Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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Rum

The renowned distilled beverage that evokes sunny and relaxing exotic beaches, is the result of the mastery and passion of its producers

 Rum is a distilled beverage, having a brownish-yellow color, more or less intense, which is obtained by the fermentation and subsequent distillation of sugar cane or molasses (a byproduct of sugar production) which is sometimes added to aromatic herbs or substances.

 In the years of 1920 and 1930, the years of prohibitionism in America, Havana became the mundane center of celebrities, it was frequently visited by writers, politicians and actors. One of the most illustrious visitors was Ernest Hemingway, who is usually connected to the world of Rum and spent many years at Havana, and he loved spending afternoons drinking cocktails made of rum in some bars that, according to him, were the best ones which were capable to offer the best “blended beverages”.

 The name Rum seems to derive from the abbreviation of “saccharum” (sugar), a name that was first used by distillers, usually monks, and was subsequently shortened, as a matter of use, by buccaneers or it may also be a word originated by the buccaneers' parlance, “rumbullion”, the tumultuous celebrations for their victories. It is also sometimes found as “Ron Rhum”. However the origin of this name is uncertain although many agree that its origin is Caribbean.

 

Historical Facts

 Sugar cane, which is originated in Asia, cultivated in China since four thousands years, was introduced to the Middle East by Alexander the Great, however was Christoforo Columbus who introduced it to the new world. In Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti and in Jamaica they started cultivating sugar cane and it was in these places settlers noticed the fermentation of the syrup, the residual of the production of sugar, could give a raw and sweet liquid. The subsequent process of distillation gave birth to the renowned alcoholic liquid which suddenly became popular: Rum was born.

 The first attempts to the distillation of sugar cane are probably dated back to the sixteenth century in Puerto Rico, even though there are legends which says Flemish people were the first ones to do that in Martinica island. However the largest Rum producers of the world are mainly located in the Caribbean area.

 The main Rum producers are: Antilles, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Martinica, Mexico, Santo Domingo, Venezuela and Brazil (although here it is called cachaca and has a very different taste). Originally Rum was a secondary product of sugar cane processing, and was obtained by distillating molasses, that is the residual liquid of sugar cane production.

 Rum was the preferred beverage of buccaneers and pirates, called “kill devil” by English sailors, who could have half a pint of it every day, and was considered as a good remedy for pneumonia as well as an excellent anesthetic.

 Rum was also called “Nelson's blood” because, when he died in battle, his corpse was preserved in rum in order to take it to his home land intact.

 

Production

 Rum is exclusively produced by the fermentation and subsequent distillation of sugar cane juice, molasses and byproduct syrups from sugar processing.


 

 The process for the distillation of traditional Rum begins with the dilution of molasses, obtained as a byproduct of the production of sugar, and by adding fermenting yeasts. Twenty four hours later, for some producers are forty eight hours and even 5 days for others, it is produced a liquid having 5% or 6% of alcohol by volume. This liquid is heated and boiled in a steam distiller: alcohol, by evaporating, rises, whereas the residuals are left to the bottom in order to be gathered and eliminated.

 The rum distiller is made of 21 layered plates, as the liquid boils, alcohol evaporates and rises to the upper plates whereas the residual liquid is gathered in the lower plates and will be eliminated.

 At the end of this phase, the evaporated parts begin to cool down and their condensation takes place in a specific and narrower part of the distiller. Other parts of the distiller concentrate and separate the many aromatic components of alcohol: the least refined oils are gathered in lower plates, other refined oils are gathered in the middle plates, whereas “heads”, light components having an aroma of green apple, rise to the upper plates.

 During these phases, the experience and the mastery of distiller who needs to blend, remove or include these components, is essential in order to obtain the best product. Artists, who treasured the art of rum making, a knowledge which is the result of many hours spent in the heat of the many types of distillers, who are capable of feeling, understanding and dominating the raw materials.

 A difference between industrial rum and agricultural rum is the method of distillation. The former is distilled in a continuous distillation whereas the latter is distilled in batch distillation.

 

Types of Rum

 Rum is divided in two categories: industrial rum and agricultural rum. Industrial rum is produced by the distillation of molasses, whereas agricultural rum is exclusively produced by pure sugar cane juice and it is called “vesou”.

 When rum is distilled, just like any other distilled product, is colorless and it will be colored by the process of aging in cask or by adding caramel. As the rum is distilled it usually has a very high content of alcohol and it will be added to distilled water in order to lower the alcohol by volume to 40%.

 The most popular rums are the ones obtained by syrups and molasses produced during the processing of the sugar cane, that is industrial rum. This kind of rum is considered as having a lower quality, whereas the ones obtained by the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane, that is agricultural rum, are certainly difficult to find although are considered to be of high quality, often compared to the best brandies of Europe. The fermentation of sugar cane juice allow the production of a distilled liquid having very complex organoleptic qualities, with aromas of fruit and flowers, and the subsequent aging in cask will also add balsamic aromas of wood. Agricultural rum, as opposed to industrial rum, is suited for aging thanks to its particular structure and aromatic complexity, as a matter of fact the “Appellation of Origin” is only reserved to agricultural rums.

 In general terms, white rum or light rum are usually aged for one year before being released to the market, are distilled in continuous distillation, are delicate with hints and dry aroma of molasses. Because of their characteristics they are usually used for the preparation of cocktails and long drinks. Aged rums have more complex organoleptic qualities and are best enjoyed when drunk plain as well as when blended.

 For the aging of rum are not usually used new casks, used casks are preferred, particularly the ones used for the aging of bourbon and American whiskey, just because the tannins of the used wood are considered to be more elegant, light and delicate and are best suited for the structure of rum, without covering or prevailing over the personality and delicacy of agricultural rum. Aging rum in cask will originate aromas of ripe fruit, caramel, vanilla, tobacco and the typical balsamic aromas of American oak.

 There is no disciplinary regulating the aging of rum. According to the aging time, there are commercial rums aged from one to three years, followed by rums aged for five to seven years and labeled as “dorado” or “anejo”.

 The warm climate of Caribbean islands influence the aging of rum, acting as a catalyst and accelerating this process by two of three times. An aging of ten years for rum can be compared to an aging of more than twenty years for a Scotch whisky, which is produced and aged in cooler climates.

 Dark rums, which are sometimes added to caramel in order to intensifying color and increasing density, are very aromatic and are not particularly suited for cocktails and should be used as a secondary ingredient only.

 Cuban rum, categorized as “Carta Blanca” and “Carta de Oro”, is usually heavily refined, is a high quality product, light, pale color and dry, is mainly used in cocktails and is different from the one produced in Jamaica, which is suited for a long aging (at least five years) it is dark, full bodied and pungent, excellent when drunk plain. Rum produced in Martinica, as well as some produced in Jamaica, Haiti and Gujana, are usually full bodied, dark and robust, can be aged up to twelve years and even more. A meditation beverage and, thanks to its organoleptic characteristics, can be compared to the best brandies. Rum produced in Venezuela is very strong and is usually “diluted” with water before aging.

 From agricultural rum can be obtained the so called “white grappa”, a full bodied colorless distilled liquid that can be aged for more than three years in oak casks. From industrial rum can be obtained “young rum”, colored with caramel and sugar, is a light distilled liquid, pale and neutral, “old rum”, aged in cask for more than three years, “rum gran aroma”, used for blending, and “rum doppio aroma”, used for cooking and pastry.

 Among commercial rums there are spiced rums which are added to spices or herbs such as cinnamon or anise.

 It should be worth knowing that in Western Indies and in the archipelago of Java are produced many kinds of distilled beverages obtained with the very same methods used for the production of rum but using different raw materials, such as coconut, rice and other ingredients.

 

Tasting

 Rum is preferably tasted at temperatures from 12° to 14° C (53° - 57° F), and preferably served in a “balloon” crystal glass, or alternatively in sherry “copitas”, whereas the official glass to be used for the tasting of rum is the so called “ISO tasting glass”. Sometimes plain water is added in order to promote the development of “hidden” aromas. Rum is usually drunk plain, in cocktails and in long drinks.

 It is a pity to see few appreciate the elegance of a glass of rum, drunk in tiny sips; it seems this distilled beverage is mainly appreciated added to fruit juices, syrups and in blended beverages, preferably having a sort of “exotic” taste, as well as in fruit salads and it is a frequent ingredient of many cocktails.

 



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  Not Just Wine Issue 5, February 2003   
RumRum Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 4, January 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 6, March 2003

Wine Parade


 

The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.


Rank Wine, Producer
1 Masseto 1998, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia
2 Semillon Sauvignon 2001, Cape Mentelle
3 Chardonnay 2000, Planeta
4 Muffato della Sala 1999, Castello della Sala
5 Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2000
6 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2000
7 Rioja Reserva “Pagos Viejos” 1997, Bodega Artadi - Cosecheros Alavares
8 Capo di Stato 1998, Conte Loredan Gasparin
9 Teroldego Rotaliano Granato 1998, Foradori
10 Château Laroque Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classè 1998
11 Gevrey Chambertin DB Boillot 1998
12 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1995, Fattoria dei Barbi
13 Zinfandel Barrel Select Mendocino County 1999 - Fetzer Vineyards
14 Trentino Müller Thurgau “Pendici del Baldo” 2001 - Mori Colli Zugna
15 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Maipo Valley 1999, Carmen

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Classified


 


In this column we will publish your classifieds. Send your classified, with a length up to 255 characters, to our staff




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