Making Rum at Home

published by John Carter on Jun 14, 2009

This is how to make rum.


The history of rum goes back in history where it first appeared as a sugar wine that was described by Marco Polo on his way home from China. This particular wine was one he drank in modern Iran. The first place where this concoction was distilled however goes to the Island of Barbados. It was a popular drink among the slaves of the Sugar Islands who distilled it in primitive pot stills where its use rapidly spread. It was also a popular drink among the pirates who infested the Caribbean Later it was adopted by the British Royal Navy where it was served cut 50% with water and sometimes a bit of lime juice where it was called “Grog.” Modern rum distillers usually use a fractioning column still that rapidly distills the wort into rum.

“Sixteen men on a dead mans chest, yoohoo and a bottle of rum.” This will give you some idea as too how long man has been making rum this song dates back to the mid-1600s.. Of all the various kinds of alcoholic beverages rum is one of the easiest to make. The ingredients are 50/50 water and ‘fancy’ molasses that is allowed to ferment until the fermentation naturally ceases. Just be sure to use fancy molasses because the other grades such as blackstrap and other industrial grades of molasses don’t have enough contained sugar to ferment properly. Then you can distill the rum in a pot still which should come out at 90 to 95% alcohol r 180 to 190 proof. The product coming out of the still is raw rum. Don’t drink it until it cools off!

Raw Materials

Although the most common raw material is “Fancy” grade molasses that retains enough contained sugar to properly ferment there are other ingredients that are used in place of molasses. A substitute for molasses is a concentrated solution of brown sugar. Another ingredient is cane squeezings that are made by harvesting the sugar cane after the fields are burnt and pressing sugar squeezings out of the cane.


Some distillers make use of wild yeast spores that come out of the air to initiate the fermentation process. Others use specific kinds of cultivated yeast that will impart special flavorings or qualities to the wort that the rum is distilled from. The raw wort is placed in a large vat and allowed to ferment until the fermentation is complete. At this time the wort contains about 12% alcohol that is distilled off in the next step of the process. Once you see a fermenting vat of rum you will take the oath of temperance its pretty wild looking.


Today most rum is distilled in a fractionation column still that is quite large and capable of distilling large quantities of wort. Other small distillers still use pot stills to distill rum. The rum from a pot still is often richer in taste then the other method. (For the sake of this discussion we are going to stay with the pot still because of its ease of manufacture.)

Fill the pot portion of the still with wort and apply heat to the pot portion until the temperature of the wort is slightly above 160° Fahrenheit, the boiling point of ethyl alcohol. Have your copper coil that is attached to the still in a waterjacket to cause the alcohol vapors to condense into liquid alcohol. Rum is usually triple condensed so you have to put it through the pot still two more times before it is finished. It is important to clean the still thoroughly between each distillation of the alcohol. When rum comes out of the still it is practically pure alcohol and it doesn’t necessarily have to make rum as a finished product. It can morph into vodka very easily as well as cordials or liqueurs. It’s all in the aging!


Most rum after it drips out of the end of the condenser (worm) is aged in recycled oak charred whiskey barrels where it melds with itself and the natural coloring and flavor of the whiskey barrel. Some of the freshly distilled rum is turned into vodka by filtering it through activated charcoal and diluting it to at least 80 proof with distilled water. Other rums are used as cordials or liqueurs by using the alcohol to steep various fruits and spices with them. Common fruits are the various citrus fruits, orange, lemon and lime. Another fruit often used is coconut milk. Some of the spices include mace, nutmeg and ginger.


The three countries that have had the most influence on modern rum are Spain that produces a light rum often changed into cordials or liqueurs. England that produces a darker more heavily flavored rum. The last is France; rum made by the French was more often a premium rum suitable for drinking neat of diluted with water. (A sipping rum.)

Aside from cordials and liqueurs there are several cocktail types of drinks that have emerged like Bahama Mamas, Pina Coladas, Zombies, Virgins Lament and others.

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. # 2 by Alan Graham
    January 26th, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Distillation in a pot still does not produce 95% alcohol, that’s why you need to triple distill with a pot still, a column or fractional still will produce the higher possibly 95% alcohol stated by returning water vapor via condensation inside of the column and returning it back into the wash. The reason a pot still is better for richness and flavor is because there is more “carryover” of the flavoring which is inbedded in the water.


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