by Jason Stone on February 09, 2014
As you might have seen on our Facebook page, this past weekend we packed up our shiny copper pot stills and took them to Vegas. They sat pretty on display at the Golden Nuggets Whiskey Fest, while we kept busy doing distilling demonstrations for those interested in the process and our copper stills. I even had the opportunity to try out some homemade rum made in one of our very own copper pot stills by a customer, which was absolutely delicious. So I thought that’s something I haven’t made in a very long time and should definitely go back to distilling: rum.
Rum is usually made from sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses or directly from sugarcane juice or brown sugar. The distillate is then aged in oak barrels for color and flavor. The liquor originates from the Caribbean and Latin America, where the majority of rum is still being produced today as the area is rich in sugarcane and sugar beets. Molasses is the dark, sweet, syrup-like byproduct obtained through the extraction of sugar from sugarcane and sugar beets. Molasses varies by amount of sugar and method of extraction, and age of plant.
I’ll only go through the process, steps and ingredients but you can decide on quantities depending on personal preferences. So, what you need for your own homemade rum are the following: molasses, brown sugar, yeast, water, your trusted copper still and a barrel of your choosing for the ageing process. To start off, dissolve your sugar and molasses into boiling water. Cool off the mix by adding colder water until it reaches approx. 80F, and then add yeast to your base ingredients to kick off fermentation. Distillers prefer faster-working yeast for lighter rums and a slower-working one for dark rum, as the latter causes more esters to accumulate during fermentation which results in a fuller taste. Install airlock and let it ferment. Fermentation is complete once bubbles stop passing through the airlock. After that, wait for 3-7 days until the mix is ready for distilling.
Distillation in a pot still is preferred because this gives the rum a richer flavor. Rum is usually distilled somewhere between 85-96% ABV. Fill the boiler up and follow the standard distilling procedure. After you’ve obtained your distillate, you can move on to the ageing process. Ageing is not necessary but does mellow the rum and give it its color and more flavor.
Many countries require for rum to be aged for a minimum of one year but the process can also take up to 12 years… though you’re probably not going to be waiting this long to enjoy your homemade product. Ageing is usually done in bourbon casks but other types of wooden barrels can also be used; stainless steel tanks are also an option. As with whiskey, the liquor takes its color and flavor from the wood: new casks contribute to a lighter flavor, while heavily charred ones to richer flavors. When aged in oak casks, the rum becomes darker, while the one aged in stainless steel usually remains colorless. Due to the warm climate rum is usually produced in, it matures at a much higher rate than whiskey or cognac, the angel’s share going up to 10% each year, compared to products aged at lower temperatures, which only reach 2% per year. After ageing, rum is usually blended. Light rums might undergo filtering to remove any color gained though ageing, while caramel might be added to darker rums for color adjustment. You can easily caramelize your own sugar and add it to the distillate.
After your copper still has done its job, you can also make your own spiced rum, by ageing the distillate together with your choice of spices, such as vanilla, peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise etc.
Rum is a delicious, cheap and easy to make drink which is preferably made in copper pot stills. You can adjust the recipe to your own preferences – you can only use molasses, for example, or decide between different types of yeast; as well as choose what type of cask to age it in, if you choose to age the rum at all.