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Rum Configuration

So, I have been playing with a few different configurations to get a decent rum (at this stage I would settle for half decent) and am just getting nowhere so thought I would put this up and see if anyone might have some suggestions to help improve. So far none of the rums have been palatable and I'm getting increasingly frustrated with it!

I have tried running the still in reflux with 4 plates, on both low wines and wash straight from the fermenter. Additionally I have tried stripping using 4 plates and then doing the spirit run with 4 plates and a thumper (no delph). The last time I ran the 4 plates and thumper I used my 50L boiler running at around 3,500 Watts.

The first few times I tried rum it was winter and my heat belts just couldn't keen the fermentation temperature up, so it was definitely lacking flavours. The batch I just did I fermented at 32-34 Centigrade, I could smell all the aromas I was looking for during the spirit run however the raw spirit just isn't palatable.

I have been putting a fir bit of effort into the fermenting, for now I'm sticking with feed grade molasses which I steralise and clarify. Then I pitch with Distilamax RM (rehydrated with Go-Ferm) and DAP, after about 1/3 of the sugars have been converted I add Fermaid, I have temp control on the fermenter which is pretty good at holding the fermentation between 32-34 Degrees. At this stage I am trying to keep this constant and only vary the distilling methodology because otherwise its hard to keep track on whats working and whats not.

When I say its unpalatable, I can taste the rum flavours in the distillate but they are just behind an overwhelming, overpowering burning sensation, its almost like the heads haven't stopped coming in. I'ts not ascertone but it is very harsh and hot in the mouth, the good rum flavours are there just well hidden.

Now I will be the first to admit that I'm not experienced in making the cuts and have only completed a very limited number of spirit runs, however this is a reoccurring issue I have had with other spirits in other configurations. This makes me start to wonder if I'm perhaps not airing things out for long enough, that said I can't see the spirit mellowing enough through airing to become palatable.

I had thought that maybe I wasn't running fast enough and some of the flavours I'm looking for were not coming over as the ABV was remaining high during the run. In my last run I ran the 50L boiler with around 3,500 Watts and this didnt really make any difference, I guess the plates held the ABV pretty steady at 82% before the tails come in.

I took the configuration of the 4 plates and the thumper from the book "The Distillers Guide To Rum" and the section where they visit the Turkey Shore distillery.

My next attempt will be with just straight pot still for the stripping run and then pot still and thumper for the spirit run, here's hoping!

Anyway, any suggestions or pointers would be greatly appreciated.



600 x 800 - 73K
600 x 800 - 75K


  • edited October 2019

    Don't be so hard on yourself.

    There are historical documents that date back hundreds of years that talk about exactly how harsh rum can be.

    New make rum is indeed harsh, and not well rounded at all. This is the issue (and down fall really) with so many domestically produced rums here in the states.

    Put your rum down with a proper aging protocol and I reckon there will be something there to love.

    Generational producers know that they are producing finished product for their children and grandchildren to unveil.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • It really depends upon what time of rum profile you are shooting for, full flavored or light....Myself, I like a very light clean rum, almost vodka-like. That's just what I like personally. This requires many more plates ;-)

  • Clean white rum can be taken off anywhere up to aezeotrope but if you are looking for a dark rum you need to age for over 6 months at least. It takes that long for the molasses to come back over the oak flavours that will make your rum have a bourbon twang.

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

  • I hated the rum I made, it was hot and overbearing. I tossed it all, but did save a 600mL jar for future reference. A year or so later the topic of rum came up and I retrieved my sample.

    It didn't taste too bad! Three times during my early days of distilling of tossed away product I thought was no good. Only to later realise it was perfect and out just needed time to settle down.

  • edited October 2019

    I think you will have a far easier time working with Demerara sugar or high test/fancy/bakers molasses first - cut your teeth there, then move to blackstrap and feed grade.

    Turning feed grade molasses into good rum is expert territory, and no amount of expertise is going to turn bad molasses into great rum ... maybe passable ... maybe.

    You gotta simplify that rig man. You got way too much going on. Stripping a few runs first, and then doing a spirit run, either w/ plates or as a pot, is going to be far easier than doing a rum single pass.'

    If you have the ability to cool your wash, try to crash out as much yeast as your can while you start. If you can't let it settle for a few days, and carefully decant off the top. Try to keep as much yeast out as possible. Two things will kill you trying to work with feed grade and distilling with elements - large amounts of residual sugar (burnt flavors) and large amounts of yeast (all around negative, meaty, sulfury, etc).

  • Thanks for all your input and words of encouragement.

    I was thinking about trying to make some cuts and then putting it down and seeing what happened, it just doesn't seem like its going to go anywhere though. Who knows, I wont know if I don't try and I might be surprised.

    Since I first tried a while ago I haven't tried to make any single pass rum and probably isn't something I'm going to try again in the immediate future.

    My starting point has been to try and make a white rum and then take it from there which is why I'm finding it frustrating that things aren't tasting great. My basis has been on some Australian rums which I like, namely Husk, Illegal Tender & Brixx, I really like their white rums, light and with lots of tropical notes. I know Husk is technically an agricole, Illegal Tender use what looks like panela and Brixx use molasses. What is a common thread among these is the use of plates, I just find it frustrating that despite my best efforts I cant get anything even close (not even the same ball park) to any of these.

    I met the distillers from Husk and Brixx at an event a few months ago who both recommended the RM yeast in that temperature range. They also both said to run low and slow but in my experience thats just not worked out (the low and slow). I like a lighter spirit but I also like a bit of flavour and body, if we were talking whisky I would say Speyside.

    Husk also make a really good sipping rum which they age for 5 years, IMO its better than Ron Zacapa.

    I had thought about the food grade molasses being a problem and the last batch I did used food grade molasses, I actually grossly under ordered and ended up adding raw sugar to get the SG up. Food grade is just so much easier to get hold of which is why I had been using it.

    The issue I face is getting hold of food grade in suitable quantities, I am falling in that frustrating gap of not needing enough to be able to order in bulk direct from the sugar mills and needing more than is economical to buy from the supermarkets. The same goes for Demarera sugar. My thought process had been to try a few different options for ingredients and decide which one I like, then I would be willing to order in bulk. However, everything so far just hasn't worked out!

    I had wanted to get some treacle but unless I order a hell of a lot I'm suck buying 500ml jars which is just expensive. Although I am starting to think that this might be an option, just order a load of treacle and build a recipe from there. My understanding is Molasses in Australia is a little different to in the USA and we don't have the same grades, treacle was the closest approximation I could find.

    I do have 40kg of panela sugar which I was going to put in the fermenter over the weekend but given my latest failure decided not to as was expensive and I don't want to end up putting that down the drain. Instead I thought I would try again with molasses and run it without plates and see how that goes, again frustrating as looking at how others make their rums and trying the finished product I feel like I'm missing something.

  • Illegal Tender are customers of mine, give Cody a ring. he's a great guy and would be happy to help i'm sure.

    I can only say that i potstilled navy rum and pulled my white rum (made without backset/dunder) in a reflux column at 96%.

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

  • Thanks @punkin I will reach out to Cody.

    So am I right in interpreting that you pot still your navy rum and use a reflux column for your white rum?

    At this stage I'm not doing anything with dunder/backset as I'm not there yet.

  • Back in the day mate i did, no time for old hobbies now, my life is pinball.

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

  • haha, I know that feeling!

    Out of curiosity when you used to do it with the reflux column did you used to run it low and slow? From looking at most of the information online that seems to be the way a lot of people go. I haven't tried rum with a reflux column since my first few attempts when my fermentation was no good.

  • The other thing I have read with sugar is that dark sugar is basically white sugar with molasses added to it (not raw sugar as I had assumed). With this in mind is raw sugar or dark sugar better for rum?

  • You are correct - many brown sugars intended for baking and cooking are just white sugar with molasses added.

    Raw sugars are better, IMHO.

    Realize you can use blending - for example - refined cane sugar and clarified lower grade molasses. The more refined sugar you use, the more nutrient you will require.

    RM is my go-to for dark rum - but for unaged white rum - I like cleaner yeasts like EC1118, and distill it on the bleeding edge of vodka.

  • I found, through luck, procrastination, and forgetfulness that aging your stripped low wines before running in a column also helps...

    I would just use the helmet on the pot belly boiler and no plates for the strips, they will go much quicker. maybe a 2nd product condenser in series, and use the copper tubes above the helmet to get height.. no copper on downside.

    Then use the milk can boiler with the plates and your reflux condenser... where is your reflux condenser???

  • HI Sam,

    Lots of variables here. I like doing a 20l bucket of feed molasses with 1.5 x 25kg bags of white sugar made up to 170l fermented out. then single slowish run through 4 plates collecting a pencil stream in 500ml - 1l jars. air for a day then cut before aging on dominos for as long as I can.

    Alternately add a packed section on top of the 4 plates to pull of white. Even at 92-92% it's got a lot of tang. stretch it out with neutral -ok it's not true rum, but then i'm not aging on an oak barrel for a minimum of 2 years either - but it does taste good.

    fyi, the stuff the brixx guys are selling today isn't made by them (yet) the stuff they have made is still aging

  • So I left the samples to air for another 24 hours and it’s definitely made a difference, its starting to feel like with a bit more airing and then some ageing it could get there. Nothing high grade, more like Bundaberg Rum... its a start though and something to build from.

    @CothermanDistilling I didn’t have the reflux condenser on in those photos as I was running in a hybrid configuration. I also realised when I was still stripping at 01:00 what a mistake the plates were at that stage, not something I will bother with again.

    @grim one of the rum distillers I met recently did suggest splitting the fermentations in half, 50% with RM & 50% with EC118. Its on my list to try but maybe once I get a feel for things and build a bit of confidence.

    Tasting those samples again and realising that maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself and actually its not as bad as I thought I decided to put the Panela in the fermenter this evening. Whilst obviously I’m hoping for the best part of me is worried it works really well as its bloody hard to get in decent quantities in Aus (and bloody expensive).

    So with the panela, I’m tossing up 2 options, either running with the 4 plates and the thumper as per the earlier photo of the 50L boiler, or using 4 plates, dropping the thumper and putting the reflux condenser on. Would be grateful for any input on which configuration people think would be the best to go with.

    I’m not sure when I will get another crack an panela as I couldn’t find any bulk quantities in Aus online today for love nor money so really want to nail it!

    Thanks for everyones input and patience, I’m slowly getting there!

  • "Bleeding edge of vodka" is a good way to put it for my preference. Rum is bullfrog tough and really hard to knock the schmutz off of the ethanol molecules. So don't buy into high abv collection will strip flavor. It won't. I try and install some funk into the beer then do as grim mentions. The bleeding edge......

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I think sugar is by far the hardest to make neutral out of. It doesn’t give up its flavor profile as easy as grain does.

  • Also what Cotherman said about aging low wines. And rum beer too for that matter.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Best silver rums out there are cane vodkas hahahaha

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I tried a craft gin here in Peru that was made with "neutral" made from fermented cane sugar. Tasted like Juniper flavored white rum to me. Not a good combination. If you want to try it get a white rum and add some Gin to it. I didnt have a second glass even though it was free.

  • I'd run as fast as i could on a 3" packed VM column, tween 4 and 5 litres an hour, while still maintaing azeotrope and not pulling tails through. Think of a neutral run.

    2" potstill for a dark rum and run at 8-10l/hr stripping and 5-6l/hr spirit.

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

  • @Smaug said: Best silver rums out there are cane vodkas hahahaha

    well, part of that is cause they can't legally sugar-dose the crap out of vodka! But yes, our Cane Vodka(you may have one) is a decent silver... it and our regular silver were made on 24 8" CD plates.. now we have 30.. and our fermetations are at least 2 magnitudes better that that was made from...

  • Bleeding edge of vodka is really good description, thanks for that.

    @CothermanDistilling am I interpreting it correctly that for your white/silver rum you basically treat it like vodka and use a reflux column with 30 plates?

  • Same as i did. I was trying for vodka with free molasses when i discovered it's not possible using standard equipment. the result was fantastic though and was my go to drink for years.


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

  • Awesome, thats really given me something to think about and work with.

    My current thinking is I'm going to strip the panela currently in the fermenter with the helmet and no plates (plus remove the copper from the downside) then run it through with the 4 plates and the thumper. My logic being I can then compare apples with apples (more or less) with my last run. I'm also hoping I might be able to combine the two spirits for something that will age well.

    I managed to get hold of what I can only assume is the last of the panela in Australia from a place in Tasmania so will then use that to try the bleeding edge of vodka option.

    Does anyone know if panela is seasonal? I can see heaps of people listing it in 20-25kg bulk but its all out of stock, one place I tried wanted $370 plus freight for 40kg. Maybe a container is due or something...

  • 4 plates, reflux condenser, no thumper.

    Thumper is going to smear the hell out out of your cuts.

  • Canefire in WA used to make their rum from sugarcane juice from the Ord River. That has now closed and they make it from select Australian sugar. I wonder if Harwood Sugar Mill just up the road from Punkin is open to selling juice or a completely raw sugar product. Would like to know as I would give it a go also.

  • Could give them a ring and ask, better than email.

    Grim is correct, lose the thumper, if you want and extra theoretical plate put another tee in (and use your reflux condensor). If it was me i'd do navy/dark without stripping if using 4 plates.

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

  • @GD50 I actually just spoke with Sunshine Sugar (Harwood Mill) as I was trying to get hold of some treacle. Their minimum order for treacle is a 292kg drum which isn't too bad.

    They have sold the raw cane juice and are willing to again but its a minimum of a pallecon and you need a pallecon account. The lady on the phone also mentioned evaporated cane juice which I am assuming is panela although she didn't know anything about these products as they are outside the usual product range. They said someone who deals with special orders will get in touch, I will let you know what they say.

  • Raw cane juice is very unstable and even more difficult to work with, avoid it.

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