Ever asked yourself: How is rum made? Join us today. We’ll journey into the realms of rum and how it makes its beautiful, delicious way into our glasses. We’ll go from basic definition to production to maturity and so much more. It’s definitely worth learning about. Stick around and uncover the details right here.
Let’s get the rum definition before we jump into the featured question: “How is rum made?” In short, rum is a distilled spirit. And its production is largely possible due to the sugar cane plant. Thank you, sugar cane plant!
Legally, rum is defined as an alcoholic spirit produced from the fermented juice of sugar cane (or its derivatives). These derivatives include sugar cane molasses and sugar cane syrup, as well as other cane by-products. It must be bottled at less than 190 proof and not less than 80 proof.
Gathering sugar cane for the good stuff. [Photo by mayumi konno on Unsplash]
We’ve mentioned the cane and its derivatives already. But here, we’ll break them down.
You’ll find that it's possible to make rums right from fresh sugar cane juice. In that case, after crushing the cane, it immediately enters the fermentation process. This has to happen because the raw cane juice can’t be stored for extended periods of time without spoiling. If you’re wondering (and you probably are), this raw liquid contains anywhere from 18-24 percent sugar.
Most rums today come from sugar cane molasses. Of course, molasses is a by-product. But distillers use it probably because, after extracting the crystalline sugar from the cane juice, the leftover molasses still holds plenty of fermentable sugars. And, you can actually store molasses for extended amounts of time.
You’ve heard the term “Blackstrap” before? This refers to a fairly low grade of molasses. It’s the grade that has the least amount of sugar remaining.
You’ll hear this referred to as “sugar cane honey” or “sweet table-grade molasses.” Rum can also hail from this concentrated liquid. It has all the sugars that are present in the fresh sugar cane juice. But most of the water has been removed. It’s more than 90 percent sugar! It can be stored much longer than the fresh juice before being fermented and distilled, to boot.
Collect the Sugar cane juice or by-product. Then, add water and yeast.
We’ve already discussed the three forms of sugar cane used in the making of rum. From fresh juice, syrup, or molasses, we arrive here. The next thing is to just allow the liquids to rest. Yeast in the air draws naturally to such sweetness. But, typically, in the fermentation of rum, you'd have to mix additional yeast and water together with molasses in massive vats.
The fermentation changes the sugars to alcohol and CO2.
Sugar-To-Alcohol magic occurs in the vat. Fermentation happens when the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol. In a modern distillery, you’re dealing with hybridized yeast. It interacts with the sugars anywhere from a day to three weeks, depending on the type of rum you're producing.
Lighter-bodied rums ferment quickly. Full-bodied, rich rums ferment longer. This gives them their complex flavor.
Heat the fermented liquid in a still. See to it that the volatile elements evaporate. And be sure to condense the vapors into a clear liquid.
In an effort to
concentrate the alcohol, distilling isolates the alcoholic components. It does
so by condensing vapors and holding them in a second vat or tank. This liquid
result contains mostly alcohol. But you also have some extra ingredients that
give the rum its signature flavor.
Sometimes, there will be further distilling cycles if further purification is required/desired. The more you isolate the alcohol, though, the fewer flavor components remain in the liquid.
The distilled liquid then goes to age in wooden barrels. The interaction with the wood adds color and great flavors. Thereafter, the Rums would blend for complexity and balance.
When rum is fresh, it’s clear. And it lacks that peculiar flavor we know and love. Further, it doesn’t yet have that golden hue. That amber flair is part of what makes rum the amazing experience in our glass that it is. Nearly all rums go through the aging process before bottling.
Even your clear rums like Bacardi Silver age at least one year in a barrel. That’s how they get their smoothness. In this case, you'd use the carbon-filtering option to remove any color it took on while inside the barrel. In some cases, you may have to use new oak barrels with alligator-char.
If you want to learn more about such barrels, check out our article How to Make a Whiskey Barrel.
Often, it's possible to use both whiskey and bourbon barrels for rum aging. You’ll also find some using port, cognac, and sherry barrels. The alcohol in the rum interacts with the wood. The rum takes on color, smooth texture, and complex flavors as it matures with the barrel.
A smaller barrel will mature faster.
Our rum classic: the daiquiri. [Photo cred: Flickr]
Usually, rums acquire an amber or golden tone as they age. Some distillers choose to use caramel coloring or burnt sugar to deepen the color or even balance it. Dark rums get their color from added molasses or caramel.
In the United
States, the age statement must adhere to the youngest rum in the bottle. Aged
rums are usually blended, so you’re encountering a number of rums in a single
pour. A lot of experts suggest reading the rum age statement with a fair amount
of uncertainty. Some countries producing rum do not follow these U.S. rules
regarding the minimum age statement.
For more information, check out Liquor.com’s article here. We dig this one.
Well, that’s that! Next time someone asks you: “How is rum made?” we’ve given you enough of an answer to start you in the right direction, at least. Keep exploring and getting to know your rum. Which part of the process fascinates you the most? Share it with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
you to head out and purchase some rum with your newfound knowledge. We also
encourage you to pair that rum with one of our handcrafted decanters and some of our hand-blown, quality glasses. Your rum will look absolutely dazzling in
these. That’s a promise.
having a look at one of the world’s most respected and beloved spirits. There’s
more where that came “rum.” You can count on it!