Bourbon is my drink, but occasionally, during the dead cold of winter and in the oppressing heat of the summer, rum just hits the spot. Then again, Michigan’s spring and fall seem so short that I guess I could make an excuse to enjoy rum all year round.
Rum = yum.
Unlike bourbon, I usually enjoy rum as a mixed drink, although I’ve been a Rum and Coke® kinda guy. My go-to rum drink is a Mojito, more specifically, a Hemmingway Mojito (with pink grapefruit juice added). I also have a preference for aged (gold) or spiced rum. I’m not much of a silver rum connoisseur.
Now, you might remember that not too long ago, I experimented with aging my own bourbon. As a matter of fact, I wrote two blogs about it: Bourbon Recipe Adventures and Pete Makes Bourbon…Sort of. My hopes were that I could, in my own home, replicate in small barrels what the larger distilleries manage to create in larger ones at their own rick houses.
Sadly, I discovered that while smaller barrels can, in a matter of months, imitate the beautiful mahogany color of aged bourbon, it takes years and bigger barrels to achieve the quality of bourbon really worth drinking.
So naturally, I wondered if it would be different with rum, which is typically aged much less than bourbon. Moreover, if my aged rum came out great, I wondered if I could make a Spiced Rum like (Captain) to my liking.
The quest was on.
In the hopes my experiment would be successful, I decided to purchase 2- to 5-liter, charred, American white oak barrels, which in total would require 10 liters of white rum to fill, but as a result, would give me plenty of rum for holiday gift-giving.
I’m just a generous kinda guy…
I purchased my rum barrels online from oakbarrelsltd.com, the same company I purchased the barrels I used for my bourbon from, and then prepped them by filling them with water to check for leaks and allowing the wood to swell to create that perfect seal.
Because aged rum picks up the distinctive nose and taste of wood and char, it isn’t necessary to purchase expensive white rum to start. I purchased a bottom-shelf Bacardi-owned Puerto Rican rum called Castillo, which by its reviews is a good-quality, good-value rum.
I filled my barrels this past summer and gave them about 4 months of age, which gave the rum time to age in both hot and cool months, thus allowing time for the spirit to breathe in and out of the wood. This is essential for developing the best flavor.
By September, the rum had aged nicely and changed in color from clear (silver) to a nice amber (gold) and the flavor changed from sweet and bland to toasty oak and a bit more of molasses.
Perfect. Step one was a success. I decided, at that point, to double down and roll the dice once more.
On to making Spiced Rum. All of it.
I did a lot of research and found that most every recipe for Spiced Rum was similar. What differed was the ratio of ingredients. I chose one with a bit more vanilla and a little less clove.
Below is my recipe for 1 – 1-liter bottle of aged/gold rum, if you’d like to start there. Of course, I used my own aged rum.
1 – Liter Aged/Gold Rum
2 Vanilla Beans, split lengthwise and cut into 1” pieces
3 Whole Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks, broken
2 Whole Allspice Berries
1 Cardamom Pod
6 Whole Black Peppercorns
½ Piece Star Anise
1/8th tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
2 tsp Coarsely Chopped Fresh Ginger
2 – 1” x 3” Strips Fresh Orange Rind (NO White Pith)
Begin by finding a suitable container to marinate your rum and spices. I’d suggest a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Add all ingredients to your jar, cover tightly, and place in a warm (but not hot) area. A windowsill is a good option. I recommend saving the original bottle to store your finished Spiced Rum.
Each day for 3 days, shake the contents once, and then allow it to rest undisturbed.
After 3 days, you can begin to sample to see how much spice you want to infuse (this is the tough part)… The more spice flavor you want, the longer you allow it to marinate. Typically, 5 days is sufficient, but you can let it go for weeks if you like. In that case, I’d remove the orange peel and ginger, so it doesn’t impart a bitter flavor.
Once your rum is spiced to your taste, strain it with a fine-meshed strainer, and using a funnel, return it to its original bottle to enjoy.
I allowed my Spiced Rum to marinate about 5 days and it was terrific. In fact, I liked it better than any of the national brands I’ve used for my rum drinks.
Because I began with my own aged rum that required the investment of barrels, and because it generally requires the additional purchase of spices you’ll have little use for afterwards, this isn’t a project you’d do to save money.
I’d say it’s one you might enjoy if you wanted to create a bolder flavor, or if, like me, you want to make a personal gift that your friends might enjoy receiving.
And because I tend to go overboard when I do these kinds of things, I bought my own small bottles, made my own labels and created my own brand and story. All for fun, because unlike bourbon, which I take seriously, I just think of rum as fun.
So, in keeping with that fun approach, I introduced Petie’s Gold (named after my Oriental Shorthair Show Cat Petie) and (so far) it’s been a big hit with all those who’ve sampled it.
If you’re thinking about making your own Spiced Rum, now is the time. You’ve got plenty of time before the holidays to perfect your recipes.