Rum VS Whiskey

Rum is a great drink, especially when used in a mixer. Trust me, I have seen it all from rum on the rocks, the usual rum and coke, and even rum and orange juice.

Whiskey, on the other hand, is advised to be had on the rocks or neat. With that said, this article is actually about the differences between the two alcohols.

The origins of rum are still unclear, although we know that Caribbean plantation workers back in the 1700s discovered that fermenting molasses, the byproduct of sugarcane, produces rum. Whiskey dates back at least 1000 years and is made from malted or unmalted barley and other ingredients.

In this article, we are going to talk about where rum and whiskey originate from, how they are made, and what ingredients are used in the process of making them.

We will then talk about, which is more popular, which is more expensive, and which is the best for beginners to drink.

So, for everything you need to know, keep reading.

Rum VS Whiskey: The Ingredients

A glass of rum

The ingredients that go into rum and whiskey are completely different. A lot of people do not understand what goes into the making of their favorite alcohol. This section has two main goals that we are going to try and achieve.

The first goal is to be as informative as possible concerning the ingredients of rum vs. whiskey.

Our second goal is to help you better understand the alcohol that you drink because this will actually help your palate to determine what flavors your favorite alcohol actually has.

I always say, knowing what a whiskey or rum is made out of can influence how the alcohol hits your palate.

What Ingredients Is Rum Made From?

glass of Rum
  • Sugarcane Molasses
  • Sugarcane Juice

Sugar cane molasses and sugarcane juice are two completely different things, and if one is used rather than the other, the rum can taste different, and the quality of the one can also significantly be affected.

Sugarcane juice is produced by stripping the sugar cane into fibers, cutting them up, and then extracting the juice.

After this process, the juice is boiled to remove all the water content, or at least, most of the water content from is sugarcane juice. It is a lengthy process after this to make the molasses, but basically, the molasses is a byproduct of allowing the sugarcane juice to crystallize.

What Ingredients Is Whiskey Made From?

  • Malted or unmalted barley
  • Various fermented grains
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Corn (Mostly only in American Whiskeys)

In almost all whiskeys, a combination of grains will be used along with either malted or unmalted barley.

In whiskeys such as Scotch single malt, they contain only three ingredients, and as the name suggests only one malt. So, instead of using grains along with malted and unmalted barley, they will just use malted barley, water, and yeast.

In most American whiskeys, specifically bourbon, a blend of malted and unmalted ingredients are used. However, most American whiskeys will use at least 51% corn as one of the key ingredients.

After all of this, you have a few specialty ingredients, well, at least, I like to call them specialty ingredients. These include things like rye and wheat. Rye adds a nice spicy flavor to whiskey, while wheat can give it an earthy flavor.

Rum VS Whiskey: How Are They Made?

In this section, we are going to discuss the lengthy processes of making both of these products. I will try my best to only highlight the important parts of each step. So, let’s get into it.

How Is Rum Made?

  1. The sugarcane gets harvested and transported to a refinery.
  2. At the refinery, it gets stripes, cut, and mashed.
  3. The sugarcane juices are extracted.
  4. Then, the juice gets boiled, which reduces the water content.
  5. Once the water content is reduced, the juice turns into syrup.
  6. While in this state, the sugar content will start to crystalize, some ingredients might help this process along. 
  7. A byproduct of this process is molasses.
  8. The molasses will be taken to rum manufacturers. 
  9. After all of this, the molasses enters its fermentation process. In most cases, yeast is added to speed up and/or aid this fermentation process.
  10. The fermented molasses will now enter the distillation process. This is either done in a column still or pot stills.
  11. After distillation, the rum is stored in oak barrels or steel vats for aging. 

That is quite a long process, and there are a few things that I would like to note before moving on from this section.

Rum that is aged in stainless steel vats will often be clear, whereas when it is stored in oak barrels, rum will often be darker.

The quality of the Oak barrels used can determine the quality of the rum. In most cases, the Oak barrels used have already been used to either age previous batches of rum or, sometimes, other alcohols such as bourbon whiskey. This adds to the flavor of the rum.

How Is Whiskey Made?

Whiskey Made
  1. Most whiskeys contain malted barley. The barley is made wet and then placed on special floors where enzymes turn starch into sugars.
  2. It is now ready to be fermented. However, it is first dried in a kiln. At this stage, peat is either naturally obtained from the smoke or is added artificially.
  3. Once it is dry, it gets mashed up into fine flour.
  4. Water is added in different stages to the flour.
  5. It gets constantly stirred where the sugar content will naturally increase while the starch content will decrease. The liquid is now called “wort.”
  6. This wort is added to large wooden or steel vats; these are called “washbacks.” Here, the wort will ferment.
  7. This is where the distillation begins. It is a complicated process. Basically, the alcohol is separated from all other materials.
  8. The alcohol will be clear at this point. It gets its color from the barrel it is stored in.
  9. The whiskey is left to age in large oak barrels.

As we mentioned with the rum, the Oak barrels that are used in the aging process play a significant role in the outcome of the quality of the whiskey.

In terms of the Oak barrels themselves, they are often used in previous batches, but one important thing to note is, sometimes whiskey is aged in charred oak barrels. You will notice that a lot of the dark whiskeys will have more of a smoky flavor and even more of a peated flavor.

This is because charred Oak barrels leave their color in the alcohol, and also, the peat comes from the charred areas of the barrel.

A used oak barrel will produce better quality whisky. 

With all of that being said, it is more and more common for manufacturers to use stainless steel vats for aging the whiskey. This is because in the long run, in terms of maintenance, it works out cheaper for the manufacturers.

They are finding ways of producing the same and, in some cases, better quality whisky through the steel vats.

Rum Vs. Whiskey: The Origins

rum and whiskey

I wrote a recent article that was similar to this one, except we were comparing brandy and whiskey, and in that article, I started to get a little bit carried away when talking about the origins of these products. I will try and be brief on this one.

My goal with information like this is not only to help us better understand the comparison between rum and whiskey.

Also, it might give you something to talk about the next time you are sitting at a bar with your friends having rum or a whiskey.

Where Is Rum From?

Currently, most rums are produced in the Americas and the Bahamas, but there are thriving rum distilleries in places like Spain and France, where they too have thriving sugarcane farming communities.

In terms of the origins of rum, there are many stories involving India and Cypress that date all the way back to the 1300s. However, it was in the Caribbean where a bunch of plantation workers discovered, for themselves, that they can turn sugarcane byproducts such as molasses into alcohol. This was in the late 1600s to the early 1700s.

Since then, rum has become a very popular drink.

Whether rum was made in the 1300S in India, Cypress, or Spain and whether it dates back to the 1700s in the Caribbean, it doesn’t really matter.

However, at this point in time, it is very hard to pinpoint the exact date and the exact region that rum was invented or discovered.

Where Is Whiskey From?

The history of whiskey is a lot more complex than rum. It is also a lot older than rum. In fact, whiskey dates back at least 1000 years.

The current consensus is that whiskey originates from Scotland and dates back about a thousand years. However, the distillation process is what is important here.

It is unclear whether or not distillation comes from Roman Egypt, but that seems to be the consensus, and this process can date back to at least the 1st century.

It was around 200 AD when the process was described by Alexander.

The process of distillation made its way to Scotland via traveling monks, and it was here, around 1000 years ago, where whiskey started being made.

Something that I find absolutely fascinating is that in Gaelic, they used to call whiskey “the water of life,” much like the French doctors used to call brandy.

Which Is More Popular: Rum Or Whiskey?

bar with alco

As a whiskey drinker, I would love to give a biased answer to this; however, it is hard to say for definite whether whiskey is more popular than rum and vice versa.

It is assumed that Jack Daniels whiskey is the most popular spirit in the United States. However, Bacardi rum comes in second.

I will say that movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean did a lot of favors for rum by boosting its popularity. When you have a beloved film character such as Jack Sparrow, who constantly goes on about his rum, you are bound to get a lot of people who go out and buy rum.

Rum VS Whiskey: Which Is More Expensive?

  • The most expensive rum is/was Angostura Legacy at $35,100 a bottle.
  • The most expensive whiskey is/was Isabella Islay at $6,200,00.

The Isabella Islay comes in a decanter that has over 8 thousand diamonds encrusted all over it.

So, I think it is better to go to the second most expensive whiskey, and that was the “Macallan M.” This whiskey costs a whopping $628,205. While the bottle wasn’t encrusted with diamonds, it is fair enough to say that the bottle was still at least fancy.

If we look at that the most expensive rum ever made, it doesn’t even come into the top 10 most expensive whiskeys ever made.

It is clear to see that whiskey is more expensive than rum. It isn’t even really a competition. I wouldn’t say that the process of making whiskey is more difficult than the process of making rum.

What I can say is that it is possible that whiskey manufacturers have had a few hundreds of years of a head start.

I also think that there are a lot of whisky manufacturers who have refined the process of making whiskey but also, it could be that there are just a lot more specialty whiskey makers than there are specialty rum makers.

Another theory could be that whiskey tastes better than rum, and so the demand for it is greater than that of rum.

Which Is Better For Beginners: Rum Or Whiskey?

Rum Or Whiskey

For this section, I will have to go with rum. Not only is rum an easier test to acquire for beginners, but it is also a good spirit to mix with mixers such as Coca-Cola or any other soda.

With that being said, if you are going to drink it neat, I might have to swing my vote into the favor of whiskey, especially a good whiskey from Speyside or a bourbon on the rocks.

There are two factors that can significantly influence, which is best for you, let’s take a look.

It Depends On Your Personal Taste

Hopefully, you would have tasted one or two of these drinks before, and you will be able to determine which of these drinks suits your personal taste. If you have, you will be able to easily decide which one you want to drink.

Depends On Your Affordability

Another thing to consider is your affordability. If you are worried about the price tag of either one of these products, I would recommend sticking with rum.

This is because, as we have discussed in this article, rum is cheaper than whiskey, at least in most cases.

Is Whiskey Better To Collect Than Rum? 

It is better to collect whiskey. As a whiskey gets older, its value increases, and the same can be said with rum, but as we have already discussed, whiskey is a lot more expensive than rum.

So, for a collector, that is one of the things they look for: how much will the value of the product increase.

With that being said, this can also be up to your personal preference. If you enjoy a rum and you come across a really good one that you think will increase in value over time, maybe you should collect rum instead.


That brings us to the end of this article, and hopefully, you can walk away from it without having any further questions on the differences between rum and whiskey.

Both alcohols are great. They can both be had neat or on the rocks and even as the base for a mixer.

Whichever you choose, remember to drink responsibly.

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