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Old 01-26-2009, 10:33 PM   #1
DonBlanco8
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Default Molasses vs. Sugar Cane

Dear All,

As a novice to this forum, I'm hope someone can answer a few questions on a topic that has me scratching my head...

Why DO certain distilleries choose to use molasses instead of sugar cane to produce their rum? Is molasses regarded as superior or inferior to sugar cane in terms of flavor/smoothness? Is using it perhaps more of an economic decision to cut costs or does it involve a more complex process?

Hope you can help my research!

Many thanks,
Don B
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:54 AM   #2
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As it has been stated before on this forum, the French don't attach an inferior stigma to their word 'industriel', or industrial as it literally translated in English. In the French Caribbean islands, it is another category of rum not to be confused with their rhum agricole, which is made from sugar cane juice.

The majority, by volume, of the world's rums are made from molasses, which isn't also to suggest that that is the best method of making rum. Until a couple of years ago GM was the largest car maker in the world - if they had truly been making the best cars I doubt they would be in the mess they are in now.

In the sugar making process, as the crystalline sucrose is removed from the sugar cane juice sulfur, potassium, ash and other minerals are concentrated in the black viscous molasses.

When making rum from molasses, in order to remove the sulfur compounds formed during fermentation, the fermented wash or beer, as it is sometimes called, must be distilled to a high proof or the spirit is essentially unpalatable.

When distillers ferment the much-lower sulfur content sugar cane juice, they don't have to distill to such a high proof and can retain more of the flavor of the cane. Distilled to a low proof, sugar cane juice spirits also suffer from quality issues that can also make them unpleasant to drink.

I enjoy both molasses-based spirits and those made from sugar cane juice. Just because a spirit is made from one or the other doesn't necessarily make it a good spirit. The most important factors are the quality control and selection of the fermenting agent-yeast, attention to the distillation details of still selection and use, and last but certainly not least, how the spirit is handled after distillation. There are a myriad of variables which are beyond the scope of this thread.

I would suggest reading this thread as well Rums from Sugar Cane Syrup
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Old 02-28-2009, 08:37 PM   #3
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Hoo boy, if I were you'd I'd duck after asking that one.

That is an interesting opening response to a new member query Bill. Care to elucidate?
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonBlanco8 View Post
Dear All,

As a novice to this forum, I'm hope someone can answer a few questions on a topic that has me scratching my head...

Why DO certain distilleries choose to use molasses instead of sugar cane to produce their rum? Is molasses regarded as superior or inferior to sugar cane in terms of flavor/smoothness? Is using it perhaps more of an economic decision to cut costs or does it involve a more complex process?

Hope you can help my research!

Many thanks,
Don B
Welcome, DonBlanco8!

I love reading about the history of rum. Over the past 10 years, or so, a number of good books tackle the subject in great detail. But, really, Ed and Capn Bill (when he details the availability and low cost of molasses) have done a great job breaking it down for you.

I have a saying when it comes to rum, "It's all good!". Actually, that is a jab at another rum forum which likes to belittle the fine AOC Rhum Agricoles from Martinique.

Really, try as many rums and rhums as possible. There will be hits and misses. But, I have never found the dividing line between such to rest solely on molasses vs. cane juice.
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Last edited by rumdog007; 03-01-2009 at 11:01 PM.
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Old 02-28-2009, 11:42 PM   #5
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Flavor and smoothness of either are a result of the distilling and aging art. Or in the case of 1 Barrel, the additive art, lol...

Capn Bill, you keep sending mixed signals on the 1 Barrel. One minute it's the best rum you've ever tasted and, the next, it's a cooking rum. Which is it? My version of Sue Sea uses it in her fruit cake. LOL, LOL, LOL.....
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Old 03-01-2009, 03:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonBlanco8 View Post
Dear All,

As a novice to this forum, I'm hope someone can answer a few questions on a topic that has me scratching my head...

Why DO certain distilleries choose to use molasses instead of sugar cane to produce their rum? Is molasses regarded as superior or inferior to sugar cane in terms of flavor/smoothness? Is using it perhaps more of an economic decision to cut costs or does it involve a more complex process?

Hope you can help my research!

Many thanks,
Don B
I'm not an expert in economics so I'll leave that topic alone. However what if the history of a particular distillery plays an important part?

For example in Martinique...many distilleries there have traditionally used sugar cane to produce rhum so they just continue on with that tradition. The same for Jamaica and the use molasses to make rum.

So could it simply be that a given distillery gets used to producing a certain type of rum from a certain ingredient and they just maintain the status quo?
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Old 03-01-2009, 03:39 AM   #7
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JMac, so true. So much of what is done to make rum is "...what they've always done...", etc.. For new producers, like Essential Spirits in the SF Bay area, it would be quite an undertaking to make rum using cane juice. Dave Classick would need to start a cane field in Mountain View, CA... Even Barbancourt which has direct access to cane for part of the year must use cane syrup (cane honey), too. I am headed to Guatemala in June and will try to wiggle into a tour of Botran. Report to follow....
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:17 AM   #8
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The French tend to make rhum agricole from sugar cane juice. This goes back in history as Napolean outlawed sugar import into France in favor of making sugar from beets. As a result the martinique planters had no market for their sugar cane, so they decided lets make rum from this excess sugar(juice).

Now the English and Spanish have always loved the sugar from the cane, but what to do with the left over product(molasses)? Throw it in the ocean? Thats when they realized that if left out it would ferment, and if drunk you could forget about how miserable and hot the sugar cane fields could be.

I like to think of rhum, ron, or rum like women. Each type has ones I like and ones I don't, but I still love meeting them all....
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:56 AM   #9
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DonBlanco8 welcome to the for-rum!!
Seems like questions have been addressed, so i will just send out my greeting.
You are from Mexico? i read last year that Rum is the best selling spirit in Mexico... That blew me away.. i always knew there was something i liked about Mexico (i mean besides the wonderful people, the beautiful women, the excellent food, amazing scenery, the Tequila, and learning Rum is the #1 spirit--- wait a minute i want to go to Mexico!!).
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Old 03-01-2009, 01:07 PM   #10
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Don B,

Perfect timing for this question as a buddy of mine at work asked me this exact question so I just forwarded the thread to him.
I looked up Rhum's on our State site and it showed 6 bottles, all but one on the higher priced side so my impression was this might be considered a "finer" method of production, and I would have thought "industrial" was a "knock" as well. This thread has cleared up that misconception!

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