Rum Cask©

Rum is a traditional drink from the Caribbean, Central and South America and is exported in various qualities.

The Rum distillate is obtained from either pure sugar cane juice or molasses. Rum from molasses is generally called 'Rum' or "Molasses-Rum".

Rum from sugar cane juice is often referred to as "Rum Agricole". The distillate is stored for maturation in barrels, usually Bourbon barrels made of white American oak.

Many high-quality Rum’s ripen in wine or Sherry casks for finishing.

Where does Rum come from and who discovered it?

Sugar cane harvest

The first distillation of Rum took place in the 17th century on sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean. Slaves working on the sugar cane plantations discovered molasses when producing sugar, which fell as a by-product of sugar refining. This sticky fluid was easily fermented into alcohol.

ccording to myth the first Rum production was around 1620 on the island of Barbados. When the Swedish War Ship Vasa fell in 1628 they found a bottled liquid zinc which today we would call Rum so we can accurately say that Rum has been around for about 400 years.

What is molasses?

Strictly speaking, molasses is nothing but a sugar syrup. Its consistency is honey-like and the color is dark brown. Molasses is produced from sugar cane or beet sugar production and has a sugar content of approximately 60%. It is a by-product or waste product in the refining process of the sugar and beet. No more sugar can be crystallized from the molasses because there is no bloat here. What happens with this 'waste product'? Molasses is used in the food industry, in the production of yeast in the Pharmaceutical industry and in Rum production.

How is Rum made?

In contrast to other spirits Rum has no defined production method. Rum is produced in a very traditional way and may vary depending on the location and the distillery. In Brazil the distilled alcoholic beverage made out of sugar cane juice is called Cachaça.

What ferments Rum?

Molasses made from sugar cane

Yeast and water is added to the molasses or sugar cane juice in order for the fermentation process to start.

While some Rum producers use wild yeasts for the fermentation, other use specific yeast varieties in order to ensure a consistent and predictable fermentation time.

Some distilleries such as Bacardi uses faster working yeast to produce the Blanco Rum. Using slower working yeast causes more esters during fermentation, producing a fuller taste.

Miniature Pot-Still method

The pot-still procedure in the Rum production

There is no standard method in the distillation of Rum. Some producers work with the elaborate Pot-still method. Flavor-enhanced Rums can be produced by double or triple distillation in the cauldron of 60 to 75% alcohol.

The maturation process is generally performed in ex-Bourbon barrels, but can also be performed in other types of wooden casks or stainless steel tanks.

Why Bourbon barrels? In the United States, the law requirement that Bourbon must be stored in new casks. Therefore, the "barrel” market is constantly flooded with new cheap barrels.

The Rum producers in the Caribbean are very happy to re-use Bourbon barrels. The typical vanilla Rum flavor comes mostly through the Bourbon casks.

Rum maturation

The aging process determines the color of Rum. When Rum is matured in oak casks, is results in a dark Rum. When Rum is aged in stainless steel tanks, it results in and almost colorless Rum. Sherry maturing Rum is usually reddish and deep dark. Each type of cask results in a different intense flavor Rum.

The following types of barrels are used in the maturation of Rum:

Rum barrel storage©
  • Oak-Cask
  • Bourbon-Cask
  • Sherry-Cask
  • PX-Cask
  • Calvados-Cask
  • Port-Cask
  • Sauternes-Cask
  • Marsala-Cask
  • Cognac-Cask

After aging, the Rum is normally mixed to ensure a consistent taste. The blending of the Rum results in a ' blended Rum ' which is the last step in the manufacturing process.

Why does the most Rum originate from the Caribbean?

City Havana©

Rum has the optimal climatic conditions in the Caribbean. Due to the tropical climate, it matures faster than whisky in Scotland.

This means that a 10-year-old Barbados Rum matures faster and is thus "older" than a 10-year-old Scotch.

It should also be noted that another important factor in the maturation is the barrel.

Aged Bourbon, which must be aged in new oak barrels also ages significantly faster than a spirit drink aged in used barrels.

How does the Solera process work?

Solera method©

Different vintages of Rum are blended in Sistema Solera barrels. This means that a Solera Rum with the indication "20 years" consists only of a part of 20-year-old Rum.

The Solera method works as follows: there are a series of barrel with several floors. The barrels of the upper row contain the most recent vintage, the lower the oldest.

Only a certain percentage of a vintage is taken during the filling process. The extracted amount is replenished from the overlying series to mix with or marry the vintages.

The Solera method is becoming more popular in Rum production because different strong vintages can be compensated and over the years the product remains very similar in taste.

How does the Rum get its color?

The rule of thumb is: the older the darker - but not always. High-quality Blanco Rum can be matured for quite some time in the barrel. The color is subsequently removed. Younger Rum can also be dyed dark with caramel coloring.

The different colors of Rum©

Such a dye must be indicated on the label. A 10-year-old Rum matured for a long time in Sherry casks can be much darker than a 25-year-old Rum matured in oak barrels.

Does a lower quality Rum have coloring?

One of the most common misconceptions is probably that a high-quality Rum or whisky has no dye - this is definitely wrong. The use of a dye has nothing to do with the quality of a spirit. Well-known manufacturers use sugar Couleur to uniform color so that the color of production batches is identical.

Rum regions of the world

The main centre of World Rum production is the Caribbean, closely followed by Central and South America. Almost all great Island groups in the Caribbean produce their own Rum style:

Old map of the caribbean©
  • Barbados
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Puerto Rico
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • And many more

The most famous Rum productions from Central and South America come from:

  • Columbia
  • Guyana
  • Panama
  • Costa Rica
  • Venezuela
  • And many more

Rum is used worldwide in Austria, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, the Philippines, India, Reunion Island, Mauritius, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, the United States and Canada.

Enjoy Rum in a cocktail or pure

Enjoy Rum neat on ice©

Rum can be enjoyed both pure and in an exotic cocktail drink. The most popular drinks include Rum Sour and Cuba Libre.

Younger, bright Rums are common in Cocktails while Golden or dark Rum are generally enjoyed pure. Rum is also ideal for cooking and baking.

Types of Rum

Rum is enormously difficult to classify because there are no uniform standards. In Germany the Rum must contain at least 37.5% vol.

Therefore the Captain Morgan Spiced Rum is not classified in Germany as a Rum but rather as a spirit drink which is Rum-based with only 34% vol. alcohol.

No international standard for Rum

Penny Blue XO label©

There are three types of Rum: the French, British and Spanish types of Rum. These differ in the method of production. Spanish Rum consists usually of molasses and matures in ex-Bourbon casks in the Caribbean.

French Rum is known as "Rum Agricole" and is distilled from sugar cane juice - the drums are usually from Europe. British Rum is blended mostly from imported barrels from overseas in Europe. An indication of age is not found here.

The age identification of the French and Spanish Rum is different. Some manufacturers are working with dates, other age groups. Here is however to make sure whether it is a Solera Rum or a vintage Rum. The maximum year of the most recent barrel will be printed.

Here are an extract of the Spanish terms: Ron Blanco, Ron añejo, Ron Añejo Especial, Especial Ron, Ron Extra Añejo, Ron Ron Añejo Reserva, Gran añejo, Ron, Ron Reserva Gran Reserva.

On French, and often British labels, and the Cognac labels the following data can be found: VS, VSOP, XO, extra or hors d ' âge, vieux très vieux, VO or similar.

Something more useful to categorize Rum, following grouping is used: the most common representatives include the following types of Rum. This is to ensure that the color does not necessarily have anything to do with the age.

Ron Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca Rum
Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca
Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Años
Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Años
Plantation Trinidad Original Dark 73%
Plantation Trinidad Original Dark 73%
  • White / Blanco / Silver /Platinum Rum
    is colorless and has a somewhat mild taste with a common and mild sweetness. The Ron Blanco is usually filtered several times to remove color impurities. It was mostly only very briefly stored in stainless steel tanks to give clarity. Ron Blanco is usually used for cocktails and long drinks, such as E.g. Mojito. Some of which are the world's most popular white Rums like Bacardi Carta Blanca and Havana Club Añejo 3 Años, but there are many more of each Rum region.
  • Gold Rum
    camped a few years in wooden barrels and thus has a more intense flavor than a Blanco Rum. It is rather medium-bodied, but not as full-bodied as a dark Rum. The gold Rum also has a little deeper amber-like color, so you know this Rum as "Amber Rum". Gold Rum is generally mixed, but it can also be enjoyed pure. For example the Bacardi Carta Oro gold Rum is a great choice for cocktails.
  • Dark Rum
    is the "standard" Rum. Often it spent approximately 5 to 15 years in oak barrels, giving a dark color and deep, full-bodied and smoky sweet nuances of Rum . It shines by its volume and intense multifaceted taste. Often you can taste notes of dried fruit and caramel. A dark Rum should be enjoyed pure, but can be also be used as an ingredient in some cocktails like Rum punch. Examples for the category of dark Rum are Ron Centenario Conmemorativo 9 years and El Dorado 12 years and these should be enjoyed pure.
  • Premium Rum
    is at least 15 years old and has more character and flavor than the younger representatives. This is premium Rum and the longest supported. These types of Rum are usually drunk pure. Premium Rum has a more intense flavor than a dark Rum. Some of the classics are Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Años sistema Solera and Ron Millonario XO. This Rum should be enjoyed pure and is a must for every Rum connoisseur.
  • Spiced / flavoured Rum
    is based on white Rum, with the difference that the spiced Rum in addition has added flavors of spices and sometimes caramel. This is depending on the taste of pure or mixed drink. A perfect example of a spiced Rum is the Captain Morgan Spiced gold Rum mixed with Cola. In the last 20 years flavored Rum has won more and more in popularity and are offered in a variety of variations, like for example with fruit and berries such as coconut, raspberry, vanilla, melon, apple, and many other. Bacardi is the leading manufacturer with flavored Rums such as Bacardi Razz, Bacardi Apple, Bacardi Lemon, etc. But try the cocktail, Bacardi Razz-Mojito – you'll love it!
  • Overproof Rum
    has over 57% (114 proof) alcohol - some have even 75% to 80%. An Overproof is pure just for connoisseurs, and this is why it is used primarily for strong cocktails with fruit juice or milk.

Is blending a signal for inferior quality Rum?

Ron Brugal Master Blender

The opposite is the case. The so-called Master Blender is a respected profession in the Caribbean State. There are decades of experience to every Master Blender. Intersecting the Rum is a high art so that the final product has many facets of intensive taste.

It is common that often up to 50 Rums are blended together to achieve the perfect blended Rum with a strong and good smell and taste, which exudes its own character not only for a short period of time, but for many decades.

Therefore, it is common that a Master Blender often works with a distillery for many years.

The longest employed Master Blender is David Stewart at William Grant Works & sons since 1963.

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