Introduction to Rum and How its made

Rum is an alcoholic beverage fermented and distilled from Sugar. Taking this further there are 2 types of rum, Rum industrial and Rum Agricole. The difference between the 2 products comes predominantly form the style of sugar used. Rum Industrial (or regular rum) uses molasses in its production whereas Rum Agricole uses fresh sugar cane juice. Both raw ingredients are blended with water and yeast and are allowed to ferment for a specific period of time. The length of fermentation greatly influences the style of rum that will be made i e. light, medium or heavy bodied. Once the fermentation is complete the liquid (dead wash) will be distilled using either column or batch distillation. Again, the style of distillation is closely linked to the finish of the product. Ageing is the final step in producing rum, followed by blending and bottling. 

Today rum is no longer seen as a cheap, crude form of alcohol, quality rums have a depth offlavor perfect for sipping or blending in cocktails such as Mojito’s, Mai Tai’s, Daiquiries and many more. 

It takes approximately 1.5 gallons of molasses to make 1 gallon of rum. Rum made from molasses are called “Rum Industriale” wherein rums made from sugarcane juice are known as “Rum Agricole”.

Rum, the “spirit of the new world”. Rum is historically known by many different names. It is believed that the name “Rum” originated in Barbados although no one knows for sure. It has been called “Rumbustion”, Barbados water. It was also known as “Nelson’s Blood” as it was believed that Admiral Nelson’s body was carried back to England in a barrel of Rum. Rum is known as the Pirates choice of booze, it started a revolution and started the Tiki Era.

Making of Rum

Harvesting the Sugar Cane: Sugar cane, a member of the grass family has its origins in Papau New Guinea but this hearty plant is grown in tropical climes around the world. In order to harvest the sugar cane many producers will burn the cane fields in order to soften the crop for cutting as well as get rid of dead leaves and drive out snakes. sugarcane approaches maturity, its sugar concentration starts to increase, when it As the Different varieties of sugarcane will reaches its ceiling (the point of highest concentration), then it starts to decrease. At the time of harvest, the stems of the cane are spongy and full of the richly sweet sap. 

Preparing the sugar: In order to prepare the sugar cane after harvesting the crop will be processed in the following ways.

-The cane is washed to remove the dirt, dust or loose material that doesn’t contain sugar.

-The sugar cane is mechanically chopped into small pieces, and then the fibre is removed. The amount of sugar extracted is directly related to the quality of the preparation it receives at this stage.

-The cane is crushed under the weight of large and heavy wheels. During the crushing, water is added to dilute and displace the cane juice.

-After the juice has been extracted from the sugarcane (Vejou), it undergoes a clarification process, where unwanted particles are removed. At this time, the concentration of sugar in the juice is about 16%.

Making Molasses: The Vejou (the juice) undergoes 3 stages in order to make the molasses suitable for rum productions, which are:

Stage 1: Vejou is then cooled-boiled in a vacuum to create a syrupy mixture from which grade A sugar crystals are extracted. The thick and sticky brownish-black liquid that remains is known as light molasses.

Stage 2: After a second boiling, the molasses is bit more darker and thicker. This molasses is basically known as black treacle molasses.

Stage 3: The third and final boiling gives “Blackstrap” molasses – The stuff from which rum is made. It’s very dark, thick and sticky. And it tastes slightly bitter even though it still contains around 55% uncrystallised sugar. 

Fermentation: During the fermentation, Molasses is mixed with water to reach about 15% sugar content. Of course the quality of the water is very important here as its mineral content will automatically affect the final rum quality. For Agricole rum, cane juice can be fermented without adding any water, as its sugar content is naturally low enough. After this the Yeast is added to the mixture.

Time is crucial in the fermentation process and it greatly affects the style of rum being produced. Light rums may range from 12 hours up-to 2 days, wherein heavy dark rums can take 12 days.

Distillation: Distillation is the process where the alcohol content of the wash is increased and the spirit is refined. This can be done using either “Pot still” or the “Column still” distillation. 

Pot stills are more traditional which maintains the integrity and flavour profile of the rum by operating at a lower temperature. Pot stills often go through more than one distillation cycle in order to refine the spirit further.

Column stills are more modern in operation and more suitable to large volume producers. Column stills produce more neutral, light bodied rums due to higher operating temperatures which remove more of the impurities. Column stills create higher alcohol based rum than pot stills.

In addition to the 2 stills which can be used a number of producers incorporate both methods which combine the qualities of both spirits to a finalised product.

Ageing: The majority of rums go through some amount of ageing from 2 months to 20+ years. Rums can be aged either naturally in cask or by using a solera system.

As rums are produced in Tropical climates, the speed at which the spirit in the cask develops is much more faster than in cooler climates, in some cases up to 3 times faster. So you can say that the 12 years aged rum has a developed as good character as 36 years old Scotch whisky. (This is what all the rum producers claims :)) and not me)

Blending: Of course blending is a very common practice which almost all spirit producers does. In the case of rum, During blending some producers will add a touch of caramel to adjust the colour and sweetness. Often water is also added to help bring the product to bottling strength although some straight from barrel rums also exist. Over proof rums obviously tend to be less diluted to maintain the higher strength product. (Using a column still distillation)  

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