Difference Between Rum and Whiskey

Rum and whiskey are two of the most popular alcoholic beverages worldwide. Despite their similarities, they have several differences in terms of origin, production, flavor, and drinking preferences. Rum and whiskey are both distilled spirits made from grains or sugarcane, but they differ in their base ingredients, fermentation process, aging, and flavor profile.

What is Rum?

Rum is a distilled spirit that is primarily made from sugarcane. The process of making rum involves crushing and pressing the sugarcane to extract the juice, which is then boiled to create a thick syrup. The syrup is fermented with yeast, and the resulting alcohol is distilled to create a clear spirit. The rum is then aged in oak barrels, which gives it its distinctive color and flavor. Rum can also be made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, or from a combination of sugarcane and molasses.

It’s an alcoholic drink popularized across the world and evokes the image of the Caribbean people as well as their culture. Among the biggest producers of rum in the world are the Caribbean Islands and Latin America.

As for the process, yeast is mixed with molasses, and fermentation is done in a controlled manner and place to produce the desired taste and flavor. Fermentation and distillation processes later on result in the alcoholic beverage that is well aged and blended to suit different tastes of different consumers.

Variations and Grades of Rum

Rum is characterized into the following grades and variations −

  • Light rum − Clear or light in color grade and usually referred to as white rum. It has a lighter flavor and is commonly used for mixing with other drinks.

  • Dark rum −: Dark in color but may include other grades of black, brown, or red colors. This grade is aged for longer periods and in charred wooden barrels to produce a stronger and sweeter taste.

  • Spiced rum − Dark rum with added flavoring like cinnamon, pepper, and aniseed.

  • Gold rum − Rum grade aged in white oak barrels. It is usually amber in color.

  • Premium rum − Made of the highest-quality raw materials and carefully aged. It is believed to contain more flavor and aroma as compared to other grades and is usually sold at a higher price.

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey is a distilled spirit that is made from grains, such as barley, corn, rye, or wheat. The grains are mashed and boiled with water to create a sugary liquid, which is then fermented with yeast to produce alcohol. The alcohol is then distilled to create a clear spirit, which is aged in oak barrels to develop its flavor and color. Whiskey can be further categorized based on its production process, such as single malt, blended, or bourbon.

Different Grades of Whiskey

Whiskey grades are categorized into either malt or grain. The malt grade is primarily made from malted barley while the grain whiskey can be made from any grain type. Other classifications of whiskey include −

  • Single malt − Whiskey grade made from a single grain type and passed through a single distillery.

  • Blended malt − Whiskey grade made from a mixture of different whiskey grades from other multiple distilleries.

  • Cask strength − Bottled whiskey directly from the cask and has not been diluted.

  • Single cask − A bottle of whiskey that is aged in a single cask.

  • Blended whiskey − A combination of grain and malt whiskeys with added colors, spirits, and flavoring.

Differences: Rum and Whiskey

One of the main differences between rum and whiskey is their flavor profile. Rum is known for its sweet and fruity flavor, which is derived from its base ingredient, sugarcane. The aging process in oak barrels also imparts a smoky and caramelized flavor to rum. Whiskey, on the other hand, has a complex and varied flavor profile, depending on the type of grain used and the aging process. Some whiskeys have a smoky, peaty flavor, while others are sweet and smooth.

Another difference between rum and whiskey is their geographic origin. Rum is typically associated with the Caribbean and Latin America, where sugarcane is abundant. Whiskey, on the other hand, has its roots in Scotland and Ireland, where grains are the primary crop. However, whiskey is now produced in many countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and Japan.

In terms of drinking preferences, rum is often enjoyed as a base for cocktails, such as the piña colada or mojito, or as a neat drink with a splash of lime. Whiskey, on the other hand, is often consumed straight or on the rocks, or mixed with soda or water. Both rum and whiskey can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, depending on personal preference and occasion.

The following table highlights the major differences between Rum and Whiskey −





Rum is produced from byproducts of sugarcane such as sugarcane juice, molasses, and honey.

Whiskey is produced from a variety of fermented grains like rye, barley, and wheat.

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of rum varies from one country to the other, and the minimum levels can vary from at least 40% to beyond 60%.

Whiskey, on the other hand, usually has alcohol contents at 40%.


Rum is rich and spicy. Rum is also sweeter than whiskey.

The whiskey is aromatic. Whiskey has a taste reminiscent of the barrels it has aged in.

Health Benefits and Implications

Rum has been found (in small amounts though) to increase the density of minerals in bones.

Rum is also believed to ease the symptoms of such lifestyle diseases like arthritis.

As whiskey ages, it develops ellagic acid, which is believed to regulate the body’s glucose levels.


In conclusion, while rum and whiskey share some similarities in their production process and aging, they have distinct differences in terms of their base ingredients, flavor profile, and geographic origin. Rum is a sweet and fruity spirit made from sugarcane, while whiskey is a complex and varied spirit made from grains.

Both rum and whiskey have their unique drinking preferences, making them popular choices for different occasions and palates.

Updated on: 19-Apr-2023


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