Difference between Rum and Whiskey

Updated on June 14, 2018

Certain types of distilled alcoholic beverages seem quite similar at first glance. This is true for rum and whiskey since they have the same color and appearance. However, rum and whiskey are very different in terms of taste and aroma as they are made from very distinct ingredients. As you read this article, you’ll learn the other specific details regarding the differences between these two spirits.

Summary Table

Rum Whiskey
Made from sugarcane juice or sugarcane byproducts such as molassesMade from barley, rye, wheat, and corn
Clear rums are stored in stainless steel tanks while dark rums are aged in oak barrelsUsually aged in wooden casks
Aged for shorter periodsAged longer
Distilled fermented cane juice or molassesEssentially beer without hops that has been distilled

Definitions

rum
A bottle of rum

Rum is an alcoholic beverage made by distilling the fermented byproducts of sugarcane such as sugarcane juice or molasses. Usually, caramel is added to adjust the final color of the product. Well-known cocktails containing rum are Mai Tai, Zombie, and Piña Colada.

whiskey
A bottle of whiskey

Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage made from a mash of grains such as barley, wheat, rye, or corn which is fermented, distilled, and aged in wooden barrels. Whiskey may refer to any variety, including Scotch Whisky, Bourbon Whiskey, and Single Malt Whiskey. Some cocktail mixes that use whiskey are Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned.

Rum vs Whiskey

The main difference between rum and whiskey boils down to the ingredients used in making them. Both alcoholic beverages undergo the process of fermentation and distillation; however, rum is made from sugarcane juice or sugarcane byproducts such as molasses and whiskey is made from barley, rye, wheat, or corn.

The word “rum” has no clear origins and was suggested to have come from the British slang term meaning “the best” pertaining to the phrase “having a rum time.” The word “whiskey (or whisky),” on the other hand, is an anglicization of the classical Gaelic word uisce, meaning “water.”

Clear rums are stored in stainless steel tanks while dark rums are aged in oak barrels. Whiskey is usually aged in wooden casks made of charred white oak. In terms of the aging process, rum is usually aged for shorter periods compared to whiskey, which is often aged longer.

Rum is currently produced in several countries but the majority of the rum production in the world come from Latin America and the Caribbean. As for whiskey, it is a spirit which is strictly regulated worldwide and has many classes and types.

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