Rum has its origins in the Caribbean, where Columbus introduced sugar cane at the end of the 15th Century. It is the only spirit deriving its flavour from molasses, a by-product of the production of sugar from sugar cane. The high sugar content of molasses ensures that fermentation can take place simply by diluting it with water and adding yeast. Maturation has an important impact on the character of each rum: some need little aging, and there is no minimum period for maturation.
Many of today’s brands are a result of blending, which started when the early settlers shipped their rum back to England. There are four types of rum: white (blanco), golden (añejo), dark and flavoured/spiced and each has its own characteristics. Caribbean rums are generally acknowledged the world's finest, and rum is especially enjoyable mixed with the fruit juices of that region, though it is also enjoyed straight, on the rocks, with a mix or in a cocktail.
Unique to Brazil, cachaça is pronounced ka-SHA-sa, with the emphasis on the ‘SHA.’ It is a spirit distilled from fresh sugar cane juice, and is the third most consumed spirit in the world, behind only vodka and soju/shochu, the Asian distillates made predominantly from rice.
Historians date the initial creation of cachaça somewhere between 1532 and 1550 in Brazil, predating the date of creation of rum (1651 in Barbados) by more than 100 years. Unlike rum, which is usually made from molasses, cachaça can only be made from fresh sugar cane juice, and can only be made in Brazil. Most exported cachaça has 40% alc./vol.
Since cachaça is made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice, and not molasses, it has a fruitier, fresher nose than rum, and its taste is subtly sweet and fresh, and since it comes directly from the crop, it has distinctive vegetal notes reminiscent of tequila.
In Brazil, cachaça is consumed predominantly pure or in a “caipirinha”, the national cocktail. In addition, as a white spirit, cachaça has amazing versatility, and is being used in creative twists on the classics, frozen drinks, and mixologist creations.