Hydrometer Tests – A Witch Hunt

Hydrometer Tests by the fat rum pirateA Witch Hunt historically concerned mass hysteria and moral panic.  For those who have suggested the Hydrometer Tests as being a “Witch Hunt” let me make it very clear – there is no panic or hysteria here.  Nor I doubt Johnny Drejer or Cyril at DuRhum are panicking too much either.

Where perhaps there may be a panic is with those producers who have continually denied the practice of “dosage”.  The hysterical reaction by some of the Brand Ambassadors has been, at times – embarrassing but very telling (and amusing).

For far too long, these ambassadors and producers have been able to hide the truth from their customers.  Now some and I must make it very clear, only some of the truth is being revealed by the Hydrometer Tests, they are taking umbrage on Social Media.  For some reason because I haven’t visited all the distilleries I shouldn’t be commenting on “dosage” in rum.  I don’t understand the “artisanal” process.  Some it seems have even managed to convince themselves they are more knowledgeble than the common rum drinker who they can easily dupe with yet more stories from their marketing department.

Apparently these brands have always used family recipes and “dosage” is an age old practice stretching back hundreds of years.  Even for companies less than 5 years old it seems………..

On the other hand of course you have the Hysterical reaction of those of us who are performing the tests and having the audacity to actually publish our findings.  God help us, some are even commenting on the effect the sugar has on taste and texture!  Even actually enjoying some rums with added sugar. The Hypocrisy of it all!

I’ve encountered ambassadors and company representatives trying to turn the tables.  We are the bad guys for revealing the added sugar and driving customers away – ruining family run businesses, spreading malicious lies and gossip. Badmouthing companies.  Giving people a hard time.  We don’t understand the process, they cry.consignment2

Thing is we aren’t describing a process we are merely publishing results of tests undertaken.  If you want to describe the process then please kindly do so.  Let us know what is artisanal about these practices which you want to keep secret from the public.  If adding sugar is such a skill why do you say the flavour is obtained by barrel ageing?

They have no right to try and turn us into the bad guys.  There is a saying which is very true to this situation “If you have nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”.  And after all if added sugar is such an intrinsic and artisanal process in rum manufacture surely it is something which shouldn’t be hidden? Should it not be proclaimed proudly on the bottle?  Along with the Solero Age Statements and the tales of distilleries in the clouds?

What are you trying to achieve?

Is a common theme often trotted out.  It’s simple, I would like to see a list of additives clearly displayed on bottles of rum and if said additives are “illegal” (in line with Global/Local spirits legislation) then the rum should be re-classified.  There are legal definitions of what rum can and can’t be but sadly they are not being enforced.

ACRPeople have suggested that the industry should police itself.  It shouldn’t have to rely on government testing (the Swedish and Finnish government publish results on additives in Spirits).  It’s very unlikely that the rum industry will ever police itself.  There is precious little evidence of any desire to do so.  The ACR (Authentic Caribbean Rum) organisation may be taking steps along these lines and defining certain standards regarding age statements etc.  However, a look at their line up of rums shows some which many would consider to be “altered” or “adulterated” in some way.

There is no excuse for not labelling spirits bottles, the companies find plenty space to trot out their cock and bull stories after all.  I’m not trying to run these companies out of business – I enjoy rums such as El Dorado but more honesty and transparency would go a long way.

Within the industry it is in unfortunate that most acting as more Global Ambassadors for rum seem to walk the walk but not talk the talk.  They speak of “pure” and “unadulterated” rum but they will then happily promote the latest faddy five minute brand.  Before taking umbrage at this statement just look at the most recent big Rum Festivals.  Take a look at the competition winners and the exhibitors.

Being independent and unreliant on income from the Rum Industry means I can speak entirely as I find.  I am not criticising anyone in the Industry as such and I fully understand the position they are in.  I just feel that at times a little hypocrisy creeps in.  If you want or need  to sit on the fence then don’t climb down and sit on both sides.

Another counter argument is that people should be free to drink what they like, something which I agree with very much.  It has never been this sites intention to become preachy or try to act as Rum’s moral compass.  There is nothing wrong with giving people the information to help make their own informed choices though.  Which is all we are doing.  I admit on occasion I have become annoyed with the amount of alteration taking place in a rum.  However, I would never suggest someone was “wrong” for enjoying that particular rum.  Plenty of people have felt duped when they discover what their favourite rum has X amount of added sugar and the taste and profile is not necessarily all down to skilful blending and careful ageing of the spirit.WORTHY PARK DISTILLERY

Nor would I ever want anyone burned at the stake for drinking Ron Zacapa.

I perform my Hydrometer Tests for my own peace of mind.  I like to know if the rum has been “dosed”.  However, one of the reasons I don’t get too obsessed with the added sugar debtate, is that quite a lot of the rums I have tested have come up “clean”.  With additives such as glycerine undetectable by the Hydrometer Tests and practices such as using unwashed wine casks, macerated fruits and secret spices it is difficult without the benefit of expensive laboratory equipment to ever be really sure what you are actually drinking.  On a good few occasions I still suspect “something” has been added.

I’m not saying that distilling, blending and producing rum is easy.  I do not believe adding sugar or other additives is as easy as merely pouring it into a barrel and shaking it all up.  If it is artisinial then embrace it, let us all know, show us.

As it stands with so many additives not being disclosed in the rum making community it makes it very difficult for people to believe things such as age statements – which can then led to further rumours and accusations about producers and companies.  All which (and I’m loathe to do this) when you compare to the Whisky World means rum will continue to be the “rogue spirit” and easily dismissed as anything other than a good time drink.






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6 comments on “Hydrometer Tests – A Witch Hunt

  1. It is only a threat to those who fear transparency.

    If one is proud of their product and post-distillation addition of sugar is part of their manufacturing process then they should be able to proudly explain how they feel it adds value for their consumer.

    If distillers treat their choice of post-distillation additives as damnable secrets I feel they should re-evaluate why they are doing so, lest the customer come to also believe this if only through observing their evasive and disingenuous protestation.

    Reps probably feel like they are caught in between though as they have no power over how the product is produced, and yet are tasked with damage control over such revelations, which hurt the saleability of their product, …not that it justifies a distiller’s smoke and mirrors approach to their manufacturing process over an additive that can be readily measured by the public.

    An attitude supportive of hiding the addition of sugar fosters the idea of keeping the consumer poorly educated about their product, as well as works against understanding of the bases of the organoleptic experience of spirits in general.

  2. Great article – nothing wrong with addition of additives, it’s all in the transparency about what people are purchasing and drinking! No one likes being fooled and you’re absolutely right it only discredits claims and statements made by producers!

  3. Thank you all for your kind comments!

  4. Excellent editorial! I can’t think of another industry that would get so worked up by this kind of independent research and reporting. Like you said even the additives don’t make the rum bad. I still like my El Dorado too!

  5. Great article, I am really concern about the added things in my drink, there is not make sense to reduce the sugar I drink in my day if I am consuming sugar in my rum without being aware about that.

    Mostly if the sugar is more than the a coca cola.

    Thanks for sharing the information,


  6. Good article I agree with most of what is said here.

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