Who has never seen a pirate movie that didn't say rum at least once?
From a simple base of sugar, yeast and water, rum has been a favourite spirit around the world, used in most tropical drinks & cocktails, it's definitely making a comeback! Produced in any country with a spirits industry, many craft distillers are looking at rum as the new trend.
There are a few methods to make rum, but mostly it is made from pure sugar cane juice or molasses.
Molasses is a product of the sugar-making process. The syrupy residue that is left behind after the sugar crystals are extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets during the boiling process.
Refiners boil raw cane juice to concentrate and crystallize the sugar, producing thick, sweet syrup, usually referred to as "first syrup" or mild molasses. It's boiled again, producing "second" or "dark molasses." A large percentage of rums are based on second molasses.
On the other hand, cane syrup is made from pure sugar cane juice. The juice is boiled down and evaporated to create cane syrup. The fermenting of raw sugarcane juice is a much older practice, having been made in Asia a millennium ago. Distilling from pure cane juice retains many of the vegetal characteristics inherent in the plant.
Let's not forget about the well-known rum's cousin, Cachaça, a product unique to Brazil, also derives from unprocessed cane juice. Cachaça benefits from the unique home country, when it's distilled close to a rainforest, it often picks up flavours of the surrounding flora.
Types of Rum
Silver – Aged in oak barrels for less than 1 year
Gold – Aged in oak barrels for more than 1 year
Dark – Aged in oak barrels for more than 5 years
Spiced – Either aged in oak barrels for long period or caramelized to get a brownish colour
Agricole – From pure sugar cane, can be aged between 1 and +3 years
Cream – Liquorish rum, created with additional flavours, usually lower in alcohol
How to make rum
From molasses and sugar cane syrup, these are the more important ingredients, so chose them wisely as its quality will vary depending on the cane, soil, climatic conditions, harvest method, production process and storage.
Yeasts, wild yeast, baker's yeast or lab yeasts (which are engineered for specific fermentation speed and flavours) can be used. Combinations are possible, as many craft distillers are known to use up to 20 yeasts looking to influence flavour to avoid long periods of ageing in barrels.
Fermentation, molasses or sugar cane syrup is diluted with water to reduce the sugar content with a one-to-four ratio and the pure yeast culture is added to the mixture. It can take from 48 to 72h to produce the alcohol.
The Simple distillation is straightforward. The results of the fermentation (wine) are distilled to separate the heads, hearts and tails. Warming up the alembic should be slow and steady to avoid caramelize the sugar, these are usually very slow distillation processes. Heads are separated to be redistilled. Hearts are used to age directly from the process. Tails are also separated to be redistilled.
Drink safe and conscientiously!