Landlocked White Rum - The Bedrock of Three Counties Spirits Co

Landlocked White Rum - The Bedrock of Three Counties Spirits Co

All good things have to start somewhere. The beginning of our journey is our very own Landlocked White Rum. Or to be 100% accurate it is sugarcane molasses. The dark, sticky, treacle like substance that carries all the delicious sugars and flavour that forms the building blocks of our line of rums and more. Let's go on a journey together through fermentation of sugar into distillation. The creation of our Landlocked English Rum

Sugarcane Molasses

So what is molasses? Other than a extremely thick, sticky substance that is a pain to work with especially when it's cold? Molasses starts out it's life like any other sugarcane product, as a sugar cane. This big, stick like plant grows in tropical and subtropical climates and when ready, is harvested. The canes are then crushed to extract all the sweet sugary juice. This juice is then boiled in order to remove the sugar crystals that form the table sugars that we all know and love. Once the crystals have been harvested and the liquid has been boiled far enough you are left with a thick, black syrup called molasses. 

Luckily for us there are still plenty of sugar molecules left in the molasses and these are going to help form our precious alcohol during fermentation.  


Now I'm not going to get into the deep science of fermentation here. Mainly because it's boring and also because I don't know the deep science, nor do I need to. What I do know is that fermentation is pretty simple. I reckon we all do it at home without knowing. I'm sure we've all had that bag of salad or veg in the bottom of the fridge too long and it's ballooned up. Well that's fermentation. 

The fermentation I'm interested in and assume you are too is that of fermenting sugar in order to create alcohol. My process is very simple. I take that deliciously thick molasses and mix it with just the right amount of warm water, add some Demerara sugar (sugarcane sugar coated in molasses) and then add just the right amount of yeast. Adding the water to the molasses loosens it off and allows the yeast to access the all important sugar molecules meaning they convert as much as possible to alcohol. 

The simple way to describe the next phase is that under the right conditions of warmth, food and oxygen the yeast will get to work eating the sugar. Actually first of all they use up the oxygen in the mix to procreate and expand the family. Then when the oxygen is gone it's time to eat the sugar. They then create carbon dioxide, heat and alcohol as a by-product. It's now simply a case of keeping them warm and leaving them to do their magic. 

After about 7 days the temperature drops naturally as the yeast has done all it can and the fermentation sits around 9% alcohol. I like to open the tank at this stage and agitate (mix) the fermentation to try to release as much Co2 as possible. Then it's on to the distillation. 


I'm sure most of us have come across distillation in basic school chemistry before. You essentially boil a liquid, catch the vapour and direct it through a cold tube where is will condense into a liquid again. This is another point where we could get really scientific but again it's not important and I don't know the detail as I really don't need to. There are people out there creating spirits that love and know the deep science and that's cool, that's their game to play. It's not essential to creating great tasting spirits. 

Our rum goes through a double distillation process, the first phase called the stripping run, the second stage called the cutting run. The purpose of the stripping run is to literally strip as much of that precious alcohol out of the fermented molasses as possible. 

Stripping Run

I pump the fermentation into our still, Evelyn, crank up the power and turn the water on for the condenser. As the liquid boils in the aptly named boiler, vapour will start to rise up through the column, a huge metal tube. Luckily for us distillers alcohol vapour is lighter than water so the alcohol comes off as vapour first. The vapour travels up and over the bend at the top of the column and is sent back down through the condenser. Think of the condenser as a metal tube surrounded by a jacket of cold water. The jacket is constantly fed fresh, cold water so that the internal tube stays nice and cold. We've all had it, back in the day before quality double glazing where you boil a kettle or even breath on a glass pain when it's cold outside. The vapour (steam) turns into water on the cold glass. That's all that's happening inside the tube. Except this time is alcohol vapour turning back to liquid alcohol (yum yum) and running out the end into my collection vessel. 

That's it, the stripping run in a nut shell. This is left to run until the vapour temperature reaches around 99 degrees celsius meaning that we're getting into just pure water coming off. All of the liquid alcohol I've collect is referred to as Low Wines (one of the few industry names I use). This is set aside ready to be distilled again. Time to shut off Evelyn, let her cool down before draining the left over fermentation, cleaning her and getting ready for the next phase. 


Cutting Run

The cutting run is where the base product is determined. The term cutting is referring to the process of making our cuts. This is where I decide where the really good alcohol lies in the run that I want to use to put in the bottle. You see when you start a cutting run the first, really light vapour that comes over into the condenser is really nasty stuff. It's about 95% alcohol, tastes horrible and full of compounds that will give you a head ache. There first bits of alcohol are appropriately named the Heads. 

Through a process of tasting I have determined where I like the alcohol that's coming off. So I switch my container, set the heads to one side and start collecting the hearts. This is the good stuff! This is what makes it into every bottle we sell. I let this run slowly gathering the hearts until we get to the tails. Now speed is essential here. I have the power going into the still at around 25% because if it's too fast you run the risk of too much heads and tails getting into the hearts. Slow and steady gives a delicious product. 

So now we're getting into the tails cut. The tails are the section of alcohol vapour that contains really heavy, horrible molecules that are not nice to drink and will mess with your stomach. We don't want these in our product, however the very first part offers a nice vegetal edge to the rum. A little bit of funk you might say. So i've set my cut point with just the right amount of tails to create a three dimensional rum. 

Once the tails cut has been made I switch the container again, turn up the power and collect the rest of the alcohol from the still. This tails collection is set aside with the heads, together they form the Faints (I have no idea where it's called that). These can then be added to stripping and cutting runs so that the precious alcohol doesn't go to waste. You know HMRC would still charge me for it if it did go to waste. 

Base Distillate. 

Now we have collected the hearts, a delicious aroma fills the distillery. I now refer to this as the base distillate as it forms the bedrock of everything else we do. It tends to average about 75% alcohol so can be flavoured and diluted into the desired product at the desired abv. That's a whole other blog post!

Thanks for reading this whistle stop tour through my production process. Keep your eyes open for the next article all about how I turn this base distillate into our Landlocked English White and Navy Rums. 

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