There are two kinds of rum. Much of the white rum sold in English and Spanish speaking countries (Bacardi etc) is made from molasses or fermented juice, which the French call rhum industriel.
Rhum agricole is made from pressed sugar cane and is known for its earthy, vegetal, grassy, herbal and often tropical fruit flavours. It’s an essential ingredient in a Mai Tai, punch and dozens of other cocktails.
It differs from Brazilian Cachaça, which is also distilled from sugar cane, but includes toasted cereals.
In the 17th century, French colonists in the West Indies started growing sugar cane along with coffee and cotton, but much of the juice went to waste, because it wasn’t economically viable. Then in 1694, the Dominican missionary and botantist Père Labat came up with the idea of distilling it, and the rest is history.
Image by Filo gèn'