In the US, rum is defined as a spirit distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane byproducts at less than 95% abv and bottled at at least 40% alcohol by volume. In the EU, rum can be distilled to up to 96% abv must retain the aroma and taste of rum.
Sugar cane, a member of the grass family has its origins in Papau New Guinea but this hearty plant is grown in tropical climates around the world. The sweet juice of the mature plant is extracted by pressing the hard stalk in mechanical mills.
Some distilleries use this fresh juice while others use the by product of the sugar refining process known as molasses as the raw material for the fermentation process.