Rum is perhaps the most diverse spirit on the market, with each producing island or region utilizing a unique style and method that results in a dizzying variety of rums, from those that are almost as light as vodka to rich, smoky rums the color of crude oil and redolent of molasses.
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Produced since at least the early 17th-century on the island of Java, Batavia arrack is rum's funky ancestor. Made from sugarcane and fermented red rice (one quibble with the Times story: while Sri Lankan arrack made from palm sap has a similar name, it's a totally different creature), this smoky, aromatic spirit was a mariner's favorite for years, and was an essential ingredient in punch until well into the 19th-century.