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Like nearly all spirits, rum is a clear or nearly-clear when it runs off the still. It is oak casks (mostly previously used for bourbon) and patience that grants the spirit its familiar burnished hue. Golden rum is one of the most varied spirits in the world- ranging from syrupy and rich to almost vegetal and grassy. Typically, gold rum has been a staple for cocktails, and it is a great place to begin an education in a wonderful, yet sometimes confusing, spirit.
There is nothing that designates by law what a golden rum is. Indeed, as rum is produced in several countries, and across continents, rules often change from place to place. Rather, golden rum is a category that has grown up organically, in response to consumers grouping the drink this way. There are a few things though, which are typical of a golden rum.
Primarily amongst these is age. Golden rum sits somewhere between white rum (unaged) and dark rum (well aged), and has often had at least few months in oak barrels. The heat and humidity of many rum making nations often means that maturation works a little faster than say, whisky in Scotland. Golden rums are largely blends of several different ages of rum, and different distillation styles (whether that be pot still or column). This is what gives golden rum its wonderful complexity.
Due to its position as somewhere between white and dark rum, many golden rums are perfect to sip straight or mix in cocktails. Tiki cocktails often pair several different styles of gold rum, as they offer different qualities that play off against each other wonderfully- for example, the French-style Rhum Agricole from distilleries such as Clement and JM Rhum bring verdant, succulent plant notes, whilst Jamaican rums such as Appleton Estate VX are heavier, funky affairs. Many absolute classic cocktails are based on golden rum, such as the Daiquiri, Queen Park Swizzle and Fish House Punch.