Arroyo – Old Rum or Mature, 1940

Arroyo R. Ron Viejo o Maduro. Revista de agricultura de Puerto Rico, Volume 32, (1940) page 430-431

Ron Viejo o Madura

Por Rafael Arroyo, Ch. E. & S. E.,
Especialista en Fermentaciones Industriales; Jefe División de Química Industrial de la Estación Experimental de la Universidad de Puerto Rico.

We have observed that many people use the expression “Old Rum” as equivalent to “Rum Maduro.” This is a popular mistake very forgivable indeed, but like any error must be duly clarified and corrected.

By using one term as the equivalent of the other, we are merely confusing the end with the medium; In reality, maturity in rum is an end, and aging is one of the means that leads us to the realization of that end. Now, although an old rum is usually mature, it is not necessarily always; nor is there a definite time lapse after which we can guarantee in all cases that the rum has already reached the stage of maturity. On the contrary, a rum can reach its maturity without necessarily being a rum to which the qualification of old can be applied.

If the maturity of the rum depended solely and exclusively on the time that the drink was kept under the action of the barrel, then the indiscriminate use of the expressions “old rum” and “mature rum” would be justifiable. But, it is not like that, aging is only one of the factors in the development of maturity in rum; but there are others. For example, the adaptability and potential capacity of the crude distillate to acquire the state of maturity. In our opinion, this factor is as important as aging.

To illustrate the above, let’s take the case of two freshly distilled rums, which we will designate “A” and “B” respectively. Both raw distillates are put to age in the same kind and size of barrel under identical outdoor environment conditions. After a year we found that rum “A” has acquired the conditions and qualities inherent to a mature or cured rum, while “B” remains “green”, that is, lacking those qualities. We bottled rum “A” and continued with the aging of “B”. After another year we found that “B” has acquired the state of maturity that “A” had when bottled. For the mere fact of “B” having received double time of barrel aging, would we be justified in saying that “B” is a mature rum while “A” is not? Could we say that “B” is superior to “A” by the mere fact that it took more time and money to impart his maturity? Obviously not. In any case we could say that “A” represented a raw rum superior to “B” since it acquired its maturity in half of the time used by “B”.

We have given this example to record in the minds of our readers the fact that we can not use the aging time of a given rum, as the sole criterion of its goodness, or the state of its maturity. Therefore, all “Standard” or rum quality classification based exclusively on time that has been aging in barrels would be not only unscientific and erroneous, but completely unfair. The age of the rum is not as important, but the characteristics of goodness, palatability and bouquet reached during that aging time.

Therefore, any means or method used to reach the desired end, that is, to produce the desirable maturity in rum, is as good as any other, provided that the method or process in question conforms to the following conditions:

1. Does not adulterate the inherent nature and characteristics of the product.
2. Does not use or produce anything harmful to consumers.
3. Imparts to the product those organoleptic characteristics of taste, bouquet, both physical and chemical composition that are inherent in a genuine rum in a mature state.

Now, as far as our knowledge goes, we do not know of any process, except the traditional aging in oak barrels, which imparts the characteristics mentioned above to the crude distillate.

But what we do know and of which we are sure is that there is a great variation and difference between the capacity and adaptability for the acquisition of maturity among raw distillates. There are some of these able to reach the state of optimum maturity in one or two years of aging; others that would take double or triple the amount of time for the same result; and others that could never be called a mature or cured rum, no matter how long they were kept aging. This is why we already expressed in this article that, in our opinion, the characteristics of crude rum are as important a factor in the acquisition of maturity as aging itself.

It is really amazing to think about the little importance that is generally given to the production of crude rum, outside the efficiency factor. The industry relies too much on correcting mistakes during the curing period or the rectification process. However, the true future of the industry depends especially on the production of crude distillates that, due to their chemical and physical constitution, can obtain maturity in a comparatively short period of aging. To that end, a great part of our efforts have been channeled, and in truth we are pleased with our experimental results.

It is necessary to know once and for all: the maturity or curing of a rum is not the result of a single cause factor, it does not begin when filling the oak barrel destined to age it, nor when the liquorist applies the knowledge of his art to speed up the process. The maturity of a rum is the result of many factors, which begin to influence it with the selection of fermentative agents and raw material, and it ends with the bottling of the product ready for the consumer. Each stage through which the rum passes during its elaboration communicates conditions and factors favorable or unfavorable to the rapid acquisition of the desired maturity. Therefore, the greater or lesser ability of the manufacturer to use the technique that best contributes to the maturation process in each of the stages of manufacturing, corresponds to the aging time necessary for the crude distillate to mature.

Let us focus on the problem of rum maturity not only from the point of view of barrel aging, or accelerated methods to achieve the effect produced by them; but from the most fundamental aspects of the production of true quality raw distillates. Distillates capable, for example, of reaching their optimum maturity in a short period of aging.

In our humble opinion, the future of the rum industry on this island is closely related to the production of better crude rums.

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