CONCLUSIONS 1) BARREL SELECTION IS CRUCIAL. This 12-month study focused on recording the physical transformation of rum aged in an ex-whiskey barrel. If we were to empty the barrel now (to sell the contents as one-year-old rum) and refill it with fresh rum again, the color and flavor extracted into the second rum would be lower than in the first rum. What this means is that, in order for a rum program to offer longterm consistency, it must incorporate new (ex-whiskey in this case) barrels regularly.
2) STARTING (FILL) ABV DICTATES CHARACTER INTENSITY IN THE FINAL (BOTTLED) PRODUCT. The higher the ABV inside the barrel, the fewer barrels a distiller will need to age a given volume of rum. Unfortunately, higher ABVs will lead to higher evaporation losses and will require a larger volume of water to cut the proof down to bottling strength. More water means more flavor dilution, so in order to end up with a bottled rum that retains much of the cask-strength character, the bottling strength and the barrel fill strength should be closer to each other. This means more barrels (higher cost for the distiller), but hopefully the end product can be retailed at a higher price point too.
3) WAREHOUSE LOCATION AND CONDITION WILL HAVE AN IMPACT. The temperature deltas (the difference between daily high and low temperatures) contribute to the expansion and contraction of the rum inside the barrel. The expansion helps the rum penetrate deep inside the staves, dissolving extractable materials. The contraction then carries those extractable materials out of the staves and mixes them with the rest of the rum in the barrel. The larger the deltas are, the faster the extraction will take place. If you want to maximize the maturity of the rum in a relatively cool warehouse, identify the warmer area (usually west-facing walls) and place your rum barrels as close as possible to those walls.
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. For more information visit www.gotrum.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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