Barrels For Aging Rum Are Those Previously Used To Age Other Spirits

rum aged in oak barrelsRobert Lignon found the clear spirit that he found on Barbados island, during his visit there in the 17th century, as a liquor that was hot and vile. Subsequent to this, a couple of years later, a sailor captaining a Dutch ship made an entry in his log, that the spirits became golden in color and were smoother to the tongue, as the voyage progressed. When George Washington was elected president in the next century, he arranged for a hogshead of the best Barbados rum, to be served at the party that was given for his inauguration.

Rum varies in color, from a spirit that can be colorless, and run through a gamut of colors from gold to brown to black; a property not seen in distilled drinks like brandy, gin, whisky or vodka. But while you perceive the change in color there are also other aspects of this spirit. Rums are transparent when they are first distilled, but changes take place in the color as the spirit ages in barrels for aging rum, aided in this by the addition of coloring or caramel, by the process of filtration and other mysterious elements that make up each bottle.

A number of rum distillers will bottle the spirits directly, but others prefer to allow the spirits to age in barrels for aging rum made of oak that were previously used in Canada and the U.S. to age bourbon or whisky. Some rum is put into barrels for aging rum, which have come from Europe and were used to age Scotch whisky, sherry or cognac. These barrels for aging rum had their staves charred on the inner surface, before their earlier use. Rum distillers will at times prefer to scrape these charred surfaces before they fill them with the rum that needs to go through the aging process in the barrels for aging rum. Some of them may prefer to subject the staves to charring again, while others will simply fill the acquired barrels for aging rum with the spirits they have distilled. Gas fires have hydro carbon residues and so any new charring is done over wooden fires, so that this contamination is avoided.

The chemical processes involved in the aging have not as yet been fully understood, but what is an accepted fact is that aging does improve the taste and mellow the rum. The time spent in the oak barrels for aging rum allow the spirit to acquire a golden tint from the tannin in the wood, which turns to a rich brown over the years. the alcohol acts as a solvent for the wood tannins and esters. The esters impart a vanilla flavor to the spirits and give it a smoky tone of oak, which will vary depending on the age of the rum.

The alcohol content of rum preferred for rums that need to be aged is maintained at between seventy and eighty percent. Some producers however prefer to make it in bottle strength of 40% to 45%, before they allow the rum to age. Lower alcohol content is limited in its capacity to leech phenols and esters from wood, while rum with a high alcohol content will taken in the associated flavors and cause heavier compounds to be attracted to the rum. Distilleries require fewer barrels when they use rum with higher alcohol content, but the angel’s share or evaporation losses in such rum is higher.

Pure water is used to blend with the alcohol content of the aged rum so this content is lowered to required levels. Obviously, such diluting also acts to dilute the color of the aged rum. This can make for rum that is not as pleasing to the eye and many bottlers then add burnt sugar or caramel to make an adjustment to the color. All barrels do not have the same effect on the tint of the aged rum, and therefore bottlers of a particular brand will be sparing in their use of caramel, so that the color remains constant. Some brands like Jamaican Myers and Bermudan Gosling are generous in their addition of caramel and this makes the rum black.