Toward an Authentic Rum Profile

Rum, Rhum, Ron. Talk about your favorite sugarcane spirits in this rum forum.

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Capn Jimbo
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:40 pm

With the goal of encouraging posting - and to explore an authentic profile - I'd ask the following: With regard to rums that you consider pure and authentic (no hidden flavorings, sugars, sherry, or additives) what are the aromas, flavors, finish and aftertaste that you associate with:

1. young rums
2. oak aged rums

Feel free to add details like style, distillation process (continuous or pot), years of aging, etc. As you know, one of the growing issues with rogue rum is the "tweaking" of rum with unlabeled additives to achieve marketing profiles. What this has led to is a cheapening of the whole category, not to mention great confusion. With such alteration it is really impossible to identify reference standards or profiles, even to build a good tasting wheel.

Perhaps this discussion will raise awareness and lead to better understanding and appreciation of pure rums. To be fair, if you take issue with the notions expressed here, please don't hesitate to start your own thread. Let's keep this one clean and focused.

Thanks...
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Count Silvio
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Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:07 am

Interesting thread Jimbo.

I'd also like to encourage people to focus on the topic here.

To start off, the first rum that comes to my mind is the fantastic St. Nicholas Abbey 10 year old Rum from Barbados (now 12 year old) that has been produced by the foursquare rum distillery. I have also tasted their first white rums in development made entirely of sugar cane juice at the Abbey, which I will also include in this category.

A full range or rums that I consider unadultered, which are slowly gaining global recognition, are John Barret's Bristol Classic rums, produced in limited quantities and sometimes as single barrel bottlings covering several different styles. More information here: http://www.classicrum.com/
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Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:14 pm

Count, thanks for the contribution. Naming the pure and unaltered rums is a great idea, as then we know the source of the characteristics noted.

I've long been after Seales' cane juice rum without success; it's simply not available in south Florida. I've known Richard Seale for a few years and can say he was the inspiration for my interest in pure rums, which led to the establishment of The Rum Project. A true and honest artist. I will not soon forget his demonstration where he poured a "secret new rum" for the room and asked us to guess whether it was "pot or continuous", "cane juice or molasses based" , and "it's age". Most guessed a 7 year pot stilled molasses rum (including me).

He then revealed the "secret". He told us it was a brand new, continuous stilled molasses rum that he'd altered to taste old, complex and aged! He'd fooled a whole room full of tasters, some of whom were pretty experienced. Sue Sea and I never forgot this dramatic experience. He went on to say that unlabeled alteration, and dishonest age statements were the norm, and were the result of both cheating, sometimes vague regulations and/or lack of real enforcement. Richard took great pride in promoting the facts that he respects and distills pure rum, and that every single drop of rum in the bottle is at least the age stated. Although he produces rum for others too, he insists that he also bottle it to prevent alteration.

But as always, I digress.

In addition to the names of rums that qualify as pure and authentic, what I'm really after is more general and refers to the appearance, aromas, tastes and finish you associate with young vs aged pure and unaltered rums. A discussion of their continuous vs pot stilled qualities is also good.

Let me start with a few observations:

Younger and particularly continuous pure rums tend to feature floral and fruity tones. The effect of aging has much to do with the wood, and particularly its newness. American oak is tighter grained and works slower, while French oak (think Barbancourt) leads to more intense effects. Most oak is first use American bourbon barrels, usually with a lighter char. Aging commonly releases natural vanillan (in the wood), and can pick up some caramel sweetness (resulting from the toasting). A very few distillers, led by Seales, are finishing or aging with used sherry barrels (Doorly's XO, and especially Dos Maderos). The DM is much more than a brief finish, with the rum spending 3 to 5 years in the sherry barrel. Well aged pure rums often display a thin "green edge".

I have many more specifics we've noted in our many tastings, reviews and research but I'd like to see what observations others may offer. I'll toss in few rums I consider relatively pure and authentic: almost anything by Seale (Seales 10, Doorlys, et al), MGXO, and Pussers. More later... and thanks in advance to all who contribute.
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JaRiMi
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Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:18 pm

I can concur that John Barrett's Bristol Classic Rums are very good examples of pure rums, with no funny methods used. Tasting such rums, many single cask releases, is an eye-opener in many ways - for example, these rums are very dry in taste, when compared to almost any "mass-market" rums sweetened generously with added sugar. They also showcase aging quite well, and make an interesting comparison to tropic-matured rums claiming to be all 30 years old etc. 8)

Cadenhead's is another brand that has bottled pure rums, as is Gordon & McPhail. In general, there is a lightyear of difference between the taste of mass-market products, and these independently bottled rums, which often appeal more to Single Malt Whisky drinkers, for the very fact that they haven't been "tampered" with, but also because the taste is often closer in style to whisky because of the lack of tampering.

Richard Seale is doing pioneering work also in Bim (Barbados, that is), and for example the single cask from him bottled for Milroy's of Soho whisky shop in London was amazing & pure. Savana distillerie, and Riviere du Matt from Reunion also produce fine, natural rums for example. I think Rhum Martinique's are generally so regulated, that they are pretty pure.

Finally, Silvano Samaroli and Luca Gargano from Italy have absolutely fantastic old Demeraras and Caroni rums for example, all which are bottled at full strength, and without any funny business.

As a footnote, I think most rum lovers, especially those in USA, would be shocked tasting a rum that has not received any "fixes". The dryness would hit as number one issue, and then - well, the richness of natural flavours, not hidden underneath excessive filtering, added fruit, oak extracts and sugars etc. If sweet sugar (or aspartame!) is what you like, you will not like Rum - as it is from the cask, I suspect. And I do believe rum straight from the cask is similar in this sweetness aspect, no matter what the distillery.

Anyways, there's a market for every style, I just wish that companies selling mass-market rums would be more honest in the rum business as to what & how much they add to their products.

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Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:43 pm

J...

I know you have a real handle and appreciation for purity in rum. Thanks for your observations and recommendations; we concur heartily with anything that Richard Seales produces. But I'm afraid we're leaving the intent of this thread, which is to discuss a "pure rum profile".

In other words, what are the aromas and flavors you associate with pure and unaltered rums? It would be good to also discuss what aromas and flavors are evident in (a) fresh make, (b) young (say 4 years) and aged (say 7 - 10 years). Thus we can all better understand the true rum aromas and flavors and how they typically develop. It may also be necessary to divide our observations by style (Jamaican, Bajan, Cuban, Cane Juice and Demeraran styles - not geography) as the aromas and flavors may differ by style, especially those of cane juice rums.

All this toward developing typical aroma/flavor profiles for both molasses and cane juice based rums, with the ultimate goal of perhaps contributing to a rum flavor wheel. Perhaps we should start with molasses, as these are more familiar..

Thanks...
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Capn Jimbo
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lwtcs
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Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:50 am

Most excellant topic.
I have been mulling over a responce since you posted Sir.
My experience with the wide range of commercially available rums is quite smallish. and therefore do feel some what handicaped.

I would much rather work from the ground up, rather than the top down.

Therefore, I would prefer a base material of cane juice.

3 to 4 generations of dunder or aged dunder installed at a 25% total volume (plus or minus).
Potstilled twice through with the spirit run diluted with a sufficient amount of beer to render an aggragate ABV of say,,, 60 to 65%.... Or a set of paracidic boilers (thumpers) charged with dunder to ensure sufficient flavor adjuncts will carry over to the discharge end at the collection station. Strict stilling should be requisite, as a strictly stilled product renders a lovely form of self medication with no bed spinning and fresh as a daisey mornings.
Lack of heads and tails back blending for flavor gets mitigated by the use of dunder within the fermenting cycle and the paracidic boiler charges.

Aged for say 4 years within completely spent Chared white oak barrels.
Any sweet notes should only be detectable through the nose and a bit of resonance through the pallet. Sweetness on the touge as such should be none exsistant.

Any thing out there like this??
Spitting in the dunder pit when all eyes are elsewhere.

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Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:02 pm

Like many threads, it's all too easy to get off track. What I'd hoped for was a discussion of the most common aromas and tastes found in rum. So let me be the first to answer my own question: the following is the short list of the aromas and flavors we find most typical of real and unaltered molasses-based rums:

Floral: orange blossom, tea
Fruity: orange/orange marmalade, lemon/grapefruit, bing/black cherry; apricot, raisin, prune, figs, dates; banana incl. overripe
Herbaceous: tea
Nutty: almond, baked nutty (eg nutbread), sweet pecan,
Caramel: vanillan, caramel, caramel cream, toffee, chocolate, cacao, butterscotch, maple, molasses
Woody: atringency/tannins, oak, cigar box, burnt toast, tobacco
Phenolic: tarry, medicinal
Feinty: leather, tobacco, furniture polish
Earthy: musty, cork, dunder
Sherry: sherry, reddish color
Bourbon: bourbon
Spicy: clove, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, white pepper, jalapeno, nutmeg, licorice, anise
General: baked, roasted, fresh-out-of-the-oven, burnt, smoked, dry/dried

Unaltered Cane juice rums
: add caney, reedy, fields, hay/straw, rice paddy/woven basket, cut grass, asparagus, sauerkraut, anise/licorice


*******

These few have proven to be the most common, most likely and most important sensations we have experienced over the past few years in tasting over 130 rums, and in doing multiple comparisons. If you post, I'd appreciate if you'd likewise stick to only the most common aromas and tastes you have found...

Thanks again.
Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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JaRiMi
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Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:09 pm

I understand and respect the goal set here - but I think as people around the world associate same tastes with different things (due to different taste experiences, cuisine, etc), it may be a task more difficult than meets the eye.

Sad thing is, the vast majority of people discussing rums have absolutely no idea what they taste like straight. Only if one has tasted rum straight from the cask at a "honest" distillery, or bought unadulterated rum from small-time bottlers who do not play the "sweeten-spiceup-better" game, does one have an idea of what rum really tastes like without the additives, which are getting extremely common (more and more so, it would seem).

Still, there is a vast array of flavours pure rum has, and these also vary greatly based on raw material (cane juice or molasses), fermentation length (high ester - low ester), how the rum is distilled (continuous still, pot still) and aging (what type of casks, for how long).

Division of rum styles into the five styles that Dave Broom has come up with do not do justice to rum, I feel. For example, pure Trinidadian rum is very different from hispanic, with which he lumps it with. But it is perhaps a good way to make people at least start realizing that not all rum is the same.

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Capn Jimbo
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Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:42 am

J, I have every respect for your experience and knowledge and we do agree much more than not. And we do agree here as well - to a point. Keep in mind that tasting wheels are common for wine, whisky, chocolate, coffee, cheese and more, so it is clear that there are common aromas and tastes for all these.

Yet there is no tasting wheel for rum and the reason is obvious - unlabeled additives. Still, both of us are well aware of pure rums, promote and appreciate them and know what to expect - if we can't post at least the most common aromas and flavors of pure rums then something is very wrong.

At my website we've worked long and hard to distinguish the altered from the real, and to be part of the solution. For rum to become truly "noble", in the sense of a truly pure spirit, a couple things need to happen.

First, that rum drinkers need to be made keenly aware of the practice of added but unlabeled flavorings, sweeteners, smoothers and the like. And second, to be made aware of just what aromas and flavors are most typical of pure and unaltered rums. It will not take as much effort as you may think. For example it was not but a couple years ago that Zacapa 23 was widely considered "the best rum in the world", winner of so many "competitions" that they withdrew, etc.

I remember still the early reactions we got when I started posting less than glowing reviews of it . These ranged from disbelief to outright rejection. Still, it was not long before others who shared our views then gained some courage and started popping up and spouting off likewise. It's fair to say the truth then emerged, and it is now common to see it recognized for the altered rum that it is. Refreshing. The world of rum is a small one and new truths can emerge in viral fashion.

Recently an outsider posted his view at the Ministry that Pyrat XO is very abusive with additives (especially orange and sweet) and bemoaned the fact that it was still labeled "rum". After being ignored for awhile, a couple more posters chimed in, in favor of "true rum" free of "additives". At this point the webmaster posted his view that "rum" could contain up to 2.5% of unlabeled flavorings (a huge amount), and admitted that he too believed Pyrat contained such. This was quite an admission, and it remains to be seen whether this will seed further commentary on the many other rums that are so altered. I do hope so.

But back to the thread...

Won't you please do your best and please - as I have done - list the most typical and common aromas and flavors you have experienced in pure and unaltered rums? Thanks in advance and let's begin to define what real rum really smells and tastes like.

It's a beginning...
Regards,
Capn Jimbo
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