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Rum vs. Bourbon — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 20, 2023
Rum is a spirit distilled from sugarcane or molasses, often from the Caribbean, while bourbon is an American whiskey made primarily from corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.
Rum vs. Bourbon — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Rum and Bourbon


Key Differences

Both rum and bourbon are popular spirits, each with a rich history and distinct flavor profiles. While rum is distilled primarily from sugarcane juice or molasses, bourbon's primary ingredient is corn, making up at least 51% of its mash bill.
The origins of rum can be traced back to the Caribbean and parts of Latin America. It plays a central role in the history of colonial trade, with sugarcane plantations producing the primary ingredient. Bourbon, in contrast, is deeply rooted in the American South, especially Kentucky, reflecting its unique American heritage.
Aging processes differ between rum and bourbon. While there's no minimum aging period for most rums, bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new charred oak barrels to earn its name. This requirement imparts a distinct caramel and vanilla flavor to bourbon.
Rum, with its sugarcane base, often carries sweet, tropical notes, ranging from light and clear to dark and robust, depending on the aging and production method. Bourbon, due to its corn content and specific aging, boasts flavors of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice.
While both rum and bourbon have global fan bases, rum is especially popular in tropical cocktails like the Mojito and Piña Colada. Bourbon, with its deep flavors, is often savored neat, on the rocks, or as a foundational element in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

Comparison Chart

Primary Ingredient

Sugarcane juice or molasses
At least 51% corn


Caribbean and parts of Latin America
American South, especially Kentucky


Varies, no strict minimum for most
Min. 2 years in new charred oak barrels

Flavor Profile

Sweet, tropical, varies from light to dark
Caramel, vanilla, spice

Popular Use

Cocktails like Mojito and Piña Colada
Neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails like the Old Fashioned

Compare with Definitions


An alcoholic beverage often associated with the Caribbean.
While on vacation, he enjoyed local rum at the beachside bar.


An American whiskey with at least 51% corn in its mash bill.
He ordered a glass of bourbon to savor after dinner.


A key ingredient in many tropical cocktails.
Rum is essential for making a classic Mojito.


A spirit aged in new charred oak barrels.
The charred barrels give bourbon its unique caramel notes.


A versatile spirit ranging from light to dark based on aging.
The dark rum added a rich flavor to the dessert sauce.


A whiskey often associated with the state of Kentucky.
Many believe that the best bourbon comes from Kentucky.


A drink with historical ties to colonial trade and piracy.
Legends of pirates often involve tales of rum and treasure.


A drink with deep flavors of vanilla, spice, and wood.
The warmth of the bourbon complemented the chilly evening.


A spirit distilled from sugarcane or its byproduct, molasses.
She mixed the rum with pineapple juice for a tropical drink.


A political reactionary, especially a conservative Democrat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Rum is a liquor made by fermenting then distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. The distillate, a clear liquid, is usually aged in oak barrels.


A whiskey distilled from a fermented mash containing not less than 51 percent corn in addition to malt and rye.


An alcoholic liquor distilled from fermented molasses or sugarcane.


A whiskey distilled from a mixture of grains in which at least 51% is corn, aged in charred, new oak barrels. Made in the United States.


Intoxicating beverages.


A serving of bourbon whiskey.


Odd; strange.


A Bourbon biscuit.


Presenting danger or difficulty.


A member of a family which has occupied several European thrones, and whose descendants still claim the throne of France.


(uncountable) A distilled spirit derived from fermented cane sugar and molasses.
The Royal Navy used to issue a rum ration to sailors.


A politician who is behind the age; a ruler or politician who neither forgets nor learns anything; an obstinate conservative.


(countable) A serving of rum.
Jake tossed down three rums.


A reactionary politician in the United States (usually from the South)


(countable) A kind or brand of rum.


Whiskey distilled from a mash of corn and malt and rye and aged in charred oak barrels


A queer or odd person or thing.


A member of the European royal family that ruled France


A country parson.


A European royal line that ruled in France (from 1589-1793) and Spain and Naples and Sicily


Any odd person or thing.


A staple in classic American cocktails.
She mixed bourbon, sugar, and bitters to make an Old Fashioned.


(rare) The card game rummy.


(obsolete) Fine, excellent, valuable.
Having a rum time


Strange, peculiar.
A rum idea; a rum fellow


A kind of intoxicating liquor distilled from cane juice, or from the scummings of the boiled juice, or from treacle or molasses, or from the lees of former distillations. Also, sometimes used colloquially as a generic or a collective name for intoxicating liquor.


A queer or odd person or thing; a country parson.


Old-fashioned; queer; odd; as, a rum idea; a rum fellow.


Distilled from fermented molasses


A card game based on collecting sets and sequences; the winner is the first to meld all their cards


Beyond or deviating from the usual or expected;
A curious hybrid accent
Her speech has a funny twang
They have some funny ideas about war
Had an odd name
The peculiar aromatic odor of cloves
Something definitely queer about this town
What a rum fellow
Singular behavior

Common Curiosities

Is rum made from corn?

No, rum is made from sugarcane juice or molasses.

Is there a minimum aging requirement for bourbon?

Yes, bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new charred oak barrels.

Which is sweeter, rum or bourbon?

Rum, being derived from sugarcane or molasses, generally has a sweeter profile.

What gives rum its dark color?

Dark rum gains its color from longer aging and the type of barrels used.

Can rum be made anywhere in the world?

Yes, while traditionally from the Caribbean, rum can be produced anywhere.

Where did bourbon originate?

Bourbon has its roots in the American South, especially Kentucky.

Can bourbon be made outside the U.S.?

To be labeled as bourbon, it must be made in the U.S., but similar spirits can be produced elsewhere.

How should one store rum and bourbon?

Both should be stored upright, away from direct sunlight, and at room temperature.

Are rum and bourbon gluten-free?

While distillation removes most gluten, those with severe allergies should consult specific brands.

Why does bourbon have a caramel and vanilla flavor?

The flavors come from aging in new charred oak barrels.

Are there flavored rums?

Yes, there are many flavored rums, including coconut, spiced, and more.

Is all Kentucky whiskey bourbon?

No, but Kentucky is renowned for its bourbon production.

How is spiced rum made?

Spiced rum is infused with spices like vanilla, cinnamon, and clove.

What cocktails are bourbon-based?

Popular bourbon cocktails include the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Mint Julep.

Can I cook with rum and bourbon?

Yes, both are used in various recipes for flavoring and deglazing.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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