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Rum in the raw

By Miguel Figueredo

More often than we’d wish, some rum brands claim to be a better product than another due to the sugarcane their rum has been made of, due to their soil compared to a rival within the same country. In the Caribbean this is known to happen even. The truth seems to be that once within the Caribbean soil, cane can vary a bit, but not enough to make for a crucial differentiation factor amongst brands, at least in terms of quality of rum. If a particular cane yields more juice than another, that would be a matter of profitability, but not necessarily character. As Richard Seale, from Foursquare Rum Distillery, one of the most influential and reliable persons in the rum making industry and the man behind Doorly’s rum says,

“The raw material, its composition and quality are, in essence, the same; what provides rum from every region with its unique character are the methods and techniques chosen to ferment, distil and blend; that is its particular cultural expression. Then other factors, like the climate during aging, more by Mother Nature, rather than human choice.”

 Rum production tends to be flexible in regards to sugarcane format, fermentation, distillation, ageing, blending and filtering, as long as you stick to the raw material: 100% sugarcane.

 If we take into account:

 • Three sugar cane formats currently known and used:

– cane juice

– cane syrup

– molasses (there are several grades of molasses: High Test and Blackstrap are both common in rum)

• ¿Three-to-five? fermentation agents mostly used:

– wild yeast

– lab-cultivated yeast

– dunder in combination with the above

 • Two distillation methods broadly used:

– Column still (single or multiple times)

– Pot still (single or multiple times)

So far, the possible simple combinations result in many different rum personalities or characters, over 100 if we take complex combinations into account.

 But then, add to that an unlimited number of aging cellar sizes, a few barrel sizes, different previous uses of the barrels (Cognac, Bourbon, Sherry…), charring levels, a 0-to-20-year approximate range of aged rums going into a blend and the insanely multiple proportions chosen by a master blender, a 37.5-to-80 range of ABV bottling… And the result is, clearly, MANY different types of rum. Yet the raw material is pretty much the same in the Caribbean.

What are your thoughts on this?

‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc.’

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