One of the most important parts of the make-up of rum is its blending. A bottle of rum can be the result of several different rums skilfully blended together by a master blender. This process can take years of training and techniques are passed down from generation to generation to keep with tradition, heritage and to reinforce the brand identity of particular rum companies. The rum master blender is seen as an artist when creating a final rum but has many challenges during the process. None more so than tropical ageing. As most rums are aged in tropical climates, the evaporation of alcohol from barrels in a warehouse can be more extreme in warmer countries than alcohol from barrels in cooler countries like whisky in Scotland, for example. The “Angel Share” or loss of whisky due to evaporation in Scotland is about 2% per year. In the Caribbean, for example, the loss can be anywhere from 6% to 10% per year. This is the reason why you don’t see as many heavily aged rums from the Caribbean because the loss of alcohol per year is incredibly high. However, some rums will move their ageing facilities to cooler parts of their country to slow down the evaporation rate of their rums, thus saving money.
A recent trend in the world of rum has been rum companies experimenting with a variation of wooden casks to achieve a different type of finish to their rums. Limousin oak or ex cognac barrels are regularly used to give a dryer finish to a rum, while dry sherry casks are used subtly to impart a medium “sherry like” texture and feel to the finish of the rum. For even more sweetness Spanish white wine casks have been used to finish off a rum after years in American oak. Other notable casks that are being used for rum finishing are port barrels, zinfandel and other Californian wine casks.
Another trend in the world of rum is sipping this spirit on its own. While travelling around the world hosting rum seminars, masterclasses and tutored tastings, I often come across bartenders and consumers whose perception of rum is that “it’s just that spirit that you mix with ….” Now, I agree that a rum and coke, can be very enjoyable, but for many people this is their only encounter with rum and it is not on their mind when choosing a spirit for sipping or an after dinner digestif. But as soon as they taste a beautifully balanced and well-aged rum they cry, “Wow! That’s not rum. It tastes like a brandy or a whisky.”
Rum cocktails will always be a popular way to introduce consumers to the category. It is trendy to use rum in exciting ways to display its approachable character, such as rum cocktail & food pairing, Tiki drinks showcasing the blending of rum flavours and a twist on the classics that traditionally call for whiskey or brandy.
All of these styles, practices and interpretations of rum make this spirit category fascinating, with traditional methods of rum production embracing new and modern techniques. With new rum brands being launched every month and more consumers discovering the wonderful world of sugar cane distillates, it’s no wonder that the rum category is seen as one of the fastest growing around. With an array of flavours, bartenders around the world can use rum as the perfect canvas for their cocktail art.
Ian A.V. Burrell
Global Rum Ambassador to the Rum Category
If you’re looking to celebrate National Rum Day, claim your complimentary spicy Cuba Libre below.