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Old 11-03-2007, 11:03 PM   #1
Edward Hamilton
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Default Once you open a bottle of rum, then what?

As soon as you expand your horizons you will be buying more rum than you consume in a few weeks. Conversely, when your rum collection is larger than your cumulative thirst of a few weeks you have expanded your horizons.

And in the process of discovering new rums you will come across a few bottles which you will want to savor over time as opposed to drinking it all in a few drinks. And your rum locker will invariably also become the custodian to a few bottles of rum that you don't want to drink but which you don't want to throw out, at least not yet, like that bottle with the best marketing story you've ever read even though you didn't believe a word of it. I have a few bottles, like El Dorado 25, that I don't want to drink every day, but I do want to keep some around - for a long time.

It's alright not to drink a bottle of rum as soon as you open it but if you're going to keep the bottle more than a few weeks you'll be rewarded for planning how you're going to preserve as much of the flavor as you can.

Depending on the closure on the bottle, you have a couple of options. Cork closures generally suck when used to contain distilled spirits. Unless you're living in the tropics, corks dry out and allow the oxidation process to accelerate. Which brings me to the second variable in the rum storage equation: oxidation. The alcohol in a distilled spirit combines with the oxygen in our atmosphere to oxidize the spirit. Oxidation is manifest in a diminishing of the body of a spirit like turning down the volume on the spirit body and finish. Alcohol is volatile and evaporates at room temperature and pressure. Every time the bottle is opened more alcohol is lost. I've found old bottles of rum that contained almost no alcohol because they had been poorly stored. The wine industry has begun to accept that screw top closures are better than natural cork, though synthetic corks are better than natural cork while the rum industry has taken to those less than technically adequate devices.

After I've consumed about half a bottle I put it on the drink special list especially if the bottle has been open for more than about 10 weeks. Mixing rum cocktails with rums that you wouldn't normally mix is a good way to learn that good cocktails are even better when made with the best rums. After a bottle has been open for about six months I start making an effort to consume the rest of the bottle with friends. To see just how much a bottle of rum deteriorates open a fresh bottle and sample next to the last dram in a bottle which has been open for a while and you'll better understand oxidation.

Most rums are best when consumed within about six month of opening the bottle. If the bottle has a cork closure the seal is generally comprised after a couple of months, a condition that deteriorates with time. Most rum bottles sealed with cork have an additional wax or plastic seal over the cork which protects the integrity of the cork until the bottle is opened.

I often pour rum into smaller bottles if I plan on drinking it over a few months or more, especially if the bottle is closed with a cork. I've tried storing rum bottles on their side, like you'd store wine, but more often than not the cork leaked once the bottle was open and the rum locker really began to smell like rum.

So drink up, store your rum in small, sealed bottles or invite your friends to help you drink it before it oxidizes. Lastly, I rarely order the last of a bottle on a bar, invariably I've been disappointed.
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Old 11-04-2007, 06:58 AM   #2
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I've never really thought about oxidation to be honest. I have a few old bottles on my shelf and they don't seem to have lost any flavor and the corked bottle's corks are still moist. I have to make my rums last because most of the rums I have cannot be obtained from this country.

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To see just how much a bottle of rum deteriorates open a fresh bottle and sample next to the last dram in a bottle which has been open for a while and you'll better understand oxidation.
I shall try this suggestion with a bottle of Zacapa that I got from Spain roughly over a year ago. I have a fresh one on the rumshelf waiting to be opened. I will post the results here when I do that.

Actually now that I think about it I once poured Jack Daniels into a pocket flask and left it there for a couple of days and it quickly lost its taste. I thought that was very weird. It had also changed color into pale brown. Needless to say I never put anything in that flask again.
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Old 11-04-2007, 08:26 AM   #3
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What about removeing the air as you might with a bottle of wine? Can you replace the cork with an air tight seal?
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Old 11-04-2007, 09:48 AM   #4
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I've done a little research, and there are plusses and minuses to both - with apparently more minuses on the vacuum side.

The inert gas approach - Winelife or Private Preserve and the like - stability is important. If you keep the bottles upright and still, then the inert gasses will settle at the bottom of the airspace, blocking the oxygen from reaching the surface of the rum, thus eliminating/reducing oxidation. But constant movement can disrupt this.

The vacuum approach is very dependent on the seal. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if the seal isn't *perfect* then the vacuum will suck air back in over time. Sometimes not very long at all. Also, the vacuuming process may also be vacuuming out the aromas...


In both cases, the fullness of the bottle is very important. In one test a bottle of wine that was 3/4 full kept for 10 days, while the same brand that was 1/3 full kept for only 3. Transferring to smaller bottles makes a lot of sense. Wine and brewing stores stock many different sized bottles.

I purchased some bottles and corks for homemade ingredients and I have to say that the synthetic corks sold fit *very* tightly. So I would recommend buying some of these corks and bottles of various sizes, and testing the corks to choose bottles that seal tightly. But not too tightly, since the bottle neck could crack.


A seemingly perfect system in the very expensive Winekeeper, which uses a special bottle top to keep the wine/spirit under constant pressure from a nitrogen container. The pressure seems to pour it for you, so once opened the liquid never contacts air again. The cost makes this prohibitive for those of us with many bottles of rum, but might be an idea for those very expensive bottles of rum.


Myself, I'm going for the inert gas approach. 2 cans are supposed to do up to 240 bottles at a cost of about $20. Over time I will buy bottles and corks and transfer. Buying 100 bottles of various sizes would be fairly expensive, but transferring a dozen expensive rums makes sense, or choosing ones that get consumed slowly.
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Old 11-04-2007, 10:53 AM   #5
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I'm one who just accepts nature. Of course I don't want any un-natural disasters but (a) I don't have the time and resources to break the things I have on hand down to smaller containers anyway, and (b) I've come to appreciate learning about the changes spirits go through after their official maturation has been arrested.

Integrity-wise Edward is absolutely correct, even though some in the industry will tell you a bottle lasts forever if you reseal it properly.
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Old 11-04-2007, 11:59 AM   #6
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Integrity-wise Edward is absolutely correct, even though some in the industry will tell you a bottle lasts forever if you reseal it properly.
I'm very curious about the Count's comparison of the Zacapa. If he can't notice a difference then I may very well skip all this except for a few rums. But I'd also have to wonder if a noticeable difference could be discerned by comparing two unopened bottles purchased a year or two apart.
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Old 11-05-2007, 12:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottes View Post
I'm very curious about the Count's comparison of the Zacapa. If he can't notice a difference then I may very well skip all this except for a few rums. But I'd also have to wonder if a noticeable difference could be discerned by comparing two unopened bottles purchased a year or two apart.
Actually the best way to make such a comparison is to buy two bottles at the same time from the same location and assume that they are from the same batch. Then compare them at some point in time by having one open and enjoyed for a period of time before opening the second for comparison.

EDIT: Personally, I've had some items that I'm fairly certain have changed noticably over lenghthy periods of time. In several cases the spirit has become more plesant with added surface air and time. My humble opinion, of course.

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Old 11-05-2007, 12:44 PM   #8
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As Matusalem points out if you're going to compare two bottles it is important to try to procure bottles from the same batch. There is a slogan on Dewar's Scotch that reads, ". . . never varies." But a lot of spirits I've drunk have changed over time. Everyone I know who has been drinking Ron Zacapa Centenario for more than a few years has commented on a change. Cruzan Single Barrel has gotten sweeter compared to the first bottles I drank in the late '90s. Pyrat XO has more sweet orange flavor than it did 8 years ago.

Jack Daniels had a very expensive ad campaign a few years ago just as they were decreasing the proof of their namesake spirit. This isn't necessarily bad but my point is that distilled spirits commonly vary.

I use 5 oz bottles for samples and find they are perfect for saving rum that I want to keep. They aren't very expensive, since I buy a lot of these at one time and I make labels on old 3 1/2" floppy disk labels using Avery label maker.
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Old 11-05-2007, 02:19 PM   #9
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Sorry not to be more clear. What I was wondering concerned the variance between batches. That is, will the change that occurs in an opened bottle differ more than the difference between two batches?

To identify the change over time after opening, buying 2 bottles from the same batch is important. Open one, leave the other sealed, and compare the difference a year after opening.

But now buy a brand new bottle - hopefully a different batch made a year after the original purchase. Compare this new bottle to the freshly-opened bottle from the first pair.

This 3-way comparison would inform you of the difference between batches as well as the difference caused by oxidation. I'm curious about this. In the end, does oxidation cause more difference than the changes inherent between batches? Does the oxidation cause worse changes, better changes, or simply different changes?
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Old 11-05-2007, 04:59 PM   #10
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Oxidation generally decreases the body profile as the lighter and more fragrant parts of the spirit are lost. Sometimes this change can be described as improving the rum but most times this has a negative impact on the body of a spirit. The biggest improvement I've noticed is in a bottle of raw spirit bottled directly from the still. In Martinique, AOC rhum agricole is rested a minimum of six months before bottling while the spirit oxidizes and releases some of the lightest products of fermentation.

In a bottle, spirits oxidize the most when the bottle is less than a third full. Every time the bottle is opened more oxygen is introduced into the airspace above the liquid. Simply opening a full bottle and letting it sit in your rum locker won't have nearly as much effect as drinking most of a bottle then opening it every month or so for a year and then checking the taste.
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