Rum was the favorite drink of pirates and the British Royal Navy. Today, it has become a more discerning tipple and is in favor of the classier cocktail bars and nightclubs, due to its interesting flavor profile. But is rum a fire hazard and might pirates have done better by lighting it and throwing it at their enemies rather than drinking it?
Bottled rum is typically provided at 80 proof (40% alcohol (ethanol) by volume) and while it can catch fire, it is not considered to be flammable. However, rum can be very flammable when it has a higher than average alcohol content (151 proof/75% ABV for example).
There are more different rums that are over the typical alcohol content of most spirits when compared to drinks like vodka or whiskey. Let’s take a look at what makes rum different and the times when you need to be careful of the fire hazards associated with some rums.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
What Is Rum? (Chemically)
Rum is an alcoholic spirit that is made by fermenting sugarcane (either the juice or the molasses) and then distilling the end product of fermentation.
This distilled liquid is clear and is then, usually, placed into an oak barrel to age and gain flavor from the wooden barrel.
By and large, rum tends to be produced in the Caribbean, but it can be made anywhere that they grow sugar and it’s a big deal in the Philippines and India too.
Rum’s importance to the world that we live in can’t be underestimated. It was once used as a currency to facilitate the slave trade and military revolts. It was also favored by both the British Royal Navy and pirates as the drink of choice.
If you prefer white rum to dark, then the rum has been charcoal filtered to remove all color causing compounds – this also tends to mute both the smell and taste of white rum.
Curiously, nobody knows where rum got its name from and while many theories abound as to the origin of the name, there’s no good evidence that any of them are correct.
Also read: Is Vodka Flammable? Will Catch Fire?
Can It Catch On Fire?
Most rum is 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume) and can catch fire in some situations, but is not very flammable. It may light, but the high water content will usually extinguish itself.
You can see here what happens when you try to light standard 80 proff rum on fire:
However, there are “overproof” rums and they tend to have a very high alcohol content.
This means that rum is rather more flammable (due to the higher ethanol content) than many other spirits and it is a favorite of more adventurous bartenders thanks to this property.
This type of rum can burn fast and it burns very cleanly.
Take a look at this demo of someone lighting 151 proof rum on fire for comparison:
You can light some types of rum on fire. The higher the alcohol content, the more easily it will sustain a flame.
Note: We do not recommend anyone set any alcohol on fire, even if it is technically possible. It can be very dangerous.
Also read: Is Molasses Flammable? Will it Burn?
Is Captain Morgan Flammable?
Captain Morgan’s standard rum, which is a spiced dark rum, is one of the rums that you may encounter that won’t burn. The standard proof of Captain Morgan’s is only 70, that’s 35% alcohol by volume.
This is a pretty weak liquor, as things go, and it means that the water content of the rum is too high for it to burn effectively.
The alcohol can catch on fire, but it will almost instantly be extinguished by the available water.
Sadly, not everyone believes this fact and a man’s life depends on the courts understanding it.
Mark Kirk, of Delaware, was accused of setting a fire by dumping Captain Morgan’s on a flame, and the fire he is accused of setting killed 3 people.
Mark now sits on death row. This is despite the fact his attorneys submitted 3 tests showing that you cannot use Captain Morgan’s like this.
The state provided a single test which they claimed proved otherwise and the judge agreed.
Also read: Is Ethanol Flammable? What You Should Know
What About Bacardi?
Standard Bacardi is 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) and is therefore not flammable.
However, as we’ve already seen Bacardi also makes Bacardi 151, which is over 75% alcohol (151 proof) and that will burn without any problems at all.
In fact, it might be one of the most flammable items in the average liquor cabinet. Be careful with it.
It appears that Bacardi 151 has actually been discontinued, due to its high flammability.
Which Alcohol Is The Most Flammable?
Surprisingly, it is not a rum that is the most flammable spirit in the world (Sunset Very Strong Rum is, in fact, the 8th most flammable liquor we know of) but a vodka.
The most flammable alcohol that is legally sold, is Spirytus Vodka. It is 192 proof (96% alcohol by volume) and thus the most flammable spirit currently sold on the open market.
Any more alcohol and it would just be ethanol, really.
There may be other more flammable alcohols (like some types of moonshine) but they aren’t sold legally, as far as I know.
Is Alcohol Explosive?
Alcohol (ethanol) can be explosive in high concentrations, in certain situations.
Technically, yes, ethanol, the alcohol we’re talking about here, can be explosive.
In vapor form, it’s heavier than air and it’s far more flammable than gasoline.
Pure ethanol has a flashpoint of 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius).
However, it’s unlikely that, in ordinary circumstances, you would get enough build up of ethanol vapors when using alcoholic drinks that they would be able to explode.