When is rum no longer rum? – Olivier Couacaud

This is the question which will be posed by Ian Burrell during a conference/debate at Tales of the Cocktails in New Orleans. For our summer series, we have chosen to give the floor to those who make rum. We are asking each of them the same questions. Today it’s Olivier Couacaud, the talented producer of Chamarel rhums, who humbly introduces himself as the Commercial Director, although we all know that he also gets on with the hard graft every day…

Olivier CouacaudRumporter: Who are you?

Olivier Couacaud: Olivier Couacaud – Commercial Director of the Rhumerie de Chamarel, Mauritius

Rumporter: How did you get into rum?

Olivier Couacaud: My parents invested in this project, built from scratch in 2008, to try to ensure the durability of the family estate and to pass it on to future generations. So, naturally, after my studies I joined the family business to try and bring my contribution to it.

Rumporter: In your opinion, when does a rum stop being rum?

Olivier Couacaud: This is a long debate. As far as I’m concerned, I think that rum classifications need to be revised, rather than saying that rum has stopped being rum. To start, I think that we would all agree that the word “rum” means alcohol made from sugarcane, whether that is the pure juice, sugarcane honey or molasses.

It therefore seems quite natural for these different base materials to be classified:

– rhum traditionnel for those made with molasses;

– rhum agricole for those made with pure juice;

– and so on for the others.

I think this would provide more transparency for the consumer.
Next, for each category, sub-categories could be defined, like for whisky:

– for a white rum, “premium” for example, would be used for rums aged for 2 years and having the minimum amount of brewing;

– for an aged rum, “pure” means “no additives except colour” and “blend” means “blending, addition of caramel, wood extracts (etc.)”;

– for a spiced rum, flavours and sugar can be added (with a maximum cut off);

– for a rum-based liqueur, sugar above Xg/litre;

– etc.

I think that, nowadays, all types of rum have their own clientele and no matter how the product is classified, it will always hold a place with its fans, as long as the relation between taste and price remains appropriate.

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