the consumer. Some of the most overused spiced rum ingredients include clove, cinnamon, vanilla and star anise. Mass market producers of these rums save time and money by using essences of ingredients rather than the real thing and—no prizes for guessing—lots of sugar. Hence the sickly stickiness and the morning headaches.
Ranger Rum and Lowland Rum are both botanical rums. We flavour both with our unique spiral wrack seaweed. We source real, food-grade, quality ingredients and then allow them to impart their flavour via a natural infusion. This process is a little bit like making tea: the ingredients are lowered into the spirit until all the glorious flavours have passed from raw ingredient to liquid. No artificial ingredients. No use of flavour extracts. No added sugars.
We take as much care to steep our white rum as our aged dark rum. This is extremely rare and somewhat ground-breaking. In fact, you could almost say we were throwing off the shackles of convention and entering new territory…
Remind you of anyone?
Customers Also Asked
What is the difference between light rum and dark rum?
Light rum and dark rum differ in terms of the production process, flavour profile, and colour. Light rum is created through a distillation process that includes charcoal filtering. This results in a rum with subtle sweetness and almost no colour. Dark rum on the other hand is created through a longer aging process with heavier molasses and sugar content resulting in a rich flavour profile with a deep golden hue. The difference between light and dark rums also impacts how they can be enjoyed - light rums are best appreciated neat while dark rums are ideal for sipping or cocktails.
What is the difference between spiced rum and unspiced rum?
The main difference between spiced rum and unspiced rum is the presence of spices or flavourings. Unspiced rum is made by simply infusing a base spirit with sugarcane, while spiced rum uses a blend of natural ingredients to create an enhanced flavour profile that can be sweet, spicy, smoky or fruity. Spiced rums tend to be darker due to the infusion of these additional ingredients and are often enjoyed in mixed drinks with juices and other beverages. Unspiced rums are usually lighter in colour and best enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
What is the difference between Jamaican rum and other rums?
The main difference between Jamaican rum and other rums is the type of fermentation process used. Jamaican rums are fermented using a unique pure cane juice method that imparts unique flavours, aromas, and textures to the spirit. Other rums, including Cuban and Puerto Rican rums, are made from molasses which creates a sweeter taste. Additionally, many Jamaican rums are aged in ex-bourbon or sherry casks which adds a subtle flavour of coconut or vanilla to the rum. Lastly, some Jamaican distillers also use dunder - a byproduct of sugar production - as an ingredient in their rum production process which further enhances its flavour.
What is the difference between aged rums and non-aged rum?
The main difference between aged rum and non-aged rum is how long the spirit has been matured. Aged rums typically spend several years in oak barrels allowing the spirit to develop a richer aroma, flavour, and colour. Non-aged rums are not stored in barrels and instead rely on artificial flavouring to give the rum its characteristics. Aging also brings out softer notes of caramel, honey, or vanilla while non-aged rums tend to have a sharper flavour profile. Additionally, aged rums tend to be more expensive than their non-aged counterparts as they require more time in production.