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While sugar cane was grown primarily in Brazil and the Caribbean and was first distilled there as well, New England soon became the heart of rum production in the New World. With the development of numerous distillery houses throughout New England in the mid-17th century, rum became the primary imbibe of the English colonies. The overwhelming success of rum in North America was in part because the spirit was thought to have medicinal properties, as when colonists switched from drinking water (which was often tainted with foreign bacteria) to drinking rum, they enjoyed noticeably longer lives.