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Do They "adulterate" Rum?

j
jerry i h Nov 11, 2008 05:04 PM

I know that 'gold' rum is the standard. To get 'white' rum, they filter out the color (and presumably some flavor); to get 'dark' rum, they blacken barrels. Well, this is what I have always assumed. I just had a Cruzan white, and while I did not do a direct taste test with gold, it sure did not seem that much less flavorful than gold. More, there are some cheap black rums (TV's comes to mind) that sure tastes like they add licorice and other flavors plus colors.
Question: according to FDA rules, are rum producers allowed to add colors and flavors without a label declaration? Like maybe they start with white or gold, and add 'stuff' to come up with gold or black?

  1. c
    craigasaurus Nov 24, 2008 10:06 PM

    "They?" Do you mean rum distillers? Anyway, "gold" rum is not the standard. All distilates start off clear. Spirits get their color either from aging in wooden barrels, or colors added to the product. Good rums are aged, cheap mixing rums might be a blend of unaged and aged rum with some neutral spirits and caramel color mixed in.

    1. JMF Nov 12, 2008 04:05 AM

      Blacken barrels?

      The color in rum comes from two things. The barrels, which are charred inside like for whiskey, and are usually used barrels, like how Scotch whiskey does with used Bourbon and wine barrels. And caramel coloring, ie, 'burnt sugar' before bottling. many whiskeys and other brown spirits add color.

      Many, if not most, rums are 'adulterated' as you call it. Fine, premium rums, as well as lesser rums. Spices, fruit or dried fruit, etc. are added. Sometimes in the aging barrel, sometimes after wards. Also most are sweetened a bit with sugar.

      Many other spirits do this, many if not most whiskey is colored and may have some sugar added.. Sometimes glycerin may be added for a smoother, fuller mouth feel. All of these are done in very, very small amounts, but make major differences in the final spirit.

      When making my rums I will be using various used and new barrels to get the flavor profile and color that I want. Depending upon what was matured first in the barrel, the strength of the rum as it ages, etc. you get different flavor and color extraction. Just aging at, let's say a ball park figure of 62% abv will give you a different taste and color than aging the same spirit in the same barrel at 59% abv. Rums are actually usually aged at much higher strengths than any other type of brown spirit, and at much, much, warmer temperatures, so they get a huge amount of color extraction naturally. Aging in a used bourbon whiskey barrel will give you a different flavor and color profile than that of a different type of used whiskey barrel, let alone a used wine or sherry barrel, or some other type of used spirit barrel.

      Here is the exact and full wording of the Federal TTB Standard of Identity for Rum. As you can see it says nothing about adding flavors, color, sugar, etc.

      "Spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof)
      having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)"

      8 Replies
      1. re: JMF
        sku Nov 12, 2008 08:35 AM

        Helpful response JMF, but I would take issue with your statement that many if not most whiskey is colored and may have some sugar added.

        It's true that many whiskies are colored, though any American "straight" whiskey (e.g. straight Bourbon, straight rye) cannot include coloring. In addition, I believe most whiskies cannot add sugar, the exception being Canadian which can have all manner of flavor additives.

        1. re: sku
          JMF Nov 12, 2008 04:36 PM

          sku- yes, you are right about whiskeys labeled "Straight Whiskey", it can't have any additions to it.

          This is from the TTB website.

          http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/...

          5.23 Alteration of class and type.

          (a) Additions. (1) The addition of any coloring, flavoring, or blending materials to any class and type of distilled spirits, except as otherwise provided in this section, alters the class and type thereof and the product shall be appropriately redesignated.

          (2) There may be added to any class or type of distilled spirits, without changing the class or type thereof, (i) such harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials as are an essential component part of the particular class or type of distilled spirits to which added, and (ii) harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials such as caramel, straight malt or straight rye malt whiskies, fruit juices, sugar, infusion of oak chips when approved by the Administrator, or wine, which are not an essential component part of the particular distilled spirits to which added, but which are customarily employed therein in accordance with established trade usage, if such coloring, flavoring, or blending materials do not total more than 21/2percent by volume of the finished product.

          (3) “Harmless coloring, flavoring, and blending materials” shall not include (i) any material which would render the product to which it is added an imitation, or (ii) any material, other than caramel, infusion of oak chips, and sugar, in the case of Cognac brandy; or (iii) any material whatsoever in the case of neutral spirits or straight whiskey, except that vodka may be treated with sugar in an amount not to exceed 2 grams per liter and a trace amount of citric acid.

          ) Class 2; whisky. “Whisky” is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 80° proof, and also includes mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed.

          (1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

          (ii) “Corn whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 80 percent corn grain, and if stored in oak containers stored at not more than 125° proof in used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood; and also includes mixtures of such whisky.

          (iii) Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as “straight”; for example, “straight bourbon whisky”, “straight corn whisky”, and whisky conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, except that it was produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain, and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers shall be designated merely as “straight whisky”. No other whiskies may be designated “straight”. “Straight whisky” includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State.

          (2) “Whisky distilled from bourbon (rye, wheat, malt, or rye malt) mash” is whisky produced in the United States at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored in used oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type. Whisky conforming to the standard of identity for corn whisky must be designated corn whisky.

          (3) “Light whisky” is whisky produced in the United States at more than 160° proof, on or after January 26, 1968, and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies. If “light whisky” is mixed with less than 20 percent of straight whisky on a proof gallon basis, the mixture shall be designated “blended light whisky” (light whisky—a blend).

          (4) “Blended whisky” (whisky—a blend) is a mixture which contains straight whisky or a blend of straight whiskies at not less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis, excluding alcohol derived from added harmless coloring, flavoring or blending materials, and, separately, or in combination, whisky or neutral spirits. A blended whisky containing not less than 51 percent on a proof gallon basis of one of the types of straight whisky shall be further designated by that specific type of straight whisky; for example, “blended rye whisky” (rye whisky—a blend).

          (5)(i) “A blend of straight whiskies” (blended straight whiskies) is a mixture of straight whiskies which does not conform to the standard of identify for “straight whisky.” Products so designated may contain harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials as set forth in 27 CFR 5.23(a).

          (ii) “A blend of straight whiskies” (blended straight whiskies) consisting entirely of one of the types of straight whisky, and not conforming to the standard for straight whisky, shall be further designated by that specific type of straight whisky; for example, “a blend of straight rye whiskies” (blended straight rye whiskies). “A blend of straight whiskies” consisting entirely of one of the types of straight whisky shall include straight whisky of the same type which was produced in the same State or by the same proprietor within the same State, provided that such whisky contains harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials as stated in 27 CFR 5.23(a).

          (iii) The harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials allowed under this section shall not include neutral spirits or alcohol in their original state. Neutral spirits or alcohol may only appear in a “blend of straight whiskies” or in a “blend of straight whiskies consisting entirely of one of the types of straight whisky” as a vehicle for recognized flavoring of blending material.

          (6) “Spirit whisky” is a mixture of neutral spirits and not less than 5 percent on a proof gallon basis of whisky, or straight whisky, or straight whisky and whisky, if the straight whisky component is less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis.

          (7) “Scotch whisky” is whisky which is a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of the United Kingdom regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in the United Kingdom: Provided, That if such product is a mixture of whiskies, such mixture is “blended Scotch whisky” (Scotch whisky—a blend).

          (8) “Irish whisky” is whisky which is a distinctive product of Ireland, manufactured either in the Republic of Ireland or in Northern Ireland, in compliance with their laws regulating the manufacture of Irish whisky for home consumption: Provided, That if such product is a mixture of whiskies, such mixture is “blended Irish whisky” (Irish whisky—a blend).

          (9) “Canadian whisky” is whisky which is a distinctive product of Canada, manufactured in Canada in compliance with the laws of Canada regulating the manufacture of Canadian whisky for consumption in Canada: Provided, That if such product is a mixture of whiskies, such mixture is “blended Canadian whisky” (Canadian whisky—a blend).

          1. re: JMF
            j
            jerry i h Nov 12, 2008 05:26 PM

            Thanks for the in-depth answers. It more-or-less accords with my personal drinking habits. I had always assumed that rum is cheap *ss stuff on sale at the supermarket you use to hide the flavor of Diet Coke (because you are on a diet, and hate diet soda).

            Then, I had some cachaca cocktails that I really liked, and tasted cachaca straight, which is supposedly rum, and it was wonderful. This lead me to premium rums in general. I had always looked askance at expensive rums, but now I tried them (appleton comes to mind, for one). Wow, so good, and holds it own against other premium distilled spirits. Boy, was I surprised.
            I have since learned that a premium rum actually works better in fruit dishes and desserts, even better than Cognac et al.
            Course, that led me back to cheap rums suitable only for stripping furniture and floor polish. Surely, these inferior products, produced quickly and cheaply, with lots of flavors and additives, are just like breakfast cereals, only not as good tasting.

            1. re: jerry i h
              c
              chazzerking Nov 12, 2008 08:44 PM

              Cachaca is not rum. it is cane liquor. the process and the taste are both different from rum.

              1. re: chazzerking
                JMF Nov 13, 2008 04:43 AM

                Technically cachaca is a rum. If you think different would you explain why?

                Rum is made from cane juice, cane sugar, cane molasses, or anything derived from the sugar cane plant. It can be distilled in any type of still. Pot still, hybrid, column, continuous, etc.

                The taste of cachaca is similar to rhum agricole, which is rum made from cane juice as well. They are both aged in barrels. Come in white which is basically unaged and/or filtered clear or gold/aged versions.

                Cachaca comes in two types. Artsianal and industrial. Artisanal is made in pot stills, industrial in column stills.

                Rum experts feel that cachaca is a type or class of of rum, similar to rhum agricole. I have been a rum judge and we judge cachaca in the rum competitions.

                1. re: JMF
                  c
                  chazzerking Nov 13, 2008 01:42 PM

                  J; I would certainly defer to your expertise on this. My several Brazilian friends all staunchly assert that cachaca is not rum, but they may have a nationalist reason for so doing. My experience with both the industrial and the several artisinal cachacas that I've tried is that the flavor profile has been closer to tequila than to any rums, including rhum agricole., that I've tasted

                  1. re: chazzerking
                    j
                    jerry i h Nov 13, 2008 05:45 PM

                    Hmmm...beg to differ. The cachacas I have enjoyed have no smoky flavor ala scotch or mezcal whatsoever. I just discovered agricole, and tastes identical to cachaca. What brands of cachaca are you referring to?

                    1. re: jerry i h
                      c
                      chazzerking Nov 13, 2008 08:01 PM

                      Bautuque, Ypioca and 51 are the ones I have on hand and they all have the initial nose that has the same smokey sort of vegetal tang that agave tequilas have.

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