Information on ageing - blend vs. solera vs. finish

Hi @Oliver
I have an issue with the information on ageing. While updating my own collection I came accross the 15 YO One Time Limited Plantation Jamaica MSP. This is no solera rum, but aged for 15 full years. It’s no blend of differently aged rums as it looks in the database, but with the amount of bottles of course a blend of casks of the “same” rum. It was aged 13 years tropically in ex-Bourbon american oak casks and “finished” the typical Ferrand way in a french oak ex-Cognac cask for 2 years (continentally).

The way it looks in the app “2yr - 13yr” it looks like a solera rum with components aged from 2 years to 13 years while in fact it’s aged for 15 years.

Overall I find the usage of “solera-system” and “blend” confusing since a solera rum is always a blend of differently aged rums and thus a blend too. A blend on the other hand can also be a blend of completely different rums or marks or a blend of multiple casks of the same rum although the latter is usually not called a blend in my opinion it’s just no single cask rum. In the app however the only possibility to store the rum is as a “blend”.

While you can argue that 2 years is no “finishing” anymore, Ferrand themselves see their typical ex-Cognac post original cask ageing as “Ferrand finish” and iirc in the old app you could differentiate between a blend and a rum that was finished in some way which would have shown the rum as 15yr and not “2yr - 13yr”. Also other rums that have e.g. a PX finish for 6 months are stored as blend but it looks like a solera rum aged for 6 months to the age of the original cask. And it gets even worse when you have a single cask that was finished which is still no blend but stored with the same logic as a blend.

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Hey Chris, thanks for your detailed feedback! That’s right, the current system can’t cover this issue yet. Currently only the following cases are possible:

  • Unknown: Here, all ages of the specified barrels are added up. This would achieve the desired effect for Plantation One-Time Jamaica (13 + 2 = 15 years). But the information that it is a blend of several barrels would be lost.
  • Solera system: Here, only the oldest component of the solera system is indicated, since it cannot be determined what the exact composition is.
  • Single Cask: Here is - as with “Unknown” - a summation of the indicated ages. This can be used to represent “finishes” or the shift of the barrel from tropical to continental.
  • Blended: Here several barrels can be indicated, which were married to a Blend. The representation is then done as an age range (youngest - oldest barrel).

A possible improvement would be:

  • Unknown, Unaged, Solera, Blend and Single Cask remains a picker (a selection possible).
  • It can be specified separately whether the age is to be recorded as a total or a range.

I’m not quite sure yet if this is a good idea. On the one hand it brings a nice flexibility, but on the other hand it is rather complex and maybe not so obvious when recording a rum - especially for new users.

What are your thoughts?

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“13yr + 2yr” would be more appropriate imho.
Would also work with finishes: 13yr + 6mths.

In whisky there’s also “vattings”, wich seem to cover this idea.

However there’s no point in beeing too pedantic, even with “single casks” you have no guarantee that there weren’t, at some point, several casks that were combined together in one and then ageing continues as usual (a practice to reduce angels share, afaik).

Edit: the above mentioned “combined casks” are still beeing labled and sold as “single casks”. Slightly inaccurate, but very common.

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Before coming up with a good solution, there is also a differentation between solera and solera. While in the Dominican Republic e.g. a solera rum is allowed to show the oldest component on the bottle in other countries like Nicaragua (if I remember correctly) it is only allowed to show the youngest component age on a solera rum. Then sometimes the min. and max. age of components is known and sometimes it is not known. And in theory (I know no example) one could even get information on every barrel that was blended together in a solera rum including the % of the component (Black Tot is super transparent on some rums about that information, but that’s no solera rum).

So what are the factors I would personally expect when researching rum:

  • age of the rum (distillation to bottling by year and eventually month)
  • type of barrel(s) used and ageing by barrel
  • barrel number and single cask (yes | no) is more like an optional checkbox information to me (I think single cask was just a checkbox in the old mask) and there is no strict definition of single cask anyway as with Ferrand e.g. they sell a Multi Island XO “Single Cask” which is available in several cask numbers (one for each market)

I know based on the current system it would be a radical suggestion and it may not even be possible to make this compatible with current data, so see it just as an idea to further discuss about this topic …

Type of ageing Information collected about age
Unknown (theoretically that should not exist, but it’s like the “other” or “Sonstige” you always need) None, since it wouldn’t be unknown if you have that information
Unaged None, since it’s unaged
Aged Distillation date; Bottling date; Optional: Age if the former is unknown; Optional: Checkbox for “solera aged” and in that case only an “Age” is given with the option to choose from “min Age” and “max Age” since the solera statement means different things in different countries
  • Single Cask doesn’t have to do with ageing in my opinion and should be a checkbox in 5. Production or 7. Bottle (“Limited Release” is found in 7. Bottle and should be in the same location as the “Single Cask” information and an either-or option. The number of bottles is optional in both cases since the information isn’t necessarily known)

    • Eventually “single cask” and “limited release” can even be combined since it’s somewhat redundant, with the definition being “number of bottles must be available” (otherwise it’s not limited) and it must be of a certain vintage (1.000 bottles every year of the “same” rum may be small batch but not limited, but we’re getting complex here again)
  • Age calculation:

    • bottling date - distillation date = age in years (resolution 1 month) regardless of cask information (app displays “age x yr”)
    • if calculation is not possible because the dates are unknown, then age entered is the age in years (app displays “age x yr”)
    • if solera system which also falls in the category aged there are 3 possibilites
      • min age is known (app displays “min age x yr”)
      • max age is known (app displays “max age x yr”)
      • min and max age is known (app displays “x yr – x yr” which is the current behavior for every blend and the reason for this thread after all)
  • Cask information:

    • While the time a rum was in a cask has to do with age, the general information about casks available is not reliable enough to take it as baseline for the age calculation (see the specification before which doesn’t take any information about the cask into account)
    • In any case (unknown, unaged, aged) it should be possible to add 0 … n casks with no requirement to adapt the current mask for casks since all possibilities can be added (optionally)

With this solution it all becomes more modular when you record a new rum since the information on the ageing process, the age, the cask selection, the information on “limited releases” would not be as much linked together as it is now.
I also think there wouldn’t be many changes necessary in the mask and since a lot of the information is optional it stays easy to record a rum. If you want to record all details (if you have them that is) there must no rule that it may not be complex (if you know details about 4 casks blended together it simply is a complex rum in terms of its creation).