Rum Vs Whiskey – What is the Difference Between Them?

Rum and whiskey are two of the most popular spirits worldwide. Rum vs whiskey is also a big debate as both beverages have their fans. What is the difference between rum and whiskey? To the inexperienced, they can be hard to distinguish as they can look, smell, and even taste similar.

Rum vs whiskey – how are they different? The main difference between whiskey and rum is their raw ingredients.

Whiskey comes from fermented and distilled juices of grain mash. It is like beer, without the hops, and distilled.

Rum comes from distilled extracts of sugar cane and its byproducts. It is simpler, with fewer ingredients. The sugar cane also makes it sweeter than whiskey.

Six main differences between rum and whiskey that I will address later, are as follows:

  1. Ingredients
  2. Taste
  3. Alcohol Content
  4. Health Benefits
  5. Aging Cask Material
  6. Aging Period

Read on to learn more about whiskey vs rum, as well as the differences and similarities between these two popular beverages.

Rum Vs Whiskey – What is the Difference Between Them?

1. Ingredients

One of the major differences between rum and whiskey is their source of raw materials or ingredients.

Rum is quite simple. There are two basic raw ingredients used in rum production: sugar cane and molasses.

Whiskey has more that goes into it. Certain grains are used in making whiskeys. They include barley, corn, wheat, and rye. In most cases, several grains are combined to constitute a mash bill.

Both rum and whiskey production employ fermentation and distillation process to obtain the final spirit or alcoholic beverage. After undergoing these two processes, the final spirit is stored in a wine barrel or cask. This type of storage is where the spirits are stored or ‘aged’ to obtain their desired distinct taste and aroma.

2. Taste

What about the rum vs whiskey taste difference? In general, the taste of most rums is rich and spicy. Rum is also typically sweeter than whiskey.

On the other hand, many whiskeys give flavors that are reminiscent of the type of barrels used in their aging. They are also quite aromatic.

3. Alcohol Content

The potency of alcoholic beverages is measured by their ‘alcohol by volume’ and proof percentages represented in figures. As the number increases, the stronger the alcoholic drink is. Another way of saying this is, it takes fewer drinks to get drunk if you are drinking a high proof and high ABV alcoholic drink.

Most rums have ABVs of 40% and proofs of 60%. But some rums have as low as 21%, and only 42% proof, such as the Malibu. Whiskeys never go lower than 40% ABV. There is one, though, the Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, which is only 33%. Whiskey also has the highest proof at 90%, such as Maker’s Mark. It goes to say that whiskeys are a bit stronger than rums.

4. Health Benefits

Moderate drinking of both rum and whiskey will bring certain health benefits. The benefits offered by rum are different from that of whiskey. Drinking small amounts of rum can increase your bones’ mineral density. Thus, moderate drinking of rum will ease the symptoms of arthritis.

What about whiskey? As whiskey ages in the oak barrels, it develops ellagic acid, a nutritional substance that can help regulate your body’s glucose levels.

5. Aging Cask

To get clear rums, the spirits’ storage and aging take place in stainless steel wine casks. Oak barrels are used to get colored rum. The storage and aging of most whiskeys take place in wooden casks.

6. Aging Period

Typically, whiskey has a more extended aging period than rum.

What’s the difference between rum and whiskey? For a summary of the differences between these two beverages, see the table below:

DifferencesRumWhiskey
Ingredients:Sugar cane and molassesGrains (rye, barley, corn, and wheat)
Taste:Generally sweeter than whiskeyGenerally more aromatic than rum
Alcohol Content:Varies from 40% to 60%Varies from 40% to 80%
Health Benefits:Can increase mineral density of bones, helps in alleviating arthritisContains ellagic acid, which helps regulate the body’s glucose levels
Aging Cask Material:Dark rums use oak barrels, while clear rums use stainless steel casksMost whiskeys use wooden casks
Aging Period:Shorter; ~1 yearLonger; ~3 years

What Is Rum?

We’ve compared rum vs whiskey; next, I want to just describe rum. Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage. It is made from sugarcane byproducts, such as sugar cane juices and molasses. Producing this spirit starts by pressing the sugar cane stalks to get the juices, and then fermenting the juices to get the fluid substance.

This fluid will then undergo distillation to eliminate impurities and achieve its desired alcoholic content. After distillation, the resultant alcoholic substance is stored in caskets where it will undergo the aging process to obtain its desired taste, color, and aroma.

Origin of Rum

Rum is a popular entertainment drink all over the world. This alcoholic beverage originated in the Caribbean Islands. Historians believe that this drink represents the Caribbean culture. Some of the biggest producers of rum in the world are located in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands.

The backstory of rum revealed that African slaves discovered how to make rum. They found out that the resultant liquid changed into alcohol during the fermentation of molasses.

differences between rum and whiskey

How to Make Rum

The modern rum manufacturing process requires the addition of yeast to molasses before fermentation under a controlled environment. Yeast addition helps achieve the desired flavor and taste of rum. The next process is liquid distillation to obtain the desired alcoholic content.

During fermentation, the sugarcane byproduct mixes with a certain amount of yeast and water. This mixture will break down the sugars contained in the molasses. The yeast changes the taste and aroma of different rums.

After distillation of the liquid, the resultant rum is ready for storage in wooden casks for about one year to acquire a characteristic golden color. Colorless rums use stainless steel wine casks for storage.

The taste of a particular type of rum will also depend on the raw material used. Different brands of rums have their own distinct tastes, flavors, and alcoholic content. The different variations and classifications of rum are as follows:

1. Dark Rum

This grade of rum has a dark color. Rums of this type have different shades of dark. The dark shades include black, brown, and red. Black rums are the ones that are aged inside charred wooden wine casks for long periods. The resultant spirit is usually sweeter and stronger than other types of rums.

2. Light Rum

Light-colored rum or white rum is a type of rum used when mixing with other drinks.

3. Premium Rum

This rum only comes from the highest quality of sugarcane and its byproducts. It has also undergone careful aging. For these reasons, premium rums also command a high price. It offers the best in aroma and flavor of all grades of rums, too.

4. Gold Rum

This rum is usually aged in white oak barrels. It has an amber color, and its flavor is stronger than light rum.

5. Flavored Rum

If you want a fruit-flavored rum, this type of rum is what you need. The fruit flavors infused in this type of rum include coconut, banana, and citrus, among others.

6. Spiced Rum

This type of rum has a dark color. It is infused with the flavors of spices, such as pepper, aniseed, and cinnamon.

What Is Whiskey?

Whiskey is also an alcoholic beverage produced through fermentation, distillation, and aging. Its main difference with rum is that whiskey comes from grains or a combination of grains called mash bill. The usual grains used in making whiskey are barley, rye, corn, wheat, or any combination of these grains. There’s also malting of these grains, depending on the requirement.

Origin of Whiskey

Historians believe that the first whiskeys originated in ancient Greece during the third century. Back then, they distilled spirits to make fragrances. Later in Italy, in the thirteenth century, they started to distill whiskey for medicine and alcohol. Scotland took whiskey from Italy and made it their homegrown product. Now, Scotch whisky (Scottish spelling) is the most popular whiskey in the world.

whiskey versus rum

How to Make Whiskey

Whiskey usually comes from a fermented grain mash that may include wheat, rye (or malted rye), corn, and barley (or malted barley). It could be classified into two types: malt whiskey and grain whiskey. Malting happens when the grain is allowed to germinate first before it is subjected to fermentation.

After fermentation of the mash bill, the next process is distillation. Storage and aging of the liquid in wooden barrels then follow. During aging, the spirit will acquire its strength, color, distinct taste, aroma, and flavor. Whiskeys aged in charred wooden casks acquire a golden-brown or amber color.

Whiskeys can also be generally classified into the following:

1. Blended Whiskey

This whiskey is a mixture of grain and malt whiskeys with added flavorings like caramel, colors, and neutral spirits.

2. Single Cask

This whiskey is stored and aged in one individual cask. The label of the bottle bears the number of that cask.

3. Single Malt

This whiskey came from one type of grain and produced by one particular distillery. Its raw material is a mash that only contains one type of malted grain.

4. Blended Malt

This whiskey comes from a combination of various whiskeys from several distilleries.

5. Cask Strength

This type of whiskey is directly bottled from the cask. It is not diluted or just slightly diluted from the cask. Whiskeys of this type are rare.

Comparison of the Health Benefits of Rum and Whiskey

Now, let’s look at the health benefits of whiskey vs rum. Both rum and whiskey, if taken moderately, can bring health benefits to an individual. Here are some of the benefits that these spirits offer.

Health Benefits of Rum

  • Nutritional – For every 100 grams of rum, you can get approximately 230 calories. It does not contain fat and carbohydrates. Its alcohol content is the element that provides energy.
  • Heart Benefits – Rum can help alleviate peripheral artery disease. It can increase HDL cholesterol and can function as a blood thinner. Rum can also reduce the chances of heart attack and blockages of arteries.
  • Common Cold Prevention – Rum has antimicrobial properties because of its alcohol content. Thus, you can use it to prevent the worsening of a common cold. It has a soothing and warming effect, too.
  • Alleviates Osteoporosis – It can help increase bone density.
  • Helps in Longevity – Moderate rum drinking may help prolong life by 2 to 5 years.
  • Relieves Muscle Pain – Drinking moderate amounts of rum can help ease muscle pain.

Health Benefits of Whiskey

  • Enhances Heart Health – It can increase HDL cholesterol, which balances the effects of LDL cholesterol.
  • Boosts Immune System – Whiskey can help improve your immune system because of its alcohol content.
  • Aids in Weight Loss – Research presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that alcohol can help reduce obesity.
  • Reduces the Chances of Diabetes – If taken moderately, the chances of developing diabetes reduces as much as 30 to 40 percent.
  • Prevents Dementia – A 2012 study related to whiskey, published by Pharmacognosy Reviews, indicated that whiskey enhances an individual’s cognitive performance and reduces the person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

There should be moderate consumption of these spirits to reap their health benefits. Two servings at any one time should be the maximum intake.

Conclusion – Rum Vs Whiskey

So, to summarize everything, the key difference between whiskey and rum is their raw materials.

Whiskey comes from fermented and distilled juices of grain mash, while rum comes from distilled juices of sugar cane and its byproducts. Sugar cane is the source of sugar. That is why most rums are sweeter than whiskeys. Some grains may be sweet, but the sweetest grain cannot compete with sugar’s sweetness.

What’s the difference between rum and whiskey? For a summary of the differences between these two beverages, see the table below:

DifferencesRumWhiskey
Ingredients:Sugar cane and molassesGrains (rye, barley, corn, and wheat)
Taste:Generally sweeter than whiskeyGenerally more aromatic than rum
Alcohol Content:Varies from 40% to 60%Varies from 40% to 80%
Health Benefits:Can increase mineral density of bones, helps in alleviating arthritisContains ellagic acid, which helps regulate the body’s glucose levels
Aging Cask Material:Dark rums use oak barrels, while clear rums use stainless steel casksMost whiskeys use wooden casks
Aging Period:Shorter; ~1 yearLonger; ~3 years

The beverage you enjoy most comes down to personal preference. Now that you know the differences between the two, you will have a better idea why you like one more than the other.