Rumming 123 – Aged rum is much more than it’s age statement or lack of…
Aged rums are normally known as the finer rums, and the older the better, or at least you might think that! The age statement on a bottle is not a decider when it comes to comparing one rum from one brand, against another from a different brand.
For example, a 5 year old rum from producer A might have more character, flavour and/or smoothness than an 8 year old rum from producer B. This is because there are a lot of other things to take into consideration, such as the type of sugar cane (Trois Riviere Cuvée de L’Océan is a good example of this, their sugar cane grows close to the sea), fermentation and distillation methods, where the aging has taken place (A very simplistic example, a rum aged for 10 years in Scotland might be equivalent to one aged for 5 years in Mauritius). Other things such as the skill of the Master blender/distiller, the type of barrel or barrels used, whether anything is added (sugar, glycerin, flavouring, etc…), and is it charcoal filtered, all plays part in the quality of the rum, and it’s value proposition.
Rum with an age statement of “aged up to x”, does not mean that the rum is “x” years old. If the regulations are adered to, this should mean that the rum is a blend, where the youngest rum (rather than the oldest or average age) in the bottle has been aged for “x” years. This is consistent with other spirits such as whisky.
Aged-statement done right, by some of the most respectable brands (From left to right: R.L Seale’s 10-year-old, El Dorado 15-year-old, Appleton Estate 12-year-old, Clement Rhum Vieux 15 Years , Plantation Single Cask Panama 8 Year Old & Doorly’s 5-year-old)
Even though there are regulations , there are occasions (sadly this is very common) where they are not followed, as rum is not tightly regulated. This adversely affects the reputation of rum, as BAD rum (you could hardly call some of them rum) are continously entering the consumer market, making it harder for the rum community help promote this amazing spirit, and making it very hard for genuine rum producers to market their products.
Unfortunately, producers are not obliged to be transparent regarding what is in their bottle. Some brands might use the age statement to refer to the oldest rum, such as ‘aged up to 15 years’, where the bottle might contain a very small percentage of that 15-year-old rum. These types of rum are sometimes label using the word ‘Solera’, which allow them to still use an age statement.
One interesinting fact is, even though not called ageing or maturation, rum once bottled will have chemical reactions, unless chemically stable, and this means that the spirit will change over time. This “bottle ageing” varies depending on how long the rum has been fermented for, and the distillation process used. The longer the two take, the deeper and more complex the rum tends to be. This is usually a very slow process.
There is a lot of marketing (good and bad) involved when it comes to labelling rum. This is understandable, as it is becoming a more and more competitive market, where premium and super premium seems to be the new thing.
Brands like Appleton has started to rebrand their rum, with their new ‘Appleton Estate Signature Blend’ and ‘Appleton Estate Reserve Blend’, having no age statement. This is a move which allow them to promote their blends, which provides rich and complex flavours and at the same time gives consumers an easy way to navigate their range.
Until next time, keep rumming!