WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE CHOOSE TO MAKE RUM IN COLORADO???
Many people associate rum with the Caribbean, but that's only a little bit of rum's story. Distillers have been making exceptional rum in the mountains for hundreds of years.
There are some compelling reasons why making rum in the mountains of Colorado just makes plain good sense.
Here are just a few:
The main ingredient in rum, comprising 85% of the fermented wash and 60% of the final bottled product, is water. Rum comes out of the still at about 140 proof and is blended with water to be bottled at 80 proof. Here in Crested Butte, our water is crisp, clean snowmelt and spring water that charges an aquifer 350 feet below Crested Butte. This water percolates through flavorful minerals that give the water source a perfect pH for bottling. Rum producers in other parts of the world struggle to find water that is not scarce on their islands. We are thankful for our plentiful source.
The finest rums in the world are aged at altitude. It's true - we didn't make this up for our marketing campaign. In Guatemala at the Ron Zacapa distillery, barrels are carried up into the mountains to age because the temperature fluctuations from day to night force more rum into and out of the barrel's oak pores. The crazy magic of the oak makes the rum more smooth and delicious. It is true that Guatemala has some nice mountains. But the mountains above Crested Butte are pretty hard to beat.
Rum is traditionally aged in American Oak casks. Caribbean and Central American rum producers import their barrels from whiskey makers in the US. We are actually closer to the source! Our barrels reach us fresh from the whiskey distillery. A fresher barrel ages tastier rum.
- Rum fermentation attracts fruit flies (and yes, even bats) en masse to the tank, and the good news is...Crested Butte just doesn't have any of those because of our cool temperatures and high elevation. We don't think they added any good flavors anyway.
- Making rum produces a lot of heat. Ever seen photos of Caribbean distillers working over a hot still in a full sweat? They chill their wash during fermentation to keep the yeast from dying. In our distillery, the temperatures are ideal for fermentation.
- On a chilly winter day, the heat from our still keeps the building in the high 60s, a fine temperature for fermentation and comfortable visitors. What better idea for a business in a chilly climate than one that produces heat as its main by-product?
Crested Butte's miners have been drinking rum for 120 years, and we think they should have a source closer to home!
Rum's connection to slavery is one aspect of its history that we are thankful to distance ourselves from (as far as possible!) Island nations became the first big rum producers because rum was a stable currency in the slave trade. Back then, rum production was carried out on the backs of slaves because harvesting sugar cane was terribly labor intensive. We are proud that our single origin, non-GMO raw sugar cane is family-grown and machine harvested in a 50 square mile region of Belle Rose, Lousiana. We receive the first press of the cane as raw sugar which is never sent to the refinery and never sold to the commodity market. We buy it directly from people we know, who certify that it is American-grown and milled. The mill is powered and fired by sugar cane biomass, ie: the bagasse generated on site from the pressed cane billets themselves. The mill generates excess biomass which is composted and used to fertilize the cane fields nearby.
We do, however, support the idea of rum as local currency. We hope our bookkeeping will continue to be in order, even if we pay for services with a bottle now and then... :)