Jamaican Rum on Acid: How Vinegar Brings the Funk

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The educational by no means stops.

For a number of years I’ve endeavored to know the flavour science and historical past behind Jamaican rum’s distinctive hogo. As a part of that I’ve visited each Jamaican rum distillery, save one, and documented what I discovered. One such article I wrote was maybe the primary to obviously outline what dunder is, and differentiate it from muck, a associated however very completely different ingredient.

To briefly recap, each dunder (what stays in a nonetheless after a distillation run, aka stillage), and muck (a putrefied dunder with different components added) are substantial elements of the fermented wash of the following distillation run. You may name them the “particular sauces” of Jamaican rum making. I confer with them continuously when educating folks about why Jamaican rum is usually so flavorful.

Observe: Not all Jamaican rums use dunder or muck. It’s solely the strongly flavorful ones that do.

I just lately realized one more particular sauce is in use; one proper in entrance of my eyes for fairly a while. I’d failed to attach my understanding of historic texts with what I personally noticed in Jamaica. All of it got here all the way down to a easy labeling subject.

This third particular sauce is vinegar – a particular distillery crafted vinegar made out of cane juice. You may be questioning why on earth you’d add vinegar to molasses in your fermentation. The reply: To make extra taste! However most likely not the flavour you’re picturing.

Not what the Jamaican rum makers use

Vinegar is a diluted type of acetic acid. This widespread acid, when mixed with ethyl alcohol, creates the ester generally known as ethyl acetate. Ethyl acetate is by far the most typical ester present in rum, making an aroma usually described as fruity. Others say it brings to thoughts nail polish remover.

Throughout fermentation, yeast consumes sugar and emits ethyl alcohol. By including acetic acid to the combination, the distiller creates extra alternatives for the alcohol to mix with the acid, birthing an ethyl acetate ester molecule. Merely put, it supercharges taste creation!

Let’s wonk out only a bit deeper on this.

Charles Allan, in his magnificent 1906 lectures for the Jamaican Sugar Experiment Station, writes:[i]

Acetic acid is the acid of vinegar. The tactic through which vinegar is made is attention-grabbing as, in some measure, the identical course of is adopted in making acid on estates making flavoured rum. The wine which is to be transformed into vinegar is positioned in casks, half crammed, at about 30 levels C. to which air has reasonably free entry. The formation of acetic acid takes place in consequence of the liquid being step by step lined with a movie consisting of the mom of vinegar. In different international locations the German fast “vinegar course of” is employed through which the expansion of micro organism suspended in dilute spirit blended with vinegar, is accelerated by coming into intimate contact with the air. That is led to by permitting free entry of air, by dividing the liquid into small drops and distributing these over a big floor (similar to beech shavings.)

Acetic acid should be produced in massive portions within the distilleries of this island however particularly in these making flavoured rum. Certainly in them particular processes have been advanced to supply this acid in addition to others. The a part of the method which is generally involved within the professional duction of acetic acid is the fermentation of what’s referred to as rum cane juice. This juice is usually poor in sugar and what sugar there may be, is generally glucose which might not crystallise out even the juice. It’s nonetheless, in an acceptable state for being fermented. A weak alcoholic answer is fashioned. This liquor is thrown over cane trash and allowed to face. The result’s that the alcohol is changed into acetic acid. You’ll notice how intently this course of corresponds to that of constructing vine gar. Solely within the case of vinegar-making a freer entry to air is given.

Observe: Flavoured rum on this context doesn’t imply something like Bacardi’s Dragon Berry rum. Fairly, it refers back to the excessive ester rum exported to Germany to make rum verschnitt, and to Amsterdam for mixing and flavoring functions.

So, now we all know extra about how the Jamaicans had been making vinegar a century in the past. The subsequent query is: How a lot vinegar had been they utilizing every time? A cup? A gallon?

Greater than you may suppose. This identical doc referenced earlier gives a recipe for a typical wash to make a extremely flavored rum:

Capability of fermenting cistern 2,000 gallons.

  • Skimmings (recent) 620 gallons at 12 brix
  • Dunder 760 gallons at 24 brix
  • Acid 220 gallons at eight brix
  • Molasses 200 gallons
  • Flavour 160 gallons at eight brix (aka “muck”)

The acid within the recipe is cane vinegar.[ii] On this explicit instance, it’s over 200 gallons, or 11 p.c of the wash.

Cane acid (vinegar) tank at Lengthy Pond distillery, Jamaica

Sadly, I’d not but learn the above lecture excerpts earlier than visiting Lengthy Pond. Once I noticed a tank labeled “acid” within the fermentation space, I blithely assumed it was for waste, or perhaps for a cleansing answer.

In a nutshell, I took a really very long time to attach the dots between the acid referenced within the 1906 textual content, and the acid tank I noticed in Lengthy Pond’s fermentation space. As an alternative, I (erroneously) assumed that the usage of vinegar was an outdated apply that had fallen out of favor.

It wasn’t till I hosted an internet session with Nationwide Rums of Jamaica that it clicked – The “acid” tank I’d seen at Lengthy Pond was in actual fact a cane vinegar tank, clear proof that acid remains to be utilized by a few of at the moment’s Jamaican distilleries. It’s not a forgotten apply in any case! From that session, we additionally understand it’s used on the Clarendon distillery in addition to at Lengthy Pond.

In brief, when speaking in regards to the particular practices that make Jamaican rum so ester-rific, don’t overlook cane vinegar!


[i] Allan, Charles; LECTURES ON FERMENTATION IN RELATION TO JAMAICA RUM.  As delivered on the Course for Distillers —AT THE— Authorities Laboratory in 1906.

[ii] I discover it fairly beginning to ponder this outdated wash recipe. Solely ten p.c of the recipe is molasses, a far cry from most rum making at the moment which is normally solely from molasses. In these early recipes, dunder, skimmings and vinegar makes up extra of the recipe than molasses.

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