An Introduction to Rum

05/06/2013 21:36

Rum is an alcoholic beverage that comes from the fermenting and distilling of sugarcane juices. It is the type of alcoholic spirit that was once associated with pirates, slave traders, and merchants with routes across the Caribbean.

In the past, rum has an undoubtedly strong smell and taste that was not very appealing.  However, through better premium production, the fiery roughness and strong taste and smell have all been tamed.  There are actually a lot of rum producers all over the world, but most of the best rums come from the Caribbean.  Due to this, it is estimated that there are around nearly or over 1,500 different varieties of rum.

There are actually a lot of factors that can affect the quality, color, taste, and viscosity of rum.  This includes fermenting materials, fermentation method, the type of yeast being used for fermentation, the method of distillation used, the maturing process, water quality, the adding of spices and flavorings, the adding of coloring agents, and the blending of different types of sugar canes all contributes to the multitude of different varieties of rum available.

How Rum is Made

The production of rum initially begins with the harvesting of sugar canes.  These sugar canes are then crushed using a machine to extract the juices that is stored within the fibers.  The crushed pulp is considered waste but it can be dried up for use in heating distillation tanks.  Once the sugar can juice has been collected, they either ferment the juice directly to yield a product that holds many of the characteristics of the cane, or they can reduce the juice into syrup by using heat and then ferment this syrup – a method which very few distilleries actually do.

How sugar can juice is fermented actually differs with every distillery as there is a lot of variation involved in the process.  There is one process where natural fermentation is involved wherein the yeast comes from the environment and are relied upon to do the fermenting of sugar for them using open vats.  Another process which is meant for efficiency is that the sugar cane extracts are fermented using strict laboratory conditions in order to properly control the fermentation process.  For the latter process, distilleries have their own yeast cultures while others simply purchase them.  Nevertheless, due to strict procedures such as the time factor allowed for fermentation and the temperature or environment being subjected during the fermentation process, their laboratory like process allow them to properly control their end product, thus ensuring that they have a uniform product.

Once the sugar cane juice or extracts have been properly fermented, they are then distilled.  This process is very similar to how you distill water.  However, the condensed liquid that they collect at distilleries is alcohol.  The alcohol that has been collected will have from somewhere between 70% - 95% alcohol.  This alcohol is then placed on wooden barrels for aging in order to alter slightly some of the characteristics of the rum.  There are other distilleries who mix the newly blended rum with the other batches that they have in order to have a more uniform taste, aroma, and body.  The adding of herbs, fruits, and spices is not uncommon at this stage so they are able to create a taste that is uniquely theirs.  At some point after aging, the rum is diluted with distilled water to achieve a certain percentage of alcoholic content and is then sent for packaging.  Some rums on the other hand do not go through any aging process and are bottled and sold fresh from distilling.

Visit RSA Course Guide for additional information on spirits and alcoholic beverages.