Rum is made by fermenting and then later distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. Most Rum is produced in the Caribbean and American territories, but other sugar-producing countries, such as the Philippines and India.
Rums are produced in various grades ranging from light to dark, with the light grades commonly used in cocktails such as the Piña Colada, Mai Tai, and Mojito. The darker grades are famously consumed with mixers such as cola in a Cuba Libre or with iced tea.
The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location where the rum was produced. Despite these variations, the following traits are most frequently used to describe the various rums available:
Dark rums, also known as brown, black, or red rums, are a grade darker than gold rums. They are usually made from caramelized sugar or molasses and are generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels, giving them much stronger flavors than their lighter counterparts. Hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. Most dark rums come from areas such as Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, and Martinique.
Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits, such as orange, banana, pineapple, and coconut. They mostly serve to flavor tropical drinks but are also refreshing served neat or over ice. The infusion of flavor occurs after the fermentation and distillation process has completed.
Gold rums are medium-bodied rums that have aged. These rums obtain their appearance as a result from aging in wooden barrels such as the charred, white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon whiskey.
Light rums are also referred to as "white" rums and have little flavor aside from a general sweetness. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color that may reside. Their milder flavors make them a popular choice for use in mixed drinks, as opposed to drinking them neat.
Over proof rums are much higher than the standard 40% ABV (80 proof), with many as high as 75% (150 proof) to 80% (160 proof) available. The higher poof content also makes these rums ideal for cocktails.
Premium rums are in a league of their own. These are generally from high end, boutique brands that sell carefully produced and aged rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts and are generally consumed straight.
Spiced rums obtain their flavors through the spices in which they are distilled with. While they are usually darker, many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with caramel coloring. Some of the spices that can be found in spiced rums are cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and cloves.