In the 16th century, rum was the hot, hellish, and terrible liquor reserved for common folk. Fortunately, production processes have improved greatly in the last five centuries. Contemporary rum is second only to gin on our cocktail mixability scale.
Made from sugarcane juice or molasses, all rums are distilled clear.
Heavy or dark, rums are made in traditional pot stills with a slow fermentation of up to 12 days. Lighter rums ferment only 24 hours and are produced with modern continuous stills.
Light rum is (surprise) light in color and flavor. Light rum can replace gin in any drink recipe. However, it should not be treated as a neutral base like vodka.
Rum's flavors should be enhanced, not hidden, by overpowering fruity additions.
Brown rum, which is different than dark rum, is aged six years in oak barrels. As far as comparison goes, it's similar to brandy, bourbon, or whiskey. A fine brown rum should be enjoyed like a cognac. Dark or brown rums are heavily flavored and should be used only as an accent in a cocktail, never as a base.