Cockspur is made from sugar cane molasses sourced mainly from Barbados and Guyana with the balance coming from Central and South America. Sadly the collapse in the Barbadian sugar cane industry now necessitates that 80% of the molasses required are imported.
The distillery continues to embrace modern technology and is one of the few in the Caribbean using semi-continuous fermentation and flocculating yeast, rather than traditional batch fermentation. This was introduced in 2002 when the old open fermentation tanks were replaced with this new state-of-the-art system. Flocculating yeast has the benefit that it can be harvested in settling tanks, washed with dilute sulphuric acid and reactivated by exposure to a combination of air, water and molasses so it can be used again. Hence, using this process the distillery has a lot of mature yeast available so can use high yeast levels to achieve a quick fermentation of between 12 to 16 hours depending on the quality of the molasses. This produces a more consistent and lighter wash than the more usual 24 hour fermentation period.
Semi-continuous fermentation and the re-use of yeast means it is essential to run a spotlessly clean system to avoid the build up of bacteria, so computer controlled C.I.P. (clean in place) apparatus thoroughly cleans all the tanks and pipelines using highly pressurised hot water and caustic soda. The West Indies Rum Distillery has four fermenters, each with a capacity of 230 cubic meters, using 60 tonnes of molasses per fermentation. These are used in rotation with one fermenter always being cleaned while the other three are operational.
The wash produced by fermentation is 7.5 – 8.5% abv and the Process Laboratory carefully monitors this level and numerous other indicators such as volatile acidity, a high level of which is an indicator of infection and also to gage the performance of the yeast and to regulate the need to introduce freshly cultured yeast to the system. The wash is pumped into what are termed ‘Beer Wells’ to allow solids to settle so only clarified wash goes on to be distilled.
The West Indies Rum Distillery operates four stills - two four-column stills and two pot stills. When stills in Barbados are licensed they are designated a licence number sequentially, thus the stills here are the 62nd, 73rd, 77th and 79th stills to be introduced to the island.
Still #79, a Canadian-made, modern four column continuous still is run around the clock in three shifts working eight hours each, 365 days a year. This produces a very high quality ‘extra-light’ rum at a rate of 45,000 litres per day. This still runs very efficiently as it recycles steam through the system. The first column, the analyser, strips the alcohol, producing ‘high wines’ at 65-70% abv. The second, ‘Extractive Column’, starts the rectification process prior to the third, ‘Rectification Column’. A fourth Contracting Column basically recovers alcohol from the foreshots and faints produced by the other three columns.
Still #77 is an older John Dore four-column continuous still installed in 1975 and is capable of producing 20,000 litres per day. Being older technology it is less than half as energy efficient as #79 but as it does not recycle steam, it is capable of being run as a two column still, so is generally used to make heavier bodied rums using just its Beer and Rectifying columns.
Still #62 is a ‘Wash’ copper pot still which produces a distillate of 20-25% abv but is connected to the distillery’s original column still dating from 1893 which runs as a rectifier stepping up the first distillation to produce a distillate of 55-60% abv. This is held in a tank before going onto still #73, a copper pot still also topped by a vintage rectifying column producing a final distillate of 80-85% abv.
A quality assurance lab tests all the distillates before they are passed to go onto ageing. The lab is equipped with modern gas chromatography apparatus but more important is the line of optics, used to dispense measures for the evaluation panel to sample.
Cockspur is a blend of extra light rum produced by the main column (#79) with lesser amounts of the lighter rum from #77 with small amounts of the heavier bodied rums produced by the pot stills (#62 & #73). The heavier bodied rums add character and flavour to the light rum. This combination of different stills gives The West Indies Rum distillery the flexibility to produce an array of different styles of rum and this diversity helps West India Rum Distillers match blends without needing to result to harsh filtration or added flavourings.