What is Rum?

 In Blog, What is?

Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented molasses. Rum was all the rage for early American colonies as well as the Caribbean because of its inexpensive means of production.

The legal definition according to TTB.gov (details below) for rum is spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

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Rum: The Spirit of Choice for Pirates

In the early American colonial days, alcohol was both a God send and Devil’s torment on board naval and pirate ships. Sailors needed to drink and water was difficult to keep fresh. Water was stored in wood barrels and tended to go bad, especially on long voyages. The water could be made drinkable by adding alcohol, normally rum, to kill the algae and make it taste better.

Thanks to Captain Billy Bones in the book, Treasure Island, the alcoholic beverage most associated with pirates is rum.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
~Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Six Degrees of Separation: From Rum to Bourbon

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the words above but, he never really made it into a complete poem or song. The rest of the words to the song were written by American writer and newspaper editor Young Ewing Allison (1853 – 1932.) Allison was a writer of prose and verse and is best remembered for his poem the “Derelict,” written to complete the famous verse fragment by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island, “Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest.” And in this world of six degrees of separation, Allison also played a prominent role in the establishment of Federal Hill, the mansion in Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World. The Federal Hill mansion is said to have inspired Stephen Foster’s song My Old Kentucky Home, as a state historic site in 1922.

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Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest

Here is the full TTB description of Rum.

Class General Class Definition Type General Type Definition
RUM¹ Spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) NO TYPE UNDER THIS CLASS
LIQUEUR/ CORDIAL¹ Flavored spirits product containing not less than 2½% by weight sugar, dextrose, levulose or a combination thereof made by mixing or redistilling any class or type of spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants or pure juices there from or other natural flavoring materials or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation or maceration of such materials ROCK AND RUM¹ Liqueur/Cordial with the predominant characteristic flavor of rum made with rum as the exclusive distilled spirits base, rock candy or sugar syrup and with or without the addition of fruit, fruit juices or other natural flavoring materials, bottled at not less than 24% alcohol by volume (48 proof). Wine may be used but if used may not exceed 2½% by volume of the finished product
RUM LIQUEUR/ RUM CORDIAL¹ Liqueur/Cordial with the predominant characteristic flavor of rum made with rum as the exclusive distilled spirits base, bottled at not less than 30% alcohol by volume (60 proof). Wine may be used but if used may not exceed 2½% by volume of the finished product
FLAVORED RUM¹ · Rum flavored with natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, bottled at not less than 30% alcohol by volume (60 proof) · The name of the predominant flavor shall appear as part of the class and type designation, e.g., “Butterscotch Flavored Rum” · Wine may be added but if the addition exceeds 2½% by volume of the finished product, the classes and/or types and percentages (by volume) of wine must be stated as part of the class and type designation NO TYPE UNDER THIS CLASS
IMITATION DISTILLED SPIRITS · Any class and/or type of distilled spirits treated with flavor(s) and/or color(s) to simulate a different class and/or type of distilled spirits · Any class and/or type of distilled spirits other than a DISTILLED SPIRITS SPECIALTY (see below) containing an artificial flavor** · Any class and/or type of distilled spirits (except cordials, liqueurs and specialties marketed under labels which do not indicate or imply that a particular class and/or type of distilled spirits was used in their manufacture) to which has been added any whisky essence, brandy essence, rum essence or similar essence or extract which simulates or enhances or is used in the particular product to simulate or enhance the characteristics of any class and/or type of distilled spirits · Any type of whisky to which beading oil has been added · Any rum to which neutral spirits or distilled spirits other than rum have been added · Any brandy made from distilling material to which sugar (other than the kind and amount expressly authorized in the production of standard wine) has been added · Any brandy, except blended applejack, to which neutral spirits or distilled spirits other than brandy have been added SPECIFIC CLASS OR TYPE TO WHICH DISTILLED SPIRITS WOULD OTHERWISE BELONG E.G. IMITATION RUM"¹"
Resource: TTB Chapter 4, Class and Type Designation

¹ A distinctive or fanciful product name with a statement reflecting the composition and character of the product is sufficient as class and type designation, e.g., “Spiced Rum, Rum With Spice Flavor

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