Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to talk about this thing called “white rum”. Many abominations and misunderstandings have been committed in its name.
To start with, no rum is really white.
Silver? If you must.
But honestly, that’s not the real issue here. It’s forgivable and we can move past it. The real affront is that a white rum category even exists. It’s lazy, reductionist, and unhelpful.
Categorizing a rum by its color (or lack thereof) dismisses the rum’s far more important attributes; first and foremost, flavor. Consider this hypothetical exchange:
“Sir, what type of cheese would you like on your hamburger?”
“Light yellow, please.”
The resulting burger could be served with Swiss, cheddar, or gruyere—all quite different, thank you. Yet when it comes to rum, “white” is a common category, designated in countless recipes and menu listings.
It shouldn’t be.
Rum Fire, Rhum Clement Blanc, Bacardi Superior, and Probitas meet the “white rum” criteria simply by virtue of their colorlessness. But those with firsthand experience with all four rums know how different they are, and that they’re certainly not generally interchangeable in cocktail recipes.
Even if enthusiasts know how to differentiate the rums above, picture the casual consumer in a liquor store looking for a “white rum” to make a cocktail recipe they saw in USA Today. Devoid of any special expertise, they could depart the liquor store with Rum Fire, a high octane Jamaican overproof which the recipe’s author almost assuredly wasn’t intending.
When it comes to trying out a rum in a cocktail, the daiquiri is the time-tested standard. A true, classic daiquiri uses a rum consistent with the style of rums made where it originated—we’ll get to that below.
Sure, you can make a fab daiquiri with Jamaican rum, or a blended rum from several islands, but you’re intentionally departing from the original daiquiri in a noticeable way. Think of it as using potato chips instead of corn chips in your nachos. It may taste great, but you wouldn’t call them “classic nachos”.
Yes, “white rum” is well ingrained in popular culture, and perhaps I’m titling at windmills. But if we want to help rum world newcomers understand the wide diversity of clear rums, we must lead by using more terminology for these rums.
Heck, most people think that “white rums” aren’t aged, which is most assuredly not true. Far more clear rums are aged than not. We’ll get to that below as well.
Of course, not everyone is well-versed enough to know the difference between the multitude of clear rums on the market. In the spirit of proposing solutions, I’ve created natural groupings from the set of widely available clear rums, based on flavor profile and how they’re made.
The five categories below cover the vast majority of clear rums. I’ve chosen to not muddy the waters by including the truly unique and unusual rums that are rarely found outside of highly specialized retail environments. I’ve provided many examples of each category, but the examples are far from exhaustive.
Finally, no classification is without its flaws, and if we were enjoying a glass of rum together, I’d happily point out some loose ends.
Aged and Filtered
Rums that have been aged for a few years, then carbon filtered to remove the color. The majority of these rums are from countries or regions with Spanish heritage, e.g., Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc.… Most of them are entirely distilled on column stills.
By volume, Aged & Filtered is by far the dominant category. Consider that all Puerto Rican and Cuban labeled rum must be aged. Thus, any clear rums from Bacardi, Serrallés (Don Q), and Havana Club belong in this category. They’re three of the biggest rum producers on the planet.
Incidentally, this style of rum is what the original Cuban daiquiri was made with. Nowadays, multi-island blends are all the rage in daiquiris, but the original Cuban masters weren’t using Jamaican-tinged rums in their shakers. It should be noted that there are a few Aged and Filtered Jamaican rums. Their flavor profile veers far away from rums made in Spanish heritage regions. You may wish to split them into their own category.
|Barcelo||Gran Platinum||Dominican Republic|
|Blue Chair Bay||White||Barbados|
|Bountry||Premium White||Saint Lucia|
|Brugal||Blanco Supremo||Dominican Republic|
|Captain Morgan||White||St. Croix|
|Chairman's Reserve||White||St. Lucia|
|Clarke's Court||Superior Light||Grenada|
|Don Q||Cristal||Puerto Rico|
|Flor de Caña||4 Extra Seco||Nicaragua|
|Havana Club||Anejo Blanco||Puerto Rico|
|Rum Sixty Six||Whte||Barbados|
A clear rum blended from rums made in several countries. Jamaican rum is a common but not required element in these blends. These rums may also be blended from both aged and unaged rums.
|Ten to One||Caribbean White Rum|
Unaged Cane Juice
These are clear rums made entirely from cane juice and have not undergone aging in wooden casks. If you wish to split out rhum agricole, cacacha and clairin into their own categories, go for it.
|[Clairin - most brands]||Haiti|
|[Rhum Agricole - All brands]||Blanc (or similar)||Martinique|
|[Rhum Agricole - all brands]||Blanc (or similar)||Guadeloupe|
|[Cachaça - all brands]||Brazil|
Unaged Jamaican Overproof
While overproof is itself problematic, the set of unaged Jamaican rums bottled around 63 percent ABV are similar enough to each other, and distinct enough from other rums, that none of them will be mistaken for another category here.
|Rum Fire||White Overproof|
|Wray & Nephew||White Overproof|
If a clear rum has no aging, and doesn’t fit into any of the above categories, we can simply call it unaged rum. Many of the rums in these categories are from small “craft” distillers. It should be noted that you may find wide variations in flavor in this category—Privateer Silver tastes nothing like Rum-Bar Silver
Again, there are certainly clear rums that don’t fit neatly into any of the above categories. But the odds are that you won’t find many of them at your corner liquor store, nor is it likely that a recipe creator imagined their use when specifying “white rum”.
While I’ve made efforts to include as many mainstream rums as reasonable in the above lists, I may have missed some. Feel free to give me a shout about anything you feel strongly should be included. Do note that I intend to focus on rums in major markets like the US, and/or with international distribution.