Rum (Rhum, or Ron) is the name given to most of the spirits that are distilled from sugar cane juice or molasses, the by-product of the extraction of sugar from sugar cane. The name is said to have been derived from the term "Rumbullion," from the West Indies. Typically embibed by slaves in those days, the beverage was said to inspire "rumbullion," a term for rowdy behavior, in the slaves. Rum is made in many style and can vary greatly in flavor and aroma.
Rum styles can be loosely categorized by the country that settled the areas of its production. As most rum reigns from the Caribbean, the European countries that settled the area seemed to have very distinctive taste in rum.
Column-distilled rums are typically the lighter in style, whether made from cane juice or molasses. The cane juice versions tend to have a lighter flavor profile with more. Many rums in this light style are made where Spanish-speaking countries. Primary areas of production are Puerto Rico, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.
Rhum agricole is typically from areas with French influence and is made exclusively from cane juice. The aromas and flavors of agricole rhums are very distinctive. Primary areas of production are Martinique and Haiti.
English influence seems to have lead to a much heavier style of rum. Jamaica's pot-distilled rums are very full-bodied and rich, and other full flavored rums are primarily produced in Barbados, Belize, and the Demerara region of Guyana.
There are also many flavored rums on the market and "spiced rum" is very popular as well.
Dependent on style can range from very subtle and nearly odorless sugar cane. To rich earthy cane juice with bold sweetness.
Molasses and pot-distilled rums can have heavy aromas of molasses, vanilla, butter, caramel, wood, burnt sugar, toffee, sugar, and rich oak.
"Light" Rums are typically clear, as are some overproof rums.
Gold rums are lightly golden to amber in color.
Dark rums vary from golden all the way to opaque ruby tinted browns.
Rum production has varying degrees of regulation in different countries and some styles permit the addition of caramel coloring and others do not.
Light rums can be nearly tasteless and tout their mixability.
Agricole rums have a very fresh sugar cane flavor and can range from bone dry to medium sweet.
Dark rums can be very full-bodied, smoky, sweet, with rich molasses flavors, and notes of vanilla and caramel along with many flavor characteristics derived from wood aging.
Pot-distilled rums can have a very oily texture and very full mouthfeel.
Rums vary greatly from spiced and flavored versions starting around 17% alcohol by volume all the way to barrel-proof and overproof rums ranging in the 70%-80% range.