Monday, May 2, 2016

Effects of the Barrel and Other Things on the Rum

     What is the effect of the charred oak barrels in the rum?   The Oak Wood softens the texture of the rum and stabilizes it.   In addition it, makes the tannins which are polimericen that give a nicer feel and flavor in the mouth. Another effect is that it adds aromas like vanilla, coconut, chocolate, toasted, smoke, tobacco, caramel, and coffee from the roasting of the wood.  The majority of all rums are aged in some kind of oak barrel, some in American Oak and some in French Oak.  Many of them previously used for make wine, bourbon, scotch or even beer before being used to rest rum.

     All of these different barrel sources will introduce the rum to different reactions with the barrels and produce different results.  When you add together a blending of the rums from different barrels you will get a more complex expression that often becomes extremely desirable. 

     The particular type of Oak Barrel used is extremely important, and most major brand-name spirits have very rigorous requirements.   Bourbon whiskey regulations require the use of new oak barrels with inner surfaces that have been charred.   This charring is accomplished by igniting the inside of the oak barrels until a layer of char develops.   Most other whiskeys and non-whiskey spirits are not required to be used in new,   unused oak barrels; nor do the oak barrels have to be pre-charred.   The charring process does enhance and soften the final taste of the spirit, while imparting it with both color and body.

     Spirit manufacturers determine the specific type of spirit to make, and a close relationship between aging and distilling strategies does exist.  For instance rum that is distilled in a pot still to somewhere between 60 and 65% will retain a natural sweetness from the fermented materials, where rums that are distilled to 80 to 90% in a column still will have a much lighter body and a lot drier.  Then the barrel type and the length of time spent in the barrel will determine the color, smoothness, body, aroma and flavor of the finished expression.

     Like so many other processes, this requires the knowledge and experience of the distillers, blenders, and the barrel management people.  It takes a great team of people with knowledge of all of the processes to produce a fine rum expression.  Different people have different ideas of what the rum should taste like, but it still takes a lot of skill to produce your style of rum.