ORIGINS: RUM - PART 3 - AGEING, TERROIR, BLENDING, BOTTLING
We’ve had the history and looked into the distillation of rum - now we continue our Origins series by focussing on the next stage of the process - from ageing to bottling.
All rums are clear once condensed after distillation.
Rum gains its colour as a result of ageing in oak barrels - and in some cases through colouring. Rum is most commonly aged in American oak casks which have previously been used to age bourbon.
This is partly due to their plentiful supply - new whiskey in America must be aged in new white oak casks so once used they are no longer of use to the bourbon industry.
The inside of the casks are charred at the cooperage when first made - this caramelises natural sugars on the wood’s surface increasing the vanillins. The quality of the casks, what they previously held and how many times they’ve been used can dramatically affect the characters they impart to the rum stored within them.
The length of time rum is aged for differs massively from up to a year to 20 years plus - the longer rum is aged for the more flavour and colour it will take on and normally the more expensive the liquid will be.
Where the casks are aged also makes a real difference. Ageing spirits in the tropical climate of the Caribbean or South America has a very different effect to ageing spirits in Scotland, for example. It is said that every year of ‘tropical ageing’, where the oak’s pores are wide open so allowing the rum to soak deep into the wood, is equivalent to three years in a cold warehouse.
Location and climate also affects losses due to evaporation - which are greater in hotter climates at around 6% per year vs 3% in Scotland - and this leads us onto our next section looking at rum and its ‘terroir’.
We’ve already noted that where rum is produced affects its style in a number of ways and that is known as its ‘terroir’.
Not just local production methods but the origin of the sugar cane or molasses, micro-climates, and the location and style of ageing warehouses.
That means each country or island where the rum is produced has its own unique style. Our rum has five aged rums in the blend and all have their own nuances - the trinidadian rum is very different to the Jamaican rum, for example.
The final process at the distiller’s disposal to change the rum’s character is blending. This comes in a variety of ways - some blend light and dark rums of different ages, some with different production methods, blending is an art and creates a unique profile of rum.
Our rum blends five aged rums from Barbados, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad, and Venezuela - all rums vary in age and are aged for up to five years. The makeup of a blend is also very particular - some blends are weighted heavily towards a certain rum - our blend is very equal across all rums.
Spiced and flavoured Rums are now also blended with flavours to further change the profile of the rum. The majority of spiced and flavoured rums use white rums or young rums as their base as they have less flavour. The rum is then flooded with flavourings and sugar.
We don’t do that though. Our spiced rum uses our aged blended rum as a base and then we blend natural flavours into the rum to create a unique profile - with no added sugar.
Now it’s time for the rum to be bottled. It’s common for caramel to be added at this stage to alter the colour. Alternatively, some aged rums are also charcoal filtered to remove any colour and are bottled clear.
So dark rums aren’t always aged as long as you may think and lighter rums may have a bit more history than it appears.
Before they are bottled, quality rums are left to marry in tanks to allow different flavours and rums in the blend to fuse together.