The album reached number 13 in the UK charts. The track "A Pair of Brown Eyes", based on an older Irish tune, went on to reach number 72 in the UK singles chart. "The Old Main Drag" later appeared on the soundtrack to the film My Own Private Idaho. A remastered and expanded version of Rum, Sodomy & the Lash was released on 11 January 2005. The cut "A Pistol for Paddy Garcia", and the B-side of "Dirty Old Town", which only appeared on the initial cassette release, was moved to the bonus tracks. A poem by Tom Waits was also added to the expanded release.
Rum, Sodomy & the Lash received positive reviews from critics. Mark Deming of Allmusic awarded the album four and a half out of five stars and said that it "falls just a bit short of being the Pogues best album, but was the first one to prove that they were a great band, and not just a great idea for a band."Robert Christgau gave the album an A and said that "none of it would mean much without the songs—some borrowed, some traditional, and some proof that MacGowan can roll out bitter blarney with the best of his role models." Daniel Bristow of the Irish music website CLUAS awarded the album an eight out of ten, calling it "a record that will never cease to delight, always a pleasure to hear and highly, highly recommended if you're not familiar with it already".