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Old 06-05-2008, 09:21 PM   #1
stockdoct
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Default The 5.5% quest

OK, I have a question for the distillery chemists out there.....

If I remember right, rum is concentrated from (i suspect) a fermented molasses or cane juice of approximately 15% alcohol, to a potent distillate of 94.5% alcohol, barrel aged, then watered down to a bottled mix of 40% alcohol. I want to focus on the stage where it is the 94.5% stuff.

That powerful rocket fuel --- 94.5% alcohol and 5.5% "not" ethanol --- also contains water, I suppose, so there's not much room for anything else. SO here's my question: Where does rum's flavor come from?

Either: 1) the 94.5% alcohol has an incredibly "rummy" flavor, which I doubt.
or 2) the flavor comes NOT from the sugarcane but from the reaction of potent Ethanol with the wood barrels, but I have a tough time with that, trying to explain why rums can taste so dramatically different --- wood is wood, y'know or 3) "flavor" is simply added at the end

Has anyone tasted the 94.5% alcohol that comes out of the distillation process? Did it taste like rum?

Has anyone tasted rum right out of the aging barrels?

I'd HATE to think my Pampero or Coruba in their lifespan were once simply Everclear equivalents, and receive their special flavors (like BBQ flavored potato chips or neon-colored breakfast cereal)..... from industrial artificial flavorings added at the end.
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Old 06-06-2008, 01:27 AM   #2
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Most rums are blends of rums which were distilled to different proofs then blended. Rum straight from the still at 94.5% alcohol has some flavor, though it is light-bodied.

There are a number of congeners even in a 94.5% ethanol distillate. But if you don't think you could taste much in that distillate other than alcohol, consider that your sense of smell is quite important. If you've ever smelled a cigar being smoked in the car in front of you at a stop light, you've smelled that cigar in the parts per million range, so 1 in 20 is actually quite strong.

The reality is that the ethanol is made up of a number of alcohols and other chemicals including acetyl aldehydes, esters and a stew of other compounds which are beyond the scope of this thread.

Heavy type rums are generally blended from distillates some of which were distilled to as low as 90% abv.
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Old 06-06-2008, 03:38 AM   #3
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Ed is right on, as always. There are so many factors involved that create the wide diversity of range in rums. It's not all the same cane or molasses, the same yeast, the same still, the same process, the same aging methods.

All oil paintings are made from oil paint, but the vast diversity in the art world comes from the vision, the preferences, the sensibilities, intentions and purpose of the artist.
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Old 06-07-2008, 07:43 PM   #4
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Im sure somebody can verify this, but i believe the definition of a vodka is anything distilled to 95% (190 proof) or higher. If this were the case, a rum distilled at 94.5% im sure will taste as much like sugar cane as Ciroc vodka tastes like grapes!
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Old 06-08-2008, 09:35 AM   #5
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I think that really depends. I know in the recent round of discussions by the EU on agriculture, the French were trying to get most of what we consider vodka labeled as "neutral spirits." In return, the Poles suggested a definition for wine that made about half of what France produces likewise "neutral spirits." They came to a compromise that left wine as any undistilled fruit ferment, and vodka as any distillate period.
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Old 06-09-2008, 04:28 PM   #6
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[QUOTE=stockdoct;13076]That powerful rocket fuel --- 94.5% alcohol and 5.5% "not" ethanol --- also contains water, I suppose, so there's not much room for anything else. SO here's my question: Where does rum's flavor come from?

The 5.5% "not" ethanol not only contains water but lots og higher and lower alcohols and congeners which might be in small percentages but are present. Because your ethanol is so dominant your flavours are suppressed or stiffled.If you dilute you high strength rum and "nose" it you might be shocked to find the amount of aromas that are present. These aromas theds to surface when your rum strength decreases.

Either: 1) the 94.5% alcohol has an incredibly "rummy" flavor, which I doubt.

Yes, like I indicated above.

or 2) the flavor comes NOT from the sugarcane but from the reaction of potent Ethanol with the wood barrels, but I have a tough time with that, trying to explain why rums can taste so dramatically different --- wood is wood, y'know

Some flavours do. Like I mentioned in another thread, ageing not only gives some flavour to the rum but also enhances those already existing there.

or 3) "flavor" is simply added at the end

No. At least not in El Dorado rums.

Has anyone tasted the 94.5% alcohol that comes out of the distillation process? Did it taste like rum?

Yes. If diluted enough you can taste the flavours but mostly they are sharp and rough on taste.

Has anyone tasted rum right out of the aging barrels?

Yes. These flavours are much more rounded and much more obvious.
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Old 06-11-2008, 02:07 AM   #7
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Ive tasted the Cruzan rums post-distillate. I dont recall the proof, though I remember it hoverred around 160 (and I tasted it at 9am... mistake!) and it tasted like a high ester rum.
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Old 06-11-2008, 03:11 PM   #8
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While distillation can go up to 95% alcohol, distillers may choose to go to a lower level, such as 80%. Even lower levels may be practiced with rhum agricole and cachaca.
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Old 06-11-2008, 04:32 PM   #9
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While distillation can go up to 95% alcohol, distillers may choose to go to a lower level, such as 80%. Even lower levels may be practiced with rhum agricole and cachaca.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You've got me interested. What benefit might one get from distilling to a lower alcohol level? And why might agricoles or cachaca especially lean that way when other rums do not?
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Old 06-11-2008, 06:38 PM   #10
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Lower distillation I'm guessing would provide higher flavor concentration from what ever solids or components aside from alcohol that are involved - no?

In theory if you distill to 200 proof the distillate should taste like pure alcohol. If you take a barrel and fill it with 100% abv distillate you'll have a barrel of pure alcohol. If you distill to 160 proof and fill a barrel you have 80% alcohol - leaving a bit more room for other contributions from what ever other components may have gone into the process - no?
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