For some of us, the approaching summer holds promise of warmer weather, perhaps some delicious summer cocktails, and maybe even an exotic vacation or two. For one lucky spirits expert, this “dream” describes his everyday life. While we can’t personally relate, we were lucky enough to hear from Maven Carl Kanto about his experience working for Demerara Distillery in Guyana. We wanted to know what initially sparked his interest in the rum business and what keeps him there today. Read on to learn more about his dream come true.

What led you to study chemistry? Did you know early on that you that you wanted to work at a distillery?

As a teenager, I was a big fan of rum but knew I wanted to study every aspect of it as soon as I began my summer job at Demerara. The opportunity made me see rum not only as something to drink, but as something more intricate and complex. The experience sent my imagination into ecstasy. Since then, I have never looked back. I am always fascinated with every new bit of information that I am able to learn about rum, be it chemistry-related or otherwise. Recently, I have begun to widen my focus to other alcoholic beverages as well, such as cachucha and tequila.

What makes El Dorado Rum so unique?

El Dorado is unique because of the flavors and characteristics that are naturally produced in the process we use and the materials surrounding us (learn more here). We are fortunate to operate the last two original wooden pot stills (one single and one double) in the world, which greatly enhance our flavor profile as well. Additionally, our unique environmental properties, such as the molasses produced by our sugar plantations, contribute to the wide variety of rums we are able to produce. The micro-flora that are cultured in the soil and the atmosphere of the Guyanan coastal plains lend to a special flavor and aroma that make Demerara Rum distinctive throughout the world.

Can you share with us some tips for discerning different rum qualities?

Rums are generally classified into three groups:

  • Light-bodied
  • Medium-bodied
  • Heavy- or full-bodied

Light-bodied rums are also referred to as “white” or “silver” rums (however, there are also several white rums that are heavy-bodied). These light-bodied rums tend be clear with only a hint of molasses and a very dry, subtle flavor profile. The rum is often aged in oak casks to create a smooth palate, and then charcoal-filtered to remove any remaining color from the casks. White rums are primarily used as mixers and blend well with fruit flavors.

Medium-bodied rums are generally “golden” rums, which are also commonly referred to as amber rums. Most of these rums have spent several years aging in oak casks, which give them their smooth mellow palates. The addition of caramel to the flavoring process can also contribute to the rich full-bodied flavor.

Heavy-bodied rums are known to be generally “dark” and rich rums. They are sweeter with a more pronounced body, aroma, and flavor. These rums are distilled in a completely different process that medium and light-bodied rums allowing for a more molasses-like flavor to develop. The best heavy-bodied rums are produced from pot stills and frequently aged in oak casks for extended periods.

There are three other types or classes that have been introduced into the marketplace: white, golden, and dark spiced rums. They are infused with spices, fruit flavors, a variety of flavorings, and tropical ingredients. These types of rums are also known as aromatic rums. Añejo and dated rums are aged rums from different vintages or batches that are mixed together to ensure a continuity of flavor in brands of rum from year to year. Aged rums will usually give age statements indicating the youngest rum in the blend. Single marquee aged rums are aged rums from a single distillation or single marque.

Great information, thank you! Last question, what is your favorite part of your job?

Without a doubt, my favorite part is visiting different operations and trying to understand their style of production. In turn, this helps me to appreciate their unique spirit profiles. Every spirit has a story and if you understand the story, you can appreciate the spirit.

Thank you, Carl!