Monday, October 3, 2016

What Aging is Required for a Spirit to be Called Rum?

20th Anniversary
18 Year Old
     A Spirit can be called rum if it is derived from a derivative of the sugarcane, but in most of the world there are no aging requirements.  Where there are age statements on rum bottles, what is i t really telling us?   This is the real question in the rum category.  If the rum is one that comes from a single crop of sugar cane, fermented, distilled then placed in a barrel and aged for a number of years before being bottled then the number of years in the barrel would be a true age statement on the bottle.  The problem comes when rums of different ages are blended to create a rum, which age was placed on the bottle.

Cask 21
Solera 23
     For whiskey, in the U.S., an age statement is required if the whiskey is less than four years old. After four years age statements are voluntary. In Europe, an age statement is never required but a grain distillate must be aged at least three years to be called 'whiskey.'   The U.S. has no minimum age requirement.   It has the age statement requirement instead.   Although age statements are voluntary, they must be true. For the statement to be true, it must give the age of the youngest whiskey in the mix.   Only if a product is single barrel or bottled-in-bond will it all be the same age.   In practice, an age-stated product will mostly contain whiskey at or just over the stated age, with a little bit of older whiskey, but you never know unless the distiller tells you. 

     Rum in much of Central and South America must spend 2 years in the barrel to be called rum.  This is the exception rather than the rule.  The other rum is age statements can be anything from the oldest to the youngest rum in a blend.   The use of the numbers on the bottles are confusing, because they could be a number referring the the year the rum was first made or an anniversary of when they introduced it, and nothing to do with the age of the product.  Agricoles have rules that control their entire process including the aging process.  There some that use a number to refer to the number of rums used to make up the blend.    

    I think you can see the issue, there is no consistency of the spirit.  I like how whiskey works the issue or no age statements at all.  I feel that misinformation or questionable use of numbers to confuse the customer are bad for the category and need to be ended.  It is time for the category to put some standards down so we the consumer have a clue as to what we are buying.