The Early History of Rum

Rum: Part 1. There's so much to learn about rum, that we're considering this an intro -- what you need to know, and a brief focus on this famous spirit's early history.


So let's start with the basics. Rum is made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane, and is usually aged in oak barrels. If sipping this spirit gives you vacation vibes or makes you dream of a tropical island somewhere, that's not necessarily by accident. Sugarcane cultivation really started (and still is) on tropical islands. However, the history of rum is not all sunshine. It's riddled with slavery, turmoil and war.


It all starts with sugarcane.

Sugarcane was first grown in New Guinea, and some records show that it was fermented as early 350 BC in India. However, the earliest recordings are of it being used for medicinal purposes (similar to Vodka).


In the 1400s, European explorers started opening up the world's sea routes, around the southern point of Africa, East, and then crossing the Atlantic to the New World. The Atlantic islands of Madeira, the Azores and the Canaries were discovered. The climates on these islands was ideal for growing sugarcane (which was actually introduced by the Arabs) in addition to spices.


The Arabs had set up a range of irrigation techniques, such as water powered mills to process sugarcane and the water screw, all designed to decrease the manpower needed to make sugar. However, even at the beginning, sugarcane production relied mostly on slavery. The cruel and inhumane trade expanded as explorers began to produce more and more sugarcane on the islands.


During the religious wars of the 1440's, the Europeans captured many of the Arab sugar plantations, and the Portuguese started shipping slaves over from their trading posts in the West Indies.

Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, at first by sailing to the Caribbean. He decided that the climate the