Rum Label Transparency: Quantifying Fanatic’s Wishes

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Rum label transparency is of considerable curiosity to many fanatics. No, not whether or not you possibly can see by the label or not. Reasonably, transparency in precisely how the rum was made.

Whereas the rum world has made nice strides in the direction of larger transparency not too long ago, there’s nonetheless an awesome distance for manufacturers to journey. Info disclosure remains to be a “wild west” state of affairs, with most manufacturers approaching it advert hoc … if in any respect. This isn’t to dismiss the efforts of these forward-thinking manufacturers who do it nicely and constantly, however within the business as an entire, there’s a lot which may be improved.

Not like bourbon, Scotch whisky, and tequila, rum is made in lots of nations so we will’t look to some sort of overarching regulatory fiat to implement full rum label data disclosure. As such, any significant progress will come both from producers (e.g. a consortium of like-minded manufacturers), or in response to clear high-end client demand.

The transparency which fanatics search received’t be a easy or fast course of, however such aficionados can drive conversations to maneuver the ball in that route. In the direction of that finish, I created a survey to take the temperature of what the denizens of the rum world are on the lookout for. The outcomes are additional under, I’ll reveal the survey leads to a bit, however first some backstory for important context.

I not too long ago wrote a assume piece, Transferring Past Rum Classes – A Modest Proposal. To briefly summarize its key factors:

  • Technical categorizations comparable to Gargano roll up a number of manufacturing particulars underneath one time period. For example, Pure Single Rum means batch distilled rum, constituted of molasses or cane syrup at one distillery, with the distillery listed on the label. Then there’s Conventional Rum class, which switches the batch distillation requirement for column distillation. Now, what differentiates it from Blended Rum?

    It’s straightforward sufficient to seek the advice of a reference. Nonetheless, it might be nice if “conventional single or double column distillation” explicitly appeared on the label.
     
    To be clear, this isn’t a dismissal of categorization techniques. Reasonably, a small and well-defined set of manufacturing element might be agreed upon and seem alongside a class descriptor like pure single rum.

  • Producers ought to outline which “commonplace” manufacturing particulars they wish to embody. A gaggle of like-minded, transparency-focused producers can collectively lead by instance.

    In the direction of that finish, “commonplace” means particulars any trustworthy producer will fortunately disclose, e.g. what’s fermented, distillation know-how, and what kind of casks aged in

    Equally, producers received’t abruptly be clear about “commerce secrets and techniques” like which components they use. For the second, we will put that apart and give attention to achievable positive aspects, relatively than an “all or nothing” strategy which might derail good intentioned efforts.

  • A set of normal transparency objects needn’t give attention to your entire rum client inhabitants. Preliminary efforts ought to give attention to fanatics, as they drive important mindshare amongst new connoisseurs. If sufficient influencers and customers proceed to advocate publicly for such disclosures, and a gaggle of producers paved the way, then adoption will occur although osmosis.
  • Final however not least, standardized terminology is vital.  If one model’s distillation subject says, “Vendome six plate” and one other’s says, “Artisanal distillation in a copper alembic”, what have we gained? They need to agree on one thing like batch/steady/hybrid, and depart the flowery prose for elsewhere on the label.

    Likewise, if one model’s label says “ester stage” quantity, and one other’s says “volatiles”, are they equal? Seemingly not. How does the buyer know this?

    There’s a pure urge to infuse transparency data with a advertising and marketing spin. But when knowledgeable client can’t meaningfully examine two completely different producer’s labels, was it definitely worth the effort?

The rum label under has made the rounds these days, garnering a lot consideration from transparency centered fanatics. It takes data sharing to an excessive:

I like what this label is about. Nonetheless, I’ve no illusions that it’ll grow to be the norm. It’s not real-world rum labels must be. Important shiny verbiage have to be entrance and heart! (I’m kidding, but in addition being practical.)

That stated, this label exhibits how a moderately-sized panel of knowledge, widespread throughout producers, might discover a place on rum labels. Maybe simply on status manufacturers at first, however Incremental progress is best than none in any respect.

In my aforementioned modest proposal, I set forth a number of objects producers might think about standardizing on:

Technical Descriptor Allowed Terminology
Nation of fermentation & distillation ‘X’ or ‘A number of’
Single Distillery Sure/No
Single Batch Sure/No
Fermentation Supply Cane juice/Cane syrup/Molasses/a number of/different
Major Yeast Supply Cultured yeast/airborne yeasts/each
Distillation Sort Batch/Steady/a number of
Most Distilled ABV ‘X’ % ABV
Minimal Age in Wooden ‘X’ Years
Carbon Filtration for Colour Sure/No
Mixing supplies aside from E150 caramel, or comparable. Sure/No

The above checklist is simply a place to begin. And what do others assume?

As a software program engineer for thirty years, I’m an information geek. With Google varieties I composed a easy survey and launched it to the winds. I acquired some nice suggestions, and a small quantity of (anticipated) criticism.

The only survey would simply checklist the objects above and request respondents to rank them from 1 to 10 so as of significance.  The outcomes would possible not be terribly stunning.

As a substitute, I used extra inquiries to tease out extra nuances; particulars that might ordinarily be misplaced within the noise. Thus, my 5 questions every focused a particular side of rum making:

  • Normal, e.g. Who and The place?
  • Fermentation
  • Distillation
  • Ageing
  • Mixing

I intentionally left off objects that should seem on a label, comparable to alcoholic power. To streamline the survey, respondents solely picked their prime one or two selections for every query, relatively than rating every thing. Every query had an apparent “most essential” contender, however by requiring a second selection, gave a way of relative significance of the others.

To be clear, my selection phrasing was typically not what I’d placed on a label. My purpose was to find out what data folks needed, relatively than how a label reviews it.

In whole, I collected 344 response, sufficient to offer a ballpark stage thought of the everyday respondent’s needs.

I’m not an expert knowledge scientist. I created this survey in an hour’s time. It has not been peer reviewed. I didn’t guarantee folks solely stuffed it out as soon as. I didn’t acquire any personally figuring out knowledge. I didn’t confirm the demographics of who took it. Knowledgeable accounting agency didn’t validate my statistical evaluation. I undertook this effort solely of my very own accord, and with out communication, steering, or compensation from any rum model.

Much more esoteric selections might have been made out there, e.g. “fermentation vat wooden kind”, “variety of rectifier plates”, or “chill filtration temperature.” I selected to maintain the set of obtainable solutions affordable and comprehensible. Chances are you’ll disagree with what I included, and what I didn’t.

In brief, it’s only a fast ballot. It’s not supposed as something aside from a place to begin for additional dialog.

No medical selections must be constituted of this knowledge or my conclusions. Your mileage could differ.

What follows is my transient evaluation of the person query responses. Should you simply need my huge image conclusions, skip all the way down to the Conclusions part.

Normal (Who & The place?)

Query: Please rank the 2 most essential particulars you’d like a rum label to incorporate for transparency.

Out there selections:

  • Nation of Fermentation / distillation
  • Single distillery (Sure/No)
  • Single batch (Sure/No)
  • Bottled by producing distillery (Sure/No)

Outcomes

Abstract: “Nation of Fermentation/Distillation” distinguishes the first rum manufacturing levels from growing older. This eliminates ambiguity about whether or not a Jamaican distilled rum aged in Italy must be referred to as Jamaican or French. This isn’t a commentary on GIs, that are exterior this dialogue.

“Single distillery” means the rum got here from one producer, with out specifying the producer’s identify. Many rums are blends from a number of producers. Some folks could have misinterpreted the query, so subsequent evaluation has caveats.

 “Single batch” signifies all of the rum within the bottle is from the identical “batch”, relatively than a mix of various ages or marques.  Velier Lengthy Pond TECA 2005 is a single batch. Appleton 12 is just not.

“Bottled by producing distillery” distinguishes if the rum got here from the distillery itself or was offered to a different firm who bottled it. The Gargano categorization makes an identical distinction.

Examples:

  • Appleton 12 would qualify. Smith & Cross wouldn’t.
  • El Dorado 12 would qualify. Hamilton Guyana wouldn’t.

Had “Producing distillery” been an choice, it nearly actually would take the highest spot, but it surely deliberately wasn’t an choice.

Pressured to decide on between understanding nation of origin, or if from a single distillery, understanding the nation clearly received.

For second place, “single distillery” received. Nonetheless, “bottled by producing distillery” bought as many votes because the final two selections mixed. This recommend some need to know if the rum was made by the model on the label.

Fermentation

Query: Please rank the fermentation element you’d most like a rum label to incorporate for transparency.

Out there selections:

  • Fermentation supply (cane juice, syrup, molasses, different)
  • Yeast kind (Cultured yeast, airborne yeasts, each)
  • Shortest fermentation of any part rum

Outcomes:

Abstract: To no nice shock, essentially the most desired data was whether or not the rum was constituted of cane juice, cane syrup, or molasses. This element closely influences a rum’s taste.

The second-choice outcomes are stunning. Wild yeast fermentations are related to significantly flavorful, funky rums, whereas cultured yeast ferments are extra… refined, for lack of a greater phrase. Yeast selection significantly influences a rum’s taste profile.

Nonetheless, the size of fermentation additionally issues. Shorter fermentations of a day or two are related to extra “on a regular basis” rums, whereas lengthy fermentations of a number of weeks are likely to yield wild and extremely flavorful rums.  Between yeast selection and fermentation size, respondents had a slight choice for understanding the period, which considerably stunned me.

Distillation

Query: Please rank the 2 most essential distillation associated particulars you’d like a rum label to incorporate for transparency.

Out there selections:

  • Distillation kind (Pot, column, hybrid, a number of)
  • Variety of columns (if steady distillation)
  • Highest distilled ABV of any part rum
  • Risky compounds (in gr/hlAA)

Outcomes:

Abstract: “Distillation kind” must be fairly apparent if you happen to’ve made it this far.

“Variety of columns” would possibly seem to be an odd choice, but it surely’s addressed by the Gargano categorization as nicely. It differentiates conventional one or two column stills used for hundreds of years from modern-multicolumn stills. Rum distilled on a five-column nonetheless is commonly assumed to be comparatively flavorless, whereas rum from a single-column Creole or twin-column Coffey may have extra character.

 “Highest distilled ABV” is one other slice at a rum’s taste depth. A column distilled Martinique rum at 70 p.c ABV presumably has extra taste than a multi-column rum distilled to 94.9 p.c ABV. This explicit element didn’t curry a lot favor with survey takers.

“Risky compounds” symbolize a numeric measurement of taste congeners in a rum. Which congeners although? Is the measurement simply ethyl acetate, as with Jamaican rum “ester ranges”? Or is it a gaggle of congeners? Which of them? Who determined which congeners? Nice questions. Labels typically don’t present these solutions. Nonetheless, it seems to be “cool” on a label.

“Distillation know-how (pot/column/hybrid)” is the clear winner. Nonetheless, “unstable compounds” was a robust second selection amongst respondents. The above questions stay, although.

Ought to producers embody numeric congener ranges, it’s crucial to declare what is being measured. Many present labels are missing in that regard, a subject I’m pondering for a future story.

Ageing

Query: Please rank the 2 most essential growing older particulars you’d like a rum label to incorporate for transparency.

Out there selections:

  • Nation of growing older
  • Minimal cask age of any part rum
  • Most cask entry power of any part rum
  • Sort of main growing older cask (virgin oak, ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and so forth…)

Outcomes:

Abstract: “Nation of growing older” primarily differentiates tropical vs. continental growing older. Witness the heated debates about whether or not Jamaican-distilled rum aged in Scotland is absolutely Jamaican.

“Minimal cask age of any rum” is much like an age assertion, however not similar. Many nations solely permit the youngest rum’s age to look on the label. Different nations don’t care. This feature places apart per-country labeling legalities, lowering it to an unambiguous quantity.

Some would possibly cry “Heresy!” however one might additionally think about a “weighted common age” as one other transparency subject, distinct from the label’s “age assertion”. For example, Appleton 12 might embody “Weighted common age: 16 years,” ought to a rustic’s labeling legal guidelines permit it.

“Minimal cask entry power” is admittedly obscure, however this element has an essential taste influence. An 85 p.c ABV rum will extract extra wooden notes and tannins than a 65 p.c ABV rum. Most high-end producers dilute their distillate all the way down to round 70 p.c ABV previous to casking. This element didn’t garner a lot enthusiasm from respondents.

“Sort of main growing older cask” is self-explanatory and the wording weeds out cask finishes. Now that I give it some thought, “cask end kind” would been a great choice for this query.

Unsurprisingly, survey taker had a reasonable main choice for understanding a rum’s minimal age. Nonetheless, a good variety of folks selected “nation of growing older” over minimal age, though you’ll discover that in neither the primary nor second selection did that choice make it as the highest concern.

Taking the second selection slot, and additional bolstered by a number of folks choosing it as their first selection, is “kind of main growing older cask.” Fans would seem to worth this element. Sadly, it isn’t disclosed as clearly or as typically because it might be.

Mixing

Query: Please rank the 2 most essential mixing particulars you’d like a rum label to incorporate for transparency.

Out there selections:

  • Carbon filtered for coloration (sure/no)
  • Colour adjusted with caramel (sure/no)
  • Components aside from caramel (sure/no)
  • Chill filtered (sure/no)
  • Single marque / Mix of marques

Outcomes:

Abstract: “Carbon filtered for coloration” helps tease aside unaged rums from frivolously aged rums which are filtered to make “white” rum. The overwhelming majority of Caribbean “white” rum is carbon filtered. Shocked? Each Cuba and Puerto Rico have laws requiring rum to be aged, and between them, they make a prodigious quantity of “white” rum.

“Colour adjusted with caramel” is self-explanatory. Some rum drinkers really feel strongly that it must be disclosed, others say it’s of little consequence.

“Components aside from caramel” possible means “sugar” to many respondents, but in addition contains glycerol, vanillin, and extra. Principally, something added after growing older that’s not caramel coloring.

“Chill filtered” (inexperienced on the graph – blame Google), implies that previous to mixing, the rum was chilled and handed by a filter to extract a few of the heavier congeners that may make a rum flip cloudy in sure situations. Nonetheless, it might probably scale back the flavour and physique of a spirit. Many high-end spirits afficionados are very anti-chill filtering. That sentiment doesn’t appear to have reached vital mass in rum circles but.

“Single marque / Mix of marques” (purple on the graph – blame Google) could also be complicated. Considerably much like “single batch,” it differentiates a single marque rum a mix of a number of marques.  For example, rums labeled DOK (Hampden Property), TECC (Lengthy Pond), and Port Mourant (DDL) are single marque rums. Single marque rums are often restricted runs of just some casks.

To completely no shock, “Components aside from caramel” was the clear first selection winner. I’m relatively shocked that 51 folks chosen “caramel coloring” over “different components”.

Within the second selection slot, “caramel coloring” got here out on prime by only a tad. That, mixed with its (comparatively) robust first-choice vote totals, exhibits fanatics need caramel coloring disclosed. 

Regardless of simply 5 query, there’s a good quantity of information to ponder. We are able to slice it in some ways, however as this put up is already getting lengthy, I’ll maintain it to just some observations. The uncooked knowledge is under, must you want to do what you’ll with it.

Taking the first-choice winner from every query creates a transparency element set that features the next:

  • Nation of fermentation / distillation
  • Supply materials (cane juice, syrup, molasses, different)
  • Distillation know-how (Pot, column, hybrid, a number of)
  • Minimal cask age of any part rum
  • Components aside from caramel (sure/no)

Many independently bottled, restricted version rums embody all these particulars. Nonetheless, after we have a look at extensively out there rums, even very costly examples. a few of the above particulars are missing. Or have to be inferred from shut studying of florid label descriptions. Often solely “Nation of fermentation / distillation” and “minimal cask age” are constantly offered. The others are very hit-and-miss.

Aside from “components”, I can’t think about any respected producer having an issue offering these 5 objects in a transparent, constant method. Sure, components will probably be a sticking level.

Nonetheless, if we take “components” off the desk for now, and swap in its runner up choice, “caramel coloring”, most respected producers shouldn’t have an issue disclosing that.

Let’s take this a step additional. Is there different low hanging fruit we will add, based mostly its recognition within the survey outcomes? I suggest these three objects:

  • “Single distillery” appears well-defined and non-controversial.
  • Risky compounds can be an awesome factor so as to add to labels, ought to producers agree on precisely what’s being measured and reporting solely that worth.
  • Nation of growing older can be well-defined and must be non-controversial.

If sufficient producers agreed on the above eight objects and included them on labels with utilizing agreed upon verbiage, we’d make a significant stride ahead in transparency. Even when such particulars have been solely out there on an organization’s site, it might nonetheless be an enchancment.

To wrap this up, what I’ve outlined above isn’t supposed as any form of closing vacation spot for rum transparency. Reasonably, it’s a well-defined, straightforward carried out, non-controversial place to begin. However as they are saying, a journey of a thousand miles begins with step one.

My honest due to Lance Surujbally, aka The Lone Caner for studying a draft of this story and offering his knowledgeable opinions.

Anticipating anyone will ask for the precise numeric abstract outcomes, right here is the abstract totals reported by Google Varieties:

Normal

  Nation of Fermentation & distillation Single distillery Bottled by Producing distillery Single batch
1st selection 252 46 29 17
2nd selection 50 149 101 44

Fermentation

  Fermentation supply (cane juice, syrup, molasses, different) Shortest fermentation of any part rum Yeast kind (Cultured, airborne, each)
1st selection 312 27 5
2nd selection 30 165 149

Distillation

  Distillation kind (Pot, column, hybrid, a number of) Risky compounds (in gr/hlaa) Highest distilled ABV of any part rum Variety of columns (if steady distillation)
1st selection 319 15 8 2
2nd selection 19 156 125 44

Ageing

  Minimal cask age of any part rum Nation of growing older Sort of main growing older cask (virgin oak, ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and so forth…) Most cask Entry power of any part rum
1st selection 190 105 47 2
2nd selection 83 101 143 17

Mixing

  Components aside from caramel Colour adjusted with caramel Single marque / Mix of marques Chill filtered Carbon filtered for coloration
1st selection 247 51 31 9 6
2nd selection 74 118 72 61 19

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