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Oaking Rum and Flavoring

edited August 2015 in Recipes


I have a question regarding oak aging rum.
I have visited a few rum distilleries in my travels this year and I have found that most age their rum in old wine barrels from 2 years to 4 years. Compared to my rum theirs are sweeter without as much raw oakiness.
I age my rum in a glass 8L vessel at 65% with 7 grams/L of lightly toasted french oak staves that I get from @punkin. The oak staves I'm using I'm sure are not from an old wine barrel so I'm looking to replicate the aged in an old wine barrel taste. In the past I have added a little vanilla extract which does a good job but its missing that soft fruity nose and that smoothness that I'm sure is imparted by reusing old wine barrels. Still a nice rum just the same.
I have thought of soaking some staves in a 2L jar with some cheap red wine for a few months and using those to age the future gens of rum. Is anyone else doing something similar??? Should the staves be dried out before aging or added while still wet???

Cheers H.



  • edited August 2015

    Try aging at a lower abv, closer to 55%. IMHO, the oak astringency of short-term aging with high oak surface area is too high above 60%. If, for some reason, I found myself with 50%, I wouldn't be so concerned about aging that low. On the other hand, no way 70% is touching wood.

    @Heef71 said: Compared to my rum theirs are sweeter without as much raw oakiness.

    Maybe the aging, but they might very well add sugar. Have you tried adding a small amount? The results are pretty amazing. Try replicating some of the sugar taste tests. Yes I know some purists say this is rum heresy. At low levels it works very well to balance out that tannin raw wood (below the perception of "sweet"). If you can't convince yourself, make caramel and tell yourself you are just adjusting color for batch consistency.

    @Heef71 said: but its missing that soft fruity nose and that smoothness that I'm sure is imparted by reusing old wine barrels.

    Fruity esters more likely due to the fact that it's going into the barrel "funkier", not necessarily the wine contribution.

  • All of the above plus you can age for a time with your jars open to the air to simulate the breathing that the oak barrels do. Just put a coffee filter over it with a rubber band and let it sit for a few days. Seal it and maybe open it up every once in a while for a few days. On another thread I just posted the evaporation rates that I saw. If your jars stay sealed during the entire aging process, you will lose some of the oxidation process that will help smooth out the rum.

  • edited August 2015

    Thanks @grim and @FloridaCracker
    I age my rum in these 2 gallon drink dispensers, I have replaced the plastic tap with a stainless tap and I've removed the seal from the lid to allow the spirit to breath. I plan on leaving these to age for at least 9 months.
    Every now and then I'll take a sample to see how its going, so..... maybe I should just leave them for the 9 months and then check em.

    586 x 800 - 68K
  • Don't let it breathe for 9 months or you may not have anything to drink.

  • Ha ha yeah, rum concentrate, could make an essence eh lol.. Actually there is bugger all evaporation. The jars sit in a cabinet, out of direct sunlight. Even though the lids are closed there are not sealed. Every few weeks I'll open the lids for a few hours. When the 9 months are up I'll bottle it and refill the jar with the next gen. I'm doing one run of rum per month, so after 9 months I'll have 9 gens and recycle the jars as the next gen comes out. Just put gen 7 on oak 11 days ago and gen 8 is bubbling away quite hard, only put it down yesterday ( 2 x 60L's with a 55L wash in each).

    By taste testing I've found the gen 5 is way more superior in flavour and alot more rummy than the first 4 gen's which seem bland and boring. Gen 5 is currently 2 and a half months on oak and tastes great. Its gonna be hard to leave it full term.

  • IMHO - good process, tight cuts, new wood - you can get away with significantly less aging than commercials.

    Don't necessarily aim for color match either, since it's common for commercials to adjust with colorants. If you go for color match, you might find yourself over oaking. Sometimes piss yellow tastes a whole lot better than rich mahogany.

    The fact is, shit distillate in used cooperage takes a long time to reach drinkability. I've had tons of awful 10 year old spirit.

  • As the guys say, watch the abv Heef. I used the square 4l cookie jars all the time but learnt a painful lesson when i got a jar of hard won allgrain corn hearts down one day and tested it at 27%. Took a while to figure out what had happened but it was the chucked away rubber seal and it happened on a lot of my old reference jars till i switched them all back to bottles.
    I did use those same cookie jars to age for a month or two with no real loss though.

    On the ageing, i'm of the opinion that less oak for longer is the key to a heavy rum in the Inner Circle/Bundy style. I never tried to make a fine sipping rum so i haven't got advice for that, but for a rum and coke style heavy navy rum it took at a minimum of 6 months and more like 12 months ageing for the 'bourbon' flavour from the oak to dissipate and the molasses to shine back through.

    I can only talk to tails from potstill runs, but back when i was not so lazy and much more interested i used to really sift through the bottles, every one of them. Now and then, but not always you'd find a golden jar. After the dog and before the watery paper there would be something in a jar that made you take real notice. Sometimes there'd be two, but not often at all.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @Heef71 said: . Just put gen 7 on oak 11 days ago and gen 8 is bubbling away quite hard, only put it down yesterday ( 2 x 60L's with a 55L wash in each).

    I am finishing up the spirit run on my Gen 8 right now. Tails just came on and I am switching jars like a madman. Looking at 3 gallons (roughly 12 liters) of 92% hearts. Might add in a liter or so of tails depending on what I find in a couple of days. This is the second generation that has been tasty enough to drink right off of the still.

  • Just took my backstrap off the SD French oak after about 7 weeks.

    Flavor - amazing! On side note, everything everyone said about not leaving it in too long or the oak takes over is true. Still trading awesome...

  • Try blending a bit of neutral with it to bring it back. Only have to do a small sample to see if it works or not.

  • I just check the abv on the first 2 gens i did back in March. I have the glass lid sitting on top with no seal. I put it on oak at 68%, temp corrected to 65%. Now reading 65%, temp corrected to 62%. The angles have taken only 3% over this time. Thanks for the warning guys, I'll keep an eye on it. Another 3 months and I'll bottle it. The first few gens are a bit flat and oaky. Currently only have 1 domino in there. Does anyone remove all the oak for a period before bottling?

  • You can and if I even think for a second that I am getting too much oak I get it off of the oak. Very difficult to get rid of "too much oak". When it has happened to me, I just air the shit out of it or blend with some other stuff like white or a less oaked spirit.

  • On the idea of commercial using used wine barrels...I have had great flavors from adding a few drops of sherry to a bottle of rum or a couple of ounces to a used barrel while aging.

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • Hi - I've just made the cuts on my first rum and will be tasting them tomorrow before oaking. I've got some sample French Oak Stave packs from SD and wondered about previous references on this forum re: "lightly toasted" or "charred" etc. Can I just use the staves as they are, or should I be charring them first on the gas hob?

  • I am sure that I will be screamed at for this one, .... does anyone sweeten rum prior to bottling.

    But apart from that I read that Ameriacan oak gives far more vanilla flavouring than that of french oak. So I would suspect that it is quite important to check what staves one uses for their preferred taste profiles.

  • No but it's fairly amazing what kind of impact even 1 gram per liter has.

  • edited April 2018

    @richard said: But apart from that I read that Ameriacan oak gives far more vanilla flavouring than that of french oak.

    American Oak has significantly higher levels of "Whiskey Lactones" than European.

    The most important of these is cis-oak lactone, which imparts a kind of spicy sweet bourbon-y vanilla and toasty coconut. This is different though, from the vanillin and vanillic acid produced as lignin degradation products (which is impacted more by the toasting and char).

    Identified by Suomalainen and Nykänen in 1970, whiskey lactone is by far the most important flavor and aroma in American whiskey, and if you really want lots of it, you use American oak.

  • Ok thanks - I'll try American oak next time around. But reference to my earlier posting, does anyone actively "char" these staves e.g. on a gas hob, or use them as is please?

  • Not for rum, but for malt whiskey, I buy once-used American bourbon barrel staves from Speyside Kentucky, grind off the outer crud and the remnants of the inner char, cut and bore to increase end-grain exposure, and heat treat at 420F (NOT charring) for 2 hours. I'm really happy with how it works (and tastes).

    As a bonus, the boring with a 1" Forstner bit produces shavings/chips that are also very useful for aging.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • You want the french oak for rum, US oak as said will leave a very strong maple and bourbon kind of note to rum that rum drinkers don't like. You'll also need to plan for a length of time between 6 months and a year for rum.

    Medium toast is best and once or twice used staves are good.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Thanks Zymurgy Bob & Punkin. I guess I'll have to be patient then! :(

  • When I was using the dominos for rum I used the French oak and liked the results. I now age my rum in once used American Oak whiskey barrels and like that as well. Fresh, never used American oak still has too many tannins and "whiskey" flavors to turn out a traditional tasting rum. If you are wanting "rumskey", go ahead. Actually, that's UJSM, lol.

  • There are a bunch of US craft distilleries aging rum in new charred oak for color, sometimes blending with lighter used oak rum to get a balance.

    I’ve found French oak to have a higher mouth puckering tannin.

    However, I’ve never used charred French oak, so it’s not a fair comparison.

  • edited April 2018

    @richard said: I am sure that I will be screamed at for this one, .... does anyone sweeten rum prior to bottling.

    Actually, sweetening is part of the traditional process and under the law, rum has an automatic acceptance with no formula needed for added sugar up to 2.5% weight by volume I believe (without looking at the TTB book)

    Dean Palmer - Director of Rum - Cotherman Distilling - Dunedin, FL

  • We're using Cherry for rum to get a quick color and some sweet, finished on White Oak for a short time

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • edited April 2018

    Had to dig around Chapter 7 (PDF) a bit to confirm. If I'm reading this right, rum is listed as being allowed up to and not exceeding 2.5% harmless coloring/flavoring/blending materials without needing disclosure or formula. Sugar is specifically listed as a blending material. The percentage is just listed as 'by volume', not 'weight by volume' so that's a little weird.

  • We found it written actually two different ways at one time, and I can't recall where it was. 2.5% by volume gives a huge leeway for sweetening.

    Dean Palmer - Director of Rum - Cotherman Distilling - Dunedin, FL

  • I believe it, proof reading is hard. No sarcasm.

  • 2.5% by Volume of Sugar is approximately 16 grams per bottle, or approximately 21 grams per liter.

  • edited April 2018

    Keep in mind that above 2.5% sugar, you'd fall right into the Liqueurs/Cordials category. So if you are wondering why they would allow up to that, it's probably because if they didn't, there would be a gap where a specific sugar content would not be permitted (fall outside of the two classes).

    Class 8; cordials and liqueurs. Cordials and liqueurs are products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 2 1/2 percent by weight of the finished product

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