DESTILERIA Limtuaco, the oldest distillery in the Philippines, recently launched its newest product—Very Old Captain Artisan Crafted Dark Rum—in grand marine-themed fashion at The City Club in Makati. The company reached back into its long tradition to produce Very Old Captain, a batch distilled, heavy rum blend aged in ex-bourbon barrels for the equivalent of eight years.
To do this, it engaged Robert Piggot, one of the world’s foremost rum experts and has worked in the distillation industry for 40 years now, so he knows exactly how to produce a good rum. According to him, rum can be loosely divided into three groups: white, amber and dark. White rum is produced not by aging but by continuous distillation and has a light and delicate nose and flavor. Amber rum is aged in wood for a period of six months to two years and is typically produced by continuous distillation although it may contain some pot still rum for flavor. Dark rum is more full-bodied, as it is aged in wood for longer periods, sometimes as long as 12 years; and Very Old Captain, which is aged for the equivalent of eight years, is a dark rum.
Destileria Limtuaco makes Very Old Captain rum in accordance with the United States’ Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF)’s definition of rum, which is not required to be aged in oak barrels for a minimum number of years although it definitely points out that there should be no added flavor to the rum. Its flavor must come solely from the fermentation and distillation of the raw material, and only caramel color and water is allowed to be added to it. These parameters are essentially the same as in the European Union (EU)’s definition of rum.
With Very Old Captain Artisan Crafted Dark Rum, Destileria Limtuaco has successfully produced a good rum with the use of excellent raw material, a strict fermentation and distillation process, the best equipment, maturation process, and blending.
Its main raw material, molasses, is produced according to specifications at a single source, Central Azucarera Don Pedro, in Batangas. The rum then goes through fermentation, during which its flavor profile evolves, employing top-quality distiller’s yeast, which is tolerant of high temperatures and ferments sugars so fast that bacteria do not get a chance to metabolize them. The yeast is not recycled afterwards. Then the rum undergoes a process called wash, still during the fermentation process.
Next comes distillation and blending. Continuous distillation in a modern column still is a lot more efficient and yields much more product for a given amount of energy. Making rum via batch distillation in a pot still (the traditional distillation device that looks like a giant copper kettle) requires much more intervention and precision, and is less efficient, thus more expensive. But it’s the best way to get a fine, flavorful, full-bodied, and above all, natural dark rum. Yet, a pure pot still rum can be “too flavorful,” if there is such a thing, for regular drinking. For one thing, it is not as smooth as a continuous-distilled rum, and some people may find it pungent and aggressive. For this reason, Destileria Limtuaco opted to blend batch-distilled rum with continuous-distilled rum. The Very Old Captain Rum blend is aged or matured in ex-bourbon whisky oak barrels to reach an equivalent age of eight years.
Recently, Destileria Limtuaco developed a new idea for these barrels, that will further enhance esterification. This square barrel is a patent-pending design of Destileria Limtuaco’s president, Olivia Limpe-Aw. It has been proven to speed up esterification, (development of esters through the reaction between acids, ethanol and other alcohols present in the rum), condensation (the combination of molecules such as aldehydes and alcohols that forms acetals), and oxidation (the air passing through the wood pores oxidizes to acetaldehyde, acetic acid and esterifies to ethyl acetate) processes, and maximize the color-development, as well as the development of esters that gives the rum a fruity aroma desired in the aging.
The result: a quality dark rum called Very Old Captain, which has the depth and nuances of a fine whiskey or cognac. The aromatic quality and flavor profile is amazing,”, says Apa Ongpin, Filipino rum enthusiast, sailor and Brand Ambassador for Very Old Captain rum. “Rum and the sea are closely associated, and VOC rum tastes great on a boat. Perhaps it’s because the taste of salt air contrasts perfectly with the light caramel overtones of the rum.”
Manila wine expert Julius “Jay” Labrador Jr. provides tasting notes: “The color is golden honey, with a touch of amber. The aroma is rather woodsy at first but gives way to caramel and molasses. The caramel theme continues on the palate, although there are also hints of pecans and sweet spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. While this may suggest an obvious sweetness, this rum doesn’t go in that direction. It is a well-balanced, medium-bodied rum, which makes it good for sipping. Some butterscotch makes an appearance at the finish although it ends on a dry note. The length is quite impressive.”