A bit of history ...
If the history of rum is fairly well known, the origins of flavoured rum are not clear-cut, and several theories exist.
The sugar cane - from which rum is made, originated in Asia. It was then spread by the Arabs as early as the 8th century, and was introduced to the Caribbean in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Santo Domingo). The Spanish and then the Portuguese expanded cane cultivation in the West Indies and South America.
The first traces of a brandy made from sugar cane are from around 1640, while the word "rum", probably coming from the English "rumbullion" (great tumult) was born in 1654.
At this time, this drink was not very sophisticated, and rum was mainly consumed by slaves, buccaneers, and sailors of the Royale Navy! It was not until the arrival of the Dutch in the Caribbean and their methods of distillation that a better rum could be produced. Then came the 20th century and the trend of “punches” where the rum used was finally made as it is today.
Flavoured rum is indisputably originating from the island of Reunion, in the Indian Ocean. But it is difficult to know if rum was used to preserve fruits and spices, and was finally consumed as a drink, or if the spices and fruits were used to mask the taste of a rum of dubious quality. Another theory presents flavoured rum as a derivative of Madagascar's betsa-betsa, a fermented cane juice wine, mixed with spices, leaves and bark.
Still, the islanders from Reunion Island have kept the tradition of offering a glass of flavoured rum to their guests to showcase the rich taste of the fruits and spices of their island, while demonstrating the know-how of their host. In Madagascar, each meal ends with a bottle of flavoured rum on the table. The flavoured rum is consumed as a digestive, or, if sweeter, as an aperitif.