The process of making rhum can be divided in 3 major step. First step is called the fermentation. It turns sugar into alcohol. Second step is the distillation of the alcoholic solution to create highly concentrated alcoholic beverage. Last step is the ageing process, depending on the kind of rhum sought: blanc(white), paille(amber), vieux(old), ...
First step in making rum is to produce alcohol. Alcohol is made through fermentation. Fermentation is a process transforming carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide, using yeasts or bacteria.
Fermentation occurs when the sugared liquid is mixed with yeasts. Yeasts are of the Saccharomyces genus. Yeasts consume the sugar in the juice to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. The sugared liquid is either fresh sugarcane juice (rhum agricole) or watered molasses (non agricole rum).
The liquid produced is not very strong in alcohol (5° to 6°).
You will find more information on alcohol production by visiting the fermentation page.
Next step in rum production is to concentrate alcohol by distillation. The lightly concentrated liquid produced by fermentation is distilled to obtain a 70° spirit. The liquid is evaporated by boiling and its vapour is then collected after it condenses. This process enable to isolate lighter components (alcohol, aromas) from water.
You will find more information on distillation by visiting the distillation page.
Dilution, aging and bottling.
The 70° spirit is watered to more human compliant grades (generally from 40°to 55°). and laid to age at least 3 months (for rhum agricole).
You will find more information on ageing and bottling by visiting the bottling page.