For our un-aged rums, Picaroon White and Picaroon Gold, we achieve a balance of smoothness and flavor through a meticulous fermentation process and a light filtration through activated carbon. For our future aged rums, we're letting the barrels do the work. What goes into the barrels is the full-flavored, raw spirit.
Barrel aging is a complex and somewhat magical process. With modern science, we understand the various chemical changes that occur in the spirit when it is left to mature in oak containers—alcohol, a solvent, breaks down the wood and incorporates its flavors into the spirit; the wood itself breaks the various chemical compounds created by the yeast into other compounds and those chemical compounds into yet other chemical compounds, smoothing and maturing the spirit and adding to its complexity. But no one has managed to replicate what happens inside a barrel outside of the barrel, and no one has managed to accelerate the process convincingly. Oak chips, oak cubes, oak spirals, small barrels—don't be led astray by shortcuts.
At Blackwater Distilling, we're committed to treating our rum the way it deserves to be treated, and that means aging in industry standard 53-gallon barrels. In America, these barrels are the industry standard for one simple reason: they make the best tasting aged spirits. At 53 gallons, the barrel provides a great enough surface area of wood for the spirit to interact with it and absorb the oaky flavor, but a small enough surface area that the oak won't overpower the flavor of the spirit itself. With this balance achieved, the spirit can be left in the barrel long enough for the myriad processes involved in the maturation of the spirit to occur. In smaller barrels, the spirit can't be left in the barrel long enough for true maturation to occur without picking up an overwhelming amount of oak flavor.
As a result of the American bourbon industry, the 53-gallon barrel is the industry standard in much of the rest of the world as well. By law, bourbon must go into a "new, charred white oak container" in order to be called bourbon. So once a barrel has been used for bourbon, it is usually sold off for use by another distillery in aging a different spirit. Most of the world's rum is aged in used bourbon barrels for the simple reason that there are so many of them and they are relatively cheap. But as a craft distillery we have the ability to innovate. Our Picaroon Dark Rum, is aged in brand new barrels made in Kentucky, giving it a uniquely American flavor.
At the same time, we're filling used bourbon barrels, which will eventually make some of our older rums. The barrel's previous occupant, bourbon whiskey, adds hints of corn, rye, and malted barley to these older rums, and the used wood works its magic much slower, subtler ways.
We hope you'll join us for the journey. The hardest part is the wait!