Pineapple Disease & Rum

[If you are a distiller, make sure you know about the birectifier]

Recently, a great friend of the blog turned in an English annotated version of Hubert Olbrich’s chapter on rum.

The most interesting thing to come out of it was this bit (remember this is annotated, not translated):

What are the influences of Raw and auxiliary materials on the rhum quality? The flowery, sugary bouquet of molasses is not very involved. It exists a link with the sugarcane. It should be grown on the right soil: in Jamaica the cane is grown on flat coastal areas, for the production of common rhum. For high ester rhum they use irrigated cane from the mountainous south of the ile.
Iod taste is supposed to come from cane which is grown near the sea, and has absorbed iodic organic compounds. This has not been proven analytically yet.
The flowery Ananas type comes from an infection by a black mold (ananas sickness), which is grown in tank filled with broken sugarcanes.

An important auxiliary is “dunder”: The nutritious base for yeast growth, and main source for the rich microflora and is metabolism essential for the aroma production.
This alcohol free residue of preceding production, has treated in multiple ways.
One example (2597): Some producers develop their yeasts, bacteria and fungi in clay pits. In these pits, the dunder, sugarcane straw, and sand, are layered. Then, the pit is closed.

At the end we see the classic “pit”, but up paragraph we see a new concept which is a tank full of broken canes floating in water and infected by a black mold. The black mold is also referred to as Pineapple disease (Ceratocystis paradoxa).

So, like, what the fuck? Does this make it into anything we drink? Was this one eccentric producer Olbrich collected an anecdote from? Does this not make drinking heavy bodied rums exciting to anyone else?

Olbrich even slips a bibliographic reference to his mention of the pit but sadly I think its an internal document from the Pott-Kompass importer. Nicht paginiert translates to not page numbered. This does mean producers knew what they were getting.

Pott-Kompass 1967, H.2, nicht paginiert [S. 12]

One of the other things to note in the Olbrich files is that, very much like the claims of Felton & Son’s New England rum pre prohibiton, there were many rums being produced that were just too heavy to drink. These were just bio reactors of rando-aromas for the confection, perfume, and tobacco industries. It is not completely clear where the line gets drawn between rum concentrates to be cut for drinking and the stuff solely for the nape of the neck. Olbrich does provide the best new clues.

A search for pineapple disease does yield some new clues to follow.

Fungus maladies of the sugar cane;: With notes on associated insects and nematodes (Report of work of the Experiment station of the Hawaiian sugar … of pathology and physiology. Bulletin) 1906 by Nathan August Cobb.

This is the most interesting reference so far, but sadly it is from Hawaii who barely produced rum so Cobb is not likely to have any distillery anecdotes. We are simply looking for references to being aroma-beneficial.


(Thielaviopsis ethaceticus, Went.) This disease was first studied by Dr. F. Went, in Java. He first investigated and classified the fungus causing the disease. Since that time (1893) it has been observed in the West Indies and in Hawaii.

I’m going to pull out only the fun parts.

It is commonly asserted that this disease of the sugar-cane receives its common name on account of the fact that its presence in the tissues of the cane gives rise to an odor resembling that of pineapple. The specific name of the fungus, ethaccticus, refers to the same fact, its translation into English reading, “acetic ether,” so that we may call the species the acetic-ether-producing fungus.

It is true that, in some of its stages, and especially in some varieties of cane, the growth of the fungus gives rise to an odor reminiscent of ripe pineapple, but a delicate nostril would seldom, I think, mistake one odor for the other. More often the odor is that which we associate with fermenting fruit juice, due no doubt to a mixture of the vapors of various alcohols, acids, and ethers, prominent among which may be, and probably is, acetic ether. This odor of fermentation is the usual characteristic of most of the stages of the pineapple fungus as it occurs in cane. Only the later stages of the fungus attack are devoid of this odor, or if present, it is overpowered by others.

There is another reason why the name pineapple disease may be applied to this malady of cane, and that is that the same disease attacks the pineapple, as well as some other fruits. This fungus is, in fact, one of the serious diseases of the pineapple in some places. It is prevalent in the Hawaiian Islands on pineapples and does no small damage on some plantations.

The fact that the disease can be present in a most pronounced form without the odor of pineapple being noticeable renders the name a little unfortunate from the first point of view, but nothing can b’e said against the name from the second point of view, that is to say in view of the fact that the disease also attacks the pineapple. It is well to know that in fields where the disease is common one may often dig up and examine scores of cuttings without once detecting a pronounced odor of pineapple. As before stated, the variety of cane is one factor in the production of this odor. YellowCaledonia is one of the varieties that even when suffering acutely usually gives off merely an odor of fermentation. I have found the ethereal odor most pronounced in such varieties as the Striped Singapore, and in such canes the odor is sometimes much stronger than that of the most highly scented pineapple.

Okay, there are you go. We see that its aroma is also most pronounced in certain varieties. These are simply dimensions of rum connoisseurship and the rebooting of fine production we have yet to explore.

This differs from Arroyo’s mold which really turned out to be the ethyl tiglate producing yeast Saprochaete Suaveolens.

Also, if you remember Paraguay, and Empresa Azucarera, I would not be surprised if their uncrushed canes were simply pineapple disease infected canes tossed into a typical ferment. Good prices in Germany implies that it was a heavy rum.

A superior quality of rum is distilled in Paraguay, being made from uncrushed cane. Small amounts of this spirit have been shipped to Germany and, it is said, obtained good prices.

Discover more from Boston Apothecary

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close