Rum of the Spanish Tradition
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What is traditional Spanish rum?
Traditional Spanish rum, also called "ron", takes its name from colonial times, when Spain expanded its territory into Latin America and the Caribbean. The style of rum produced in these countries today has a common influence, inherited from the history of Spanish colonial history.
Traditional Spanish rum is a light rum made from molasses, distilled in several rows of units, usually very mild. It differs from agricultural rum which is made from pure sugar cane.
One of the keys to this Spanish tradition is the heritage of the Cuban style: the aguardiente. After learning how to make the lightest and purest rum, Cubans turned to the old method, using more traditional equipment to produce stronger, more aromatic aguardientes. They then inserted them into light rum to create a balanced blend.
There is also the Solera method. This ageing method is inspired by the Andalusian wine cellars, where Sherry wines are aged. It consists of stacked barrels, with the oldest eau-de-vie at the bottom and the youngest one at the top. When you pull rum from the lower level for bottling, you complete the upper level, and so on. Thus, rums of different ages are blended throughout ageing, the oldest one "educating" the young one.
The history of Spanish rum
The first distillation of sugar cane to make molasses took place in the Canary Islands. But the most concrete trace dates back to South America in the 16th century. Sugar cane and distillation were quickly introduced, but the latter was very primitive and of poor quality.
It took a certain time to the sugar cane eau-de-vie to settle in South America and the Spanish Caribbean colonies, mainly because the Spanish were not very interested in sugar cane and sugar but rather in gold.
At the time, the only real rum consumed there was imported rum. Royal and religious authorities had also prevented their consumption. The reasons for this were hygiene, public order and competition with alcohol from the old continent. For a long time, this led to repressive measures against the small distilleries of the South American continent.
Until the end of the 18th century, the Spanish really focused their attention on their mainland colonies, ignoring the West Indies. After modernizing factories in the early 17th century, Cuba produced a small amount of rum, but these improvements only enabled the survival of the sugar industry.