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Feb 20, 2014 12:16 PM

Rums with added sugar

JMF - at one point you mentioned this would be a good topic for a separate thread, and some info has come to light on other sites to clear up the uncertainty. It would seem that the governments of Sweden and Finland require full disclosure of such things.

I was quite disappointed to find that my favorite El dorado rums use obscene amounts of added sugar - 45 g/ltr in the 12 yr and 31 in the 15. You were correct that the Zacapa 23 has reduced added sugar from 45 g/ltr to 20.

(Scroll up just a bit to the 11th post for the lists)

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  1. I wouldn't use the term obscene for the amount of added sugar.

    In reality it actually isn't that much sugar. There's apx. that much sugar in a 12 oz can of soda. A liter of Coca Cola has 108 gm sugar, Mountain Dew has 124 g/l. Now THOSE are obscene amounts of sugar.

    The sugar isn't just adding some sweetness, but also it smooths out the spirit/rum a LOT.

    I keep meaning to, but keep forgetting to, put those amounts of sugar into a liter of water and tasting. And doing the same into neutral spirits/vodka. I'll try and remember for tomorrow and report back.

    26 Replies
    1. re: JMF

      Well, that is nearly the amount of sugar used in an old-fashioned - which to me is a pretty sweet drink. The box my ED 12 yr old came in says "True aged rum" and "blended to perfection", not "Ready-made Rum old fashioned" and "blended and sweetened".

      Since very few rums on those lists have more than 10 g/l of added sugar, I would consider 45 g/l to be an obscene amount in relative terms.

      I really would like to see what a bottle of unadulterated Demeraran rum tastes like, but I don't want to shell out $130 for a bottle of Samaroli.

      1. re: ncyankee101

        I would like to try all those rums without sugar as well.

        1. re: ncyankee101

          I've tried a Samaroli- very very dry. I have had a sample of the Samaroli Caribbean. I think it is a blend of Cuban and Bajan rum. Not exactly a Demerera but bottled with the same straight from the cask philosophy. It reminded me more of single malt Scotch than Rum.

        2. re: JMF

          Hey JMF, presumable NO sugar makes it through the distillation process, so ANY booze is bone dry off the still.

          Does the sweetness in say Scotch, Bourbon, or Cognac all come from the barrel?

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Cognac can legally have sugar syrup and "wood syrup" added, as well as caramel. No additives allowed to straight Bourbon, Scotch can have caramel coloring added - there is debate as to whether the amounts added affect flavor.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              I love wood syrup! (No seriously, what IS wood syrup).

              So ALL of the sweetness in Bourbon comes from the wood... hmmm who knew.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                My first thought was some new liquid aphrodisiac, but I guess it is an extract to simulate wood aging.

                Seems odd that something with the history and snob appeal of Cognac would allow such doctoring.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Yup, all the sweetness comes from the wood sugars

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Need to add that the mash first and foremost contributes a lot of sugar to the final spirit but there are wood sugars that are extracted

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      First, in rum it is a wash, not a mash. A mash is a heat and enzyme treated through heat, mix of grains and water, to convert starches to sugars. Mashing is the process of converting starches to fermentable sugars.

                      Second, all the sugars in the rum wash are fermented into alcohol. There are basically only an extremely small amount of unfermentable sugars in cane. Sugars do not pass over during the distillation process. There are substances that are perceived as being sweet, such as cogeners, but no actual sugar.

                      Fresh off the still, unaged rum is not sweet. I've tasted it many, many times. Both making it myself, and at dozens of rum distilleries in the Caribbean.

                      No unaged spirit is sweet. All the sweetness comes from the barrel, or added sugar after distillation.

                      1. re: JMF

                        I was still commenting on whiskey sweetness.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Oh, sorry, late night confusion. But still, no sugars make it through the distillation. Just volatile compounds with perceived sweetness.

                          Bourbon and rye whiskey are very interesting. Many perceive that bourbon is sweet and rye is spicy. But from research I've read, the reality is that due to volatile compounds present in making rye whiskey, the sugar levels after aging are actually higher in rye, but the volatiles mask it. While it's the opposite for bourbon.

                          1. re: JMF

                            Hmmm, if all the sugar is coming out of the barrel, then the amount of sugar in rye, or bourbon would depend entirely on the barrel, and how long the booze spends there.

                            I understand that that volatiles in a particular booze would effect the PERCEPTION of sweetness, but one would think if you aged rye, and bourbon in identical barrels, in the same way, that the sugar content would be the same as well.

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              From what I understand, the different proportion of cogeners and other compounds dissolves the sugars in the wood at different rates.

                              1. re: JMF

                                Gotcha. I think we need to do an experiment ;-)

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  Well, I do have a two year vertical of a cane neutral spirit that was aged in a new, charred barrel. I took out a 4 oz. sample every other week and have them all labeled. I haven't gotten around to actually doing tasting notes on them since I have been crazy busy since I left my last distillery.

                                  1. re: JMF

                                    I'll be right over to help with the, hic, analysis.

                      2. re: scubadoo97

                        None of the sugars liberating during the mash make it through the fermentation/distillation process. They are all converted to alcohol, and whatever sugars are not, do not make it through the distillation process (sugar can't evaporate into steam). So the mash does NOT contribute sugar to the final spirit, just sugar converted into alcohol.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Thanks, so it's ONLY the wood sugars. Got it

                  2. re: ncyankee101

                    The amounts of sugar allowed in Cognac are extremely low, 2% max. by volume if I remember correctly. This isn't enough to add sweetness, but to soften the spirit or reduce tannins.

                    The "wood syrup" you mention is called Boisé, a flavoring made from a wood chip "tea" that is reduced into a syrup. There is regular Boisé which has tannins and wood flavor and adds some minor barrel characteristics, and aged Boisé, which also adds vanillins and nuttiness to give an aged characteristic.

                    Caramel isn't like the candy caramel, it is actually natural burnt sugar/caramel coloring. It is used not for flavor or sweetness, but for adjusting color. It is basically tasteless in the amounts used. Even at 100 times the max. allowed it is tasteless.

                    1. re: JMF

                      I'm not sure how you would define 2% by volume when you are relating a liquid to a solid. If you are talking 1:1 ratio simple syrup, then by my calculations that would be about 4 tsp per liter, or 16 grams of sugar. That would put it on par with the Plantation rums and Angostura 1919 and 1824, all of which are fairly sweet.

                      1. re: JMF

                        And let's not make the assumption that every Cognac distiller/brand uses boisé, or caramel color . . . that would be a mistake. The "big" guys? Yes. But several of the small producers eschew the use of boisé and caramel.

                        Haven't asked about sugar.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          And the sugar is just used for "rounding" to smooth out any rough edges and to bring together the mix of different Cognacs in the blend.

                          I am having trouble finding EU regs on spirits and Cognac that give exact amounts allowed.

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      Yes, basically all the sweetness comes from the barrel. But while no sugar makes it through the distillation, there are flavors that lead to 'perceived' sweetness. Cogeners and methanol. Methanol may be poisonous drunk straight, but it is very pleasant and sweet tasting. The amounts in a spirit are negligible, but enough to be perceived. This isn't a bad thing because while straight methanol is toxic for various reasons, the antidote for methanaol poisoning is... ethanol. So the amounts found in spirits are safe.

                  3. That's fascinating. I had no idea that added sugar was standard practice. Thanks for posting this, nycyankee101.