The History of Rum
When you hear the word rum, you would surely think of aged oak barrels and its delectable strong alcohol taste but there is more to where rum came from that describes the word. Basically, this alcoholic drink comes from the byproducts of sugarcane; sugarcane juice is processed through fermentation and distillation. The product is aged in barrels and technically, the older the rum the stronger and richer its flavor is.
There are light rums which are used to mix drinks like cocktails while there are dark rums which are drunk on their own. The history of rum dates back so many centuries and has been a part of histories of so many countries all around the world.
Where did the word rum came from?
The word rum was believed to have originated from Britain. Samuel Morewood an etymologist from Britain mentioned that rum may have meant to be a word for being “the best” since at that time locals were often heard to say “having a rum time” which meant that they were having fun or enjoying a great experience. Morewood further noted that rum cannot be ranked under whiskey, brandy or arrack, the drink would be known as rum to describe its excellent quality. Rum also meant potent and strong in Romani language.
Where did making rum start?
As mentioned, creating and drinking rum dates back to ancient times. Fermented drinks from sugarcane was first made in ancient India or in China, the popularity of these drinks began to spread throughout the years. Ancient Malay people were also known to make a similar drink known as brum. Even Marco Polo noted in his travels of a wine with superior quality made of sugar which was offered to him when he traveled to a land which is now known as Iran.
Different countries all over the world have their own account of how rum making and consumption actually began but historians believe that the first distillation took place in the sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean in 17th century. Molasses, which was a byproduct of sugar through a simple distillation process, can be turned into an alcoholic beverage. And as time went by, more efficient distillation processes were used to remove impurities in alcohol resulting in the drink that we have come to love.
There are so many accounts of the first ever distillation process that created fine rums; historians suggest that it was on the island of Barbados but there are several evidences that the first full time rum production was in Brazil in the 1620s.
More evidences of rum making in America during the Colonial Age
Shortly after fine rums were manufactured in the Caribbean, the drink became very popular in North America. In 1664 the first distillery opened in North America by the British; the site of this distillery is now known as Staten Island. Later, there were more distilleries set up in the country; with distilleries in Boston, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the most popular.
Manufacturing rum was the largest and the most popular industry set up by early Colonial New England. The consumption of rum began to rise and it was estimated that before the American Revolutionary War began, almost everyone drank rum with an average of 3 imperial gallons or 14 liters of rum each year for every man or woman.
And of course, the steady increase in the consumption of rum increased the demand for molasses and sugar in Europe. Large labor forces were made to work in Caribbean sugar plantations as well as better trade options were established to other sugar producing countries in the world. A trade was established between the Caribbean, African and British colonies as a result of these.
Trade of materials including slaves was made between colonies. A disruption of trade which was caused by the Sugar Act in 1764 has made so many changes in labor and rum trade and was also seen as one of the causes of the American Revolution.
Throughout the years, rum and rum trade has been a huge force in shaping any election outcome. And as new alcoholic beverages began to highlight like the development of the whiskey in America, the popularity of rum began to decline.
Rum and piracy
Rum’s history will never be complete without mentioning its association with pirates. Rum was a very valuable commodity and as some British privateers became pirates and buccaneers they took their favorite drink with them in their naval escapades. When the British captured the island of Jamaica, they took more control of the ration of rum to different nations; the British even practiced watering down rum mixtures to preserve their favorite alcoholic beverage.
So many renowned names and events have been influenced by rum and the Royal New Zealand Navy was known was the last naval force to provide their sailors a daily supply of rum. During special occasions, rum is also given from the commanding officer’s fund of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Rum in early Colonial Australia
Rum was not just a popular alcoholic beverage but was also a vital trade good in the colony of New South Wales. During these dire times, rum was traded for materials that a member of the colony needed; the drink also allowed consumers to temporarily forget all their troubles especially in a new colony where comfort is a very extravagant commodity. Australia was a convict colony of England but it was just so far from each other that prisoners faced terrible living conditions. It was thought to get supplies from India which is nearer; this was the time Bengal rum was introduced to the colony.
To date, there are so many regional varieties of rum. Spanish – speaking countries produced rum with a smooth taste. English – speaking islands on the other hand developed a darker type of rum with a delicious full taste. French – speaking countries and islands however were known for expensive kinds of rums that were called agricultural rums. Other varieties were made from rice and sugar beet.