This Day In Rum History (1937)

(foreign and domestic rum) link to PDF

I just tracked down a great survey of the rum world from the rock star IRS chemist Peter Valaer that was published in pre-Castro 1937.

Valaer does a great survey of domestic rums from New England and Louisiana as well as most all of the Caribbean. This analytic study (complete with deconstructions) differs from any other spirits study I’ve come across because actual brand names are attached to the samples.

So at a glance what was learned?

–many rums were produced from combinations of fresh sugar cane juice and molasses.

–a vast amount of Caribbean rums were adulterated with few island exceptions

–Valaer describes the proof that nearly all the rums are distilled at which implies the equilibrium level and therefore how stratified the congeners are which implies how full flavored the rums are.

–Valaer says the most I’ve ever read about pre-Castro cuban rums, he gives a table of their properties complete with brands. It turns out many were particularly light; “cuban rum is almost completely stripped of its congenerics”; almost every producer used molasses only (a surprise to me),   most were charcoal filtered; “the cuban rums usually have a high solids content, due to added material such as sugars, bay leaves, wines, fruits, flavoring ingredients, and coloring matter.”

–As of 1937 the rums of St. Croix (Jerry Thomas’ Santa Cruz) were all of fresh sugar cane juice like an agricole. (maybe WWII changed this?)

–up to 1935 there were no registered rum distilleries in Puerto Rico.

–Jamaican rums were focused on high ester content but none Valaer came across were anywhere near the legendary levels.

–Jamaican rums at the time were produced from sugar cane juice and molasses; “each distiller uses his own particular proportions”.

–Valaer mentions the “100 year” old idea that Jamaica rums were divided into three groups by ester content with the highest being shipped to Europe to be blended with neutral spirits.

–”The essential difference between the three types of Jamaica rums lies in the kind of fermentation; the rums under each type vary mainly with the particular technic of the distiller, for rum distillation in Jamaica is more of an art than a science.” (this “art” is elaborated on in a patent application called Production of Heavy Rums by Raphael Arroyo in 1945)

–”The acidity of the mash or wash is usually higher than elsewhere, and this tends to produce a higher ester content.  In the production of the so-called high-ester rums the acidity of the wash may be up to 3 per cent, the time of fermentation up to 29 days.” I think that cognac wines are 1.2% which is considered fairly high.  what they add to get it that high is the “dunder” which is the acid heavy leftovers of previous distillations. these strange parameters make me wonder what the alcohol content of their wash was and whether all that acid was added after fermentation, just before it went into the still.

–Jamaica was awesome.

–”In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” if the % alc. is above 62 then it will sterilize the meat. i’m sure it contributes aroma and blood may help clarify particles from the barrels. a cocktail proof of concept is coming soon! [#fail]

3 thoughts on “This Day In Rum History (1937)

  1. Pingback: Scotch / Pond Water / Floaties / Ammonia / Misc. | Boston Apothecary

  2. n Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging…” Whoa, meat in rum. Hogo and hen? I can see the label now: “Funky Chicken”.

  3. Pingback: Colonial Pissing Contests with the great Agricola, W.F. Whitehouse | Boston Apothecary

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