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Rum vs Whisky: What’s the difference

Rum vs whisky, they are both alcoholic beverages that originated from distilled sugar-based liquids. They are both consumed in similar ways, but rum is often found in cocktails while whisky is traditionally drunk neat.

Rum vs Whisky

Rum has a higher alcohol content than whiskey and produces more of an effervescent head when poured into a glass. The way rum ages, the oak barrels it comes into contact with, and even the water source all play a role in its final taste profile which may differ from whisky.

What is a rum?

Rum is a distilled alcohol made from sugarcane juice. It is generally made with molasses as the starting material and aged in oak barrels for at least 4 years, but it may be aged for an even longer period (eight years or more). Rum can be distilled in either pot or column stills. Pot stills are less expensive, but they result in lower alcohol content and usually have an earthy aroma. Column stills have more complex aromas but are more expensive.

What is a whisky?

Whisky is actually derived from the Gaelic word uisge beatha, which means “water of life”. The term is commonly translated into English as “whiskey”, which refers to the local Scottish brand of scotch whisky. In many other countries such as India, Canada, and Brazil, whisky is referred to as whisk(e)y.

Distillation of whisky begins with the production of a beer from malted barley. It is then distilled in small batches where it is heated and converted to a vapour. The vapour is condensed into a clear liquid, which becomes whisky.

What’s the difference between whisky and rum (rum vs whisky)?

Now let’s look at how rum and whisky differ.

Alcohol Content:

When it comes to rum vs whisky, the alcohol content of rum can be as much as 55% by volume, while a typical scotch whisky has an alcohol content of 40% by volume. Scotch or Irish Whisky comes from grain-based distillates like barley and wheat. These grains are not as sweet as sugarcane juice, so they do not yield the same high alcohol content from the same amount of distillate.


Most rums are golden to light brown in colour, while most whiskies are a darker brown or amber.


The different processing produces a drink that smells more earthy and tropical in rum, and more pungent in whisky.

Taste, Mouthfeel, & Bitterness:

Whisky is often perceived to be smoother and more mellow than rum. Rum’s aromas tend to be earthier, while whisky’s aromas tend to be more floral.


Rum and whisky are both distilled from fermented sugarcane juice. However, rum is usually associated with the flavours of spices due to the slight peppery nature of its taste, while whisky has a sweeter flavour with aromas from oak and vanilla. Whisky is also aged in oak barrels, where it takes on the flavours of the barrel. Rum derives its flavours from barrel aging too, but it is aged inside a tank, which is often made of white American oak or used bourbon casks.


Rum and whisky are both produced using a similar process and distillation methods. Both are made from a fermented product and then distilled into alcohol. Whisky, however, may be distilled either in a pot still or a column still to produce more or less alcohol respectively. The differing chemical properties of the resulting liquid are influenced by the method of distillation used.

Some whiskies may be distilled twice or even three times (triple-distilled) to produce a more purified and less fruity spirit. The type of still used for distillation affects the aromatic compounds in a spirit, thus influencing its flavour profile. A single-malt whisky is one produced at one distillery from malted barley, while a blended whisky contains a mixture of single malts from different distilleries.


Aging is one of the most significant factors in determining the quality of spirits. Whisky is typically aged for at least three years, but bourbon whiskey may be aged for as long as 12 years. In contrast, rum usually remains unaged and bottled at the distillery, but it may be distilled and bottled from another distillery (known as pot-stilled rum). However, rum may be aged for up to 24 years. Rum has a lower alcohol content than whisky, so it changes with less time in oak barrels during aging.

Whisky is usually stored in an oak cask (usually from American oak or used bourbon casks). The barrel contributes oak and vanilla flavours to the drink, while also mellowing it. Rum is aged in tanks instead of wood barrels because it would become over-oaked if stored in barrels for too long.

Rum vs Whisky – Is there a difference between them?

Yes. Whisky is usually smoother and sweeter than rum. Rum has a more complex flavour, while whisky has a more complex flavour than rum. Rum is typically more spicy and earthy while whisky has lavender aromas.

The reason for the differences lie in the different production process of these spirits. Whisky is made from barley, while rum is made from sugarcane. Both are distilled at different temperatures and for different times.

Rum has a higher alcohol content than whisky. Also, there are many types of rums depending on the distillation process used. These varieties include light, dark, pot still or column still rums. Whisky can only be produced using column stills.

What are the similarities between rum and whisky?

So when it comes to rum vs whisky they have one important similarity: both are distilled from the juice of a fermented product. Whisky, however, is distilled from the mash that results from malted grain and water. Rum can be made either from sugarcane juice or molasses (a by-product of sugar production). Both are aged in wooden barrels to give them their characteristic flavor. While some are stored for a long period in barrels to filter out impurities, others age for as little as a week. Both are considered a staple in the Western world.

How is whisky made?

First, barley must be malted to convert the grain’s starch into fermentable sugar. This process can take between 2 and 5 days. Once malted, the barley is ground and mixed with hot water, which releases its sugars and starches into a liquid called wort. The wort is boiled with hops, which helps to flavour and preserve the liquid. Yeast is then added to the mixture, and it ferments for about a week. Distillation converts the fermented liquid to a vaporized form. It is then cooled and returned to a liquid state known as distillate. It can be aged in oak barrels for 12 years or more.

How is rum made?

First, sugarcane must be crushed to squeeze out its sweet juice (syrup). Presumably, the sugarcane juice is boiled to evaporate the water. The syrup is then mixed with yeast and left for a week to ferment. At this point, distillation occurs by vaporizing the liquid and condensing it into a vaporous form that can be kept in bottles or cans.

Which is better rum or whiskey?

Both spirits are made from the same products. However, they are distilled using different techniques and may have more or less experience in oak barrels. Rum is usually aged in oak barrels for less time than whisky, but it changes considerably with time. Whisky typically requires 12 years of aging in wood barrels before bottling while rum is unaged and bottled at the distillery. Dark rum (or Demerara rum) is considered aged more than light rum because it has been stored longer in oak barrels.

Additionally, rum is different for every country. For example, Jamaican rum is made from a variety of sugar sources while Jamaican whisky (or “Duppy” in Jamaica) has its own unique process and is aged longer than other whiskies. Of course, the type of rum (light, dark or specialty) also varies by region.

Is rum stronger than whisky

So when you look at who is stronger, rum vs whisky. No, they both have the same alcohol content. However, rum is made from a sugar source (usually molasses) and has more sugar content than whisky. Since sugars have more volume than alcohol, a bottle of rum will have more volume but less alcohol content than a bottle of whisky.

Rum’s lower proof (40 per cent versus whisky’s 50 per cent) means it may be consumed with mixers like cola, soda or water. Whisky may be mixed with soda or crushed ice.

Which is more expensive, whisky or rum?

Whisky is more expensive and has a higher quality spirit. However, rum is being sold at lower prices than whisky in many parts of the world. Rum is made from molasses and its alcohol content is lower than whisky’s (40 per cent versus 50 per cent). That means that a bottle of rum will have less volume but more alcohol content than a bottle of whisky. Because whisky is a higher quality product, it is sold at higher prices.


Rum vs Whisky is an interesting topic that can bring about great conversation. After reading this article, you should now have a better understanding of which spirit fits your palate and lifestyle.

If you enjoy rum then you will likely enjoy a whisky as well. However, if you have never tried a dark rum straight from the bottle, then it is recommended that you enjoy a glass of light rum mixed with cola.

As the saying goes, why not both. But always remember, it is always best to taste and decide for yourself.

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