Friday, March 7, 2014

Bringing the Cane to the Plant

     Sugar Cane is the basis of all rum.   Bringing the sugar cane to the processing plant is quite another matter.   In different countries it is done differently, but it does require a cutting and a stripping of the outer foliage from the stalks.   In Panama it is done by hand with a machete and in other places you will find it being
done  machine.   The interesting part of this story is that we are deep into an age where machinery does our work for us, yet in many places the work is still being done by hand.  The cane here in Panama is cut by hand, loaded onto oxen pulled carts by hand, and fed into the crusher by hand.   This is reminiscent of how it was done when rum was in its infancy.

     Bringing the cane in from the fields, Panamanian workers use oxen pulled carts to carry the cane to the crusher.  These very old wood and steel wheeled carts can carry a large load of cut cane to the crusher.  Once at the crusher, it is hand unloaded and placed in the hopper and mechanically fed into the rollers of the crusher where the cane juice is extracted and collected.

Nothing like Rum from the Barrel

     It is a real pleasure to see this being done in the traditional way, with no fires burning the cane and polluting the country side.   This is a choice that was made in conjunction with the neighbors that live and work the fields around the estate.  It provides jobs to the community that would otherwise be lost to the locals.   People that I met while visiting the cane fields are very happy with the situation and appreciate the jobs and the opportunity to earn a living.

     This is the end of the road for the cane once it reaches the crusher.  From here it follows the path to becoming rum.   In some places the cane syrup is processed into sugar and the remaining molasses is then fermented into a wash from which the rum is distilled, other places the cane juice is taken straight to the fermenting tanks to become the wash.  

     Now it is time to leave the estate and move on to another rum adventure, but seeing the process through to rum is always a memorable one.  The basics are always the same, but the little things that make these rums so wonderful and different are what I really enjoy about traveling through the world of rum.  ;o)