Sun, Socialising and the Spirit of Summer
The return of daylight savings means summer is well on its way. Along with these longer, balmy evenings come parties, alfresco dining and plenty of socialising. Undeniably synonymous with tropical islands and cool, refreshing drinks, white rum exudes the spirit of summer, complementing this fun and extremely social time of year.
These warmer months are a great time of year for white rum and that means great opportunities ahead for all members of the trade.
With around 24,000 cases sold annually in New Zealand, white rum (also referred to as ‘light’ rum) is known for its versatility and mixability and as the essential ingredient in a number of popular cocktails, including Pina Colada, Mojito, Daiquiris and Cuba Libre (rum and cola) – the number one cocktail in the world.
Inventing white rum
A clear, colourless spirit, light-bodied with a light flavour, white rum didn’t appear until the second half of the 19th century. Before then all rums were heavy or dark. In order to expand the market for rum, the Spanish Royal Development Board offered a prize to anyone who could improve the rum making process. This resulted in experiments with distillation techniques, charcoal filtering, cultivating of specialised yeast strains and aging, and ended in the creation of white rum.
Making white rum
Made from molasses obtained from sugar cane, white rum is produced in virtually all countries and regions where sugar cane is grown. For New Zealand consumers the majority of the well-known white rum brands are produced in and around the Caribbean Islands – Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, US and the Virgin Islands.
The sugar cane is crushed to extract the sap, which is then boiled to evaporate the water content and separate the sugar crystals. Further extractions will separate golden syrup, black treacle, and finally molasses, the raw material of rum. The molasses is then transformed into alcohol through natural fermentation, and the alcohol is separated by distillation.
Distilling involves heating the fermented molasses (called wash) and repeatedly passing it through column or continuous stills to remove any impurities.
Aged, but not for long
It is a little known fact that all rum is clear as it comes off the still. It is the aging and maturation process that helps determine the colour of the rum. White or light bodied rums can be aged from six to 12 months compared with darker rums that are aged for three to twelve years or more.
After aging in wooden casks to develop the flavour, the spirit then undergoes a finishing process known as charcoal mellowing leaving the rum clear and colourless.
The quality of the sugarcane, its origins and speed of the fermentation process, also influence the look, style, texture and flavour of the spirit.
Not so sweet
A popular misconception exists that white rum is sweet because it is made from sugar cane. In fact, the “sweetness” of the spirit actually comes from what it is mixed with, commonly soft drinks and juice.
White rum is typically bottled containing a minimum of 37% alcohol by volume and can be over 60%abv for some of the over-proof styles.
During these summer months, and indeed all year round, ensure you are well stocked with premium quality white rums that are sure to be in hot demand from consumers.