Just like wine and several other spirits, rum is aged before it’s bottled and sold. As it has been with different alcoholic beverages, barrels are the key players in the aging process for rum. This tradition began way back when, in a time where alcohol was transported across the seas in barrels. As technology advanced overtime, barrel aging is the one thing in the liquor production aspect that never changed. Not only are casks used to contain the liquor, barrels also impart flavour, aromas, and improve the overall quality of the spirit being aged. Since aging can be said to make or break the rum, let’s dive into the aging process in rum.
What kind of barrels are used to age rum?
Different types of barrels will affect the rum differently, resulting in slight variations in taste, colour, and aromas in the rum. While there is no correct barrel of choice, oak is always used to age rum. Depending on the distillery, some rums may even be aged in oak barrels that have previously aged different alcohol, such as sherry or cognac.
How long is rum aged in barrels?
The period of time in which rum is aged will also yield different results. Rum can be aged in casks for a period of anywhere between 6 months to 6 years. Any rum that is aged for more than three years can be categorized as “old rum.” Meanwhile, rum that is left in barrels for a matter of months is considered to be “rested” instead of “aged.”
What happens to rum during the aging process?
Before rum is even aged, it’s usually reduced. This is because freshly distilled rum is high in alcohol content. As the rum sits in the barrel, the alcohol content either increases or decreases overtime. This greatly depends on the conditions surrounding the barrel throughout aging. A humid cellar would cause alcohol to evaporate, thereby decreasing alcohol levels in the liquor. Meanwhile, in drier cellars, alcohol content may increase by the end of aging.
In addition to alcohol levels, the taste of the liquor also develops over time. As the drink comes in contact with oxygen and with the wood of the barrel, it begins to inherit some of the traits of the barrel itself. This is because elements of the wood becomes soluble when coming in contact with alcohol. These elements dissolve from the wood and into the rum, and this is how rum gets its flavours and nose.
Flavours that the barrel can impart into rum during aging include, among many others:
- Charred oak
Is there only one method to age rum?
When it comes to rum, there isn’t one set rule for production. This liquor is certainly not as rigid as rigid as other types of alcohol, and the methods may differ so long as it results in a great tasting rum in the end.
While the aforementioned technique of aging rum is pretty standard, there is another popular method hailing from Spain which is quite unique. It’s called the Solera system.
Solera aging system
While most distillers will choose to age their rum in a single barrel, the Solera aging system uses multiple barrels in a series called a criadera.
The Solera system dictates that there are varying barrel “levels” which are used to age different ages of rum. The youngest rum is aged in the top row barrels, and then it makes its way down until the final row, where the rum is then taken to be bottled. This way, the rum is continuously aged and continuously exposed to different barrels. By the end of it, you get a rum that is coherent in flavour with all the other bottles from the same Solera.
Where to buy?
The Red & White store’s doors are always open for you! There is a wide variety of rums for you to choose from, ranging from classy to retro. You can always ask the shop assistant for recommendations on the right rum bottles that suit your preferences!