J. Guillaume: Le Rhum Grand Arôme (1935)

Guillaume J. — Le Rhum “Grand Arôme”, Bull. Assoc. Sucre. Dist., décembre, 1935.

Le Rhum “Grand Arôme”
par JEAN GUILLAUME,
Ingénieur-Chimiste,
Chef de Fabrication à l’Exploitation Agricole du Galion (Martinique)

In order to complete a first study published in the Bulletin in 1931, we propose to speak here of a product whose manufacture seems to be wrongly surrounded by a certain mystery and which since 1925 has been, on several occasions, the object of violent attacks by some rum producers.

At the last Colonial Economic Conference, in particular, various statements made at the Subcommittee on Sugars and Rums tended to prohibit grand arôme rums on the pretext that they were likely to promote fraud. Even more recently, this question was raised in the report addressed to the President of the Republic, on the occasion of the decree concerning the purchase by the State of 50,000 hectoliters of pure rum alcohol.

By studying the question a little closely, it seems easy to put things in order and destroy, in particular, the legend according to which the fraud would be practiced thanks to the grand arôme rum.

The report preceding the recent decree speaks of “establishing, maximums for the percentages of impurities which constitute the aromatic principles of rums.

Now, “the aroma of rum, says Simon, is due to the presence in the neutral alcohol resulting from the fermentation of sugar sugarcane sweeteners, of a number of materials improperly called impurities.

As this author indicates, the term “impurities” therefore incorrectly refers to what must be called the non-alcohol coefficient. This “non-alcohol” found in rums, as in all beverage alcohols, comprises: acidity, ethers, furfurol, aldehydes, higher alcohols, these various substances varying according to the rum; the total reaches for grand arôme rums, the figures of 800 to 900 grams per hectolitre of alcohol at 100°, whereas for ordinary rums, it goes down to 250 or 300 grams.

From this comparison we can not conclude that the grand arôme is less pure than the current rum, since the non-alcohol represents the aroma or the quality of the product, and that pure alcohol or ethyl alcohol is not a consumer product. It can not be said either that the grand arôme rum is not a natural product because it is the only one, on the contrary, which is obtained by distillation of the molasses after natural fermentation, and consequently slow, which favors the formation of the ethers. and aldehydes, constituting, precisely, the aroma.

In the last century, all the rum producers of Martinique proceeded in the same way, and it is only relatively recently that artificial yeasts have been introduced which have the effect of activating fermentation and thereby increasing yield, but at the expense of quality.

All the chemists who have dealt with this question have asked for the setting of a minimum non-alcohol coefficient and the raising of this coefficient to avoid fraud and to permit certain classification and authentication.

Thus M. X. Rocques, expert chemist, charged in 1926 with an official investigation, had indicated in his conclusions:

“… That the lowering of the non-alcohol coefficient deprives the chemists responsible for looking for the frauds of this important criterion, which was used until now.”

And had expressed the wish:

“That while retaining the benefits of technical advances in this industry, we can obtain fermentations that provide higher levels of non-alcohol.

This is also how MM. Hubbard and Pluvinage, representatives of the rum brand “Saint-James”, and Mr. Zizine, author of several studies on the subject, have, in a report presented to the 3rd International Congress of Agricultural Industries of Paris, 1931, expressed the vow: “That the Martinique industrialists do not sacrifice the aroma of their rum, aroma that has made its reputation worldwide, to obtain high yields that do not always achieve quality.

… They add: “We permit ourselves to advise producers to give full attention to fermentations, on the isolation of certain yeasts originating from the terroir and which, while maintaining high yields, should not detract from the aroma of the rums, and not focus on the use of selected yeasts with high yields but unable to produce something other than ethyl alcohol.”

It is therefore, in our opinion, a serious mistake on the part of some manufacturers to ask for the deletion of the grand arôme in order to make it easier to admit, on the market, rums with a low non-alcoholic coefficient, while the grand arôme is above all necessary for the traders to improve the qualities of weaker products, generally unmarketable in their natural state.

If one enters this way of wanting to prohibit the grand arôme, there is no reason not to ban also in France all the great wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the Calvados and superior eaux-de-vie, etc. on the pretext that traders use it for the manufacture of ordinary quality products.

In fact, the grand arôme has never been used as a basis for the fraud that is raging at the moment, because it is simpler and more economical for fraudsters to mix alcohol with essences that give a product reminiscent of that of rum. If, moreover, the grand arôme rums, of which the producers are small, were to a large extent part of the fraud which is practiced on a large scale, they would easily find buyers; now, the slump which is raging at the moment affects them just as much, if not more than the others.

“The establishment of maximums for the percentages of impurities which constitute the aromatic principles of rum”, as proposed in the report quoted above, is therefore not justified in law or in fact. This measure would only be detrimental to the rum trade in general and the freedom of manufacture must be maintained, because the grand arôme is a pure natural product, pure par excellence, the true “condensed sun ray” of the poet, the one who made for centuries the value and reputation of all the rums of Martinique.

RESUME, — Le rhum « grand arôme ».

The author, in this note which follows his study of 1931, exposes some facts tending to destroy the legend that the “grand arôme” rum promotes fraud. He concluded by wishing that the freedom of making rums be maintained.

SUMMARY. — Rum of great aroma.
This note, following the works of M. Guillaume published in 1931 shows few facts by mean of which it can be said that, on the contrary as generally thought, rum of great aroma is not a factor endowing fraud. The author by consequence wishes that should be kept up the freedom of rum fabrication.

[The 1931 research paper referenced is likely: Guillaume J. — L’industrie du rhum a la Martinique, Bull. Assoc. Sucre. Dist., p 340, 1931.

The trick to working with these citations is Kervegant’s list of citation abbreviations. That reference is from the Bulletin de l’Association des Chimistes de Sucrerie et de Distillerie.]

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