Rum, a Timeless Spirit with a Rich History

rum in a glass

Rum, a spirit to calm the heart and soul

RUM is a timeless spirit with a rich history and pleasant smooth flavour. It is among the first branded spirits ever made. As well as its excellent taste, there are several health benefits associated with this spirit.

Decades ago, rum was used extensively in wartime for medicinal purposes. The spirit was considered a sure way to help soldiers stay calm under fire. They were given a tot, or tablespoon, each just before going into battle.

It was also believed the beverage would keep soldiers warm while they stood in muddy trenches, often in freezing temperatures. The British Navy routinely gave its sailors rations of rum with citrus juices such as lemon or lime to prevent scurvy.

Times have changed and alcohol is no longer permitted for soldiers on the front line, but history shows rum was long considered to be an alcoholic beverage with many benefits. As long as you consume it responsibly, you too can reap rewards.

Its many health benefits include:

Stress buster

The relaxing effect of rum, when consumed in limited amounts, can help when you feel too anxious or worried. It also has a relaxing effect that helps promote a better quality of sleep. The next time you find it hard to sleep, try drinking a little good-quality rum before going to bed. Overall, stress is more detrimental to your health than the odd shot of rum, but if you become intoxicated with the drink, it can have the opposite effect.

Reduces heart disease

The British Medical Journal has published studies suggesting non-drinkers were more likely than moderate drinkers to experience heart issues such as angina and heart failure.

Other studies have suggested that rum, like vodka, acts as a blood thinner and helps to prevent peripheral artery diseases.

Rum can also increase the amount of HDL or good cholesterol in your body. This helps prevent blockages in arteries and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Defends against dementia

Rum is believed to lower the incidence of dementia. A study by the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, showed participants who regularly drank alcohol had a 29 per cent lower incidence of dementia and a 42 per cent reduction in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s Disease compared to teetotallers.


Drinking rum in moderation produces some health benefits, but caution is advised—its over-consumption, or alcoholism, will do more harm than good. Ensure that consuming alcohol doesn’t become a habit and see your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.


History Rum-down

Rum - botte of rum.

Bottle of Ron Zacapa XO rum. Photo: Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

The origins of rum can be traced back to the 17th century when the sugarcane plantation slaves first discovered molasses. Molasses is a by-product of sugarcane which, when fermented, turns into sugarcane alcohol.

Rum is made in many places in the world, including Australia, India, Indonesia and South Africa. However, it has its roots in the Caribbean. However, it has its roots in the Caribbean.

When you think of sugarcane, you naturally think of sugar, but not rum. Sugarcane was not a native plant in the Caribbean.

It is believed the Indians brought sugarcane to the island while they traded spices in this region. It came from Indonesia and went through China, India and then the Middle East. In fact, during the late 15th century, in most of the Ottoman Empire, sugar was called Indian salt.

Sugarcane grows in a warm climate with an annual rainfall of at least 1000 to 1200 millimetres from the moment the shoot grows.

The harvest time takes seven months and in the West Indies, sugarcane is normally harvested from January until May. In Queensland, it’s between June and December.

An increasing part of the harvest is mechanised today, but some are still done manually with the help of animal carts and farmers. At the time of the harvest, the stem or the sugarcane is filled with a sweet raisin-like substance.

The weather and time of the harvest are important as the sugar can easily be affected and can be proven to ferment too early, which is why the sugar harvest is tested on arrival at the distillery.

After being tested for sugar, the cane proceeds to the crushing and pressing stages where the juice is extracted and will eventually undergo fermentation and distillation.

Rum’s earliest recorded appearance

The earliest recorded appearance of rum dates back 1000 years, with its origin in India and China. It was in Barbados that the drink was first referred to by the name Rumbullion, which means real disorder. This is still used to describe rum.

People specifically started making the new-world rum that we know and love today during the 18th century. The earliest recorded distillation was performed for the first time during the 17th century on the island of Barbados.

Sugarcane plantation slaves noticed the molasses would take up a lot of space at the back of the sugarcane factory and the sugarcane waste would seep out. It was a serious industrial waste problem, as this liquid did not serve any purpose. This liquid was called molasses.

The slaves and livestock ate the molasses, but it was still considered waste. Two pounds of sugar produced a pound of molasses, so the situation of a sugar plantation was like living in a swamp. They discarded it into the oceans sometimes.

One day, however, someone realised that by mixing the molasses with sugarcane juice while boiling and later fermenting this by-product, new alcohol was formed. This alcohol was called Rum. After that, molasses wasn’t considered just waste. Later, distillation took a role that removed impurities and produced the first modern rums.

Rum came to the new world on the long journey from the Mediterranean through southern Spain and the Atlantic Islands. It moved further along Colonial North America. England later became the distillery centre because of technical, abundant lumber production and metalworking. England even accepted gold as an acceptable currency during the Rhode Island rum period.

Caribbean Pirates were the first to popularise rum between 1560 and 1720—the pirates captured gold, silver, food and other valuable items as well as rum. However, they did not resell rum. They simply captured this specific item to consume.

At the beginning of the 18th century, when war was taking place at large, “Grog” was invented by the British Navy when Admiral Edward Vernon ordered a daily rationed mixture of rum and water instead of whiskey and gin. In fact, Grog was given this name because Vernon used to roam around the ship wearing an old grogram coat.

Rum made popular in the Caribbean

The Caribbean made rum popular, which lead to the widespread consumption of the spirit in Colonial America. A rum distillery was also set up to support the popular drink on State Island in 1664. The rum manufacturer became New England’s largest, most prosperous and most popular industry. It was voted the world’s best during the 18th century.

It is said that during the American Revolutionary War, people drank an average of 13.5 litres of rum each year. During that time, the trade between Africa and the Caribbean formed. Molasses and rum were profitable and the obstruction of the Sugar act in 1764 could have led to the American Revolution. However, the popularity of rum kept steady even after the American Revolution.

One of the biggest pioneers in popularising rum was a Welsh man named Henry Morgan. He was one of the notorious privateers, who were much like pirates but were individuals commissioned by the government, slaveholders and landowners. He died in Jamaica as a Lieutenant Governor of the Island of Jamaica.

The world-renowned Captain Morgan spiced rum company is named after this real person who wasn’t really as nice a guy as they portray in the cartoon Captain Morgan.

The British fleet captured the island of Jamaica where rum was produced. Seeing the availability of rum, the British changed their daily ration of drink to the privateers, pirates and sailors from French brandy to rum.

Rum also became an important trade in South Wales, and the people earned the reputation of “drunkenness.” This was even though they consumed far less rum than the British.

In 1735, as Jorge Juan and Antonio Ulloa wrote: “There was a practice in the Columbian coast at the Cartagena for officials to drink rum around 11’o clock before noon. The regular and sober person also drank a small glass every forenoon saying that it was good for appetite and it strengthens the stomach. The lower classes of people practised the same. They drank local product extracted from the juice of sugarcane called agua ardiente de cane or cane brandy at 11’o clock every day.”

You can see that the timeless spirit has a long and elaborate history in the world. It has been consumed for centuries and is still one of the most highly consumed spirits in the world.





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