August 16 is National Rum Day. National Today and our friends at Goslings Rum want to take the opportunity to celebrate one of our favorite libations and share some interesting facts about the history and culture surrounding this historic spirit. Rum has been a staple of the economy of the Americas from nearly its founding and remains one of the most versatile liquors available today. Traditionally found in light or dark varieties, rum has found its way into many alluring and inventive cocktails, punches, and mixed drinks, most notably the Goslings Dark ‘n Stormy®.
The Gosling family of rum makers have been supplying the world with this storied beverage since 1806, aging and blending every drop on their home island of Bermuda. Their Black Seal rum — which they’ve been producing since the 1850s — is the gold standard for dark rums having been awarded the Gold Award three straight years at the International Rum Festival. Goslings proudly sponsors National Rum Day to spread the word about the rich history and taste of this historic spirit.
History of National Rum Day
Rum’s early history runs parallel with that of the Americas and some would say few liquors have had a bigger impact on the new world. While some form of rum has been distilled since the third century BCE, it wasn’t until 17th century colonizers began growing sugarcane in the Caribbean that rum’s popularity exploded. Molasses is a byproduct of sugar production and rather than let this excess go to waste they distilled it into booze (good call).
Initially called “kill devil” for its high alcohol content and less than savory taste, the process of fermenting and distilling molasses became steadily more sophisticated and the spirit significantly more enjoyable. The etymology of the word “rum” is still open for debate but among the most agreed upon theories is that it is derived from the terms rumbuillion or rumbustion — both meaning an upheaval — but eventually shortened to rum.
Rum production quickly spread throughout the Caribbean and beyond, to islands such as Bermuda, Nevis, and Jamaica, becoming one of the most popular spirits and even being used as currency. Rum became so popular in colonial America that it eventually contributed to 80% of the exports from New England and a tax on sugar in the 1760s led directly to the American Revolution.
However, not all of rum’s history is so rosy. Like many of the labor-intensive industries of the early American economies, the sugarcane and thus the rum trade was based on slave labor and the spirit’s popularity contributed to the slave trade that existed in America until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
National Rum Day timeline
Molasses Distilled into Rum
Molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, was distilled in a spirit that would eventually be called rum. It quickly became popular in the Caribbean and eventually the rest of the Americas.
Rum Usurps Brandy Among the Royal Navy
When the British navy captured Jamaica in 1655 it had access to domestically produced rum. The British changed the daily liquor ration of sailors to rum over the more expensive brandy.
The First Rum Distillery in Colonial America is Founded
The first distillery in what would become continental U.S. was founded on Staten Island. It’s popularity would quickly spread, finding much success in New England.
The Sugar Act Helps Spark the American Revolution
The 1764 tax on Sugar and molasses created significant tension between British colonists and the home country. It is after this and a similar tax on tea that “taxation without representation” became a rallying cry.
James Gosling settles in Bermuda
Gosling, a wine and spirits merchant on his way to America from England, is forced into port at St. George’s, Bermuda where he decides to remain and set up shop. The rest is history.
Goslings debuts a proprietary “Old Rum” blend
The Gosling family released their first barrels of what they called “old rum,” a secret blend of three rums aged in “once used” bourbon barrels.
Goslings begins selling their Old Rum in bottles sealed with black wax.
Many years later a play on words and images gave birth to the little, barrel juggling “Black Seal” logo and a change of name to Goslings Black Seal Rum.
National Rum Day - Survey Results
National Rum Day FAQs
What is the difference between light, dark, and golden rum?
The difference between the shades of rum depends entirely on the aging process. Light rums are aged very little, if at all. Dark rums are aged from 5-10 years depending on the climate. Golden rum is aged longer than light rums but not nearly as long as dark rums.
Does rum have a lot of sugar?
Though it is derived from a sugar byproduct, premium rums have no more sugar once distilled than other liquors.
What is the best liquor to have in the summer?
While nearly any “cold one” is worth having when it’s sweltering outside, hands down the best summer cocktails are made with rum. In fact, in a nationwide survey, 26% of Americans said rum drinks were the best when it was hot out.
National Rum Day Activities
Have a Cocktail, Obviously
Whether it’s iced in a glass, neat in a tumbler, or frozen with little umbrellas in it, rum is the spirit of summer in every possible way. Branch out and try a new concoction and keep summer in your heart.
Channel Your Inner Privateer
Rum is known as the drink of choice for sailors, particularly those frequenting island ports like Jamaica, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. But it is also a part of pirate lore. Make a nod to your favorite privateer through a period accurate cocktail (eye patch not required).
Go on a Rum-based Culinary Excursion
Take the rum out of the glass and into the pan for an interesting and fiery cooking and baking experience. Classic desserts like rum raisin pie, spiced rum cake, and the combustive bananas foster all put the sweet taste of rum front and center.
Take The Rum Day Quiz
Why We Love National Rum Day
It’s One of the Most Versatile Spirits
Over the centuries, rum has proven itself to be a versatile and useful spirit that can be mixed into punches or cocktails in a myriad of ways, enjoyed neat, or even on the rocks.
It has a flavor complexity that can’t be rivaled
Whiskey often gets the nod for the most over-analyzed liquor by gourmands, but aged rum, with its smoky, earthy, aroma and notes of vanilla and caramel, offers some serious fodder for foodies to gush about.
Its History Mirrors the Americas
The history of rum runs parallel to the history of the Americas. It’s impact can be felt from the sugarcane trade, slavery, the American revolution, and the growth of nearby island economies, particularly Bermuda.
National Rum Day dates