How rum is made at Montanya Distillers
Rum is made from pure sugar cane in a process that is partly science and mostly art. Here at Montanya Distillers, we distill in a very traditional way, using only four ingredients and 100-gallon, direct-fired Alembic pot stills from Distilarias Ea de Vie in Portugal.
We use sugar cane from family growers and a family-owned mill in Louisiana, and mix it with pure mountain water from a snowmelt and spring-charged aquifer. We add yeast and let it ferment for a week or more. At that point, there's almost no sugar left, just alcohol and water.
That's when the alchemy begins. The fermented wash goes into the copper pot of our still, and we heat it up. Because alcohol is lighter than water and has a lower boiling point, it boils off first. The alcohol travels up through the bulbs above the pot, across what is called the swan's neck, into the condenser and comes out as rum. It's almost that simple!
The complex part is that the fermented wash actually has several hundred different alcohol compounds, each with a different flavor and boiling point. We carefully monitor what comes out of the still, keeping what tastes great and throwing away the rest. And, the copper is a very important part because it interacts with the alcohol, improving its taste.
Here are the key parts of the still:
The lentil. This is a unique part of our still, and we are in love with it. The lentil shape hides an inside channel that forces steam to flow upward in a spiral, while cold water runs across the top. This serves the same purpose as the head, creating reflux—and in the lentil, it's precise and consistent.
The swan's neck. This curved copper tube carries the steam across to the condenser, where it is cooled.
The condenser. Filled with a steady stream of cold water, the condenser turns hot steam into cool liquid high-proof rum.
After the best part of the rum is collected, we put it into an American White Oak barrel that previously held Laws Colorado Whiskey for 2-5 years. There, we age it until it's mature and smooth. Our limited-edition Exclusiva is also finish aged in French Oak barrels which previously held Cabernet Sauvignon and Port from Sutcliffe Vineyards.
Another important component of making our rums is altitude. The wash in our stills boils at a lower temperature than at other rum distilleries. Our open flame distilling process, combined with this lower boiling point, may be part of the formula that makes our rums unique. Aging in barrels at elevation also adds character: the natural temperature fluctuations in our barrel room cause the rum to move more frequently in and out of the oak.
The resulting rums are perfect for a Montanya Distillers cocktail, sipping straight with a twist, neat, on the rocks, or however you like it!