Aging may be a dirty word in Hollywood, but in the spirits world, a little time goes a long way toward a winning product. Not only does aging a spirit mellow out the harshness of raw alcohol, it can also impart flavors from the vessel the spirit is aged in and the natural evolution due to the combination of flavors and oxygen from the air (think: vanilla notes from oak barrels).
When it comes to rum, though, one of the most important factors in aging is that old adage you’ve heard time and again in the real estate world: location, location, location. Does it matter whether your rum is aged in Barbados or Berlin? Yes, much more than you might think.
“When we’re talking about aging, we’re talking about the changes in the maturation of the spirit over a period of time,” says David Cid, the global master of rum and cane spirits for Bacardi. “In the Caribbean, that process can take two to three times less than in the colder regions of the north.”
Rum can be produced and aged all over the world, but when it’s aged in warmer, tropical climates, the maturation is sped up considerably, mainly due to the effect of natural temperature accelerating flavor generation and evolution.
According to Juan Piñera, Bacardi’s longtime maestro máximo de ron, liquid evaporates in the Caribbean at a rate of approximately 8 to 10 percent per year, versus 6 to 7 percent in Mexico and only 2 to 3 percent in Scotland, where the aging of rum has increased.
For Bacardi, this means that if the company is producing one particular type of rum in different countries, the aging time has to be adjusted so that the finished product is consistent in terms of maturity and taste. However, the distillation and production process remains the same. For example, the same types of yeast will be used, and the water is purified in the same fashion so that the rum looks and tastes the same.
Piñera says that if two identical spirits are aged for the same amount of time in Puerto Rico and Scotland, for instance, the Caribbean rum will have softer, fruitier notes than its Scottish counterpart. If BACARDÍ® Ocho eight-year-old rum were to be aged in Scotland, it would require more than 16 years of aging to reach the same maturation levels.
So the next time you reach for a bottle of rum, know that where it was aged has a lot to do with how it tastes in your glass.