Research Bulletin No. 5 and the Republic of Rum Letters

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


Lately there is growing interest in the work of, Puerto Rican agro chemist, Rafael Arroyo, and many are discovering my hosted collection of his lost works from a few years ago. Few realized Arroyo wrote so many journal articles because he is best known for an elusive book called Studies On Rum: Research Bulletin No. 5. Not many copies still exist because it was printed on such cheap paper that all copies are literally crumbling.

I have a wonderful scanning of this work, but I acquired it well after I started hosting the journal articles. By then there were many thousands of reads and downloads, but near no comments. This blog has wild readership stats for being so niche, but generates very little dialogue. Open hosting, a part of open culture has not exactly led to the open community I hoped for which is something that older generations of distillers enjoyed.

I made it known in that post I had a good scanning and after many months someone actually took the time to write me an email, tell me about their project, and ask about my scanning. Of course I shared it with them. But I told them: Only share it if someone asks, but of course share it! Do not volunteer it. Offer to discuss it. Create a Republic of Letters and not a society of lurkers. Pass on those same rules. In two years I’ve only gotten 15 requests, but from around the world. We’ve had great conversations on successes, failures, and ideas to try. Very cool things are happening, keep an eye on South Africa.

A notable recommendation to participate in the Republic of Rum Letters: write emails and comment directly on blogs. Avoid facebook and twitter because they are too ephemeral and all the great discussions get lost (FB is the biggest offender). Ask questions. Avoid hero worship. Contact very old writers. Recognize that we’ve all barely scratched the surface and truly know very little.

I don’t aim to control the book and it is pretty much redundant with all the journal articles, but the approach has started tons of great dialogue and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve read the book a few times and even wrote multiple articles on Arroyo and specific topics within Studies on Rum. The best passages, the stuff that would amuse and excite the rum drinker are all fully quoted in these articles.

The Prior Patents of Rafael Arroyo
Rum Comparatively: Understanding Anything Goes
Rum, Mitogenic Radiation & The Bio-photon
Cape Verde and Sugarcane Juice Rum Categories
Team Pombe and the Yeast Olympiad
Rum, Osmotolerance and the Lash
Aroma Breakage and Rum Design
Ageing, Accelerated Ageing, & Élevage ==> Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics
Arroyo’s Oidium

I don’t think a single article above has even gotten a comment.

I’ve put Arroyo down for a while, but I have been concepting a distillery analysis laboratory based on his ideas plus everything I have read that came after. I aim to create an affordable, holistic, organoleptic, human centered analysis system for product design and eventual quality control that can generate actionable advice. There is no GC/MS. It aims to be more like a vinyl DJ; admired, marketable, and effective. Seductive, but non actionable technologies are ruled out. Fine winemakers perform tons of analysis but don’t get too advanced. They are human centered.

The system can also be integrated into brand marketing and story telling better than more technologically advanced methods. The budget is looking like $30K and it also encompasses my gin lab based on the original 1940’s Seagram’s botanical assay procedures I recovered.

I’m working on it.

8 thoughts on “Research Bulletin No. 5 and the Republic of Rum Letters

  1. Online content creation can seem like a thankless task in this TL; DR culture the world is embroiled in, but what you’ve put forward in your articles has serious lasting value and is inspiring people beyond what you’re aware of. I’m sure of that and I’m sure it will inspire for years to come too.

    You’ve curated pretty much the only decent collection of rum production info beyond the mundane and it’s of immense value. I thank you for it and promise to report back with GPS coordinates for the rum oil once they’re found :)

  2. More read and appreciate than you realize. Your writing is shared immensley amongst more involved distillers; most at home, some commercial. One thing that deeply saddens me is how little involvement most legal distillers have; everyone is playing the rockstar game with their local/regional friends (famous for being famous, not for accomplishment so to speak). When the boom ends and the wheat is separated from the chaff (and the marketing team runs out of B.S. spin) things will get intensified and interesting.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement James. Did you read the rum oil updates from a few months ago? An Australian paper had some leads and aroma compounds derived from carotene were pointed to.

  4. Thanks for commenting Alan. Time will tell. It would be great to see more truth seekers enter the scene (or someone fund me). We’re really stuck in the phase where: “the rush to expertness compromises all inter relationships”.

  5. Thank you for this, and thank you your work on boston apothecary. I found the Arroyo material invaluable to the development of a short-run rum production program.

  6. Great to hear, Bobby. You’re a local right?

  7. I was living working on the South Shore until last year – moved to Georgia for a different project. Need to get back and visit sometime soon. There are quite a few good things going up there and I’m hopeful that we’ll see some more interesting brandies coming out of the Northeast.

  8. Stephen,

    I came to this post a little late (I’m 11 days behind in my RSS feed!) but wanted to echo the comments over others and say thanks for being an invaluable resource to the rum making community here. I also appreciate the attempt to foster dialogue. I think you’re right that the rush to be one of the few to master “genuine rum” is causing us to hold our cards close. But at the same time new rum producers would start to produce a consistently high level of product if there were more knowledge sharing. Regardless, the resources you’ve assembled are quite amazing, and I look forward to seeing you in operation with a lab or your own distillery someday.

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