Rum – Sidestepping the Canadian Definition

In the 5 Day Workshops I assist with at Urban Distilleries in Kelowna, BC we spend a chunk of time digging into the legal definitions for the various spirit types. For example, Rum is defined as being made from sugar cane and its products (ie molasses) and aged in small wood containers (less than 700 Liters in size) for 1 year. Obviously placing any distillate in a wooden cask will cause a coloration change in the distillate. So how then is White Rum created? My answer used to be that in all likelihood the casks being used were very old and quite spent. Any trace amounts of color change were then filtered out prior to bottling. But, I have found a more elegant way and Captain Morgan White Rum (marketing tagline = finest Caribbean Rum) is an example of this lawyer-assisted elegance. Captain Morgan appears to have sidestepped the CRC section 870 definitions and leaned towards the 2005 Spirit Drinks Trade Act. This Act says that if one imports Rum distillate from a Commonwealth Caribbean nation and blends it with other Rum distillate from another Commonwealth Caribbean nation and then proofs to a drinkable strength with water, the resulting product can be called Caribbean Rum. No mention of 1 year of aging is there? And what about the White Rums ( ie Lambs) that do not bear the moniker “Caribbean” but are White nonetheless. Sure, maybe these Rums are passed through old, spent casks. But, I have found a clever way to sidestep the issue here as well. The USA Rum definition is similar to that of Canada, except nowhere in the USA definition is there mention of aging in a wooden cask. So, if I were seeking to make White Rum for sale in Canada, I would distill it in the USA and proof it to a drinkable strength. My Canadian corporate entity would then bring the product into Canada. Simple.

I find it sad that our legislation has so many loopholes that favor the large corporations. I further find it sad that we have the CRC 870 definitions and the 2005 Spirit Drinks Trade Act working at cross purposes to each other. I would be curious to see what would happen to a small micro-distiller who tried to emulate the above described tactics being used by the big corporations. I somehow doubt all would end well. It is time in Canada to clean up and rectify the definitions. As I am on record as saying – I like the USA definitions in 27 CFR Chapter 4. They are clearly stated and there is no ambiguity. This framework is a good starting point for a Canadian definition overhaul.