Does Rum Go Bad?

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Rum is a distilled liquor made from the byproducts of sugarcane, including molasses and sugarcane juice. This was why rum is mostly found and manufactured in places with sugar or sugarcane exports. The Caribbean islands, particularly Jamaica are famous for their rum, as is the Philippines.

As history and Hollywood would tell us, rum was also the drink of choice for pirates and there are a couple of reasons for this. One, water stored on ships would get contaminated quickly at sea, as it was stagnant water. So, they started mixing it with alcohol, specifically rum. Rum was safer to drink than the water and secondly, rum was supposed to stave away scurvy, a common ailment amongst pirates. Rum was also the most easily available alcohol. This was because most Navies carried rum in their rations as it was a safer choice than drinking bad water. Also, sugar was a prized commodity, but was very expensive, it was cheaper to carry rum, a by-product of it.

Some of the most popular rum brands today are Bacardi, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Kraken, Diplomatico, Goslings, and Mount Gay to name a few.

Rum is basically a liquor made by fermenting and distilling molasses or sugarcane juice. Dark rum is usually aged in oak barrels. It has to be aged for a minimum of three years. White rum is aged for a lot lesser time, usually about a year in either light, oak, or steel casks. White rum is usually used in rum-based cocktails like mojitos, daiquiris, and rum punch to name a few. Dark rum can be enjoyed neat, chilled, or as a cocktail. Spiced rum, which is basically rum infused with spices can be sipped neat, with ice, or drunk as a cocktail. Light rum, like Malibu, comes in flavors and can be enjoyed neat. Rum is a refreshing tropical drink although it has an alcohol content of about 40% ABV.

Does Rum Go Bad?

Technically, rum can go bad if external contaminants are introduced. But more often than not, rum loses quality and flavor. Rum, unlike wine and whiskey, doesn’t get better with age. It either stays the same, when unopened or deteriorates when opened. So, while rum can last for a long time, like decades, if not stored properly, it will lose its potency.

How Long Does Rum Last?

  • An unopened bottle of rum will last decades if the seal remains unbroken and it has been stored properly.
  • An unopened bottle of rum can last for about two decades.
  • Once opened, the rum starts losing quality, but it happens slowly. An opened bottle of rum should be consumed between 6 and 12 months. The rum will still be good to go after that, but it would have lost some of its flavor and potency and you would be left drinking rum that is not as tasty.
  • This is for pure rum only. For rum-based alcohol like Malibu or Rum-Chata are liqueurs and have a much shorter shelf-life. An opened bottle of rum-based liqueurs lasts for about a year. While an unopened bottle will be good for about 10 years.
  • Premixed rum drinks have an even shorter shelf life. Unopened, they will be good for years. They will last a few years past the best-by date. The best-by date is the date the product is expected to reach peak quality. But once opened, they need to be consumed within a month.
  • Rum, like most spirits, will not spoil quickly or easily. You can enjoy your favorite rum drink for a really long time. It needs the most minimal care and precaution for a long shelf life.
  • Rum lasts just as long in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. Where you store it depends on how you like to drink it. Storing it in the fridge or freezer does not extend its shelf life.
Type of RumPantry/Cellar
Unopened bottle of rum20 years
Opened bottle of rum6-12 months
Rum-based liqueurs, unopened10 years
Rum-based liqueurs, opened1 year
Premixed canned or bottled run drinks, unopenedBest-by date +
Premixed canned or bottled run drinks, opened1 month

The above table is just an estimate. Rum undoubtedly has a long shelf life, but storage plays a key factor in its life span. If you want to enjoy your rum for a long time, take a little care when storing it.

How Best To Store Rum?

  • Rum will be perfectly fine when not stored in the fridge.
  • It is ideal to store rum in a pantry, bar cabinet, or cellar.
  • Store an unopened bottle of rum in a cool, dark place away from direct heat and sunlight.
  • Make sure the seal is not broken.
  • An unopened bottle of rum that has been carefully preserved will be good even after 20 years.
  • An unopened bottle of rum can also be stored in the pantry, bar cabinet, or cellar and it will be perfectly fine.
  • If you prefer drinking chilled rum, you can always store it in the fridge.
  • You can also store your rum in the freezer, but it is not necessary. Most freezers at home are only at around 0 degrees F, rum freezes only at -17 degrees F. So, rest assured your rum will not freeze when placed in your home freezer. Just make sure it is in a freezer-safe bottle.
  • One thing to keep in mind while storing rum in the pantry or fridge is to use an airtight cap or lid. Do not use a pourer lid, which is open to the air. This is primarily because alcohol evaporates faster than water, so, when you store your rum with just a pourer it will start losing flavor and potency as the alcohol evaporates.
  • Also, keeping it open by using a pourer poses a higher risk of spoilage. There is a higher chance of some kind of contaminant entering the pouring spout.
  • If you have a bottle of rum that is more than half empty, you can transfer the alcohol to a smaller bottle with a tight lid so that there is less air. Again, this is only a precaution, your rum is not going to spoil because of the presence of air, it might slowly lose flavor.
  • Rum-based liqueurs like Malibu and Rum-Chata can also be stored in the bar cabinet or pantry. But you have to make sure that it is not constantly getting exposed to fluctuating temperatures. It should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct heat and sunlight.
  • Rum-based liqueurs already have short shelf lives, so extra caution is required when storing them.
  • Pre-bottled and canned rum cocktails like Bacardi Breezer and Cutwater Rum Tiki Mai Tais have a shorter life span once opened. They can be stored in the pantry or fridge when unopened and they will be fine for years.
  • But once opened, they either need to be drunk immediately or stored in the fridge. If you have an open can or bottle of a premixed rum drink in the fridge, you have to finish it in a month’s time. Do not worry, it will not go bad, but it would have a seriously compromised taste.

How To Tell If Your Rum Has Gone Bad?

The chances of your rum going bad are slim to none, but in the off chance something has happened to spoil it, here are the things to watch out for.

  • Smell: If there is no perceptible smell then your rum is old and has lost its essence. It will still be good to consume, but it will not taste good. Rum usually has a strong, rich smell.
  • If you see anything floating in the rum, then it has been contaminated and should be thrown out.
  • Taste: If the rum is mild or tastes weak, then your rum is old.

Rum is one of the most delicious alcohols out there, besides finding a place in your cellar and pirate folklore it is also great for cooking and baking. Rum cakes are hugely popular, especially around Christmas time. Rum-based chocolates and rum balls are another favorite. Rum is also used for cooking meat as it gives it a nice sweet, caramelized flavor. Whether you want it for cooking, baking, or a decadent sip, rum can be stored and enjoyed in your house for years.


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