“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum,” sang the pirates of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Since then, virtually every fictional pirate ever has shouted similar affirmations about the sweet spirit.

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These days though, you don’t have to be a horror of the high seas to enjoy a rum and coke.

How do you know whether to reach for white or dark rum though?

In honour of National Rum Day on August 16, we’ve found out everything you need to know about the differences between the two - and how to decide which one to choose.

What is rum?

Rum is made from the syrup of the sugarcane. The sugar is then distilled into alcohol.

It was first created in the Caribbean and is typically much stronger than other sugary spirits.

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What is the difference between white rum and dark rum?

 

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When rum is first distilled it is a clear liquid. To make it ready to be sold, the substance is filtered several times until it is free of impurities.

This makes white rum, which is usually aged for a shorter period of time than dark rums, and has a sweet, subtle flavour.

Dark rums start off in the same way – as clear liquids – but instead of being filtered and bottled immediately after this process, dark rums are left to age first.

They’re often aged in charred oak or wooden barrels and, over time, they end up darker in colour and bolder in flavour.

The shade of the colour is dependent on the length of time the rum has spent aging. Rums that are golden in colour tend not to have been aged for too long whereas darker rums will have spent longer in this process.

They may also be darker if molasses or burnt caramel are added for flavour.

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Which rum should I use?

There’s no wrong answer to this question, but if you’re looking for a little guidance, it generally depends on what you fancy drinking.

If you just want to drink rum on its own or with a mixer, the more distinctive flavours in dark rum make it a better choice.

For making rum-based cocktails like Mojitos, Daiquiris or Pina Coladas, opt for white rum which is sweet and subtle enough not to overpower the other taste sensations.

What are your favourite ways to drink rum? Let us know in the Comments section below.