Privateer Rum’s Maggie Campbell on Barrel Aging Science – Tropical or Otherwise

The “Wonk” in Cocktail Wonk refers to digging deep to understand as much as possible about spirits and cocktails. Many of the stories here involve the chemistry of aging, as well as the different elements in a spirit – water, ethanol, and other compounds such as esters, aldehydes and higher (heavier) alcohols. It’s these compounds that give spirits their aroma flavor. Each spirit has its own ratios of these compounds, thus making that spirit taste different than any other spirit. The set of aromatic compounds in a spirit are impacted by many processes, including fermentation, distillation, and barrel aging.

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Is Rum Made From Sugar or Not?

A recently published “Rum 101” article caught my attention because it asserted rum can be made from sugar beets, as well as from sugar cane. This is simply not the case. While you can certainly make a distilled spirit using sugar beets, the end product is not a rum–just as a distilled spirit made from malted barley can’t be a rum, no matter how hard someone might wish it to be.

While sugar plays part of rum production (and actually, part of all spirits production), the real story is a tad more complicated than most people realize. So, let’s get just a bit geeky and clear up some misconceptions about rum and sugar.

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Plantation’s New Xaymaca Special Dry – Deeply Deconstructed

When Maison Ferrand (parent company of Plantation Rum) purchased the Barbados-based West Indies Rum Distillery in 2017, it came with a bonus: One-third ownership of Jamaica’s Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries. While master blender Alexandre Gabriel is no stranger to Jamaican rums – witness Plantation’s Jamaican vintage rums and blends like O.F.T.D. Overproof–in the past year he’s ventured deeply down the Jamaican rabbit hole. The first visible sign just hit the wires today with Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry announcement – a 100 percent pot still, blended rum from the two aforementioned distilleries.

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The Case of the Missing Marque – The Barrel Did It

During my recent visit to Maison Ferrand (home of Cognac Ferrand and Plantation Rum) I posted a picture on Facebook that seemed innocuous enough. The caption read: “If you’re going to drink a cask-strength, 18 year Long Pond marque, the ITP (280 g/hL AA) is highly recommend. Even Mrs. Wonk loved it.”

A few minutes later, someone extremely knowledgeable about the rum industry posted a comment that caught me completely off-guard. The gist of the comment: Long Pond’s ITP marque is known to be in the 90-120 g/hL AA range. How can it be 277 g/hL AA?

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Why You’re Not Making Wray & Nephew 17 at Home

I came across a Facebook post recently:

“I’ve been dabbling with aging my own rum. I put a couple liters of the overproof unaged Wray & Nephew into a two-liter oak cask. Anyone have an idea how long it should sit before it mimics the 17-year Wray & Nephew used in the original 1944 Mai Tai?”

After removing my palm from my forehead, I realized it was time to fire up Ye Olde Reality Generator and shed some light on this all-too-common question.

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Birth of a Sherry Cask

The screech of wood meeting an industrial planer blade pierces the air. One by one, rectangular boards a meter in length meet their fate, emerging from the machinery just a bit more trim and shapely. A few meters away around a corner, huge balls of fire burst to life and subside, leaving behind the evocative smell of charred wood. The background accompaniment to the theatrics is the constant, arrhythmic clanking of metal hitting metal, hammers striking bands of steel. The scene is worlds away from the calm serenity that wine and spirits markets strive to convey in promoting their products.

Outside, it’s a sunny, blue-sky February morning in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Federico Sanchez-Pece Salmerón, the director of Communications for Grupo Caballero, has brought us to the Antonio Páez Lobato cooperage, one of several that supply sherry producer Lustau with newly made casks for their sherry wines. The casks being constructed mere inches from us will soon hold sherry, but won’t reside in a place of honor within a sherry solera. Rather, their final destination is far away from Andalucia, where they were born here in the southwest of Spain. But we’ll come back to that later.

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