Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Richard Seale Speaks Out on Caramel and Backdoor Sweetening

Richard Seale

     In the desperate and pathetic attempt to find a “tradition” of sweetening in Jamaica (and presumably Barbados) Rum it is now being claimed (by the usual suspects) that caramel color was hitherto incompetently made and so contained large amounts of residual sugar which sweetened the rum.  {A little background - Genuine caramel color is made from heating sugars and does contain some residual sugar but as it has a bitter taste and a potent dark color, it is used to color spirits not to sweeten them.}

     Caramel Color has long operated in a legal framework which specifies its use only as a means to adapt color. Today, EU spirits specifications e.g. Scotch, Rum will indicate that caramel can be legally added as means of “adapting” or “adjusting” color. That is to say, if caramel affects flavor, it becomes an illegal flavoring. The draft EU rules now offer further clarity and specify that caramel color "does not correspond to the sugary aromatic product obtained from heating sugars and which is used for flavoring purposes”.
The European Technical Caramel Association (EUTECA) created a decision-tree, to distinguish the food additive color “plain caramel” and aromatic foodstuffs (Burnt sugars) by a simple yes/no decision cascade - see attached. If it affects flavor, it is not caramel color.

     Jamaica has long operated in the same legal framework for what is caramel color. - the 1942 Jamaica Excise Act does not simply say caramel can be added, it says it can be added as ‘coloring matter’. The Act specifies the purpose to its addition. Even the Caricom Rum Standard describes Caramel color as “a wholesome coloring matter widely used in the liquor and beverage industry”.  Famed Jamaican Rum Blender J Wray & Nephew used to source their caramel color from the London firm of White Stephenson - I think they got the genuine article.  But lets humor this nonsense for a moment.

     Caramel color has long been used in rum and its historical use included adjusting the color of bulk un-aged rum to the specification of the English buyer. We can see from the historical records - see attached - that a large amount of caramel was used to meet the color specification (Lovibond #19) causing an obscuration of up 1 1/2 degrees of UK proof. According to the attached record - a change from 140 UK Proof ( = 80% abv) to 138.5 Proof ( = 79.14%) - an obscuration of 0.86%. That will correspond to about 5 g/l of added solids.  Now our caramel color analysis shows that about 20% of the solids in caramel color are residual sugar. Now lets humor this nonsense, by assuming our caramel maker is so incompetent that 50% of the solids are sugar. Now this is going to cause a big problem because our poorly made caramel will not give us the right color intensity. And if we have to add more, we are going get rejected by the buyer for excess obscuration - see the attached of possible faults. Contrary to the claims, we can see from the attached that obscuration faults are avoided and “care” is taken in "preparing the color". Our rum producers take the very care they stand accused of omitting.

     But we will continue to humor this nonsense.  So now our inept caramel color has added 2.5g/l of sugar to our 80% abv rum (instead of the usual 1 g/l). And by some miracle our pale rum has passed the buyer.
Next step is dilution to 40% abv. That brings us to a whopping 1.3 g/l of sugar in our rum (instead of the usual 0.5g/l).  And from that “tradition” is coming the argument to allow sweetening of Jamaica Rum up to 20 g/l.  Lets not humor this nonsense a moment further.