Recently, RedBlaze6 posted a question on this site, asking for advice about a couple of rums which might be considered “premium” offerings. He got some suggestions, including mine, but also some very lengthy and seemingly off-topic answers from Scott and Jimbo. Rather than repeat them here I urge you to read them for yourself. Although somewhat lengthy and a little scolding in their tone, they are nevertheless important messages worthy of your attention. If you really enjoy drinking, savoring and collecting fine rums you ought to be aware of the controversy which surrounds the industry in general and, more specifically, what's in your glass right now. It's probably not what you think.
I took Scott's advice (you read the posts, right?) and added modest amounts of sugar – 1 or 2 teaspoons – to full bottles of comparatively lower end rums. The results are astonishing. Vizcaya 12 “became” Vizcaya 21 (and at half the price). Plantation Barbados 5 Years, sugared, is now practically indistinguishable from Plantation XO. Kaniche Reserve is now Kaniche XO. And my beloved Abuelo 12? Well, let's just say that I paid $130 for the Centuria, when $40 for the 12 and 50 cents for the sugar would have closed the gap nicely. I didn't bother with my other favorites, from El Dorado and Gosling, because, by that point I was too busy swearing and cursing the rum gods. Also, I didn't bother testing Z23 and Zaya and Diplomatico because they are, imo, examples of mediocre rums which have been already Frankenstein'd into bland confections.
And then I began talking to myself. (It's okay, I'm a professional). “What did you expect? The legacy of Rum is one of slavery! How many tens of thousands of lives were lost to keep the sugar plantations in business? The entire rum industry, unlike that of other alcoholic beverages, was built on the backs – and the bodies – of countless poor souls who died making wealthy people even wealthier. And so now you wanna cry because these same unscrupulous bastards are lying to you?! How naive can you be? Grow up! The rum industry deserves the same ignominious fate as the U.S Confederate flag. Both relics of bygone horror. Bah!”
“Furthermore”, I went on, relentlessly, “You know why Rum will never get the respect that it arguably deserves? One word: Pirates. No, not the baseball team out of Pittsburgh, you idiot. The murderous psychopaths who raped and mutilated every living thing they encountered. Mention single-malt Scotch, and people think about sipping it in a mahogany library with leather chairs, a crackling fireplace and an Irish Setter curled up at their feet. Mention rum? Pirates. Pirates? Rum. End of discussion.”
Whew. Glad that's over with. So, now what? Do I go back and edit all of my rave reviews about rums which I thought were wonderful, even magical, but now think otherwise? Maybe. I'm not sure. Will I ever again buy any brand of rum which I know to be deliberately altered? Absolutely not. There are published lists all over the 'Net showing which rums are the real deal, and those are the rums I'll happily continue to enjoy in the years to come. What about you?
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A subject all rum connoisseurs should be versed in. I've tried to educate myself about sugar over these last 6 months or so and I find it easier to decide between unknown to me rums. "What's the sugar level? 20g? Pass."
As far as editing my ratings, I've tried no to drastically alter them, but I have revisited them AND I have included sugar test results whenever possible. Knowledge is power :p
I agree, nomad, it pays to be informed enough to know what you're buying before you plunk down your money. The comprehensive list of offenders on Jimbo's website is extremely useful for exactly that purpose.
I found it very disturbing when I found out how much added sugar there was in my favorite (at the time) rums, such as El Dorado 12. More recently I was dismayed and angered to find that, although there is minimal added sugar in the Blue Label, there is a lot in Pusser's 15 yr. I had already bought a second bottle to squirrel away since it had become hard to find. I had to stop by my house / liquor repository last night (been at my GF's house full time lately). While there I had some of the 15 yr, and it was a sweet syrupy mess. (I suspect some evap loss, the cork is not 100% tight.) I am not at all excited about finishing that half bottle, much less the unopened one I have. I am kicking myself thinking about what I could have bought with the $50+ I spent on each one.
I am trying to do the reverse of what you did, and go back to lower tier rums that have less sugar in search of more original flavor and less sugar. This has worked well with the ED 5 and 8, which have 1/3 or less the amount of sugar in the ED 12. I will not buy any more of the 12 or 15 yr, but I like the flavor profile of the line too much to be without and will have to compromise. I recently stocked up on them for $14-15 each in an online order.
I am eager to try one of the 2 bottles of Abuelo 7 yr I have at my house, which I picked up on closeout a couple years ago. It has half the sugar of the 12 yr, and I am hoping it is as good as the ED 5 and 8. I had it once in a bar in Orlando a few years back.
Pusser's 15. Ugh. I feel your pain. Another one of my ex-top-tier favorites which needs to be re-labeled as "adult beverage containing rum, sugar and other flavorings". Sort of like what happened to makers of "American cheese" many years ago: the government forced them to re-label the stuff as "cheese product" because of all the additives.
The maker of Plantation rums has said that adding a little sugar to rum is like adding a little salt to food. It's a flavor-enhancer. What's the big deal? But when you see how much sugar they actually add, you'd think they were in the business of making rum-flavored syrups.
To be continued, no doubt...
"Rum flavored syrups" is sadly not that far off. Liqueurs by definition must have a minimum of 100 g/ltr of sugar, some of these "rums" are halfway there.
As so well put to Paul Newman, an intransigent prisoner and escapee in Cool Hand Luke: "What we have here is a failure to communicate". Over the last decade at the Project, we have watched the shelves inexorably being taken over by the Big Three (Diageo, Fortune and Bacardi). Their shelf space - once occupying the bottom half or less of the shelves, these horrible altered cheapo imitation rums now occupy over 90% of the shelf space, and ALL of the prime, eye level shelves.
New "super-premiums" are created constantly using lesser rums, a teaspoon of older rums, and TONS of secretly added sugar, glycerol, flavorings and even sherry. The companies have spent years doing so, to the point that consumers have accepted syrupy sugaryness as a mark of quality, when the facts are just the opposite.
Although many afficianado's suspected - with good reason - that rums were being heavily adulterated, the webmasters of the time vehemently denied this and chased any doubters off their websites. Sad. It was not until the governments of Sweden and Finland started publishing their government tests of sugar content that these rums and these webmasters were finally outed. Soon a number of competent independent testers emerged, led by Johnny Drejet, but also including Cyril, the Fat Rum Pirate, Mamajuana and of course, our Rum Project.
It was then where a Master List of all known sugar tests - over 500 of them were gathered into a single alphabetical list, referenced above. This provided a pre-screened, one stop source for all rum lover to check and see whether their labeled "rum", was in fact altered and adulterated with sugar. Soon thereafter a wonderful discovery ensued. It was this...
The Master List revealed that the more "premium" the rum, and higher the price, the more likely was that it was a heavily sugared, secretly altered fake. This is the 60's equivalent of sticking fins and fancy grills on a car and then doubling or tripling the price. At the same time we found rums like Flor de Cana getting rid of their age statements. Formerly great blends - already NAS - were then slowly altered with more and more younger rums.
Still - all this aside - we have noted that rum lovers have taken note of the cheating and sugaring, and are now beginning to turn toward pure and unadulterated products, and the good news? There's more of them then you'd guess. A perusal of the Master Sugar List reveals that almost half the 500+ tests show no or very minimal sugar (which is probably wood extracts, quite acceptable, the result of wood aging).
We do hope this awakening is not too late. Personally we suspect that it is not. You can do your part by by checking your own rums and possible purchases against the list:
You can also join Dave Broom, Beachbum Berry and any number of other well respected authors and rum webmasters who have signed the Petition to Save Caribbean Rum, another independent effort:
Last, and as done above, you too can spread the word. Truth and transparency are essential. If people want 41 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar in their Zacapa or Diplomatico, so be it, more power to them. But at least you will then know your appreciation is for well done alteration with sugar and flavorings, but not the wonderful profiles of pure and unaltered whisky, bourbon and the authentic rums among them.
I have to admit that I do enjoy some of the sweet rums out there and I now know about the sugar added. The master list is quite helpful for information purposes. I am also fond of rums, especially some agricole rums, that have very little sugar (if any added). So I'm kind of all over the place.
HOWEVER, now that I know more concerning many "ultra-premium" rums being nothing more than lower rums with added sugars, fructose, et al I will be more discerning with my money.
On an aside....anyone think of making an app for the master list in order to have it accessible on cell phones?
I have long restrained myself from replying to this topic as I am not too sure how I feel about the added sugar.
Sugar (and salt) is being added to lots of stuff to enhance the taste and nobody really gives a darm. So why is it suddenly a crime when its done to rum?
I do once in a while enjoy a glass of the over the top sweet Zaya 12 and I'm not particulary shocked to hear it has added sugar to it.
Rums from Foursquare have little to no added sugar and you can tell this by the taste.
Both rums with and without added sugar can be enjoyable for me, depending what I want at that moment.
So I am not for no longer drinking rums with added sugar, but request honesty about this.
Everyone knows about the crazy sugar levels in coke and yet lots of people drink it daily.
The added sugar and lack of honesty about it, is quite likely the result of rum not having a strict defined set of rules which should be followed to produce rum.
However this freedom has also resulted in rum being one of the most versatile drinks out there, with lots of different (sub)styles for us to enjoy.
Maybe with and without added sugar should become 2 more frequently used sub-styles?
I think the real issue is dishonesty. It's not the adding of sugar, it's the adding of sugar to give the impression of higher quality/smoother/older/better produce and therefore increasing the price, while at the same time declaring that "nothing is added", or that the sugar is "residual" (ha).
I don't mind added sugar, if there is transparency and the price reflects the true quality of the rum. What I do mind is being treated like a mug.
Exactly right: the issue is dishonesty. Whisky, bourbon and rum all operate under the same rules. What is labeled rum must be a distillate of fermented cane juice or molasses, period. Add flavorings of any kind, sugared or not, and you have by the regulations - a "flavored rum". The primary flavoring must be indicated on the label, eg "Sweetened Rum", "Coffee Rum", and the like.
Richard Seale once demonstrated for a group of us what he called a "special rum". Shots were poured, and the experienced tasters were asked whether it was pot or column, molasses or cane juice based, and the age. The consensus was that it was pot stilled, molasses based and about 7 years old.
We all were wrong! His big reveal: that the rum we'd tasted was a brand new, white, thin column stilled industrial unaged rum that he'd tricked up with coloring, and other additives to appear as though it was pot stilled, complex and aged. In other words, he was able to disguise a cheap rum to taste expensive and aged, for 25 cents worth of additives. He stated that this kind of cheating and what he called fraud was rampant.
Now THAT is the problem. No lover of whisky or bourbon would stand for their pure spirit being phonied up and then sold as a fake premium. But that is EXACTLY what is happening. Not so long ago, we discovered that Ron Matusalem's labeled "rum" was reported to contain prune and vanilla extract!! This per a decision of the 8th Appellate Court in their decision. Someone notified the TTB and also WIRSPA and guess what happened? Nada. Zippo. I have written both to ask what happened and get no response, pro or con. They ignore the issue they claim to enforce.
The regulators and associations are so influenced by the lobbyists that nothing was done. Matusalem is still labeled as though it were unflavored. WIRSPA claims they require that flavoring must be labeled, but they too have done nothing about Matusalem's alleged alteration.
I can tell you that more and more rum afficianados are refusing to buy any rum that contains more than 2 or 3 grams (which may be legitimate wood solids from aging). The super duper sugar bombs are widely avoided - the Pee, Dee and Zee rums. Let's be clear: there is no "sub category" for cheaters. It's fine to say have divisions such as overproofs, labeled "flavored rums", or that express a known style (like Jamaican, Bajan, Demeraran, Cane Juice and Cuban) - which are styles, not countries of origin - but the secret and undisclosed alteration of rum with sugar and flavorings is not a style...
It's a deception. Rum lovers have had quite enough. We believe that rum could indeed be a great spirit, but only when the distillers find God and start being honest. Flavored? Just say so. It's that simple.
I was thinking: if a fast-food restaurant advertising their burgers were made from 100% beef were found out to be using only 10% beef and 90% filler what would the reaction be?
For those who may still doubt the importance of this cheating, a new Petition toward honesty and purity of rum just went up this morning and within hours had over 22 signatures, including that of Richard Seales.
I urge all to sign this petition, which will be sent to WIRSPA and CARICOM... join Seales and others from all over the world to demand honest labeling.
Signed the petition. :)
I'm in favor of this petition in theory, but I'm a little worried about the fallout. I don't want the pricing that goes along with spirits that are perceived to be sophisticated. I'm fine with rum being viewed as a second-class spirit, so long as there are a few first-class producers and those rums get imported where I live. I can't afford to drink good Scotch, but I can afford to drink good rum.
I used to be a Rum and Coke drinker.
I kicked that habit and now I like a sweet rum straight up, and I also enjoy a glass of Port.
That being said one of the decision makers for me is how sweet is the rum I am about to purchase. I was checking the Rum Gallery for the sugar rating on any rums that I was planning to purchase, but not all rums reviewed there had a sugar rating.
Now that I have downloaded the sugar list via Captain Jimbo's Rum Project it's easy to decide which rums to pass on. The list has already saved me from purchasing a couple rums that I now know I would not have liked.
If the premium rum I am purchasing has sugar in it, then I am okay with that as long as it carries through on my expectation of various and complex flavours.
In Ontario, the sugar content of Port is posted on the shelf tag. The provincial liquor store doesn't do that for rum, and I wish they did as this is the Honesty that we are looking for in rums.
I would like to see all Rum producers post the sugar content on the label. I have diabetic friends that enjoy rum and it's critical I disclose what the sugar content is in the rums I am serving them so they can judge accordingly.
I can't see myself boycotting rums that I want to taste, or continue drinking, but signing the petition would be a good place to start and I have done that.
Glasses up and mind the sugar.
Slow Rain...The rums that are, as you say, "perceived to be sophisticated" are already very expensive and, coincidentally heavily sugared and flavored and colored. They're also, sad to say, among the most popular rums in the world. That's perfectly okay with me because the good news is, there are still plenty of really good, authentic rums out there that are quite affordable and slightly off the rum-beauty-contest radar. I can't imagine that they'll ever come close to costing as much as the "sophisticated" (cough cough) stuff. So you get your wish: good rum at a decent price.
Earl Elliott...Like you, I sometimes want a sweet rum and will enjoy a glass or three of Pango or Stiggins. They're heavily sugared, no doubt, but I'm good with that. My sweet tooth occasionally demands to be obeyed. However, what drove me ballistic enough to write the rant was seeing Jimbo's list and realizing that rums which I thought were genuinely and authentically delicious were so heavily doctored with sugar and other additives. I imagine that many fans of ED 12 through 25, for example, felt betrayed when they learned that their favorites were fakes. Now that I've tasted other (non-El Dorado) Demerara rums, without added sugar and coloring, I can see how badly I was deceived. So yeah, my decision to boycott doctored rums is a personal one, I realize, but I don't like being lied to. Great line from some movie: If you're going to piss on me, have the decency not to call it rain.
One of my favorite movie lines. It's Clint Eastwood from the Outlaw Josey Wales. Almost as famous as "Go ahead make my day". Wonder if we could alter that to be "Go ahead make my Rum and don't add any sugar". This discussion has been informing and entertaining and as a result, I will be refining my search for more of the pure rums. I will let my rum ratings stand but I have added the sugar ratings to my ratings. I also know that my sweet tooth will prevail from time to time and I will pour myself a glass of Candy Rum.
Dirty Harry said that, not Josey Wales.
mistercoughy, I get what you're saying, but that's not quite what I was referring to. I meant that good, genuine rums that are affordable for us now would become unaffordable for most of us in the future because people with higher disposable income would perceive rums listed as not containing any additives as more sophisticated and, therefore, more desirable and worthy of a higher price--even though the cost of producing those genuine rums wouldn't have increased. It would only be the buyers' perceptions that have changed. That's what I'm worried about. Any rums which are currently perceived as sophisticated by the overall marketplace are, almost to a last one, the product of Marketing, nothing more.
SlowRain...okay I get it now - I think - and you're absolutely right. When consumers' tastes change for a particular product (in our case, rum), the market fluctuates, the demand increases and so does the price. Capitalism 101. If enough people realize that Seale 10yo, for example, is a steal at $22, we may end up paying $55 before you can say "pass the sugar". Yeah, it's a very real (scary) possibility. Other than buying up all the good rum now while it's cheap, what do you suggest?
Buying up cheap and good rum just makes things worse. Part of of the 101 is the supply and demand section. You start buying all the unadulterated cheap rum and supply doesn't match the demand then you'll have people wanting more and there not being enough to go around, so prices go up. Hoarding is one of the things that has pushed up prices on the whisky scene.
What you need is more supply; producers making declarations, so you need more producers stopping the doctoring and then declaring too. That way supply of unadulterated rum keeps up with any increase demand due to perceived "sophistication".
Anyway, in reality, premiumization is inferred by smoothness, age, fancy back stories, sexy packaging and high prices. Just because people have high disposable income doesn't mean they have taste, they'll buy what they are told is premium and whatever makes them look like they have money to spend, rather than what they "think" is sophisticated. Cognac is seen as a sophisticated and premium product yet most consumers don't know that it can contain sugar and boise to falsify smoothness and age/colour.
mistercoughy, I would like to see a small, slow, grassroots movement to build awareness of Sugargate. If it's a loud, huge marketing push, that'll jolt prices for sure. I'm fine with the current word-of-mouth awareness campaign happening on discussion forums and social media. I'd say doing it this way will accomplish the dual tasks of building awareness AND allowing rum producers to plan long-term for a market that demands less sugar--all without upsetting the applecart regarding prices. I wouldn't suggest anyone give up the good fight, but I'm suspicious of the motives of producers who are pushing extremely hard on this one.
Interestingly, you picked the exact rum I'm most worried about. You may be able to get it for 22USD, but it's closer to 50USD (1700TWD, to be exact) where I live. I enjoy that one A LOT, and I'd hate to pay 3000TWD or higher for no other reason than they can put "With No Additives" on the label (or, conversely, because other rums have to list their additives on the label). I'm not privy to the financial goings on of rum producers in general--let alone Foursquare, in particular--but I don't think red ink is a huge problem. Everyone seems to be doing fine as is, it's just that nobody is getting rich--except the huge, low-quality, heavily marketed producers.
lets get our movie quotes right first-
[Callahan dares a crook to shoot his hostage]
Harry Callahan: "Go ahead, make my day." - From Sudden Impact
Senator: "The war's over. Our side won the war. Now we must busy ourselves winning the peace. And Fletcher, there's an old saying: To the victors belong the spoils."
Fletcher: "There's another old saying, Senator: Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining."-From The Outlaw Josey Wales, an exceptional movie.
While I understand the trepidation of honest procedures possibly leading to increased prices, I don't see that happening now. Look at Mount Gay, Appleton, and Barbancourt. Also, for the most part Bacardi and Captain Morgan too. If Those big boys can not add sugar to their regular products and still make a decent rum, why is it so hard for others to do that?
nomad, because, as of right now, none of them are competing in a marketplace where sugar is viewed as undesirable--mainly because not many people know sugar is being added. Their no-sugar-added (no-additives-added?) rums are competing against ones with sugar in a marketplace where no one knows or cares about the difference. Now, imagine a marketplace where the wider public perceives rums with no added sugar as more sophisticated.
I don't want to come off as supporting the nondisclosure of additives in any food products. I'm very much in favor of truthfully and honestly disclosing ingredients, but I'd like it done in such a way that treats the rum as a common food item so that people don't get their noses in the air over additives.
To begin, the Rum Project is proud to have been able to publish the Master Sugar List:
Although we have long known of undisclosed adulteration of many rums with sugar, glycerol, artificial flavorings and spices, and even cheap sherry, it was not until the governments of Sweden and Finland published sugar tests that the distillers stopped lying about this horrid alteration. Another huge thanks goes to Johnny Drejer who designed an easy and accurate protocol (used by many artisan brewers and wine producers) such than individual rum websites and lovers could purchase their own hydrometers to conduct their own, relatively accurate tests (within a gram or less of sugar content).
Thanks too to the Fat Rum Pirate, Cyril, Mamajuana, dawsonh, Dave Russell and of course, the Rum Project for additional tests, now number 556 tests with more to follow. An analysis of these tests revealed that although about half the tests showed hidden sugar alteration, the worst offenders, sadly, were the so-called "premiums".
The tests revealed that the Zee, Pee, and Dee rums were among the worst offenders. The Big Three - Bacardi, Diageo and Fortune - have taken over about 90% of the shelves with their industrially produced, heavily flavored cheap rums, and 100% of the prime shelves, a real tragedy. The rum drinkers have been fooled for so long, that many came to expect a rum to taste "sweet" and "smooth", ergo the premiums were even more abused. These so-called "premiums" were premium only in the amount of phony additives, with many of them saturated with up to 12 teaspoons of sugar (and who knows what other false flavorings) secretly added to present unnatural and unreal profiles.
Yet there is good news: about half the rums tested showed little or no sugar. Rums like Seales, Mount Gay, Appleton (and most Jamaicans), Barbancourt, the rums of Martinique, et al (see the Master List) remain world class rum and at affordable prices. Most of the independent bottlings by such companies as Velier, Berry and others can be considered real and pure.
To the contrary, the move toward unaltered rums will only increase their availability, not reduce them. Ergo the pricing should not change. Keep in mind that rum lovers are already spending premium prices for heavily altered rums - the only change will be that these will slowly be replaced by sales of real and pure rums.
Friends, the cat is out of the bag, and rum lovers everywhere have now discovered the deception and are not the least bit happy about it. As more and more distillers start to include truly honest labels "No sugar or other additives", the cheaters will be forced to follow suit. In time rum will thus become ever purer and real and finally will be able to honestly compete with fine single malts, Scotch and Irish Whisky, bourbon, rye and the like.
I urge all readers to consider purchasing their own hydrometers, and to perform their own tests. The Project - with great credit to the Drejer protocol - has published a guide for DIY testing (btw, you can report your results for inclusion in the master sugar list). The equipment needed is very inexpensive, and the method is easy, and reasonably accurate:
As far as accuracy:
Again, a big thanks to Richard Seale, and all the others who have supported the testing and reporting of undisclosed sugar (which is not to mention all the other secret additives which so far have escaped definitive tests, but which are surely there). Thanks too to all the testers who have worked so hard in this important project.
Got me on the misquote.
As soon as I put the dvd in the player yesterday afternoon, I knew I had it all wrong.
Must have been too much rum from the night before.
Thanks Capn Jimbo.
Excellent information and I am off to purchase a hydrometer and have decided to base future purchases based on low sugar content and high purity as well as ratings from Rum Ratings and other popular sites.
Good day all. Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. There has been quite a bit of discussion so forgive me if my question has already been addressed. What if people just don't like "PURE" rums??? If you look at the rum listing on this site and organize it by ratings (not popularity), the top ranked include Diplomatico 2000, Quorhum, Millonario, Abuelo, Centenario and El Dorados. I agree that the contents of the rum should be disclosed, but I don't think that doing so will really change a thing. RL Seale is $20 and the majority of rum drinkers aren't buying it off the shelves. All the ones I mentioned are $75+ and people are buying them up. If people didn't enjoy their rum sweet they would be drinking bourbon and scotch.
RedBlaze6, I believe that is because the general consumer isn't aware of any additives. All things appearing to be equal, they choose the rum based on taste (or, in some cases, perceived sophistication based on price). I'm worried that listing ingredients may shift people's purchasing habits, not based on personal taste, but based on what's written on the label. In this scenario, they wouldn't be following their tastes at all (but they may not be doing so now, either), they would be following Marketing.
I can't say I'm completely innocent here, either. We've had a number of food scandals where I live, so this is very much so a concern for me. When I see a rum being crafted to taste delicious without additives, I respect that producer more. What I absolutely DO NOT respect is that producer charging more than a fair price based on the cost of producing it. That is not, however, how the premium market works. I worry that, in order to convince other producers to get on board with honest labeling and producing rums without sugar or other additives, they're being told of potentially larger margins when people start perceiving their rums as more sophisticated.
But you raise a good point about people who, given an informed choice, would gravitate towards the sweeter rums with additives anyway as a matter of personal preference. I think there will always be people who can do this, I just don't think it's a large majority (I have a very good mixing rum that I believe has flavor additives). I think all the marketing under this new full-disclosure scheme would emphasize the pureness of the rum, causing the buying public at large to follow whatever is in the glossy magazines. I think there's a pretty good case for this scenario given how humans have acted in similar situations in the past. I'd rather it not become part of the marketing in order to protect price integrity.
A few basic facts:
1. There is no such thing as "sweet" or "sweeter rums". What there are is a gaggle of marketing driven inventions that add undisclosed sugar, artificial flavoring and/or spices, glycerol and even cheap wine. These are illegal and fraudulent practices.
Their goal: to alter cheaply made, largely industrial rums and blends to appear to be more complex, and older than they are. Worse yet, this has been done for so long that the average consumer no longer knows what real, pure and quality rum tastes like. Ergo the term "sweet rums".
2. The law is quite clear: add sugar and such flavorings and the label must then used the words "flavored rum" and also identify the primary flavor, eg "Prune Surprise -a flavored rum". This is by law, but largely ignored or very poorly enforced. Example: Ron Matusalem was found to be adding both prune and vanilla extract - a clear violation. The TTB was notified and? Did nothing. Kindly note that no one refers to "prune rums" in the same sense as "sweet rums". They should.
3. It is more than possible to achieve similar profiles without cheating, but this (usually) require batch processing, long fermentations, proper cuts and long aging in good wood - all very expensive but absolutely worth it. Any sweetness or vanillan, dark fruits, banana, coconut, et al - in this case are ENTIRELY due to honest and skilled distilling and aging.
What these fraudulent marketeers do instead is to add 25 cents worth of sugar and artificial flavors, then create a romantic cover story, engage a luxury bottle, expensive ad campaign and then sell their cheap imitated rum to the rubes at "super premium" prices. When buyers realize they are paying such inflated prices for 12 teaspoons of sugar and a squirt or two of vanilla and prune flavoring they will think differently.
Do these faux rums taste good? Does a vanilla milkshake taste good? Sure, but this is a matter of being well trained to appreciate sugary, syrupy, thick and heavily altered flavors. Look, it's fine for those who appreciate such phonied up sugar bombs - all most of us require is simple honesty in labeling.
Last - will such labeling lead to an increase in prices? I doubt it. There are many fine, world class rums like Appleton, Mount Gay, Seales, Barbancourt and many more (over 250 if you check the Master Sugar List) - all of which sell for LESS than these phony "super premiums". Heck for those whose sweet tooth drives them, it's quite easy enough to buy a far better, honest and pure rum, for far less and add your own flavorings and sugar.
You guys ready for today's WTF Moment? Okay good. Here is a link to a French website explaining everything you want to know about Cognac, which they call the Liquor of Angels (cough cough). The page you'll be reading is pretty brief. It spells out how they blend additives to make cognac. I call your attention to the fact that they don't apologize for what they do. Just the opposite. They seem to be bragging about it and put the brags in italics so you don't miss 'em!! I'm dumbstruck...
Capn Jimbo's Rum Project, what I'm saying is those rums you hold up as an example of fine rums which are able to compete with the altered ones are doing so in a marketplace that makes no differentiation between rums with additives and rums without additives. I'll say that again, because I'm not sure people are understanding that part. The fairly priced rums without flavor additives are currently competing in a marketplace where the general consumer isn't aware of any differences. That's why prices are fairly consistent across the board. Now, let's say the labeling laws get enforced. That's well and good--really, it is--but the entire history of humanity tells us that this will be exploited for financial gain. In this scenario, those rum producers can increase their prices as much as the market will bear, because their product will be viewed as superior because there are no additives listed on their labels. They can't increase their prices now because they don't have any competitive advantage under the current way things are going.
We'll have to agree to disagree, for these reasons: not only has the marketplace long ago "differentiated" between altered and honest, pure rums, it is fair to say that the majority of rum drinkers have been aware of these practices for nearly ten years. The only difference now is that the undisclosed sugar can now be quantified and still we have seen no real shifts. The altered cheap rums have long dominated the shelves particularly by the Big Three, and especially say Bacardi, Malibu and the like.
At the same time truly wonderful independents by Velier, Berry, and some of the other Italian and British independents have also long been valued for their purity, and the marketplace is well established.
The real issue are the faux "super premiums", the Zee, Dee and Pee rums - whose prices are already at a premium, and now revealed can only go lower. If anyone has created a false market it are these rums, and if anything the knowledge of their practices has forced them to lower prices. Fewer and fewer people are willing to buy a falsely price premium once they understand the deception, and with the knowledge that their $100 is being spent on a lesser rum modified by 25 cents worth of sugar and flavorings. At the same time the honestly labelled "flavored rums" - which DO dominate both the shelves and sales in a well-established market and pricing that work. They would be fools to raise the prices on say Batshite Dingleberry, a highly unlikely possibility that would only hurt sales and profits.
The fact of deceptive additives is not new, and now even the quantification is getting to be rather old business and still there has been no real shift in pricing. It is well to keep in mind that Scotch and Irish whisky and blends, rye, corn and bourbon whiskies, et al, have a great influence on the market and help set it - a factor that cannot be ignored.
I see nothing to fear for the independents and for those very well established brands mentioned earlier as their purity is well known, and their pricing and distribution well established. What we will see are some new artisan products by established operations like Seales, who will create a new niche - absolutely competitive with expensive aged whisky and single malts - but at a comparatively low price point.
Please understand that I spent most of my working life as a marketing, advertising and sales executive, which I hope will give some perspective and credibility to these observations. I understand your theory; I simply disagree. Now a quick note as to the cognac link a couple posts above:
This is a must click, as this producer makes no bones whatever that the addition of sugar, false coloring and forced wood extractives are done SPECIFICALLY to deceive. This producer actually is shameless about not only admitting these deceptions as a way to falsely imitate age and complexity, but is actually proud of doing so. "Look how good we are at cheating" is the messege.
Amazing! I for one could not be more pleased that the many posters, webmasters and partiticpants who have worked so hard for so many years to fight for honesty in labelling - which we consider a non-debatable objective - has resulted in some real changes to our beloved spirit of well made, high quality, batch produced, honest aged and pure rums.
The petitions to Save Caribbean Rum and the Petitition to WIRSPA have been very successful and signed by well known authors, distillers, webmasters and rum lovers from around the world. I urge you to visit the petitions, sign them if you agree, but especially to "view" the comments that many of the signers submitted. The consensus is inarguable: cheating is wrong, transparency and honesty in production and labelling is required.
The Master Sugar List is linked somewhere above. Again, thanks to all for your support of these important issues.
Capn Jimbo's Rum Project, you feel the marketplace makes a differentiation between rums with additives and rums without additives? I'd offer this simple test, then. Next time anyone reading this is in a liquor store, very casually--so as not to arouse suspicion--ask another shopper for a rum recommendation that doesn't have added sugar or flavorings. If most of the respondents can answer your request, you know the marketplace is aware of the practice. If they are surprised to know rum has added sugar or flavorings, then you know the marketplace isn't aware. As an addition, ask the store owner or worker as well. The worker in the store I was in a couple weeks ago didn't even know of the practice.
I believe this issue is only being discussed by people who actively pursue rum as a favorite drink and, maybe, by a few people who enjoy cocktails in general. There may have been some suspicion and rumbling before, but it was really the Swedes who got the ball rolling and turned it into a full-blown discussion in the rum community. But I think that's about as far as it has gone right now.
The thing is, the theory of pricing not changing really disregards hundreds of years of human financial transactions. Companies ALWAYS look for a competitive edge and any excuse to raise prices. In the world of premium products, it's even more exacerbated. Rum producers have always lamented that their product isn't taken as seriously as Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac, etc. They most certainly will take advantage of this newfound impetus to promote their beverage and the refined image that goes along with it. I'm sorry this aspect of humanity tramples on your previous profession, but that is exactly what Marketing does: it looks for ways to get people to buy what they don't really need, and it gets them to pay a higher price for something than what it realistically costs to produce it and bring it to market.
As to your comments on the over-pricing by the faux premium rums, I don't think anyone will disagree with you there.
Petition Signed (and I was REALLY happy to see that Appleton doesn't add sugar...)
Well, well... its like with everything else - how to reduce cost and gain more market share.... So, with Rum we clearly see people like sweet stuff - like I do. So what's easier than add more sugar and sell at premium cost? Too bad it works.... :( At least now I know I do not need to bother buying XOs. Bucanero or Legendario will do the trick and its very cheap. I also tried to add sugar to Zacapa and it tasted just better... so sad :)
Hey Mike...I think you're right that most folks like sweet rum. That's fine, to each his own. Anyway, it's the deception that's hard to swallow, not the rum!
For example, that A.H. Riise Non Plus Ultra Very Rare Rum in your wishlist? The bottle looks expensive. The name is very Important-Sounding. But check out the added sugar for that rum. It tested at 85 grams per liter. That's 21 (twenty-one!) teaspoons. You may still decide to buy it anyway, of course. That's your choice. But man, that's some expensive sugar...
Mike that is true for most people especially when they are new to rum. Once your palate get accustomed to quality rums that are not sweet bombs you will lose your taste for them. I had some Mount gay 1703 last night and that is one fantastic rum with no sugar added at all.
I have been drinking rum for some time and still favor those that are on the sweeter side. Even with all the information you guys have shared, I don't see myself buying the less expensive ages and adding my own sugar. Kind of ghetto sounding if you ask me. Guess I don't mind paying for that expensive sugar.
Adding sugar to rum is ghetto.? Lol. I drink rum old fashioneds all the time, which are just rum bitters and some simple syrup. I just do it after I've had sipped on some good rum because all that sugar clogs up your palate. I just would rather have the option to add my own sugar to rum not have it done for me.
Guess you're right on that one. I pictured someone funneling Domino sugar into a brand new bottle.
Jonny...no one on this entire, very lengthy thread has advocated pouring sugar into cheap rum to make it...OH! HOLD ON A SECOND!...Marco has started a different thread ("Add sugar? Possible?") wondering about pouring sugar into new rum. Like I said, that's a different thread entirely. Perhaps you should check it out and let Marco know your thoughts...
No, Mr. Coughy. That's exactly what this thread is about. Your opening comment makes specific mention of doing just that.
"I took Scott's advice... added modest amount of sugar to full bottles of comparatively lower end rums".
Mike made mention to it 6 comments ago. Captain Jimbo talks about it on a comment on 2/17 and 3/2.
Am I missing something? Are my comments not welcomed here? I don't want Marco to know my thoughts, I want the people in here to.
I thought that's what this string was all about.
Red and Jonny... Guys. No. Listen, some of my very favorite rums used to be those from El Dorado, Abuelo and Plantation. Then I learned that they all had been doctored with ridiculous amounts of sugar. I wasn't aware of that when I bought them and enjoyed them. I thought they were great. You know, naturally sweet and smooth. Then I read about the sugar controversy on several websites and learned that these favorites of mine were on the offender lists. I couldn't believe it. But, to prove to myself that sugar can make mediocre rums seem to be "premium", I added sugar to some middling rums and learned that they tasted just like the more expensive, "premium" versions. That was only a test, not a suggestion! Once the test was over I threw those rums away and sat down and started typing, steam coming out of my ears, feeling deceived and frustrated. And I reported those test results in this thread. Since writing it I have stopped buying those 3 brands and also other rums with lots of undisclosed added sugar. Also, I downgraded my initial ratings of those rums, which had been 9's and 10's, to 5's and 6's because they are, in my opinion, fakes. The good news is, I have turned to independent bottlers of spectacular, unadulterated rums, and pretty much everything from Foursquare, and I've discovered the wide world of cachacas. It's good to know that there are plenty of great rums out there that don't contain additives.
So, are we clear? If you want to add sugar to your rum, go right ahead. If you want to buy "premium" rum and don't mind that it might be sugared, go right ahead. I am clearly NOT advocating those options but to each his own.
Is it okay if I bump this? I have a question and some thoughts...
Is there a master list just of the pure/unadulterated rums? I would love to have that handy, separate from the testing list. Also, I'm having a slight amount of trouble reading that 556 list, mainly because I need to have my hand held and guided through everything... heh... sorry...
So how do I read it? Like, for example...
1931 (2nd Edition) St Lucia Distillers (43%): 0 thefatrumpirate
1423 3rd Edt. Panama 17y: 10 Drejer
1931 (1st Edition) St Lucia Distillers (43%): 2 thefatrumpirate
A.H.Riise Non-Plus Ultra Very Rare Rum: 85 Drejer
Two of them show percentages, all four have numbers. I see the names of the rum (obviously) and the name of the person or organization who did the test. But how do I read the numbers?
Like I said... I need my hand held through everything... this is and should be obvious, but I'm not getting it...
As for my thoughts...
I find this... fascinating. I actually don't mind the added sugar. I'm known for my sweet tooth. For example: I've hated every beer I've ever had except for Abita Purple Haze, and even that has to be very cold, from draft, and I have to be in the mood for it (I have an over-pronounced bitter taste, so pretty much all beers just taste bitter to me, and I don't like that). I also only drink sweeter wines (like moscato).When I'm at a bar, if I don't get a glass of scotch, a rum n' coke, or a Jack n' coke, I love me a good daiquiri or margarita or another mixed and/or frozen drink (I don't believe in "girly", for the record... because if it's true that daiquiris are a "girl's drink" while beer is a "real man's drink", then clearly women have better taste in alcohol... plus I never understood how "girly" is an insult... but let me stop before I get all SJW in here).
That said, I absolutely agree that the lying is a huge problem and really needs to be dealt with. I love my Ron Zacapa 23 and Kaniche XO (which is, to be fair, pretty cheap at $35 US), Zafra, Zaya, and so on. But they really need to actually tell us that they add all this sugar. The dishonesty is the problem. I think everyone would be fine if they were just honest about it.
So... I'll end by reiterating my first question. Is there a master list of just the unadulterated/pure rums I can get my hands on so I know where to point my rum shopping sights in the future?
I wouldn't mind a "Master List" of UNsweetened/honest rums either (as I am going on a shopping spree next week...lol)
The number refers to the amount of added sugar, expressed as grams per liter. So, the St. Lucia rum tested at 0 grams. The A.H. Riise tested at 85 grams per liter. Most of the rum we buy is 3/4 of a liter, so a bottle of Riise has 3/4 of 85, or about 64 grams. One teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams, meaning that the bottle of Riise has the equivalent of 16 spoons of added sugar.
The percent you see after St. Lucia is the ABV...alcohol by volume.
Three very useful websites with master lists:
Thank you mistercoughy!
If it's okay with everyone, when I have more time (maybe after work on Tuesday or on Wednesday and Thursday, when I'm off), I want to import everything to an excel spreadsheet so that it's a bit easier to read (unless one already exists?).
R. Ennell and Nathan H...
May I suggest a few rums for you to consider? Mount Gay XO (US $40) or Mount Gay 1703 (US $85). Also, Seale 10-year-old ($22) and Real McCoy 12yo ($45). Pretty much anything from Seale's Foursquare label is worth trying. All of the rums mentioned are full of flavor and they are all - wait for it - sweet, but none of them is actually sweetened. They're just full of wonderful flavors.
I'm sure my colleagues reading this may want to suggest other rums as well...
"The A.H. Riise tested at 85 grams per liter"
To put that in perspective; Coca Cola has around 100g of sugar per liter........85g/l is a LOT of sugar.
I'm putting them on my list as right now. Thank you.
@ mistercoughy I'll definitely give those a try.
You can also add pretty much every Appleton product to the sweet tasting but "No SUGAR ADDED" list
(Especially the "Appleton Estate Exclusive"!)
R.E....I just read your review of it. Amusing! And only $250 a bottle.
I know, right...lol
and I want another bottle since I,m down to my last 3 ounces [if anyone happens to be going to Jamaica any time soon... :-) ]
Here you will find the sugar list by added sugar from "0" to upwards of 200. So first on this list you will find some great rums that stand tall without adding sugar. For companies that add sugar, you may notice the more expensive their product is, the more sugar they add,
The OP ask that you not reproduce this list but, I think linking should be OK.
Let me get this straight,,,,,, you guys love a rum one Day,,,,,then you discover there's some sugar in it,,,,,,,suddenly you don't like it any more???????? How about your cola, Coffee,and all other products with added sugar,,salt,colour,etcetera. There is not much to enjoy any more in this world. Americans are proven to be the fittest People in the world
Sorry pushed the wrong button,,,,wasn't finished yet.
What I'm trying to say is,,just enjoy your rum and if it's nice it's nice!
"Let me get this straight,,,,,, you guys love a rum one Day,,,,,then you discover there's some sugar in it,,,,,,,suddenly you don't like it any more???????? How about your cola, Coffee,and all other products with added sugar,,salt,colour,etcetera."
Except for rum (and scotch, irish whiskey, single malts, bourbon, etc), all of the products you mentioned are allowed to add sugar and flavorings, but these added ingredients are required to be listed on the label. This is the law. It allows consumers to know what they are buying.
As for rum and fine spirits as noted, it is AGAINST the law to add sugars and other flavorings without labelling the product as a "flavored rum", and identifying at the least the main flavoring (sugar is considered a flavoring). Of the major brown spirits, all are relatively honest - except for rum - which has long cheated, has secretly added all manner of additives and adulterants. This is fraud and cheating.
This allows these distillers to take a very inexpensive, industrial multi-column rum - nearly tasteless - and to futz it up in an attempt to pass it off as a cleverly bottled, high-priced "premium" or "super-premium" rum. These are not. This secret alteration is pure profit, and the the result is an artificially "smooth" concoction that is actually a mixed drink in a bottle. The consumer loses.
This is not to say there is anything wrong with a good flavored rum, honestly labelled. But personally, I have high standards for these as well. IMHO, the best flavored and spiced rums are based on real flavorings - real cinnamon, real vanilla, real prune extract, etc - that are added to a well made quality base rum with at least a few years in the cask.
Such honestly labelled flavored and spiced rums can be terrific and tasty drinks. But to attempt to pass off a tricked-up cheap rum as a "premium" - and charging premium prices - is despicable. No whisky or bourbon does this, which is exactly why these truly honest spirits command so much more respect and honest value.
As for rum, the Master Sugar List (which compiles over 550 tests from all the known testers of the world) revealed that about half the rums tested were honest and pure, and were not secretly sugared. The other half: as Richard Seale has said (and frequently demonstrated) - frauds and law evading faux-products.
All any of us really want is honesty in labelling, both for contents and age. It's the law.
Thanks for your comment. Point well taken. I certainly agree on this! Still won't Let it influence on what I buy but that's just me.Just had a tasting at home with a deer rum loving friend and agreed that the presidente marti 19 years was the best. Probably to much sugar but there you go!
It also comes down to quality, knowledge, and craftsmanship. If you can get a similar handmade item or factory-made item to do the same thing, would you be willing to pay the same amount for them--knowing full well the factory-made item has a much, much higher margin? Additionally, something made in a natural way is often--but not always--much more appreciated by hobbyists and aficionados than something made in an artificial way. That many people don't view rum as anything special is fine, but this website, and many others, are for the benefit of rum lovers, and rum lovers are the target audience. We tend to take an interest in the method of production a bit more than the general drinking public. The taste of a rum is an important factor, don't get me wrong. However, the taste of a quality rum, made naturally and with integrity and craftsmanship, is the absolute pinnacle.
@Capn Jimbo's Rum Project, I registered on your forum a few weeks ago, but the process hasn't been completed yet. Could you check into that for me? Thanks.
I realize I'm just repeating Capn Jimbo, but it's simply the honesty aspect that's the problem (for me, at least). As I mentioned in my initial post above when I bumped this thread... I have a major sweet tooth, so yeah, I adore the rums with added sugar. I just wish they'd be honest about it and say "this rum contains added sugars and flavorings" and then sell it at a cheaper price point, instead of not saying such, then claiming it's a "premium" rum and charging ridiculous prices for it.
It seems that the rum market has missed what people love about other premium whiskeys like scotch. As big as my sweet tooth is, I have a soft spot for peat... some of my favorite premium scotches are very, very smoky/peaty. What makes something premium is not how "sweet" it is, but how complex it is. Sweet rums, no matter how good, are not necessarily complex, all because of the added sugar, which does tend to mute flavors. Which means I have to rethink a lot of my reviews on this site, which kind of sucks (I'm waiting to get my hands on some good unadulterated rums first, however, before doing that).
So the problem, really, is the dishonesty. It's fine to add all that sugar and other stuff... just tell us you're adding it and sell it for what it is: a flavored rum as opposed to a premium rum.
Thanks everybody for your comments. I'm still relatively new to the world of rum and thus learning. I find your comments interesting and educating. Will be checking more before buying!! Cheers!!
Is there any place to get a table with rum name, rum ratings and the amount of sugar added? This is what I have in mind:
But of course with a lot more entries...
Matagalpa... I was going to make an Excel spreadsheet with the list provided at Cap'n Jimbo's Rum Project, but it turns out I'm utterly terrible with spreadsheets... :(
I am about to try again, however. Maybe I'll get it the second time around...
Not sure whether you need Jimbo's or Andy's permission to reproduce info from their respective websites, but it makes sense to ask, no?
I actually asked here, but never got a response... so I had no intentions of publishing it until I got permission.
Plus, I can't sign up at Cap'n Jimbo's for whatever reason.
Sorry to any who applied for membership to The Rum Project, but you should now have been approved,(a rare honor, lol) and should have received an email to that end. If you have any trouble, please email me and I'll get you on.
The Master Sugar List remains at:
The sugar section, including Che's terrific study of the effects of added sugar (from 1 to 50g/liter) is here:
Keep in mind the sugar list is a compendium of many sources: ALKO, Finland, Drejer and a number of qualified webmaster/testers including Cyril, the Pirate, mamajuana, et al. As far as use or reproduction of the Master Sugar List have always been posted there, namely:
"This post may be reproduced and used by anyone, but only in its entirety - including this link:
Keep in mind there are a number of qualifiers, as there are differences in protocol and meaning for the different sources (which are delineated there); otherwise the numbers can be misunderstood. Keep in mind too that the ratings here are simply a compendium of widely varying public opinion, rather than being gathered from qualified published rum reviews published by experienced tasters/reviewers like BTI, Dave Broom, Ralfy, et al.
I am certainly open minded on this and might be convinced otherwise. I do think it an excellent idea if someone would gather ratings from multiple review websites. If you do, please know that - like the Master Sugar List - the Project will be happy to act as a public parking place for the list.
@ Capn Jimbo...
It wouldn't allow the authorization code. I sent an email about it from jimmyRRpage@gmail.com, but haven't heard back, yet...
I just wanted to take that master list and put it into a spreadsheet with headings so that it's easier to read, is all... so each name and percentage and rating and credit has their own column.
Would love to have the excel/spreadsheet version when it's avail.
Guys these are great suggestions, worth consideration. In the meanwhile, the Master Sugar List received a bunch of new tests. After entering all the new tests, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the list now contains 651 tests! Good grief. I can also tell you that a couple of new and very serious testers will soon be adding even more tests. I'll soon be re-reviewing the ALKO, Swedes and Drejer test and adding even more.
The Project has been proud to accomodate a number of dedicated and energetic rum lovers who have fought long and hard - first to suspect alteration, and then with proof, to publicize the fraud and cheating rampant in the world of rogue rum (unlike Scotch, Irish and whiskies in general, or bourbon). Until the last few years, the distillers were able to get away with altering lesser rums with sugar, glycerol, hidden flavorings and even cheap sherry - all to justify premiumization and unearned profits.
Thanks too to Richard Seale and Carl Kanto (among other distillers) who long supported this effort. The bad news: about half of all rums cheat and overcharge. The good news: about half don't. The updated list remains here:
btw, Capn Jimbo's Rum Project , still can register at the Rumproject site
btw, Capn Jimbo's Rum Project , still can't register at the Rumproject site
Jimbo...Nice work. A suggestion and an FYI...
As the list keeps expanding, you may want to consider eliminating "Ron" from the rum names. I noticed several rums listed twice, once under Ron X and again under X (Abuelo, Barcelo, Matusalem for example).
Also, have you seen the Facebook pages from J. Drejer? They show about 265 rums - with pictures of their sugar readings! - and comments from Seale and others. Pretty interesting stuff. I imagine that several of the rums on his list, which aren't on yours yet (including a few from CDI and Real McCoy) can be added to your Master List. Here's the link:
Thanks for all the work you've done to make people aware of deceptive practices in the world of rum. I, for one, am a wiser - albeit more cranky - consumer as a direct result of your efforts. Much appreciated.
Mister Coughy, are you on FB?
Thanks for the tip about the name "Ron". I had the same feeling when posting "The Real McCoy" which I considered listing as "Real McCoy". I was just about to recheck ALKO, the Swedes and Drejer, so thanks for the link.
The value of one Master List is that it avoids duplication. As I recall at one time Cyril was posting both his and Drejer's tests, which I had to discover, so that the actual tester is accurately identified. I expect the list to get longer quite soon. Thanks again.
For the poster who is having trouble registering, please contact me at capnjimbo (at hotmail dot com), let me know the name you registered under. I'll take care of it and register you myself if necessary.
@ Capn Jimbo's Rum Project: email sent.
Ok, this it getting to be a LLOOOOONNGG discussion.
Why is it exactly that newer post are not on top (or there isn't a "Go to newest / Go to Bottom" button)?
I think the root problem here is that unlike Bourbon, Scotch, Rye, and Cognac there are no strict internationally recognized guidelines for rum. People have been adding spices, sugar, and juices to rum since it was first made and there are several types of rum. Bourbon is Bourbon but when you say Rum the answer is, which one? Light, gold, black, spiced, blackstrap, over proof, aged, agricole, etc. The spirit diverse in nature and is not one that falls under the strict regulations and standards we see with other liquors. I think until an international definition of "Rum" is established we can only expect dishonesty and trickery amongst distillers and thank those who put information out there to help us decide which bottle to buy. Bourbon is Bourbon whether you buy it in the US or in China. IMO, a bottle labeled "XO" should have nothing added to it but the rum itself! And, if it does, it should say what was added on the bottle...
"I think the root problem here is that unlike Bourbon, Scotch, Rye, and Cognac there are no strict internationally recognized guidelines for rum. People have been adding spices, sugar, and juices to rum since it was first made and there are several types of rum. Bourbon is Bourbon but when you say Rum the answer is, which one? Light, gold, black, spiced, blackstrap, over proof, aged, agricole, etc."
Actually the regulations - both in the US and in the EU - are quite clear and define "rum" just as clearly as whisk(e)y or bourbon. In fact, all of the relevant definitions are shared. These include "rum", "flavored rum", "rum liqueur" and "imitation rum". All of the other descriptors (white, gold, etc) are for the most part made up and have no legal or regulatory meaning whatever. The key regulation insofar as sugar added to any spirit is:
27 CFR 5.22 - The standards of identity
Simply put "rum" as strictly defined is ..."an alcoholic distillate from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses, or other sugar cane by-products, produced at less than 190° proof ... and bottled at not less than 80° proof". Add sugar or any other flavoring and it becomes a "flavored rum" (and must be so labeled) - the label must identify the primary flavoring, in this case sugar, eg "Sugar Surprise - a flavored rum". "Flavored rums" feature ".. added natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, and bottled at not less than 60° proof".
“Rum liqueur" - which CAN contain sugar, must be at least 60 proof in the US. The word "dry" may be added if the added sugar is less than 10%.
"Imitation rum" are those "...to which neutral spirits or distilled spirits other than rum have been added", or rum that has been flavored in such a manner as to taste like something else.
Bottom Line: the law is clear with similar and precise regulations in the US, UK, EU and Canada. This is done to facilitate import/export. Add sugar or flavorings and you now have a "flavored rum", "flavored whisky" or "flavored bourbon" and it must be so labeled (with the primary flavoring appearing.
Please also note that the Master Sugar List has been updated once again with new tests, and now is at 728 tests (almost all of rum, with a handful of tested Canadian whiskies). This number will grow again soon when the latest ALKO and Swedish tests are reviewed:
This week's WTF moment...
Compagnie des Indes is a French independent bottler of some pretty amazing single-cask rums and the new darling of the rum world. Well, it seems that the owner, Florent Beuchet, is pretty open about the fact that he adds sugar and coloring to some of his rums. Apparently not so "open" that he labels the actual bottles as colored and sugared rum, but just open enough to mention it in interviews after people have already bought his stuff and made him rich. Not all his products are sugared, but it's a guessing game until the testers sort it all out and put it all on CJ's Master List. VERY frustrating. Not sure whom to trust any more. I'm expecting any day now to see Richard Seale make a tearful confession on YouTube that all of his rums are nothing more than de-carbonated diet coke, rum flavoring and black-market cough syrup. Just perfect.
Thats very dissapointing indeed. Was planning to try one of their bottlings one of these days as I believed them to be unaltered. Guess I'll pass for now until its clear which one is altered and which one isn't.
From the Master Sugar List:
Compagne des Indes Barbados 16 Years: 0 thefatrumpirate 0
Companie Des Indes Barbados Foursquare 16y: 0 Drejer 0
Companie Des Indes Jamaica Hampden 14y: 0 Drejer 0
Companie Des Indes Jamaica Worthy Park 7y: 0 Drejer 0
Hope this helps...
Just purchased the Compagnie des Indes Foursquare 12 year batch. Should be here in a couple of days from MoM. Jimbo, do you have numbers on that entry? To me, 15-20 grams equals deliciousness! ;)
I bought CDI Barbados, Haiti, Guadeloupe and Caraibes. They're all tasty...but pre-sweetened? We shall see...
If Jack Daniels or McCallan were ever caught adding anything their bottles other than liquor they'd be out of business. Sorry, but if there are all the regulations out there they need to be adjusted or more strictly enforced. Rum with raw sugar added should not be rum. That, even in the slightest degree, constitutes "rum syrup" IMO and the distillers who do this need to label their product as such...
Does "Flavored Rum" also considered Spiced Rum?
"Does "Flavored Rum" also considered Spiced Rum?"
Yes. The US (and other major regulators) consider added spices, sugar or flavorings of any kind as "flavored rum" under the regulations.
The primary flavor must be labeled: eg "Bacardi Dingleberry" or say "Sweet Sucker Rum"
You may have heard that the FDA has recently decreed that all packaged food must display, not only the sugar content, but a separate line showing how much ADDED sugar is in the food. Link: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/05/20/478837157/the-added-sugar-label-is-coming-to-a-packaged-food-near-you
Do you know whether this will affect rum bought and sold in the US as well?
Not sure if Rum is considered "Food"
Although I know a few rummies for whom rum is "food", lol, it is not. The standards of identity and labeling do NOT require rum to list the amount of sugar. The good news is that the Master Sugar List now includes about 740 rum tests (and a few tests of Canadian Whisky).
Good luck. You would do well by finding and tasting real and pure rums from the list (about half are pure, honest and well made, the rest have been heavily sugared and altered with flavorings).
sugar vs no sugar is a very tricky topic. Obviously the general taste of the mass is more standardized to the things we are used to consume on a daily basis. For instance soda = Coke, beer = Heineken etc. Same with rum - there are producers who do it for the earning purposes first and foremost. Sadly that is the Plantation case so far.
I am not against surgar by definition but from a consumer perspective this is cheating if it’s not written clearly on the product. Then there is the traditional and current argument. If rum has been made in the way it’s been made for hundreds of years it is obvious that for a lot of people adding sugar and chemical substances to rum feels wrong. I feels to me aswell. But is it wrong by law or forbidden with a directive? Probably not.
To finish, Plantation does a magnificent job of selling sugar and other substances to customers at a premium price. Their marketing is very strong in terms of visual product representation and selling the rum fairytale to people. And the mass accepts it happily because a) it does not know better, b) it cannot dream outside of the fairytale, c) it has not experienced something better or is not interested in doing so.
It’s all about education and up to each of us to make the “right” decision. I had read about the sugar topic before but I still went out and bought a bottle of XO (truth be told during a very good sale), but I have Distanced myself from writing a review so far....because it’s really hard to rate. One on hand it actually tastes and smells great, it’s smooth, velvety whatever you wanna call it :)
But, the fact that the end product is achieved with added sugar ruins the traditional principle in making rum for me.
Sweetened vs not sweetened is a really simple topic. It all stems to WHY the sweetening (and on top of this, added artificial essences, glycerine etc.) is put into the rum, which also often carries false age statement.
This reason is 1) poor quality spirit: So pure, that it does not really have any flavor. Or simply badly made. Usually the first, made in modern giant multicolumn 24/7 stills. Most of these companies use the same base spirit for vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whiskey, and create the product by use of flavorings.
This reason is 2) money. Rather than pay for top-quality casks, waiting the aging-process to take place, and making top quality spirit which still contains taste with slower process, they take the cheaper route, and make the flavor with additives, mask the results with sweetening, and slap a fake story and fake age statement to support selling the resulting chemi-cocktail as super-premium rum.
Nothing complicated at all, pure business and money. This is why it is done. And it works. These businesses are now very upset cause thanks to the Scandinavians and one French guy especially, we know the deal now. It hurts their wallet.
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