Rum is an alcoholic beverage, distilled and produced from sugarcane by-products or can be produced from sugarcane juice. The name Rum is known to originate from a British slang meaning “best”. This alcoholic beverage is from the process of fermentation and later distillation. There has been a lot of theories as to where the name rum originated from, some said it is from a glass used for drinking by Dutch seamen and was then known as rummers. Today are many Rums aged in steel tanks and may are aged in wooden casks. Rum is the number third most common alcoholic beverage in the world and is often used as a drink ingredient. Many varieties are as complex as Cognac or whisky and are drunk pure. The West Indies and parts of South and Middle America is the origin for the majority of Rum that is produced in the world today. But other countries such as Sweden, USA, Australia, Spain and China produce Rum in a small scale
How rum is made
The most important thing to when it comes to how rum is made are the base ingredients which includes molasses or sugar cane juice, yeast and water. The use of molasses or sugar cane juice is what makes it different from every other liquor. The molasses from the sugar cane or its juice is mixed with yeast and water. The yeast can either be natural from the environment or specific yeast is added for fermentation. The kind of yeast used affect the taste, fast working yeast is mostly used to produce light rum and generate a milder flavor; whereas a slower working yeast generate a more full taste. The majority of the rum produced in the world is made from molasses that has been colon distillated, in French areas called “rhum industrielle”.
The fermentation process takes anything from few hours to few weeks. Next step is the distillation process of the fermented liquid the fermented wash is heated in the still to cause an evaporation of the alcohol. The vapor is collected and cooled down to a condensate. That can be done in either in a colon still or a pot still, the later one give a more flavorful alcohol that can be matured, normally Oak barrels.
There are two main varieties light and dark rum .Some manufacturers bottle the Rum directly while others still go ahead to age them. Rum is exactly as whiskey and cognac normally a blend from different barrels and distillation batches – to make up the desired taste.
Maturing – Aging of Spirits and Wine
There is no overall international law that decides how long the alcohol should be matured to be called rum. The hot climate in the West Indies and Guangxi province where the barrel evaporation (Angels share) can come up to 10% but make the rum develop its flavors palate much faster than for instance whiskey from the much cooler Scotland where the barrel evaporation normally is only 2%.
After the rum has been matured 12-18 months it is time for the rum blender to test the ready product, he try all the barrels and decides how they are to be blended in order to get an even taste of the marketed product. The best ones are the ones to be saved for an even longer maturing.
Light rum is often matured only a few months whereas dark rum is matured much longer. Some countries has set up a frame of rules that say at least one year for a dark rum, but vey frequent is the rum is matured much longer than that
The maturing is either made in steel tanks or oak barrels. Light rum is often matured on steel tanks and would have a rather neutral taste. Dark rum is often matured on oak barrels and then on the smaller sized ones 220 liter – often second hand American bourbon barrels. Sherry is commonly used as an additive in the rum industry although most distillers won’t admit it. For best results, blend the sherry and then dilute the spirit to drinking strength before aging. In the US, only new barrels are used for aging whisky and they can only be used once. A lot of these once-used barrels end up in the Caribbean at the rum distilleries, aging rum. The rest end up at hardware stores and are sold as planters.
The importance of barrel maturing is difficult to overestimate. It is suggested that up to ¾ of the final character on a whisky´s final character is in one way or another is origination from the oak barrels. It is not always that evident because it does vary a lot, depending on: The size of the barrel, how full, oak activity, eventual previous usage of the barrel and storage conditions. What is happening during aging is a number of complicated chemical processes who are more or less slow. Normally it is referred to as additive, subtractive and interactive maturing.
Additive maturing is about that the raw alcohol extract some substances from the oak, for an example vanillin, lactones and tannins, naturally also the tiny amounts of Sherry or other beverage that has been in the barrel before. Some of these substances react then with some other substances in the spirit or from the oak – to later create further new substances and a higher level of complexity. To normal size barrels is the additive maturing a continuous process as long as the spirit is in the barrel. But normally during the first two-three years does the majority of extraction take place. In a somewhat reverse exponential curve.
Subtractive maturing is about the thin layer or charcoal or toasted oak that can be found in the inside of the barrel does split and bind some unpleasant substances that occurs natural in the raw alcohol. The barrels thus actually purify the spirit. The time frame for this maturing is entirely limited to the first two three years in a normal sized barrel.
Interactive maturing is very much complex and have long duration. This is based on continuous slow chemical reactions between the substances that occur naturally in the raw alcohol and the oak. But it is also dependent on direct oxidation of some substances. With that oxygen that is in and absorbed by the barrels with its during time increasing headspace.
That meaning the air pocket which can be found above the liquid level in the barrel. New created substances react with other already present substances and create new. The slow and continuous chemical process that never ends, it is only ending when the barrel is emptied and filled in bottle. Contrarily to the additive maturing is it lightly that the interactive maturing cannot be overdone. The risk of too long maturing would be that the Spirit or Wine can absorb too much of the oak character.
The whiskey color have is entirely from the oak barrels provided no sugar coloring agent (E150c) is used at the bottling. It is the tannins in the oak that provides the coloring and as a rule not the Sherry wine that perhaps was the previous usage for the barrel. The exception would be red wine barrels that could provide a light hint of pink or red in the final color.
Type and oak quality influences the final result of the maturing. The most evident difference is to be found between American white oak (Quercus Alba) and European oak (Quercus Robur and Quercus Petraea).
The American oak contains high levels of Tylos and is suitable to be sawn to staves because this oak is not leaking through cut pores. The European oak should better be cleaved which some edge tool in order not to leak. The economic effect is that harvested American oak will have much bigger yield than European. White oak is routinely dried in big ovens for a shorter time whereas the European oak often needs to air-dry two years or longer, before it is made to barrels. Air-drying is favorable to soften the spicy tones of the tannins and is considered well worthy it´s higher price.
American Oak European Oak
The master blender of a fine spirit is often the “rock star” of the organization, possessing great talents and abilities necessary to produce the unique products of that brand. There are mysteries and closely guarded secrets involved in the aging and blending of fine spirits. In many cases, aged rums are blended and then stored in barrels again to further mature and “marry the flavors” before bottling the final product. Blending offers an opportunity to potentially create more complex, perhaps more balanced rums by combining the best qualities of several marques
How do you get rum from sugar cane?
The Jamaican Excise Duty Law, No 73 of 1941 defined rum as “spirits distilled solely from sugar cane juice, sugar cane molasses, or the refuse of the sugar cane, at a strength not exceeding 75% spirit”.
Rum is produced from sugar cane by fermentation by yeast. The resultant “wash” has approximately 6% alcohol which after distillation produces rum as a clear, colorless liquid with about 80% alcohol and a sharp taste. White rum is essentially this product diluted to 40% alcohol. Gold rum requires aging in small (40 gallon) oak barrels. The process of aging is very complex, involving evaporation of some of the pungent volatile components, reaction of the rum with the oak wood and perhaps even the absorption of oxygen through the barrel to convert some of the alcohol to aromatic esters.
The total level of flavor components rarely exceeds 1% of the total weight (and is normally much lower) in a base of ethanol. This high concentration of ethanol presents particular problems in both sensory and analytical studies. Furthermore, the advent of gas chromatography has shown that most of the components found in potable spirits are the same and that the nuances of flavor are essentially attributable to small differences in the relative proportions of these components.
In the US, only new barrels are used for aging whisky and they can only be used once. A lot of these once-used barrels end up in the Caribbean at the rum distilleries, aging rum. The rest end up at hardware stores and are sold as planters.
Light variety’s of Rum
Light rum also called White or Silver. Light rum is purified and blended before distillation to later be matured on stainless tanks, up to one year to get a more mild taste. Afterwards they are often carbon filtered so that the product is completely water clear. It has a sweet soft and delicate rum taste – particular those that have been filtered – which make the rum very similar to Vodka and very easy to use in cocktails.
Flavored rum is often light rum infused with different spices and fruit flavors, like mango, oranges. Some examples can be San Bart’s light or Captain Morgan’s Parrot Bay.
Barrel matured rom is rum that has been matured on barrels for a longer time and commonly get add on names as Reserva, Añejo or a number based on how many maturing years. To ensure a consistent taste from year to another are several batches and years mixed. These types are preferably enjoyed pure some examples can be Havana Club Añejo 3 años or Appleton Estate Reserve.
Dark variety’s of Rum
Black rum normally called Black or Black label, is even darker than the golden rum. This type is matured relatively long ideally on dark burn oak barrels to generate a dark color. Sometimes is black caramelized sugar added to generate yet another even darker color tone. This types flavor is it very strong and a bit candy like, and traces of spices. The best varieties are pot still distillated. Black rum is enjoyed pure and is also suitable in cooking and in fine bakery.
Golden rum normally called Gold or Amber. Rom that has been matured longer time than light ones and achieved a more golden color this rum can be given additional aromas through spices and some golden sugar color. Normally it is sold as Spiced rum.
Different styles of rum
Rum is usually divided in (3) three different styles:
Rum from Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Guatemala are counted as the Spanish style. The dark rum from this area has often an expressed sweet mild spicy flavor mixed with tropical fruit aromas together with the complex Oak flavors from the barrel maturing.
Some light rum from above countries has complex taste obtained from different mixing of barrel and steel tank matured spirit. Sometimes the beverage is filtered to remove the rice hay yellow color – in order to not color the drinks land into. If the label is marked “Anejo” meaning is that it is matured.
Pot still generates more flavors and gives a more concentrated taste. After the first distillation a very flavorful liquid is produces that in the Spanish speaking areas is called aguardiente.
This style is predominant above all on Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. It is drier than the Spanish style with less spiciness. In this type you can find flavors of Chocolate, mature Bananas and citrus fruits.
This rum is made from molasses and the wash is fermented for a long time which is significant for this type. Typical is also the distillation in a pot still and that the darker rum is matured on second hand American bourbon barrels. Molasses look like a black syrup and is a byproduct from sugar production and contain 55% sugar but also a big portion of minerals and trace substances which can have importance on the final flavor. Also molasses contain ingredients that generate an optimal fermentation and reduce the amount of ethanol to a balanced level. The most powerful and strong tasting rum, predominantly dark ones originates from Jamaica and Demerara.
It is mainly Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti that produces the French style, this rum is often flowery and herbal in taste and can develop a more structured barrel character and any of the other types. Taste is often dry. If the rum is produced from fresh sugarcane juice that has been fermented it will be called “rhum agricole” that really do carry some of the sugarcane taste. Rum made from molasses is called “rhum industrielle”. Rhum agricole can be matured on cognac barrels, which generate somewhat roughness and a similarity to precisely cognac. In the French influenced areas the rum regulations are much stricter for the production of rum. In Brazil cachaca rum is produced from sugarcane juice, many times distilled on a colon still.
History of Rum
The Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the famous “reeds that produce honey without bees” in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. They adopted and then spread sugarcane agriculture. Arabic merchants began to trade in sugar from India and knowledge spread further to the Berber empire during11.th century to what is now Morocco and southern Spain. Christoffer Columbus brought with him sugar plants from the Canary Islands on his second voyage 1493 to the West Indies and introduced them to the Island Hispaniola (now Cuba) where the growing conditions was proven ideal for the cultivation.
The Caribbean Islands became a big area for the production of sugar and generated a lot of molasses. Soon it was found out that if this molasses was mixed with water and exposed to the weather it started to ferment. This was suitable for distillation to something called “Rum” and around 1650 that processing way really took off and became very popular in the English colonies of America. The oldest rum bottle in the world was found onboard the Swedish Navy ship Wasa that sunk 1628. That ship was found perfectly preserved and the entire ship can today be seen at the Wasa museum in Stockholm.
Rum distilleries were then founded in different places in American firstly in Staten Island and then Boston. Rum had its role to play in the economy during that time as it was used as a trading commodity. It became a payment method in the Australian Colony. It is not sure where the name Rum is coming from but one idea is that it may originate from the Latin word for Sugar – SaccaRUM – in the English colonies the rum was called, Kill Devil or rumbullion.
At that time rum was promoted as a remedy for all kinds of diseases and illnesses, it was sold cheaply to the Navy to encourage their presences to deter and scare pirates away. During 1730 the English Navy introduced a ration of rum on their ships, which later was mixed with same amount of water – resulting in a beverage called GROG.
After this did Rum spread with trading vessels and became quickly a very popular spirit all over the world and replaced Gin. As the industrial revolution spread, Europe learned how to produce sugar from sugar beets which that influenced a lot the demand of Caribbean sugar. That leading to that the production of rum was later limited to the areas where sugar canes were growing.
In the modern time has rum again become very popular thanking much to the international tourism where many traveled to warm climate areas and rum was re-discovered in a bigger scale.
Rums both then and now Rum is basically produced in different grades:.
The light colored Rum which are referred to as silver or white rum and have little flavor are mostly used for cocktails.
Golden colored rums are usually drunk neat or straight. It is also taken with ice cubes, but can be used in cocktails. Then we have the popular flavored rums that are normally infused with fruit flavors like: Orange, Mango, Coconut and Banana. They are well fitted for cocktails but also neat or on the rocks.
Premium Rum is aged Rum with more character and flavor and is usually consumed neat or straight..
Dark colored Rum and the dark rums are mixed with caramel and are commonly used for cooking. (Try Baba au Rhum)