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RUM TASTING NOTES: LIGHT vs DARK

If you've never been to one of our rum tastings in Shoreditch, it is possible you've never even considered the similarities and differences between dark rums, white rums, and their spiced cousins. Let us clarify.

By
TT Liquor

If you’ve ever sipped on a Mojito, a Tiki drink, or any Caribbean cocktail the likelihood is that you’ve tried your fair share of rum, but have you asked why some are light and some are dark? And why dark rums are more suited to being consumed neat, and why white rums are more at home in a cocktail?

Not to be confused, there are some clear distinctions between the liquids both in terms of flavour profiles and usage that have their roots in the processes and ingredients that lie behind the production of each, despite their numerous similarities.

All rums have their roots in the sugar cane plant, and the syrupy molasses that come as a by-product. Like with agave in tequila, this sugar is then distilled into liquid alcohol – to typically higher than 40% alcohol by volume – and most rums begin their journey as white rums as it is a clear liquid when first distilled.

To get from this point, to the shelves, and finally into our cocktail glasses, light rum simply needs to be filtered to remove any impurities. It is left with a sweet but subtle flavour, with just as much alcohol by volume as darker rums.

Dark, black or golden rum start their voyages as the same clear spirit that makes light rum. However, instead of being filtered and bottled directly after distillation, they are aged first in charred oak or wooden barrels for a period of time which leaves them with a darker colour and bolder flavour.

As a measure of how long the rum has gone through this process, the darker it is the longer it has been aged. However, this isn’t the be all and end all – since rum can also be darker if molasses, burnt sugar or caramel is added for colour and flavour.

Sugar cane being pressed.

Rum’s flamboyant spiced sibling, meanwhile, can be almost any colour under the sun – it’s entirely dependent on the ingredients used outside the traditional cane to alter the taste of the liquid. This is a favourite for certain cocktails due to the variety of flavour profiles in this category.

So then comes the burning question: which should I use in my cocktails? Well typically darker rums are more used to being sipped straight due to their more distinctive, bold flavours which can often create an unbalanced cocktail. Light rums are more at home in a bartender’s cocktail sink due to their more subtle flavour profiles.

So next time you’re mixing up a Daiquiri, a Zombie, or a classic Mojito at home, then it is recommended that you use a white rum. The short answer, however, is that there is no wrong answer and it is all subjective.

Drinking is a very personal pursuit – so if you like nothing more than a dark rum-based Long Island Iced Tea, or a golden Mai Tai then don’t let us or anybody else stop you!

Has this piqued your rum curiosity? Want to learn more about the Caribbean’s most popular export? Why not book yourself or a loved one into one of our immersive rum tasting adventures?

Click on the link below for full information, or alternatively call 02031 312 706 and one of our event organisers will be happy to run you through what our expert tasting hosts can offer you.