The Boozy Biddies welcome their first spirits stud, Jesse Torres, a Denver based bartender who just so happens to be a wealth of knowledge on cane spirits. R(h)um has always been a passion of Jesse’s and while it can be a very complicated and seemingly lawless spirit, Jesse helps navigate specific regions, styles, and distillation techniques.

Drinks Featured:

Jesse: Foursquare Old Brigand Black Label Old Fashioned
Kara: Clement VSOP Rhum Agircole “French Martinique 75”
Calla: Appleton Estate Signature Rum Hemingway Daiquiri, Appleton Estate Joy on a large Rock



  • Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist
  • The Crafty Cask, A History of Rum
  • Society of Wine Educators, Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide

Study Notes

*Please note these are our actual notes for the episode and may be directly copied and pasted from some of the sources.


  • Sugarcane in grass family
  • Thought to have been cultivated in Guinea as early as 6000 BC. Sweet pieces likely chewed between teeth, but cane was also used as a building material
  • Very easy to move – spread through Vietnam, Australia and India
  • China also has strand of sugarcane – cross breeding between two and spread throughout Europe and the ‘New World’
  • 352 BC Alexander the Great brought it from India to Europe in 352 BCE
  • Thought to have medicinal properties for a loooong time.
    • Dioscorides, circa 50-70 CE wrote There is a kind of coalesced honey called sakcharon found in reeds in India and Arabia the happy (Yemen), similar in consistency to salt.. It is good dissolved in water for the intestines and the stomach, and taken as a drink to help treat painful bladder and kidneys.”
  • Once it arrived in Europe, rum production began in colonies, drove mass transportation of slaves through the Caribbean due to difficulty of growing/harvesting sugarcane (hand harvested with a machete)
  • Early history of rum
    • Barbados in 1600s, combination of sugarcane, growth techniques from Brazil, slavery and distilling know-how resulted in rum
      • May have initially been called “kill-devil”,also may have been referred to as Rumbullion (name for a storm) and Rumbustion -shortened to rum
    • On plantations rum was a cheap drink for workers – owners stuck with port and brandy
    • Farmers in New England lacked a way to make alcohol and not all could afford large quantities of imported port or brandy, so bought molasses from the Caribbean and made rum
      • At one point rum accounted for 80% of New England’s exports
      • Triangle Trade – slaves from West Africa -> West Indies for molasses -> molasses to New England to make rum → Rum back to West Africa and Europe
      • Molasses act of 1733 attempt by the British to get colonists to buy British, not French, molasses
  • Rum and the navy
    • In 1500s British sailors were given beer to drink (happy, more sanitary) – but even beer went bad on long voyages so rum became drink of choice
    • Sailors would do the gunpowder trick to determine that their ration wasn’t watered down, giving us ‘proof’ – burnt at about 57% – British 100 proof is still 57%, not double like the US
  • Rum in French Indies
    • Creation of sugar factories in Martinique and other islands post-slavery led to a lot of farmer’s choosing not to compete in sugar markets so turned to distilling rum instead
  • Cuba in 1800s – Bacardi family
    • First large-scale industrialized production of rum


  • Rum is a large classification of spirits produced from sugarcane
  • Can be produced from sugarcane syrup, the by-products of sugar production (ex. molasses) or directly from sugarcane juice
  • Majority of production happens in the Caribbean and Latin America
  • No specified geographical region for the production of rum
  • If a geographical name such as Barbados or Puerto Rico is included on the label, the rum is required to have been produced in the respective country


  • According to the United States Standards of Identity, rum is defined as the following
    • A spirit distilled from the fermented juice of sugarcane, sugarcane syrup, sugarcane molasses, or other sugarcane by-products
    • Distilled at less than 190 proof
    • Bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
    • Produced in such a manner to possess the taste, aroma, and characteristics attributed to rum
  • EU Definition
    • Pretty much same materials
    • Distilled at less than 193 proof
    • Bottled at no less than 37.5% alcohol (75 proof)
    • Must retain the discernible organoleptic characteristics of rum
    • Agricultural rum, “rhum agricole” is a defined subcategory of EU rum for rum produced using raw sugarcane juice
      • Rum (Rhum) agricole is limited to certain approved production areas primarily located in the French Overseas Departments


  • Sugarcane Juice: common in the French Carribean
    • The base ferment is made from a fresh agricultural product so they are known as agricultural rum or rhum agricole
    • 10% of all rum made
  • Molasses: known as industrial rum or rhum idustriel
    • Very viscous, concentrated sugarcane juice left after the sugar crystals have been removed
    • Grades are determined by the length of time that the juice is boiled and allowed to evaporate along with how much sugar is removed in crystal form
    • Grad A contains highest percentage of remaining fermentable sugar followed by decreasing order by grades B, C, and D
    • Blackstrap molasses is the lowest in both quality and sugar content


  • Has very few universal requirements aside from the mandated use of sugarcane as the fermentable source
  • Most requirements come from specific types and styles of rum prescribed at the regional or national level
  • HARVESTING – sugarcane is harvested at maximum maturity defined as the point at which the sugar concentration reaches its highest level before starting to decline
    • The weight is about 10-13% sugar
  • INITIAL CANE PREPARATION – cane is washed to remove all debris and then chopped into fine pieces
    • Cane is then milled and crushed with added water to extract the sugar from the cane
    • Then filtered to remove any cane residue
    • Sugarcane juice will then have a sugar concentration of about 16%
    • Sugar production continues through evaporation which continues until the sugar concentration approaches 60%
    • The thick liquid is often referred to as virgin sugarcane honey but is essentially a very high grade form of molasses
    • Following evaporation, the molasses is boiled and centrated further until sugar crystals begin to form
    • A centrifuge is used to separate the sugar crystals from the saturated molasses
    • After the crystals are removed, the remaining molasses is stored in tanks until it is either used to make rum or processed for animal feed
    • Sugar crystals are sold as born or raw sugar or further refined to produce white sugar
  • MASH CREATION – the sugarcane juice or molasses is diluted with water to reduce the sugar concentration to a level that will allow the yeast to ferment the liquid
  • FERMENTATION & DISTILLATION – standard compared to other products
  • MATURATION – no aging is required but some do
  • BLENDING – blended across types and ages to produce a product of a relatively consistent style


  • WHITE – colorless and labeled as clear, crystal, blanc, silver or plata
    • Most popular category
    • Unaged or lightly aged made using column stills and sometimes filtered to remove any color after a period of aging
  • AMBER/GOLD – aka oro
    • Color denotes some aging but some distillers will add caramel or molasses to white rum in order to produce an amber hued rum that gives the impression of aging
  • DARK – presumably aged in charred oak barrels for as long as 5-7 years or longer
    • Additives can be used to mimic the effect of aging
    • Deeply hued versions of dark rum (which may be aged in heavily charred barrels are sometimes referred to as “black rum”)


  • One system of rum classification is based on the historical European colonization
    • FRENCH – modeled on traditional French brandies and producing using fermented sugarcane juice rather than molasses and have more fruity and floral notes
    • BRITISH – tend to be characteristically dark with fully body and pungent aroma
    • SPANISH – based upon the traditional Cuban style of rum developed in the 1860s and tends to be the lightest style of rum


  • New classification system based on how rum is made i.e. distillation method


  • AGED – usually represents the youngest spirit in a blend
    • Term anejo indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products but there are no universal standard or rulgations
  • FLAVORED RUMS – in the US must be made with natural flavors and be bottled at minimum of 30 percent alcohol
  • NAVY RUM – typically high proof (typically 54-57%)
    • Theories
      • One legend states the barrels of rum were usually stored near gunpowder so if the rum spilled onto the gunpowder, the gunpowder would still ignite
      • Another – to prove the rum was not watered down the sailors would pour it on gunpowder and only a high proof would allow the gunpowder to pass the test and ignite
  • OVERPROOF RUM – bottled at 62.5-755 alcohol by volume (125-150 proof)


  • RHUM AGRICOLE – produced from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses
    • Retains much of the original sugarcane and tends to be smooth and light with floral and herbal aromas
    • Primarily produced in the West Indies (French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique)
    • Also found in Haiti, Grenada, Brazil and the Virgin Islands
  • JAMAICA – known for high ester, pot still rums but the island does produce a wide range depending on fermentation techniques, distillation styles, and aging processes
    • Make a range of new-make spirits each according to a specific formula of base ingredients, length of fermentation, method of distillation, and resultant ester level
    • Formulas are known as marques (marks) and are registered with the Jamaica Spirit Pool Association
      • Often classified by ester content with each category equating to a certain flavor style
    • Common Catgories Include
      • Common Cleans – lowest level of esters with light floral aromas
      • Plummers – medium ester level and a bit more tropical
      • Wedderburns – medium-high ester contents ane are more flavorful
      • Continental Flavoreds – used to be used for export to European markets where they would be added to lighter spirits as a flavoring agent
      • High ester and have pungent “medicinal aromas”
    • DUNDER – sometimes used in the production process
      • Comprised of the highly acidic, yeast rich-foram “leftovers” that remain in the still after distillation is complete
      • Can be stored in wooden tanks for use in subsequent distillation runs or is aged and concentrated in tubs or pits dug in the ground called muck pits and the resulting concentrate is known as muck
    • SKIMMINGS – the sugar and mineral rich froth residue created during the boiling and concentration of the sugarcane juice may also be re-used
    • ALL contribute to the highly aromatic esters
  • BARBADOS – produces a wide variety of rum, mainly from molasses
    • Capitalize on the long history of rum production in the area by using traditional pot stills and oak aging
    • White rum is sometimes referred to as “Bajan see through”
    • Often called the “birthplace of rum” and while this may be difficult to prove, it is home to Mount Gay, the world’s oldest documented rum brand founded in 1703
    • Home to Foursquare Rum Distillery which produces the Real McCoy Rum named in honor of Bill McCoy (a famous rum runner of the Prohibition era)
  • CUBA – due to current restrictions on commercial imports and distribution, Cuban rum is not available in the US but is readily available in many other parts of the world
    • Was a pioneer in light, clean, column distilled style of rum now produced world wide
    • Mainly made from Molasses
    • Molasses based ferment is made from Cuban grown sugar cane and is called vino de cana
    • Havana Club is most widely distributed rum and was created in 1934 by the family of Jose Archabala who along with the Bacardi family are considered the founding families of Cuban Rum Culture
    • Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Croix, Haiti, Mauritius, Puerto Rico (Bacardi)


  • BRAZIL – Cachaca produced from sugar cane juice and most widely known as the main ingredient in the Caipirinha
    • Made in many styles from powerful unaged spirits to smooth aged sippers with extended cask aging
  • VENEZUELA – ron de Venezula must be produced using 100% Venezuelan-grown sugar cane
  • NICARAGUA – the revolution in the 1980s caused an interruption in international distribution as well as a period of hyper inflation resulting in the country’s liquor commission to store large quantities of their products and now is represents one of the largest collections of slow-barrel-aged rum in the world


  • MARTINIQUE – has an AOC status for its rhum agricole, the only one in rum existences, since its an overseas department of France
    • Has two approved sugarcane species
    • Limits on sugarcane yield and strict standards for harvesting and processing
    • Fermentation must take place in open tanks
    • Maximum allowed temp is 101 F or 38.5 C
    • Be completed in 120 hours
    • Specific style of continuous still that contains three elements – the heating chamber, a stripping column, and a condensation column
    • STYLES
      • Rhum Blanc Martinique – colorless rum aged for a minimum of eight weeks with no aging requirement
        • If aged in oak, must have been aged for no more than three months
      • Rhum Martinique Eleve Sous Bois – Cask Aged
        • Oaked aged for 12 months
      • Rhum Martinique Ambre (Rhum Paille)
        • Amber or straw colored rum for a minimum of 18 months
      • Rhum Martinique Vieux – extra aged
        • Aged for at least 3 years with a capacity of less than 650 liters
      • VO – 3 years of Oak aging
      • VSOP – 4 years of Oak aging
      • XO – 6 years of Oak aging
  • This one aged in combination of new French oak and charred ex-bourbon barrels
  • Distilled in single column copper pot still
  • Domaine de l’Acajou on Martinique was purchased in the late 1880s by Homère Clément, who sought to produce rhum agricole after learning distillation techniques from brandy estates in France – it was a sugar plantation but in collapse due to industrialization of sugar plantations and cheaper sugar from South America


  • Has been producing rum since 1749
  • A blend of many Jamaican rums of various ages so it’s non-age-stated 
  • Located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley 
  • Spirits age quicker in tropical climates so the flavour of the rumd envelope at a quicker pace
  • 2 oz Signature, .75 oz Fresh Lime Juice, .50 demerara simple syrup
  • Joy Spence – joined Appleton estate as chief chemist in 1981
    • Gained title of master blender in 1997
    • First woman to hold the position of master blender in the spirits industry
  • Celebrates Joy’s 20th anniversary as a master blender. Has rum aged up to 30- and 35- years but is labeled as a 25 year rum due to aging requirements