This is rum’s most sociable face, its most obvious manifestation as a party spirit at home in everything from a simple Cuba Libre – rum and Coke – to the most complex concoctions of modern mixology. But there’s regional character here, too – and more flavour than many people think.

The mojito, made with white rum – one of the most popular cocktails in the world The mojito, made with white rum – one of the most popular cocktails in the world

Making it big

The emergence of white rum as a mixable spirit in the second half of the 20th century secured its fortune – or rather, it secured the fortune of Bacardi, exiled from Cuba following revolution but unstoppable on its march to global superstardom, transcending the category in the process. To this day, people are just as likely to order a ‘Bacardi and Coke’ as a ‘rum and Coke’.

Pale and interesting

There’s a general correlation in spirits between colour and flavour, where dark equals intense and clear equals bland. Good white rum gives the lie to this notion, however, and it’s produced in more places, and by more people, than you might expect.

To take one example, the name of Flor de Caña 4-year-old gives a clue to these unexpected depths: just because a rum’s clear, it doesn’t mean it’s bottled straight off the still. Many white rums undergo a few years’ ageing, acquiring new levels of subtlety and complexity in the process.

So Cuba’s Havana Club Añejo Blanco marries smoothness to weight and punch; Santa Teresa Claro from Venezuela offers texture and body; and rhum agricole Barbancourt has a zesty, vegetal edge that refuses to be entirely subdued.

Make no mistake: these are rums which find their finest expression in a broad range of cocktails and mixed drinks, but they do so without sacrificing their own distinctive characters and provenance.

Did you know?

  • Bacardi remains the rum world’s biggest brand bar none, selling well over 18m nine-litre cases in 2013
  • Banks 5 Island combines rums from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana, plus Batavia Arrack from Java, aged for 3-12 years, then filtered to remove the colour
  • Wray and Nephew Overproof, dominates the Jamaican rum scene and – apart from being consumed in vast quantities – is also a popular household remedy for all manner of ills

Typical Character and Style of White

  • Acetone Acetone
  • Petrol Petrol
  • Banana Banana
  • Grass Grass
  • White
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