Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Lydia Martin
After a long and tiring day, a glass of alcohol would be good to relax the nerves. Would you choose the dry yet bursting nectarous rum flavor or the smoky, malty, and complex savor of whiskey?
Find out more about the differences between rum vs whiskey to determine which one is the better choice.
Whiskey or Rum: What’s the Main Difference?
The main difference between rum vs whiskey would be their sources. Rum derives from sugar cane, while whiskey is from fermented grains.
Rum and whiskey are very much alike as these two spirits belong to the most ordered alcoholic beverages worldwide.
Whiskey can either be categorized as grain or malt whiskey. The process of malting barley or rye begins with germination before fermenting it.
The alcohol content for the two also differs where whiskey can have up to 60% while rum is at 40% only.
Closer Look at the Differences
History & Origin
Historians believe that rums were discovered when plantation slaves realized that molasses could be fermented.
While some claim that rums originated in the West Indies in the early 1650 and were called “Rumbullion” or “kill-devil.” In the later years, they decided to name it rum.
It was then regularly rationed to the British sailors in the 18th century up until 1970.
On the other hand, whiskey was first made in Ireland and Scotland when the monks taught them distilling techniques.
They first created grain whiskey but were used as medicine originally, as an external antibiotic and internal anesthetic.
The raw materials used in whiskey are just the usual, yeast, water, barley, or any grain.
There are different types of whiskey available: rye whiskey, scotch whiskey, grain and malt whiskeys, Irish whiskey, and more.
It only needs one important ingredient, sugar cane, for rum-making. Sugarcane juice is extracted and made into molasses. Premium rum is produced from this, as well as light rum.
How It’s Made
Distillation Process & Maturation
The two alcoholic beverages go through the same creation process. It passes through fermentation, distillation , and lastly, aging.
The distillation of the two is fairly similar since there are double-distilled whiskeys, such as scotch whiskey. These are straight from malted barley.
On the other hand, rum is double distilled using column stills or the most common copper pots.
This is where they flavor-profile and decide how long it will be aged inside charred oak barrels.
Taste, Flavors & Aromas
Infusion of spices like vanilla, cinnamon, and peppercorns are done during aging.
Spiced rums are carefully aged first before adding these flavors in. It blends with sugar molecules as they search for their desired taste.
The difference between rum vs whiskey is that whiskey relies more on spices and herbs for added flavoring.
Since the source of this beverage are food grains, you would need additional ingredients to enhance its flavor.
Both whiskey and rum color depend on the ingredients, and the process manufacturers use.
Rums’ production normally goes through multiple distilleries, resulting in golden-colored beverages. However, some varieties are white or clear because of the carbon filter processing.
Whiskey, on the other hand, has a darker color, brown. However, this is a clearer touch of brown.
Spirits that use the highest quality raw materials produce the clearest whiskeys. Some varieties have darker colors and are clear such as single malt whiskey.
Rum develops alcohol inside charred wooden barrels, whether white rums or dark rums. The distilled  alcoholic beverage is then bottled with 40% alcohol content.
On the other hand, a distilled spirit such as the American whiskey, which originated from fermented grain mash, contains 40% alcohol.
However, there is single malt whiskey that has a stronger and sweeter taste.
Health Benefits & Risks
The distilled alcoholic beverage whiskey can regulate glucose levels. Moderate consumption of blended whiskey or straight bourbon can provide you with these benefits.
Consumption of premium or white rum can help nerve and muscle problems and body pains.
As long as this is taken in moderation, it may minimize arthritis. No scientific studies support these claims, but many drinkers stand by these beliefs.
Alcohol By Volume Level
The alcohol content of rums and whiskeys can vary greatly, so it is important to check each brand.
Sugarcane juice turned into dark rum normally has 40% ABV. However, most of these are over-proofed, reaching up to 57.5% to 75.5% ABV.
It is equal to 151 proof since these usually pass a single distillery only. Whiskey goes through a much longer distillation because it has lower alcohol content.
Although the highest could reach up to 90% proof, this is only per region.
Read: Which is Better For Eggnog – Rum or Bourbon?
Based on sales records, whiskey proves to be more popular between the two beverages.
The flavor of this distilled alcoholic drink is not just because of the contribution of the white oak barrels they are stored in. Much is from the casks which kept these spirits.
Whiskey casks vary. There are wooden casks, old doublewood, or an American oak barrel that hold sherry wines.
The cask strength and the present flavor add to the whiskey’s savor. It makes it more sought after than the single cask rum is aged from.
Though rum is sweeter than whiskey, many people drink it because the taste is not compromised despite its low price, especially spiced rum.
Its cask strength is also considerably high. Therefore, you get more flavor along with a little strong kick of alcohol.
On the other hand, Whiskey may originate from plain food grains, but it is aged in a wooden barrel.
The flavor developed made it perfect as a mixer as it compliments the flavor of other liquors.
Price & Value
The rum production is much cheaper than whiskey, so it has a lower price.
The Caribbean Islands is the most expensive rum, roughly at $20, while the rest costs less. Whiskey is far more expensive, costing as much as $2,000 per bottle.
Some bottles cost more, which are sold in auctions. Ordinary grain whiskey, aged in white oak barrels, turns into a flavorful bourbon and ends up with a high price tag.
What’s the difference between bourbon and brandy?
How Are Rum & Whiskey Similar?
We can easily point out the key differences between rum and whiskey liquors. However, there are a couple of similarities between the two alcoholic drinks.
- Both are fermented, distilled, processed, and aged.
- Both have flavored varieties.
- Both are great mixing base liquors.
- Both have varieties that are aged in oak barrels.
Is rum stronger than whiskey?
No, rum is not stronger than whiskey as it usually contains 40% alcohol. In comparison, whiskey contains 40% to 60%. However, it depends on the type of whiskey you are consuming.
Why is rum cheaper than whiskey?
Rum is cheaper than whiskey because of the lower cost of producing it. Sugarcane byproducts are more affordable compared to other drinks. Also, whisky and other alcohol products require more careful distillation, unlike dark rum. Production of whisky is more complex, such as bourbon, mash bill, or even rye whiskey, which require more than single distillation.
And the Winner Is…
The winner is the flavorful liquor from the fermented mash, whiskey. It produces a much tastier drink that lingers in the drinker’s mouth. It complements other liquors’ flavors, so it’s an excellent mixer.
Rum is not in the far last, though, because this has a distinct taste that everyone can enjoy, even the pickiest drinker. Spiced rum, for one, has a special flavor that many enjoy, especially those who want something that has a complex taste to it.
All in all, it all boils down to the person holding the glass.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.