Interesting facts about Rum!


About 2 hours from Joburg, on a farm along the R70 between Henneman and Riebeeckstad in the Free State, I joined the guys at Whistler Rum Distillery for their end-of-the-month jol. With a local singer strumming away, a Free State Sand Storm cocktail in hand and a big red sun setting in front of us, I took a sip and realised I didn’t know much about rum at all.

A week later I went to the Pan-African Rum Festival and tasted as many South African rums and cocktails as possible. Now I’m plotting my own cocktail mixes! But before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the basics of rum 101.

What is rum made of?

In short, rum is made of sugar. It can be made from the fermentation and distillation of sugarcane juice or from products of sugar refining such as molasses or syrup, then aged in oak barrels. Dark rum is usually enjoyed neat or on the rocks with a cigar, white rum is great as a mixer for all those tropical cocktails with lots of fruit and tiny umbrellas. Here’s a great article about how rum is made from The Ministry of Rum.

So, what is cane?

Cane (43% ABV) is a uniquely South African white cane spirit made from molasses, add some Crème Soda and you’ve got a classic Green Mamba. One could call it a white rum, or (yes, this true) a vodka! In fact, Mainstay Original Premium actually won Best Vodka at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2007.

What does Mainstay have to say about its unique cane vodka? Absolutely nothing except “Hello World“. Cape to Rio has a short blurb on their page at Edward Snell & Co, so nothing sexy here, just a clean white spirit focussed on getting you smashed.

Okay, so what is cachaça?

Cachaça (38 – 40% ABV) is a spirit distilled from fermented fresh sugarcane juice and aged in indigenous Brazilian wood and is also known as Brazilian Rum depending on where you are in the world. Cachaça is to Brazil what cane is (apparently) to South Africa – a national spirit. It’s the main ingredient in the famous caipirinha cocktail and comes in light and dark/gold varieties.

Interestingly, I discovered a South African Cachaça called Agua Zulu being made at 031 Distillery in Durban.

Cachaça can also be referred to as a type of rum.

Rhum Agricole?

This is an interesting one. Rhum Agricole (70% ABV) is also made from distilled, fermented fresh sugar cane juice, but it can only be called Rhum Agricole if it is made on the island of Martinique in the West Indies according to extremely high standards of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) of Martinique. The sugar cane juice in Rhum Agricole is only taken from a certain number of designated regions on the island.

South African Rum

Interesting Facts 1 Interesting facts about Rum!

When you think of rum, you might think of the Puerto Rican super brands like Bacardi or Captain Morgan. But did you know that there’s a growing South African rum movement? As a country producing so much sugar you’d think we would have more rum distilleries earlier. But with sugar being so valuable, fresh cane juice and molasses is harder to come by.

There are now over 10 South African rums when I last counted. Including Whistler Rum who are focussing their energy on getting us to #ReThinkRum with 2 unique African rums full of personality. I’m looking forward to enjoying their lighter, spice-infused rum which is going to go down nicely on my deck overlooking the Braamfontein Spruit.

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