Rum is a very popular spirit produced in Martinique, Guadalupe, Jamaica, Barbados, Guiana and South America. It is made from molasses obtained from sugar cane juice. Agricultural Rum is produced directly from the sugar cane juice while Industrial rum is from molasses. Molasses is obtained from the raw sugar during the refining process. Industrial rum distillation dates back to the 17th century and represents 90 % of total rum production.
It is said that rum was first distilled by the Moors in Malaga Spain but the spread of sugar cane cultivation and subsequent rum distillation dates back to Christopher Columbus, having been transported by his fleet from the Canary Islands. Writings dating back to the 17th century state that rum was considered a medicinal drink or cure all and was distributed among the British sailors to strengthen them.
Some say the word rum comes from the Latin word for sugar "saccharum", while others affirm that it comes form the words "Rumbullion" or "Rumbustion", expressions which describe the excesses committed by rambunctious individuals.
At the first stage of rum production the sugar cane is harvested and crushed after which the juice is filtered for raw sugar production, molasses is obtained as a by product of this process. To the base ingredient yeast and water is added to start fermentation. Fermentation time will depend on the type of rum desired and may take up to 24 to 48 hours for a white rum or a few weeks for a dark rum. At this stage the fermented wash has an alcohol level of 4 to 6%.
Distillation can be done in a Reflux column alembic or a soldered copper moonshine alembic still, in the case of dark rum. Aging of white rum takes place in barrels and may take 3 to 5 years while dark rum is aged in charred barrels for anything from 3 to 15 years. Due to the tropical climes where rum is produced maturation takes place faster than for other alcoholic beverages. For the same reason a good portion is lost through evaporation and may be as much as 10% annually.
Most commercially available rum has an alcoholic volume of 40 to 45% with some strong pungent Jamaican rums reaching as high as 75%.
There are six different types of rum: White Rum, Gold Rum (aged for longer), Dark Rum (with a hint of caramel), Flavoured Rum (spices or fruit flavours added), High proof rum and Premium Rum.
You might try replicating various types of rum by varying in method and ingredients. If you have a supply of molasses you might try mixing it with sugar and water to make your own wash or experiment with brown sugar instead if you don't have molasses or natural cane sugar. Light flavoured rums are obtained by removing most of the heads and tails whereas for darker rums the cutting off points are not so stringent to allow your distillate to retain the flavours although you should always discard the foreshots or heads where the methanol is present.