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.