Rum and cigars have a lot in common. Both are luxury products. Both feature a rich diversity of flavors, styles, and profiles. And both have long, complicated histories that span hundreds of years and multiple continents. While we usually spend our time focused on the cigar side of things, today –– in honor of National Rum Day –– we’re going to explore the history of rum. 

And, of course, provide a few rum and cigar recommendations while we’re at it.

What is Rum, and When Was It Invented?

Rum is the product of fermented and distilled sugarcane –– either sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. As opposed to other alcoholic beverages like beer, whiskey, or vodka, which are distilled from grains (wheat, barley, rice, malt, etc.), rum has a characteristic sweetness by its very nature. 

Other tasting notes within rums often include:

  • Caramel
  • Vanilla
  • Spice
  • Fruit
  • Oak
  • Smokiness


While humans have cultivated and consumed sugarcane for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 17th century that rum became commonplace in the West Indies and, from there, the wider world. However, some evidence suggests that people in places as spread apart as Sumatra and Brazil had been fermenting and distilling sugarcane for hundreds of years before that time.

While “rumbullion” is often cited as the genesis of the word rum, other theories trace the origin of the word rum to “rum grade,” meaning slang for high quality, a shortening of the Latin term “iterum” (meaning a second time), or even from the glasses used by Dutch sailors called “rummers.” 

The Golden Age of Piracy –– And Rum

Modern rum brands often play up rum’s connection to piracy and sailing. And while the cartoonish Captain Morgan may bear little resemblance to 17th-and-18th-century privateers, the truth is that pirates –– and sailors –– did love rum! Leading thinkers of the time considered rum an essential supply at sea, and both pirate captains and Royal Navy Admirals doled out rum rations to their crew daily. 

Dr. James Lind wrote in 1762 that sailors should consume rum in a punch with fruit, shrubs, vegetable acid, and cream of tartar and that this drink had a restorative effect on men at sea.

Rum Revival

As the 18th century ended, rum waned in popularity as other drinks, such as whiskey and beer, gained prevalence in America and Europe. However, during the brief period of prohibition (1920-1933), rum increased in popularity in the USA as literal “rum-runners” smuggled the drink across borders into America. Prohibition saw the development of iconic cocktails, and the classic Mojito was also born during this time.

Rum Drinks & Cigar Pairings

Now, rum is a hugely popular spirit with many brands and styles. From white rum (perfect for cocktails) to dark and aged rums (worth trying neat) to spiced rums (that have intense and distinctive flavors), rum provides cigar lovers with plenty of great pairing options. 

To celebrate National Rum Day, we’d recommend pairing a cocktail such as a Mojito with a mild and smooth smoke like the Montecristo White Label. Or, if dark rum is more your speed, try out your favorite with a bold, rich cigar –– like the newly-released Cohiba Riviera. Lastly, for those who adore rum, consider lighting up the M by Macanudo Dark Rum, which is perfect for pairing with a Cuba Libre or enjoying all on its own. 

Still thirsty? Well, no worries. Here are a few of our favorite rum cocktails worth exploring further:

  • Dark & Stormy –– a delicious combo of rum and ginger beer. Sweet and refreshing.
  • Cuba Libre –– rum+cola+a splash of lime juice. Simple as that!
  • Piña Colada –– if you’re looking to drink your dessert, this is the cocktail for you. The sweetness of the rum and coconut cream always works perfectly with the acidity of the pineapple juice. A can’t miss.
  • Rum Old Fashioned –– who says you need whiskey for an old-fashioned? Sub in your favorite aged rum next time you want this classic cocktail –– we bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Need a cigar to pair with your rum?

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