How Did Rum Get It’s Name?

There are lots of theories about where the word rum came from. Some say it is a shortened version of Rumbustion which was a slang terms for “tumult” or “uproar”. which does have a ring of truth as consuming lots of rum could certainly cause a bit a fighting!

Another explanation is that it is derived from the Dutch word roemer, which means large glass. In English this is pronounced rummer. As the Dutch visited the Barbados a lot in the 17th Century and sailors would have undoubtedly been heavy rum drinkers this is a strong possibility too.

Another theory holds that the word is derived from rummage, this was a word used for the ship’s hold, where the rum would eventually be stored for the long journeys across the Atlantic.

The most likely, however also the most boring, suggestion is that the word rum comes from the Latin word for sugar cane saccharum officinarum.

Although you can’t ignore the fact that there was a drink called brum being produced by the Malay people many years ago. It is accepted that fermented drinks from sugar cane were around in the earliest ages so it is likely that this could be a source for the name also.

Other people are certain that the name rum originated from Barbados, where the first rum exports came from as the first recorded written usage of the word “Rum Bullion” appeared on the Island in 1651.

Other names for Rum

Some of the many other names for rum are Nelson’s Blood, Demon Water, Red Eye, Pirate’s Drink, Navy Neaters, Devil’s Death (or Kill Devil), Rumbo and Barbados water. All these names are around the theme of rum being fiery & strong, and leading the drinker into sin or worse!

Richard Ligon wrote in 1647 that slaves on plantations in Barbados would consume kill-devil and described it as a “hot, hellish and terrible liquor”. It was obviously pretty rough in the old days!

The reason it is called ‘Nelson’s Blood’ by some is that it was believed that Admiral Nelson’s body was carried back to England in a barrel of Rum to preserve it, though this is now disputed.

So how did rum gets its name? Who knows, but just like any good night on the booze – there’s a few good stories to tell.

 

4 Comments

  1. Rum well deserves its fun in the sun image. Those of us in the drinks business have been riding that concept for years. These days, however, having fun in the sun doesn’t quite have the same appeal. Truth be told, to me having fun in the sun sounds like a miserable waste of skin cells. My point though is that rum has more to contribute to the world than just being a summer fling, groovy companion for Coke, or part of the Mojito’s muddled cast.

  2. Variety is the spice of life and there are no more diverse spirits than those made from sugar cane. Flor de Caña has been making a variety of rums for more than a hundred years. From the crisp, tropical fruit and coconut notes found in their clear 4-year-old white rum to the dry, roasted nut and smoky oak finish of their 19-year-old rum, there is something for every taste in their offerings. But nothing lasts forever and Flor de Caña 5-year-old is going to be hard to find in some markets, particularly in North America. But don’t despair if you can’t find any Flor de Caña 5-year-old, reach for the 7-year-old and you’ll be glad you did.

  3. Either molasses as the by-product of sugar production or the sugar cane juice itself obtained when pressed, these are fermented into a kind of wine – which happens automatically if you leave it laying around in pots in a hot Caribbean sun for a while, which plantation slaves quickly noticed and indulged in. This is known as agaurdiente or “fire water” and it tastes like hell. Yet this fire water can be distilled for a more refined taste and so it is to produce rum. Now, it can be immediately bottled for a clear spirit (silver rum) or aged in barrels to produce a color and character closer to whiskey (gold or aged rum). Rhum agricole (oftentimes French) uses juice from pressed sugar cane (guarapo) for fermentation. This differentiates it from the bulk of rums made from molasses, which is the leftover liquid after boiling sugarcane juice to create sugar in processing plants. Different grades of molasses from Grade A to “Blackstrap” (a notional Grade E) can be used. The better (higher) grades of molasses are said to make higher quality rum. Occasionally, sugar will be used to sweeten rum after distillation.

  4. The precursors to rum date back to antiquity. Development of fermented drinks produced from sugarcane juice is believed to have first occurred either in ancient India or China, and spread from there. An example of such an early drink is brum. Produced by the Malay people , brum dates back thousands of years.Blue p. 72 Marco Polo also recorded a 14th-century account of a “very good wine of sugar” that was offered to him in what is modern-day Iran .

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