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Whiskey vs Rum

Will Beck
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

When it comes to spirits, there are many options to choose from. Two of the most popular liquors are Whiskey and Rum. But what are the similarities and differences when looking at whiskey vs rum? 

Whiskey vs Rum – The Differences

Arguably, the most significant difference between the two is how they are distilled. Whiskey is typically distilled from malted barley, while rum is distilled from molasses.

This leads to different flavors in each drink. However, the differences don’t end there.



Although it has been around for centuries, the process of making whiskey has changed very little. Today, there are four main types of whiskey: bourbon, rye, Scotch, and Irish.

Each type of whiskey is made from a different grain and has its own unique flavor profile. 

Scotch is made from barley and is typically smoky and peaty in taste. Bourbon, for example, needs to be made with at least 51% corn for it to be considered bourbon. It is known for its sweet, caramelly flavor.

On the other hand, Rye is made from at least 51% rye grain and has a spicy, earthy flavor. Finally, Irish whiskey is made from a mixture of barley and other grains and has a smooth, mellow flavor.

Whiskey is aged in charred oak barrels. The charring of the barrels helps to create a smoky flavor in whiskey that is absent in rum. In addition, the aging process also contributes to the distinct taste of rum and whiskey. 

However, the flavor is not the only thing about whiskey that makes it unique; it also has a vast history. According to, whiskey dates back to 1494, when first mentioned in a document in Scotland.

Common Misconceptions About Whiskey

Whiskey should always be enjoyed neat, or should it? In actuality, there are plenty of benefits to drinking whiskey on the rocks or with a drop of water. 

A splash or two of water or ice can go nicely with any type of whiskey you prefer, but it is especially recommended for cask strength (a style of whiskey that has not been diluted before bottling).

With some cask strength — also known as barrel proof — bottlings reaching 60%, 65%, or even 70%-plus ABV, a splash of water can often bring welcome relief to punishing alcohol contents.

Notable high-proof whiskeys that can benefit from a drop or two of water to get to know them better.

Another misconception is that the best whiskey is always kept on the top shelf. A lot of factors go into where whiskey land on the shelves of your liquor store, and not all of it has to do with the quality in the bottle. 

Big companies have a lot of power when it comes to literal product placement, catching your eye by placing their brands at the center of the whiskey display, while some great whiskies are left to collect dust in the shadowy corners.

Labels, age statements, and awards as signals that whiskey is worth your attention—so don’t let shelf location be the only factor in your decision.



It is believed that rum was first created in the Caribbean islands in the 17th century. At that time, sugarcane was introduced to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus.

The enslaved people who worked in the sugar cane fields were the primary consumers of molasses, a byproduct of sugar production.

According to The Manual, there was so much molasses waste that people didn’t know what to do with it until someone had the idea to make alcohol from it. 

Today, rum is made using one of three methods: Directly fermenting sugar cane juice, creating a concentrated syrup from sugar cane juice, or using molasses as a base. Each method results in a slightly different type of rum. 

The most common types of rum are light rum, dark rum, and spiced rum. Light rum, also referred to as silver rum or white rum, is clear and has a milder character.

Dark rum or black rum is aged longer than light rum and has a richer flavor. Lastly, spiced rum, which is flavored with spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg, is typically darker in color than light rum.

The lines between rum’s different maceration, fermentation, and aging processes tend to be geographic and a bit blurry. It makes trying different rums full of delightful surprises at every turn.

For instance, rum made from fresh sugar cane on column stills in Martinique has a bright, fresh-cut-grass flavor, while rum made from molasses in pot stills in Jamaica can taste like ripe pineapple and green banana. 

While long fraternization with oak will narrow those variations, unmistakable differences persist. As a result, the taste profiles of rum can vary widely. This makes exploring the world of rum an exciting and delicious endeavor.

Common Misconceptions About Rum

Thanks to Disney, it seems like Rum is synonymous with Pirates and the Caribbean, but that is not necessarily the case. reports that while the birthplace might have been sugarcane fields on islands but rum actually has its roots in North America. Prior to the American Revolution, there were dozens of rum distilleries in New England. These early rums were made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production.

As for pirates, rum didn’t become part of their culture until the late 17th and early 18th centuries, when the West Indian rum trade was flourishing.

Before that, pirates drank whatever they could get their hands on, which was primarily Spanish wine.

rum and whiskey

Whiskey vs Rum – The Similarities

While Whiskey and rum have distinct differences that set them apart, there are also many similarities to be aware of. For example, The process in which someone makes whiskey and rum has a lot in common.

Both begin with fermentation, in which yeast is used to convert the sugars in the grain or fruit into alcohol. The mixture is then distilled, which helps to remove impurities and increase the alcohol content.

Finally, the liquor is aged in oak barrels, which helps develop its flavor and character. 

The type of barrel used can play a role in the final taste of the whiskey or rum. For example, scotch whiskey is typically aged in Used Bourbon Barrels, while rum is often aged in Ex-Bourbon American White Oak barrels.

As a result, the aging process is one of the most essential factors in determining these popular drinks’ flavor.

While aging, over time, the tannins and vanilla in the barrel impart their flavor to the liquor, masking the raw materials from which they were made.

Therefore, the longer these liquors are aged, the more their tastes converge. After three years, many rums and whiskies start to share a similar flavor profile, with only subtle differences remaining. 

This convergence process is accelerated because rums are often aged in barrels that formerly held bourbon, giving them an initial burst of a bourbon-like flavor.

As a result, rum and whisky drinkers can enjoy a wide variety of options, all of which offer a unique and complex taste.

Regulations for Rum and Whiskey

When it comes to rum, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Unlike whiskey, which is regulated by international agreements, rum is produced in dozens of countries. 

Rum producers have considerable freedom regarding distillation, aging requirements, and materials. Each country has its own regulations and traditions when it comes to rum production, but many producers take advantage of the flexibility this spirit category offers.

The result is a diverse range of rums that offer something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a light and refreshing rum for your cocktails or a rich and complex spirit to enjoy on its own, you’ll find it in the world of rum.

On the other hand, Whiskey is highly regulated, especially among all the different kinds. For example, to be classified as whiskey, the spirit must meet several specific criteria, such as being distilled to a high proof and aged in oak barrels. 

Whiskey vs Rum Cocktails

When it comes to choosing a drink, personal taste is certainly a factor to consider. But what you’re using the drink for can also play a role in your decision.

For instance, if you’re looking for a cocktail, you might choose rum over whiskey. This is because rum is often mixed with other drinks, such as soda or ginger ale, it can be a refreshing way to enjoy a spirits-based beverage. 

On the other hand, whiskey is lower in calories than rum, so it’s a good choice if you’re watching your waistline. Also, if you’re in the mood to savor a drink alone, whiskey might be the better option.

The bold flavor of whiskey can be enjoyed on its own, making it a cozy choice for sipping by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

So the next time you’re faced with a drink menu, take a moment to consider what you’re in the mood for before making your selection.

Your choice of the drink depends on your personal taste and what you are using it for, in terms of cocktails. Whiskey is lower in calories than rum. Rum is usually mixed with other drinks, such as soda or ginger ale, while whiskey is often savored alone.

When it comes to choosing liquor, there are many factors to consider. For some, the choice is simply a matter of personal preference. Others base their decision on the occasion or the drink’s desired effect.

Ultimately, the choice between whiskey and rum is a personal one. Billions of people worldwide enjoy both liquors, and each has its own unique flavor and history.

About The Author

Will Beck

Will is a true digital nomad, taking his work on the road at every opportunity. His first love is coffee, with whiskey a close 2nd. He loves nothing more than enjoying a perfectly brewed coffee with spectacular scenery whilst he coordinates behind the scenes of the Drink Stack blog!

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