Narrative of the 1975 Rum Symposium

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Say it with me:
Rum is the most progressive spirits category.
Rum has the most researched spirits production.
There is nothing finer than rum as we make it.

As usual another cache of forgotten rum papers showed up that paints a narrative of rum advancement mid 19th century that is seldom looked at. It seems to be far easier to study much older periods. This collection of articles was assembled for a symposium held in the West Indies.

I’m having a busy week between the machine shop and the restaurant so I’ll just put this out there then maybe follow up on it later.

The Analytical identification of rum / R. J. Mesley, D. B. Lisle, C. P. Richards and D. F. Wardleworth
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 361-370

This paper is part of the beginning of the chromatography era and of course rum led the way. One reason spirits finger printing was important was because of all the trade rules governing the movement of rum. If you could confidently identify a rum, there would be less chance of theft (because it had to turn back up again) or illegal aliens and rum border jumpers moving around. All analysis was conducted in a “revenue protection laboratory”. For a long time this analysis did not help advance production but was merely for revenue protection.

Formation of acetals in run : a kinetic study / K. Misselhorn
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 371-381

The chemistry in this paper is kind of heavy. I guess the amount of acetals should be at a predictable level when at equilibrium with a given amount of aldehydes, but that isn’t always the case because of the formation of semi-acetals. The paper notes that there is dispute on the organoleptic importance of acetals. Some downplay their importance while others say some are very important to flavor. I think Piggot wrote about their importance. I don’t know enough about them.

The rum pilot plant of the agricultural experiment station of the university of Puerto Rico : past, present, future / A. E. Molini
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 391-396

This summary of the Pilot Plant is particularly important and some of its intentions are revealed. It also helps contextualize Arroyo whom the torch was passed from. Arroyo produced a lot of “leads” for further investigation, but I don’t think the Puerto Rican industry, with its massive responsibilities (that we typically fail to recognize), were interested in making complex, fine, full bodied, Jamaica-type rums. I think their work paved the way for a lot of the rums that would give the category a bad name. There were investigations of super clean ferments using antibiotics and chemical additives, investigations of very high alcohol ferments with intense optimization of fermentation variables. At the same time there research made the industry very environmentally friendly.

As we will see in another paper, there was intense automation and optimization of high proof distillation. The paper has some brief summaries of their achievements and a unique one is that of ageing where they realize that even with all their scientific resources, there is no substitute for natural ageing in the barrel.

This paper is well worth reading and I do have the annotated bibliography of the Pilot Plant which I will eventually start collecting.

Possibilities of utilization of butyric acid bacteria for rum making / S. Nemoto
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 397-410

Wildly interesting, but sadly a very poor scanning. Arroyo’s ideas seem to have made it all the way to Japan and the Japanese made super full bodied rums even though they weren’t rum drinkers! They made confections! They were even investigating Pombe yeasts! “Furthermore, Japanese do not drink rum so much. […] After the Second World War, goods for daily use were insufficient and their qualities were poor. Materials of confectionary, such as butter and wheat flour, were not an exception. Heavy rum was used in order to improve the taste and flavor of cake made from those bad materials. Thus, rum has been developed not as a drink, but as a confectionary use, and in Japan heavy rum was wanted. […] We had to study rum making under very different conditions from West India.”

The world is full of lost rums.

What is to be found in literature about rum production that is more than 300 years old? / H. Olbrich
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 411-420

This paper is of wild importance and amasses a bibliography of 150 sources, much of which are in German. I find myself sympathizing with the author a lot. And he hypes my home boy, Mr. Motherfucking Pombe, Percival Greig.

“It was not until a century later that the Englishman Percival H. Greig, 1893-1895, followed with systematic results on rum manufacture. Before going to Jamaica, Greig acquainted himself with microbiological procedures, aided by the Danish scholars Hansen and Jorgensen in Copenhagen. In 1895 however, his interest in publishing any work of his was brought to a close with three papers. Greig himself had become a rum manufacturer.”

So I am acquainting myself with microbiology procedures and walking a similar path.

“In 1936, Greig’s work was still reviewed to a substantial degree in an extensive paper [where is this paper?!], as the basic position of science regarding rum manufacture. So no abundant material is to be found in literature about rum manufacture until nearly the middle of our century. In the last decades, numerous circumstances have influenced both production and market development, as well as yielding some scientific papers. It is an irrefutable fact that a library is cheaper than a laboratory [emphasis mine] and that inquiries are far less costly than investments in development work which is already being carried out elsewhere. By means of thorough information regarding the basic position of science and technique, irrational brain-work is avoided, fruitless researching and inventing activities are prevented and the squandering of economic power and capital is hindered. With other words : Ascertainment of which results and suggestions have already been published in order to solve a problem, serves the rationalization and increase in the productivity of science and practice. Unproductive searching, idle effort and erroneous investments are thus avoided. For a sequel to the examination of literature work, which is sometimes unjustly underestimated, American atomic research offers an example which should be a warning; at an expenditure of vast sums of money, problems were supposedly dealt with, for which complete results were already to be partly found in literature.”

That language! And did he just compare rum research to nuclear research, fucking profound!

And of course Olbrich provides new references to track down.

Production of light-bodied rum by an extractive distillation process / E. D. Unger, T. R. Coffey
Set Level: Annales de Technologie Agricole. N.º 3-4, vol. 24 (1975), p. 469-495

This is a very complex paper and even if you cannot wrap your head around all the science, you can see massive automation at work. You can also see the birth of spirits made from sugar cane that some like Arroyo would not call rum. For starters, this paper explains how by using computation they can take a beer with a given set of congeners then predict what the output will be given the continuous stills tuning options mainly concerning fusel oil. This explains how a bespoke fermentation for Ron del Barrilito, or even any heavy rum within a producer’s portfolio of other lighter rums, could be spliced into the feed and variables immediately adjusted to give a lower proof ferment with a different level of fusel oil reduction from the usual. This does not give the distiller unlimited potential to pick and choose congeners, but it does give more options to maximize the potential of the still.

Reduction of fusel oil during distillation is shown as a big focus of the paper, but what Arroyo has taught us is that reducing it during distillation jeopardizes reducing rum oil which is the hallmark of rum (yet is seldom discussed). For heavy rums according to Arroyo, fusel oil should be reduced by yeast selection and fermentation optimization. Distillates produced as described in the paper are sort of the antithesis of the Arroyo teachings and are something else masquerading as rum. Yet its all wildly advanced and of course applied to rum first.

Facts about Sugar, 1940, Volumes 35-36, 26-? (part I already got), 35-? (start of part VI), 64-?;id=coo.31924054773571;view=1up;seq=7;start=21;sz=10;page=search;orient=0

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