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March 26, 2013
Last updated

How to Make Rum - Rum Recipe

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

Here is a recipe for authentic, molasses rich, rum, made just like they did in the colonial Caribbean islands. This tutorial on how to make rum will focus mostly on using a pot still to distill a rum mash made from traditional cane and molasses. But we'll touch on some other methods as well.

What is Rum

According to the United States TTB Beverge Alcohol Manual, Chapter 4, there are actually a few different types of rum. Here are definitions for the two primary types of rum: traditional rum and flavored rum.

Traditional Rum

The TTB's BAM states that rum is traditionally defined as, "Spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)." Purists looking for the least adulterated version of rum will prefer this version of the spirit. It's made with water, cane sugar, molasses. However it may also contain natural flavor and color additives totaling up to 2.5% (of the volume of the finished product.

Flavored Rum

Flavored rum is, "Rum flavored with natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, bottled at not less than 30% alcohol by volume (60 proof)." This means that color and flavor additions may exceed 2.5%. Furthermore, Chapter 7 of the BAM states that flavored rum may include natural as well as artificial flavors.

Is it Legal to Distill Rum at Home

Making your own rum cocktails at home is perfectly legal. Making rum mash with sugar cane, molasses, and fermenting it with yeast is also legal. However, distilling rum at home is a different story. Distilling alcohol, including rum, is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. 

Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Making Rum

Now that we've defined rum and explained the legalities associated with it, it's time to discuss how it's made. Rum is made using a 5 step process:

  1. Creating Molasses
  2. Fermentation
  3. Distillation
  4. Maturation
  5. Blending

Step 1: Creating Molasses

During the process of making sugar, sugar cane is juiced and then dried. The drying process causes the formation of sugar crystals. Once the crystals are removed, the liquid remaining is called molasses.

Molasses is a thick, syrup-like liquid produced while refining sugar from sugar cane. It's also a key ingredient in rum. Whether light molasses, dark molasses, or blackstrap molasses is used is up to the distiller. Each type will make a unique spirit.

Distilleries generally do not need to process their own cane to make molasses. The sugar industry offers all variety of cane juice, cane sugar, and molasses that distillers are able to purchase.

Step 2: Fermentation

This recipe is for an authentic "old world" Caribbean rum. By that we mean the ingredients will be limited to what would have been available to traditional rum distillers on Caribbean sugar cane plantations.

Rebel Rum Recipe



  • 12.5 pounds raw cane sugar
  • 9  gallons water
  • 160 oz. unsulphured molasses
  • Yeast

Mash / Fermentation

Heat water to 120 degrees Fahrenheit stirring sugar in a pound at a time. Add molasses, a jar at a time, once most of sugar has been dissolved. Stir thoroughly while adding so molasses does not burn. For a more mellow, smoother finished product, allow to cool to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and add bread yeast. Aerate, then transfer to carboys. For a higher yield (but a more unpredictable finish) use "Super Start" yeast and ferment at 90F. Install air lock and allow to ferment for at least 2 weeks.

Step 3: Distilling

We'll be using old-style equipment. Instead of using a column still, we'll use a pot still. Pot still distillation creates wildly different characteristics than column distillation because more of the original mash is carried through to the final product. The recipe below is also scaled down to 10 gallons for the purpose of commercial testing on a 10 gallon pilot system.

The distillation process consists of transferring fermented wash to a still (preferably a copper pot still or a stainless steel still with pure copper mesh packing) and heating it until ethanol begins to boil out of solution. It's then turned back into a liquid in a condenser and drips out of a still into a collection vessel. However, not all distillate is created equal!

Different chemical compounds will vaporize at different temperatures during the run. Some of this liquid will be discarded, some will be collected for consumption and the rest will be saved for distillation in future runs. Here is a summary of process of making distillation cuts.


Foreshots (methanol) will begin to evaporate and flow once the liquid temperature reaches 148.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Foreshots are poisonous and should be discarded.


Ethanol will begin to evaporate at 173 degrees Fahrenheit. However, distillate produced early in the distillation process is more likely to contain acetone, acetaldehyde, and acetate. This stuff smells bad, tastes bad, and will definitely cause hangovers! However, it does contain some (desirable) ethanol and should be set aside to mix with future runs.


In making alcohol, the "hearts" is the name for the best distillate produced from a still, which happens after the heads but before the tails. The hearts contain ethanol and the most desirable flavor and aroma compounds as well as the least amount of the undesirables. In other words, the hearts portion of the distillation run smells and tasted the best and is the stuff that distillers keep to drink or age.


The smoothness and richness of the distillate will begin to fade and begin to become weak and oily. This is how a distiller will know that the "tails" portion of the distillation run has begun. Tails, like the heads, are set aside for mixing with future batches of wash. Again, The tails contain a mix of good and bad and can be purified in later distillation runs.

Step 4: Aging

Rum can be drank unaged, but is best consumed after it's stored in used Bourbon cask for at least a year or more. This will provide the most mellow drinking experience.

Step 5: Blending

The process of blending rum barrels is a meticulous art form often overseen by master blenders, who combine different types of rum from various barrels to achieve a desired flavor profile, aroma, and mouthfeel. Typically, rums of different ages, distillation methods, or even origins are sampled and then carefully mixed in specific ratios. Once the blend is decided upon, the selected rums are combined in a large blending vat, where they are allowed to mingle for a period of time to harmonize the flavors. This blended rum may then be further aged or go through additional filtration or treatments before being bottled for consumption. The aim is to create a consistent, balanced, and high-quality final product that embodies the distillery's unique style and character.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • My rum wash wash 14days old and had little to no alcohol. Can i pich more yeast and let it set longer

    Posted by Miko on February 12, 2024
  • For the guy (jputt1973) that said iit’s legal in Aust and NZ, no it’s illegal in aust but legal in nz.
    Don’t comment if you don’t know

    Posted by Sandgroper on August 15, 2022
  • This is a nice site. I’ve been making, beer, wine, and no trying rum.
    I had pressurized chardonnay for years. And draft beer . My grandfather had the biggest still in Pinellas county Florida after WW2,
    For years. Was found out and had 30 days to get rid of it . The still is buried at sand key bombing range in the 50,s. I was in the truck.kk

    Posted by Ken on June 20, 2022
  • let’s try and see what comes out

    Posted by safari cedric on May 16, 2022
  • Isit necessary to syphon it before distill or can i pour it directly into still

    Posted by Alex on May 16, 2022
  • Bud it is legal in Canada to make it, just not able to sell it without proper license. Anyone over legal age can make it though

    Posted by on May 03, 2022
  • to guy that said legal in canada, no its illegal in canada, its legal in new zealand and austraila

    Posted by on April 11, 2022
  • it says it is scaled to 5 gallons but then calls for 9 in the recipe. So what is the correct ammount of water in this recipe.

    Posted by shane on March 28, 2022
  • I got it!

    Posted by Theresa on February 21, 2022

    Posted by Jekko on December 28, 2021
  • You don’t say how much yeast.

    Posted by on November 16, 2021
  • Please give me some guidance; what is a good %abv to ditule to before starting the rapid ageing process of rum with oak blocks?

    Posted by on November 13, 2021
  • I’m getting ready to run a small batch of banana/pineapple rum, using grandma’s molasses, corn syrup,brown sugar, and oats to spice it up a bit. Do you think it will work out,and or, have any tips or suggestions tha can help?

    Posted by Jason Simmons on January 26, 2021
  • hi just love stilling

    Posted by attie on January 20, 2021
  • What I’m doing the distilling of the rum, am I doing a strip run and then a spirit run? Or do I just do one distilling?

    Posted by Tina on July 31, 2020
  • I made a molasses and sugar wash and after 48 hours it stopped bubbling. What does it mean .

    Posted by Andre Liebenberg on June 01, 2020
  • News letter or books

    Posted by Dorothy Reece on May 11, 2020
  • I just ran a rum wqsh made of broiwn sugar and mollasses.half way through the distillition the achol ran brown..any idea why?? the pot temp was about 185.thank you

    Posted by frank johnson on February 10, 2020
  • Hi we have just grinded our home grown sugarcane. Made our usual sugarcane syrup. And we have 5 gallons left a want to make some rum. We dabble a little with wine making and just bought our first distillery. So hoping you can tell me the steps with raw sugarcane juice.

    Posted by Toni on November 28, 2019
  • I have a package of Fast 48. I was wondering if that would work to cut back the fermentation time. Also any tips on converting this to 6 gallon instead of 9?

    Posted by Ray on February 05, 2019

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