(1+K/a) Looks a bit like rocket science doesn’t it?  Of the 7,482,329 people who religiously read my column irregularly, the survey says that 8 of you are real honest to goodness, slide rule adapt, pocket protector wearing NASA rocket scientists besides foodies and lovers of fine spirits and would understand such a formula if it were in fact rocket science.  Let me explain – it’s not rocket science; it’s the science behind the solera process for aging rum as well as a few other wonderful consumables.  Since this article is about rum, why don’t we get off of our rockets and dive into it?

South Bay Rum comes from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the second largest Caribbean nation behind Cuba, and they use the solera process to age their rum. Let me explain.  In the solera process, a sequence of barrels are filled with, in this case rum, over a series of equal aging intervals (usually a year). One barrel is filled for each interval. At the end of the interval, after the last barrel is filled, the oldest barrel in the solera is tapped for part of its content, which is bottled. Then that barrel is refilled from the next oldest barrel, and that one in succession from the second-oldest, down to the youngest barrel, which is refilled with new product. This procedure is repeated at the end of each aging interval. The transferred product mixes with the older product in the next barrel.  And South Bay doesn’t mess around about getting maximum flavor out of their barrels as they use barrels that formerly held wine, bourbon, sherry, port and single malt scotch whiskey.

No barrel is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. This remnant diminishes to a tiny level, but there can be significant traces of rum much older than the average, depending on the transfer fraction. In theory, traces of the very first rum placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or 100 cycles.

And now, here is the rocket science part.  The age of the rum from the first bottling is the number of barrels times the aging interval. As the solera matures, the average age of the rum approaches one plus the number of barrels (excluding the top barrel) (K) divided by the fraction of a barrel transferred or bottled (α), or (1 + K/α).  You know when it’s stated like that it does in fact sound like rocket science, but now you know better and can flaunt your new found knowledge in the faces of lesser uninformed mortals, or you can just sit there scratching your head while trying to figure out what in the hell you just read. Time’s a wasting, it’s time for tasting!


The nose is full of fruit starting with cherries, bananas and papayas followed by the sweetness of sherry and port and finally followed by the sugar of the rum and a hint of scotch; there’s quite a bit going on here.  On the palate, smokiness snakes its way to the front followed by the sweetness of the rum and then the oakiness of the scotch and bourbon.  It is tastefully oily in the mouth and coats the palate pleasantly.  Each sip seems to let the dominating different tastes rotate from first to second to third to last and back again. This is a complex rum worth sipping slowly and letting it lead the dance.  The finish is smoky and smooth with a long finish, again allowing the different tastes to vie for attention.  On the rocks, everything mellows out a bit, but the many nuances of the numerous flavors are still quite discernible.  The smokiness steps a bit to the back and the sweetness of the rum and sherry and port step up and still they are surrounded by the scotch and fruit but to a lesser degree.  The finish is lighter but just as complex and just as tasty but now shortened slightly to medium in length.  OK, now I really get this whole solera process thing. It really, really works and this South Bay rum is the perfect example of its success.

South Bay Rum is around $28.00 per 80 proof, 750 ML bottle, and you just can’t go wrong at that price.  It’s well worth it, and after you’ve had several drinks, you’ll feel just like a rocket scientist.


By George Brozowski