Author's Note: This post was made possible by the folks behind Brugal Rum, who invited me and a handful of journalists to the Dominican Republic to get a close behind-the-scenes look at how their rum is made.
Standing amidst the 10 foot high sugarcane stalks in the fields of San Pedro de Macorís, it's almost hard to believe that each bottle of Brugal Rum begins its journey here. Brugal is the most popular rum in the Caribbean and has been produced in the Dominican Republic since 1888 by the Brugal family.
So how exactly do we get from sugarcane to rum? After the sugarcane is harvested from the fields, it's sent to the refinery where the juices are extracted with pressure and steam. This juice is crystallized, producing granulated sugar and molasses. The molasses is then transported to the distillery and fermented with water and yeast to make a low-alcohol "wine". This wine is first distilled into a raw high-proof alcohol called "flema". After a second distillation, the spirit is transported to Puerto Plata where it is diluted and loaded into white American oak barrels for aging.
And then we wait. A year, or sometimes up to eight, before the rum is blended to formulate the final product. But before bottling, large resting tanks allow the blended rum to breathe and homogenize, while taking away any potential aggressiveness. This resting process contributes to the clean flavor and smooth texture of the rum.
To get a sense of each step of the production process, we whacked down some sugarcanes ourselves, visited the distillery in Santo Domingo where the air was heavy with molasses, and moseyed our way up to the aging facilities in Puerto Plata, where the air was heavy with alcohol. Want to see how rum is made? Click through the slideshow for a behind-the-scenes peek.