White Rum Is Diverse!
Setting sail from the classic Spanish-style aged and filtered white rums, we come to the multi-country blends. The rum from distilleries in Jamaica, Barbados, and Guyana all carry unique flavors. Why settle for a soloist when you can have a multi-part harmony? Plantation 3 Stars blends rums from Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica—both unaged and long aged. And the Banks 5 Island Rum brings together distillates from Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, and Barbados, as well as exotic Batavia Arrack from Java. Sure, these rums cost two or three times more than your basic Puerto Rican blanco, but don’t your top-shelf cocktails warrant a premium rum?
Heading further into less charted waters of white rum, we encounter sea monsters—the Jamaican overproofs. Wray & Nephew Overproof is the best known, but brands like Rum Bar and Rum Fire are gaining traction. On the shelf they look like any other white rum. But pull the cork, and the aromas bowl you over with that legendary Jamaican “funk,” redolent with overripe bananas and other fruits. And often clocking in around 130 proof, they pack an alcoholic wallop. There’s no aging or charcoal filtering with these rums—they’re unabashedly unaged hogo bombs, a night and day difference from the genteel, refined, multi-island whites like Banks 5 Island.
Finally, no discussion of white rums is complete without considering unaged rhum agricole blanc from the French islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Marie Galante. Made from fresh-cut cane juice and usually distilled within a day of cutting, these rums are powerfully funky, albeit very different than the Jamaican overproofs. They’re grassier and more vegetal, with less ripe banana. A small squeeze of lime, a scant barspoon of sugar, and a few ounces of unaged agricole is all you need to make Ti’ Punch, the French version of a daiquiri, but oh-so-more refined.
The rum marketplace offers an incredible diversity of rums whose only characteristic in common is lack of color. If we’re lucky, the “white” and “silver” rum designations will someday vanish, replaced by better descriptors of the rum’s styles. It’s a challenge though, as even producers with great products propagate these misnomers and play it safe, labeling their products “white” or “silver” when there are much more helpful terms they could use.