The unrefined ‘coulage’ rum is transferred to large stainless steel storage vats awaiting either export in bulk or preparation for bottling.
The white rum remains at rest for a minimum of three months. It is regularly stirred and aerated during this period in order to evaporate the bitter volatile compounds and for a better finishing process. Before bottling, it is reduced to its marketing volume (50, 55 or 62% vol.) by adding spring water or demineralized water — whose purity influences product quality.
A certain portion of the production is destined for aging. The Martinique A.O.C. label distinguishes the rums as being “élevés sous bois”(stored in wooden barrels) — acquiring their golden color by being stored a minimum of twelve months in wooden containers — aged rums per se, which age in oak barrels of a maximum capacity of six hundred fifty liters. They are granted the appellation: ‘dark or aged rum’ after three years of aging; names such as “very old” or “vintage”, “XO”, “dated”, etc. may denote more aging.
Historically, the barrels destined for aging arrived from North America. Most often, they were barrels used for bourbon manufactured with American oak wood. But distillers also used French barrels made of oak from Limousin.
The quality and fineness of the rums are the fruit of the savoir-faire and secrets jealously safeguarded by the storehouse managers “maîtres de chais” — hence the noble aspect of their craft. As the years go slowly by, in the shadowy light infused with the fragrant odor of alcohol, the rum charges itself through capillary attraction of the compounds and color of the wood. And every year the “ouillage” or topping up process allows for compensation of the high rate of evaporation in a tropical climate: the “part des anges” or angel’s portion, is approximately 8 percent.