Seven Fathoms Rum, true to its name, ages rum in an unusual place: 42 feet underwater. (1 fathom = 6 feet.) We recently caught up with Nelson Dilbert (above, left), co-owner and co-master distiller at Cayman Spirits Co., which produces the Seven Fathoms Brand, to to talk about this odd process.
BD: How did you get the idea to age rum underwater?
ND: When we first started the company 10 years ago, my partner Walker Romanica (above, right)came up with the idea. And we saw further proof of this concept when researching how to make rum.
We read the success story of Facundo Bacardi, and his rum brand. One thing he claimed in his biography was that his rums were so good because they were aged near train tracks. The trains rattled the barrels as they went by. And this agitated the rum within, bringing different parts of the rum in contact with the sides of the barrels. We thought, ‘How can we replicate that effect?’ I remember I was looking out my office window. And I saw the ocean.
At first we thought about putting the rum on a boat. But as we did the math, we realized that putting that many rum barrels on a boat would make it sink.
Walker’s family owns a dive company. They’re some of the most technical divers in the country. We asked them whether we could secure our rum barrels underwater. And that’s how we came up with the concept.
BD: Why does the rum aging underwater make a difference?
ND: For the same reason that changing temperature is good for rum. It sucks the rum in and oat of the oak barrels. You get the same affect with the changing tides. Twice per day there is a 10% pressure change in the water. It allows for different parts of the rum to get into the oak.
When you shift or stir rum during the aging process, it spreads out the oak saturation, rather than oversaturating the same parts of the rum at the sides of the barrel.
BD: How do you keep the sea from damaging the barrels?
ND: They’re protected from the ocean in a large bag. They’re never in direct contact with the sea.
BD: What’s the typical length of aging?
ND: We believe that underwater aging allows for a much faster aging process. In two years, we can get a product that tastes like it was aged for five to seven years. Two years is our minimum amount of aging.
We do have older barrels. And we do have barrels at different depths. We’re trying to do a five-year-old at 10 fathoms.
And we do have barrels in different locations, other than our main site on the northern end of the Cayman Islands. We’re experimenting with water currents to see if the shifting back and forth adds another level of agitation.
BD: Where is Seven Fathoms available?
ND: We’re in the U.S., Canada, and UK. We’re going into Germany next month, and then France, Australia and China by year’s end.
We were included in a rum flight last year by the Bahama Breeze restaurant chain. We were put up against Pyrat and Capa. That was a huge jump for us, to be dealing with Darden Inc. That really opened a lot of doors for distribution.