How is rum made? It can be white, blended, or rich with a spiced flavour! Rum is often cited to be the “next big thing” after gin but where did rum come from and how is it made?
At its most basic level rum is basically fermented sugar that has been distilled and then aged in oak barrels. However, there is no single standard for what constitutes rum. Rum is instead defined solely by the various legalities and regulations of the nations of where the spirit is produced.
These differences are huge and include spirits proof, minimum and maximum ageing periods and even name terminology!
A great example is the differences between Mexican rum and the Dominican Republic. In Mexico rum is required to be aged for at least eight months. The Dominican Republic however requires their rum to be aged for a minimum of two years!
As mentioned above, the naming terminology if rum also differs from country to country:
Grenada and Barbados – White, Overproof, Matured.
United States and United Kingdom – Rum, Rum Liqueur and Flavoured Rum
Australia – Dark/red Rum (Underproof, Overproof and Triple Distilled) and White Rum
Factually rums are simply produced in various grades – Light or White Rums are best suited to cocktails whereas Golden, Dark or Spiced Rums are perfect for over ice, mixers, or cooking.
Essentially there are five steps to creating rum:
Step one -Sweet Sugar
Simply put, rum is made from sugar cane. It’s one of the few products that is actually made from 100% sugar cane. Raw sugar cane, white sugar cane, brown sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, evaporated sugar cane and molasses are all ideal candidates to make rum.
Sugar cane once matured, is harvested by hand and the cane is then crushed at a mill to extract the juice. Once harvested sugar cane degrades extremely quickly so the whole process is a speedy one. The juice from the sugar cane can then be modified in three specific ways in order to be used for rum production:
Sugar Cane Fermentation
The French West Indies prefer this method over all others. The sugar cane juice is simply fermented and then distilled. This process creates the most natural rum.
The sugar juice is cooked down into concentrate. This is then turned into a syrup that is often fermented and distilled. This is a great method since it preserves the juice and can be used all year round as opposed to only at harvesting season.
The most popular method of all is to process the juice to create crystallized sugar also known as molasses. This is then sold onto distilleries to be used in the production of rum.
The overall quality of the rum is purely dependant upon the variety of the sugar cane that was used to create it.
Step Two – Fabulous Fermentation
To begin the fermentation process, yeast and water are added to sugar and left to ferment. Rum producers often differ in the strain of yeast that they use and some even use wild yeasts. The reason for the variants is to provide a unique and specific taste. Using the same yeast every time also allows the fermentation time to become predictable.
Light, white rums tend to use a fast activating yeast whilst slower fermentation yeasts are predominantly used for creating more full tasting rums.
Interestingly in Jamacia, they use the form produced by the yeast during fermentation (also known as Dunder) as their traditional source of yeast.
Step Three – Distilling
The next step is putting the rum fermentation through a still. Rum is typically distilled at under 95% alcohol by volume. Currently in the EU in order to be called a rum, the finished beverage needs to be at least 37.5% ABV. Anything under can only be referred to as a rum led spirit. This is also true of rum liquors and other infused rum drinks with a lower ABV.
In order to distil the rum, the liquid is heated to around 175 degrees. This process removes the alcohol from the liquid via evaporation. The alcohol is then re-condensed, cooled and collected. This creates the raw spirit.
There are two main types of stills used in rum, a column still and a copper pot still. The choice of the still depends upon the flavour profile to be created. Colum stills create a light, delicate rum whereas the copper pot produces a heavier flavoured rum.
Step Four – Marvellous Maturation
Maturation (more commonly known as “ageing”) Aging commonly takes place in oak barrels but each ageing process can be as unique as the sugar cane method choice. Ageing adds colour, depth and additional flavour to the rum.
There are multiple factors that can be used to create a unique tasting rum such as type of wood, ageing time and the climate of where the rum is ageing. Most rums are typically aged where they are produced and the colder the climate the longer the ageing process.
In addition, botanicals are often added to the rum before it is aged ranging from vanilla pods, fruits and spices.
Step five – Blending
The final step is blending and it always takes place after ageing. Blending ensures a concise and consistent flavour. Blending is again usually unique to the rum producer.
Generally, light rums tend to be filtered to ensure it is clear and is free from colour and debris. Caramel is often added to darker rum to ensure a deep, rich colour.
Springmount Beautifully Butterscotch Rum
Our Beautifully Butterscotch Rum is a white rum that has been carefully blended with our own secret butterscotch recipe. It is smooth, creamy and very easy to drink! It’s silky enough to be drunk neat over ice – simply shake to serve!
Have Fun with Rum
Whilst rum at its simplest is made from sugar cane, there is much more to this humble spirit. With a wide variety to choose from each rum producer adding their own flavour and flair, rum definitely has a place in the spirit world and is here to stay.
Until Next Time