While reading Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide, I noticed he mentioned the concept of “essences” and talked about how to make them. I’ve wondered about using them ever since.

This week I’m going to try aging neutral grain spirit with rum essence to see how it goes!

Did it work?


Mix the essence with your neutral spirit, then age it in your barrel for 2-4 weeks.

I’d recommend checking on your liquor every couple of days so you can pull it out once it reaches the flavor you’re looking for.

Taste Test:

Actual Cuban Rum:

Lighter in color. Really smooth, well integrated. Definitely picks up the barrel notes, but not overwhelmingly so.

Cuban Rum Essence:

Before Aging:

It is much darker than the “real” Cuban Rum. It definitely tastes like rum, but I will say unfortunately it’s not very balanced. There is a strong alcohol “kick”.

After a Month:

I was hoping that a month in the barrel would smooth out the spirit and integrate the flavors in a more balanced way. Unfortunately our experiment didn’t see those results. The flavor has a lot of wood and smoke, and still has that harsh alcohol “kick.”  The “real” Cuban rum definitely wins this taste test.

Have you tried making spirits with essences?

I’d love to hear about it! Our experiment didn’t end the way I’d hoped, but if you’ve used essences successfully I’d love to hear about how you did it.  Let us know in the comments!

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.