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Added Sugar In Rum - Final 2023 List

With Christmas soon upon us and the inevitable extreme intake of sugary drinks and snacks that go hand in hand with it, an update to the sugar list is my holiday gift to you.

I started doing this in March of 2021 and there are currently 375 products on the list. I keep getting messages from people who find this an interesting resource, which is a good motivation to keep updating it.

One of the stand out additions this time is El Dorado 5. Systembolaget has this on their website as containing 16 g/L of added sugar. This is interesting because of the recent changes in the approach of Demerara Distillers Ltd (who produce El Dorado) in regards to their levels of added sugar. We've seen the recent 12 and 15 year expressions having a considerably lower sugar content than their previous 12 and 15 year releases. DDL's information about this has been interesting. They've actually never admitted to adding sugar to their rums. The story they've been telling, since they realized the consumer can find out about sugar content in their rums, is that they add caramel to their barrels. So the rum is ageing with caramel in the barrels and the added sugar is originating from that caramel. This is a story that comes with a few healthy sized question marks. Shaun Caleb, the wonderful master blender at DDL, told me years ago that they were phasing out this practice, which meant the younger El Dorado expressions would see the reduction of sugar content first. This makes sense, if this is all there is to the story.

Thing is, years ago, El Dorado 5 was measured by enthusiasts like the Fat Rum Pirate around 10g/L. This means the current release has more sugar than the old one. How does that add up when they supposedly aren't adding their caramel to the barrel anymore? It makes no sense, unless Systembolaget has it wrong or is using old information of course.

Another thought is that there must be a massive amount of caramel in those barrels to get to the amounts of sugar that have been measured in their expressions. Older El Dorado 12's and 15's had more than 30 g/L of sugar in them. Is this possible by only adding caramel? I doubt it, but I'm no expert on the matter. El Dorado's tend to taste of caramel quite a bit. They did years ago and they still do. How is that possible if you are no longer ageing with caramel in the barrel? Was the old caramel more sugary than the new one? An absurd thought of course. How about all the Guyana rum that's brought on the market by independent bottlers? They tend to be sugar free. No caramel in the barrels for those?

In the end, however way you add sugar to rum, or whatever story you want to tell about it, sugar is sugar. A lot of it happens by adding sweet wines for example. In this case they say it's caramel. The end result is the same. The nuances of the rum (if there were any) are being wiped out by the sugar and the consumer is left with an unremarkable, easy drinking, sweet beverage.

I've seen this caramel in the barrel story being parroted and defended by industry people, influencers and writers like Matt Pietrek. Individuals who's income depend on having good relationships with producers like DDL. This is not helping the consumer at all of course. It would be great if DDL was more open and honest about their addition of sugar, like several producers have been over the past few years. It makes it easier for a consumer to make an informed choice and it will garnish respect from the rum enthusiast community.

Other additions to the list are Bumbu XO. At 8 g/L it's a lot less sweet than the original Bumbu at 50 g/L. Plantation Sealander and Isle of Fiji have massive amounts of added sugar, even one of their higher abv special releases is dosed. No real surprises there.

Click here for the list, or use the "sugar list" link at the top of the page.

Updates that happened after March 2021 are at the bottom of the list. However, you can sort it by name, ABV, sugar and date.

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