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seed-disseminating consumers. So it is no wonder that when someone smells a fruit or sugarcane distillate, with aromatic traces of their original sweetness, that person could assume that the distillate will, in fact, be sweet. The shock comes when

they taste the spirit and their taste buds are disappointed in the lack of sweetness depth (because all sugars were converted into alcohol). For these spirits, adding sweetness (sugar, fructose, etc.) after distillation is a perfect example of restoring

the natural organoleptic balance expected by the consumer. The question is whether these additions should be declared and how they should be explained and justified.

So what should YOU do? Knowledge is power. The information in this article should put you in a better position to make decisions regarding sugar and caramel in your products. If you decide to use caramel, determine which type you want to use and be prepared to explain why. Don’t lie about not using caramel: the truth is a simple lab analysis away. Same with sugar: be prepared to explain why you are using it and what its impact is on the flavor and on the overall caloric value of the product. One way to overcome the objection that sugar is being added to the spirit to “cover imperfection” is to offer (at the distillery’s


tasting room, for example), a version that is unsweetened, so consumers can appreciate the spirit without the sugar. Explain to them during the process that the sugar is being added to bring the sweet dimension into balance with the other dimensions (alcohol congeners, acidity, bitterness from wood, etc.), since the original sweetness was converted into alcohol during fermentation. Another thought is to keep in mind how the product will be consumed by the

majority of the target consumers. If the product is designed to be primarily mixed with carbonated drinks, which are already darkened with caramel and sweetened with sugar, having a distilled spirit with additional caramel and sugar may cause the consumers’ palates to saturate quickly, forcing them to change to other products and thus causing the producer to lose out on additional income. Cheers!

Luis Ayala is an international rum consultant and broker of specialty aged rums. He is founder of The Rum University, Rum Central and Got Rum? magazine. Visit or email for more information.


Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  
Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.