Rumpundit

22 Jan

Rum Renaissance rolics on!

2013 Miami Rum Festival Expands

MIAMI, FL — The fifth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival — the largest gathering of rum experts, professionals and enthusiasts in the world — will span Monday, April 15 to Sunday, April 21, 2013 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.

Last year, more than 8,000 rum enthusiasts attended the festival with 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. The new space spans 40,000 square feet, twice the size of last year’s event. Festival organizers are preparing for 15,000 attendees.

In addition to a week-long series of VIP parties, tasting sessions and celebrity seminars, the rum festival brings together members of the esteemed International Rum Expert Panel (RumXPs) for their annual tasting competition.

Two full days of Grand Tasting events for the public will take place on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21. More than 240 spirits from the Caribbean and beyond will be available for sampling, along with a selection of island-style cuisine.

New this year is a half-day exhibit session exclusively for the beverage trade on Friday, April 19. Liquor store buyers, food and beverage managers, bartenders and other spirits trade professionals will be invited to attend.

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival attracts cane spirit products and brands from all over the globe. Companies large and small will be on hand to present their rums to a global gathering of experts, reporters, critics and consumers.

South Florida is regarded as the number one rum market in the world, with a high percentage of rum enthusiasts, liquor stores, bars and restaurants offering both popular and top-shelf luxury rum products to consumers.

According to event manager Robin Burr, the Miami Rum Fest has doubled in size each year, a testament to the fact that consumer interest in sugar cane spirits is growing faster than any other category of liquor.

“We’re proud to say that our prediction of rum’s resurgence in popularity was on the money,” said Robert A. Burr, festival organizer and publisher of Rob’s Rum Guide. “An incredible range of fine rums, from casual and fun mixers to luxurious top-shelf sipping rums will be on display. There is no better opportunity for the rum enthusiast to sample such a vast selection of spirits in one place.”
Rum lovers can choose between $50 day passes to the grand tasting events and $65 VIP tickets that allow early access to the exhibits and complimentary tickets to the celebrity seminars. VIP ticket holders also enjoy access to a private area featuring complimentary cuisine and VIP cocktails.

For those that wish to participate in the entire week of VIP special opportunities, a $250 Executive VIP pass grants admission to all events.

For more information on the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, activities planned during Miami Rum Week and exhibits at Miami Rum Fest, call 305-443-7973 or visit the web site at http://www.RumRenaissance.com
– – –
END
– – –
photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thatnimrod/sets/72157629655109120/

logo: http://www.rumrenaissance.com/images/MiamiRumFest2013_2048.jpg
– – –
interviews, details, follow-up contact:
Robert A. Burr
rob@rumrenaissance.com
305-439-1376 cell
305-443-7973 office
web site: http://www.RumRenaissance.com

caption:
With a week-long series of special events, the 2013 Miami Rum Festival, featuring the RumXP Tasting Competition, will span April 15-21 with expanded exhibits and special events.
Rum Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/article/2013-miami-rum-festival-details-announced

Keywords: Miami Rum Fest
Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Miami Rum Week, Rum Fest, Robert Burr, Doubletree Miami Airport


links

http://www.rumrenaissance.com

http://www.robsrumguide.com

http://www.examiner.com/rum-in-national/robert-burr

http://www.rumxp.com/

30 Dec

Barbancourt 150!

When pushed to choose, I usually call Barbancourt 15 my favorite!

Rumpundit

Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt Celebrates 150 Years With Special Edition

December 24, 2012 | 2:10 pm | Print

Above: the Cuvee 150 Ans

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt is launching a new special edition to mark the company’s 150th anniversary, the company announced.

Barbancourt’s Cuvee 150 Ans is a special blend in an art deco bottle developed in partnership with international designer Mickael Kramer.

Each crystal bottle will have its own unique number and a sandblasted Rhum Barbancourt anniversary logo.

While it will initially be available only in Haiti, the company said it would soon be expanding its availability to the United States and Canada.

Barbancourt has been produced continuously since 1862 (coincidentally, the same year that Don Facundo Bacardi started operations in Cuba), with the exception of a period following Haiti’s earthquake in 2010.

28 Dec

Rum Rebellion?

Rumpundit from the beginning of this saga has maintained that the Caricom countries have a great case for the WTO. Interesting point for the future… does the Puerto Rico statehood vote affect the subsidy down the line?

Rumpundit
Rum, rivalry, resistance

Sir Ronald Sanders

23 December 2012

THE Caribbean Community (Caricom) trade ministers issued a statement on December 11 stating that “Caricom countries continue to have serious concerns about the threat to the competitiveness of Caribbean rum in the United States market resulting from the massive subsidies provided by the governments of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to multinational rum producers in those territories”.

After seven months of writing about this matter, I welcome this statement from the trade ministers underlying that “rum production and export are critical to the social and economic well-being of the region”.

Much valuable time has been lost and much has to be done quickly if the rum industry of the CARIFORUM countries is not to be displaced in the US market. CARIFORUM consists of the 14 independent Caricom countries and the Dominican Republic.

In previous commentaries I drew attention to the adverse effects on CARIFORUM countries if the USVI and Puerto Rico governments continue to provide massive subsidies to rum companies in their territories — derived from a tax refund from the US Federal Government called a “cover-over” tax. To recap, CARIFORUM countries stand to lose US$700 million in foreign exchange annually, the jobs of 15,000 workers directly employed in the rum industry, and another 60,000 jobs that benefit from it. Governments will lose over US$250 million in annual tax revenues.

I have also pointed out that bulk rum producers in some Caricom states have already lost contracts in the US market valued at millions of dollars because of the cheaper prices of the heavily subsidised USVI rum producers.

This situation will get far worse as these heavily subsidised companies increase production.

Because I had also pointed out that the CARIFORUM country that would be the biggest loser is Barbados, it is encouraging to see Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stating in Parliament on December 18 that, “We cannot rule out the prospect of this matter reaching the WTO”, although he added, “but that is not the first-resort expedience”. Rum exports to the US market in 2010 were worth US$17.2 m to Barbados — twice as much as its exports to the European Union market.

Delay in taking firm action is not in the interest of CARIFORUM countries. The longer they wait to stop these subsidies, the more unfairly entrenched the subsidised companies in the USVI and Puerto Rico will become in the US market.

Diplomatic efforts have been made consistently during the past few months and, by all accounts, the Barbadian ambassador to the US, John Beale, has been particularly active. But these efforts have produced no meaningful results. A letter written on August 24 to US President Barack Obama by St Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, as chairman of Caricom, has remained unanswered, and a previous letter on August 9, sent by CARIFORUM ambassadors in Washington to the US trade Representative, Ron Kirk, received a non-committal reply in October.

This led Caricom trade ministers, at their December meeting, to call on the US Government “to engage early with Caribbean rum-producing countries with a view to achieving an outcome that will support the continued competitive access for Caribbean rum to the US market”.

Frankly, there is not much chance of the US Government responding to that call, anymore than anyone should expect — as has been suggested — US Attorney-General Eric Holder to be helpful because “his parents were born in Barbados”.

The US Government did not pick this fight. Neither did the CARIFORUM countries. The local governments of the USVI and Puerto Rico have created the situation. Unfortunately for the US Federal Government, it has responsibility for the actions of its territories under international law and treaties. So, inasmuch as neither the US Government nor the CARIFORUM governments like it, they have a dispute on their hands, and it cannot be solved by diplomatic consultations alone. In the US, this is not a matter for the Government only; Congress also has a hand in it. And little or nothing will be done without compulsion.

The only compulsion is what some CARIFORUM governments appear reluctant to invoke, and that is to take the matter to the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

CARIFORUM governments have received at least three expert legal opinions that WTO rules have been violated by the actions of the USVI and Puerto Rico governments, and they have an eminently winnable case against the US at the WTO. There should be no stopping them now.

Throughout its history, rum producers from Caricom countries have faced unfair rivalry. They have been compelled to resist, as recorded in the excellent account, Rum, Rivalry and Resistance by Tony Talburt, published by Hansib in 2010.

Resistance continues to be necessary to safeguard this spirit which is so deeply intertwined with our Caribbean civilisation. The Government of the Dominican Republic has shown its readiness to proceed to the WTO; indications are that Barbados may now be willing to join. All of the governments of the CARIFORUM countries have a duty of care to their people; they will be doing no more than fulfilling that duty by going to the WTO. At the very least, the governments of Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago should throw their weight behind the Dominican Republic and Barbados.

Those CARIFORUM countries that do not join resistance at the WTO will not only show no spirit, they will also be entitled to no benefits that may be awarded. And, if none of them do anything other than engage in the delaying exercise of diplomatic consultations with the US, more than the spirituous Caribbean rum will die; the Caribbean spirit of resistance will die too.

The US Trade Representative’s Office is expert at prolonging “consultations” and delaying WTO arbitration. But time is not on the side of CARIFORUM rums, as trade ministers agreed.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and visiting fellow, London University

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com

Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Rum–rivalry–resistance_13259063#ixzz2GLDKh0VE

26 Dec

Spirit of Xmas Future!

IN PROUSTIAN FASHION, Christmas is an olfactory as well as a culinary event. The smell of conifer resin, roasting poultry and, in the old days, cigars given to deserving dads, should always be complemented with the smell of brandies, rums and other rich and fine spirits wafting from puddings and snifters alike.

Good Christmas Spirits are not really for Scrooge. Prices for trophy booze of the kind you might use to show appreciation are soaring.

But seasonal spirits are forever. Recipients might look a gift bottle down the neck, but it is also supposed to sit in the cabinet exuding its trophy-hood and prestige, a monument to the exquisite taste and sensibilities of gifter and gifted alike.
RUM

The prize for prestige is Appleton’s timely 50-year-old rum (pictured left) , casked to mark Jamaica’s independence in 1962 and bottled this year to celebrate the anniversary. A mere 800 bottles are for sale – at a mere $5,000 each. Apart from the elegant crystal bottle it is smooth but bursting with a flavor and bouquet. And bound to be an investment if it stays unopened.

It’s not crystal, but the decanter on Pusser’s 15-year-old Navy Rum is porcelain engraved with scenes from Nelson’s famous victories to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Made in unique wooden pot-stills to the old Royal Navy formula, at $105 a bottle it is a bargain!
WHISKEY

The Macallan just broke the world’s price record at auction with its 64-year-old going for $460,000. But you can still make friends with a bottle of 25 year old (pictured left), which is a relative deal at less than $700. The Macallans of all ages are a joy to drink anyway.

But if you are not into single malts, you could always hit Johnnie Walker’s “Diamond Jubilee,” 60 bottles, sorry “editions,” of which sold for $160,000 earlier this year. Casked for the Coronation, the 60 year old Scotch is a jewel in itself, but its setting is a diamond-shaped Baccarat crystal decanter with 6 legs, for each decade of the reign. (pictured top)
COGNAC & ARMAGNAC

Weighing in at up to $4,000 a bottle, Courvoisier Succession J.S. (pictured left) is a limited edition, not least since the company no longer makes it. The IWSC calls it, “Rich, deep and uplifting,” and “A very well looked after cognac,” blended for the bi-centenary of Napoleon’s coronation, the bottle comes in a handmade, wooden replica of his war chest.

Almost a bargain is a bottle of 1952 Armagnac Laubade, which allows owners to hold forth with sophistication on the “other” French brandy, which will cost a mere $800 or so – but with three score years and ten on the big label, who looks at the price tag

TEQUILA

Agave spirit futures look good with even premium Mezcals becoming collectors items. But crafted for the gift market, Gran Patrón Burdeos Tequila (pictured left) looks the part with its tasteful bottle and elegant contents, which will cost over $400. Too good to waste in a margarita, this is for swirling, savoring – and showing off! -IW
MoS ARCHIVES

GP Libations No. 1: Tequila
GP Libations No. 2: Rum
GP Libations No. 3: Aging Spirits

Posted on December 19th, 2012

27 Nov

Spirits of Americas – new event

IWSC Group launches Spirits of the Americas

10-02-2012

The IWSC Group, the world leading event company specializing in wines and spirits has launched the Spirits of the Americas, an exciting new spirits competition based in Florida.
Catering to all spirits produced in North, Central and South American countries and the Caribbean, the competition is set to be the ultimate recognition of distilled products that use a variety of base materials from grain through agave to sugar cane and beyond.
IWSC Group Managing Director, Allen Gibbons comments: “We believe launching Spirits of the Americas will highlight the huge variety and quality of products produced across the Americas. We are excited to have an event that highlights the excitement and diversity of the region”.
Dori Bryant, IWSC Group Event Director commented: “the Americas have always had traditionally strong regional spirits whether it is the rums of the Caribbean, the tequilas of Mexico or the bourbons of Kentucky. However recent years have seen spirits being produced in the most surprising of places such as vodka from Maine and Argentina, gin from San Francisco and absinthe from Philadelphia.”
Products will be judged on a 100-point basis, concentrating on appearance, aromatics, flavor, mouth feel and finish. Each entry will be evaluated, [on its own merit] by a panel of highly qualified judges through a series of blind-tastings, ensuring impartial judgment of the spirits. All judging at the Spirits of the Americas is by region, area, variety, style, type, vintage and age.
Hosting the judging is Jack Robertiello, an expert in the fields of spirits and mixology, who commented: “the Americas are home to a great range of wonderful distillers, old and new, and I am thrilled to be a part of the recognition of that talent”.
Other judges include Robert Plotkin of Bar Media, Pat McCarthy of Bayway World of Liquors who each have 30 years plus experience in the spirits industry. Starwood Hotels N.A. Food & Beverage Director Thomas ‘Mac’ McFarland Gregory III, author along with award-winning sommelier Olie Berlic and Dean Hurst, Director of Sprits, Bern’s Steak House also join the judging team.
The competition will take place in quarter one 2013.
27 Nov

Tequila, agave’s answer to the cane!

My apologies to readers and visitors. I have been working on a book on Tequila, travelling, and suffering from a heart condition, but am now back in business. And this shows some of what I have been working on.

GP Libations No.1: TEQUILA

PERHAPS THE BEST PLACE TO START IS WITH THE DISTINCTIVELY RUGGED BOTTLE OF PATRÓN, which pioneered taking tequila upmarket. Made, of course, in Mexico, the company that owns it is registered in Switzerland and COO John McDonnell says, “If the tequila is no good, then no amount of packaging and marketing can make it up – and ours is fantastic. We only use the best agaves, we cook them in clay ovens for 72 hours; we use a tahona wheel along with a roller mill.”

 

Harvesting the Blue Agave “pina”

Patrón’s expansion was based on its existing customer base being affluent travelers, and, says McDonnell: “When they fly into major cities globally and can’t find Patrón, they might try something else and then we could end up losing them, so we made sure that Patrón was available at all the high-end restaurants, bars and hotels.” And of course, the locals have been getting the hint of “agavaciousness” as well expanding sales. For example affluent Russian women in particular are taking to tequila on a huge scale.

Premium is as premium does. Over the last decade, tequileros have refined their art to give premium tequilas the smoothly assured maturity of cask aged malts and cognacs without masking the subtle vegetal and spicy undertones that make the spirit of Mexico what it is. As with all luxury items, hands-on work and attention to details make the difference – which is reflected in the prices and sales of the premium tequilas that soared

Readying the pina for roasting

worldwide during the Crash.

The premium tequila makers point out that for tequila distillation – the genesis for most spirits – is merely the culmination of an eight-year process where they have planted and nurtured the long-lived agave pinas to maturity.

Each maker swears by their own methods:  the pinas are cut to different leaf stub lengths, cooked in different types of ovens, and then while some use the traditional  tahona, the stone mill to grind the Agave, others put them through a grinder.  Each swears by their own choice of yeast, some like Olmeca, using local culture they have selected, while Herradura claims to use natural yeast from the air around the courtly tree-shaded hacienda nestling at the core of their modern plant.

Tequila aging in Oak Barrels

Each bottle has the number of the distillery in which it is made and by international treaty tequila can be made only in Mexico, using only one species of agave grown in a designated area, like champagne or cognac. In fact, tequila is protected in the US as well, unlike champagne!

Casa Noble’s Jose “Pepe” Hermosilla joined with several local families and between them they took 20 years from buying the fields to bringing the product to market, earning the strictest all-organic certification.  “We grow our agave in the mountains, to stress them, and they take ten years to be ready.” They experimented with different woods for aging before settling on French oak in which Casa Noble’s latest offering is aged five years, which, Hermosillo points out, represents the equivalent of 15 years in other products. He considers its price of $130 a bottle to be very reasonable with all that care and capital invested in it – and hid appreciation is shared by superstar Carlos Santana who has bought into the company.

Ian WIlliams nosing a blanco

Hermosillo relishes “how many different notes and aromas it can have, based on the different contributions of the terroir where the agave is produced.” Casa Noble has, he says, “complex fruit notes, spices, white pepper, peppermint.”

But while, impelled by the success (and added value) of oak aged spirits, the tequileros point out, and many connoisseurs agree, that the rigorous attention to detail produces excellent white tequilas.

Also advancing rapidly on the luxury front is tequila’s stepbrother, Mezcal which now has its own marque. Artisinal mezcals each made and bottled in different Zapotec villages Oaxaca like Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals, which won Distiller of the Year Award at the San Francisco Spirits Festival last year,  or the varietals made from different types of agave  and aged for up to seven years by Scorpion are also claiming big prices from aficionados.

There’s liquid gold and silver in them thar’ hills down south of the border. IW

GP RECOMMENDATIONS

 

 

 

 

 

LOOK FOR Ian William’s (IW) forthcoming book, “Tequila: A Global History” from Reaktion Press later this year.

[Photos via Ian William + Respective Tequilas]

27 Nov

Rum, first love is best!

GP Libations No. 2: RUM

 

JAMES BEARD, THE RENOWNED CHEF, FOOD WRITER and seminal figure in advancing American gastronomy, whom Julia Child once accurately described as, “the quintessential American cook” said of rum, “Of all the spirits in your home, rum is the most romantic.”

And in many ways Mr. Beard was right. One of the pivotal characteristic that is supports the enduring interest in rum is that of all the spirits, it has the most exciting back story, one that includes: pirates, slavery, the British Navy and of course the Caribbean sun and sand of its original home to back it up.

While Bedouin tribes had apparently distilled alcohol from sugar products, and used it medicinally, its first explicitly recorded modern appearance as a beverage was in Barbados in the 1640’s, where it was variously called kill-devil, Barbadoes Waters, rumbullion, and finally rum, the name which, with some variations, Spanish (ron), French (rhum) and other languages adopted. While some writers claim that a Martinicans and Brazilians might have made a spirit from sugar earlier, it was certainly Barbadian planters who first made rum a commodity distilled in commercial quantities and traded. Regardless rum, irrespective of its spelling, has been around a long, long time…

And from its Caribbean origins, rum has expanded world wide with distinctive varieties produced almost everywhere sugar cane is grown. Today, India, Philippines and Brazil are now some of the world’s largest producers of rum, hosting between them six of the world’s top ten brands, but they are also among the world’s biggest consumers, and like Australia, another large market, they consume most of their production locally.

The Rum Sugarcane Field Harvest yesterday…

Rum comes in an infinite variety of colors and flavors. White rums, used for cocktails, are sometimes unaged, and in many Caribbean islands even aged white rums are subsequently charcoal filtered to remove the color they acquire from the oak barrels.

Each Caribbean island produces its own distinctive variation of rum; Cuba and Puerto Rico for example, sport a lighter style of rum for export. The demands of the French forces in World War One hugely boosted production in Martinique and Guadeloupe.   After the war they developed their distinctive rhums agricoles made from the full sugar cane, which they contrast with rhum industriel, made from molasses, which they shrewdly market as superior. In the English speaking Caribbean it is produced in relatively small quantities and often called sugar cane brandy

and today.

Some rums, especially those from “The Spanish Main” around the Caribbean are using the solera method, derived from sherry production, in which the rums are decanted into a variety of casks previously used for other drinks, such as port and sherry, and then blended. Aged rum based on these, from Venezuela, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua are increasingly penetrating global markets.

From its earliest days, rum has been a prime constituent of mixed drinks, beginning with punch (from the Hindi word for five, which was the number of ingredients) which are typically rum, water, sugar, spice and citrus. Variations on theme included the Cuban mohito, the mint julep, the Franco- Caribbean ‘tit ponche and the Brazilian Caiparinha.

Premium aged rums, also known as “sipping rums” are enjoyed unmixed and have seen a growing recognition among the world spirits elite connoisseurs, but no matter how rum aficionados might bridle, manufacturers are of course entirely happy with bars mixing premium rums into cocktails! IW

GP RECOMMENDATIONS

MoS ARCHIVES

[All Photos by  Fredi Marcarini from his forthcoming book “Rum: A Journey”]

27 Nov

Age in Palate of Besniffer

GP Libations No. 3: Aging Spirits

A PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION: Given a choice between the Mona Lisa and an identical copy thereof, which would you prefer? Understandably, albeit perhaps illogically, most of us would select the original. In a similar vein, we prefer a fine spirit that has actually been aged a quarter-century over one that merely tastes as though it has been.

For generations, aging has improved, not lessened, the attractiveness of brown spirits. The oak barrels in which they’re stored transmute them, making them richer and smoother. Cognacs, dependent on judicious balancing of different years, are stuck with “VSOP” and other subjective designations to indicate their age. Whiskeys, though, stick to clearly defined rules and straightforward numbers. The general consensus: Older is better.

Well, maybe. Accepted industry wisdom used to be that anything that spent more than 25 years in a cask would be undrinkable. Then cellar masters at The Macallan discovered a cask that had been hiding in the back of a cold, damp warehouse for 53 years. It was, they discovered, very, very good. What’s more, collectors were eager to pay a premium for it. As such, Appleton has just introduced a 50-year-old at $5,000 a bottle. Island rum producers, meanwhile, have introduced a truth-in-labeling regulation that will require bottlers to list the youngest rum therein. Authenticity costs.

Other companies have been somewhat more cavalier about age — particularly those from the Spanish Main, who claimed anything up to 20-plus years. Havana Club, for example, has told me its ages are uno medio — an average. The rum producers’ labeling law seems to have shamed some of the Hispanic bottlers: Many of them still use numbers, but without “years” or “aged for” alongside.

I’m a firm believer in authenticity, so I can now stop denouncing consumer fraud and admit that these spirits are as good as, and often better than, those that are simply stored in barrels for a long time. The rums, for example, are made according to the solera method, in which the cellar master decants the rum into different barrels and blends it with different ages. It’s labor-intensive, but not especially time-consuming.

As ever, it all comes down to the consumer. You can purchase a spirit whose authentic age is listed on the bottle, but whose quality might not live up to its billing. Or you can seek out those that have benefited from true artistry and therefore hit all the notes of an aged spirit despite being relatively young. You need not wait decades to enjoy a superb spirit — and you can spend the extra time philosophizing as you sip. – IW
MoS ARCHIVES

GP Libations No. 1: Tequila
GP Libations No. 2: Rum

[Opening photo + The Macallan Bottle photographs via The Macallan + The Macallan Masters of Photography photos by Albert Watson + Cognac photos via Sig]

Posted on October 29th, 2012

06 May

Rum Revolt!

Rumpundit has been advocating this for years. About time!

A few days ago the Caricom Secretary General, Irwin LaRoque, revealed in Washington that Cariforum nations had begun a process which if unresolved will lead to a full complaint at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US Government in relation to rum—as David Jessop reports in this article for Stabroek News.

Following representations by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), the regional industry association, Caricom Governments last December formally expressed to the US their deep concern about measures being taken by the Governments of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to provide multinational rum producers with subsidies under a programme that makes use of excise taxes on rum received from the US Federal Government.

Caricom subsequently raised the issue at a meeting of the US-Caricom Trade and Investment Council in March in Georgetown. Then last week the Caricom Secretary General took the opportunity, during meetings with US officials in Washington, to stress the seriousness of the issue and its implications if left unresolved.

As a consequence a US Caricom technical meeting is expected to take place shortly. This is intended to lead to political exchanges with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) aimed at resolving the issue. At the same time Cariforum ambassadors in Washington have been meeting with others in the US administration and Congress to make clear the Caribbean’s concerns.

In a process that potentially sets David against Goliath, the Caribbean has initiated a dialogue with USTR that challenges an arrangement that enables the USVI to offer one of the world’s largest and wealthiest distilling groups, Diageo, huge subsidies.

The concern is that if the matter goes unchallenged it will result in Caribbean producers seeing their presently significant share of the US market wiped out by a subsidised product, and other large international distilling groups seeking to locate in the USVI and Puerto Rico to seek similar advantage.

As with most trade disputes the matter is complicated. The Caribbean’s case revolves around the fact that subsidies offered by the USVI to the multinational rum producers Diageo and Cruzan are inconsistent with WTO rules in as much as they involve prohibited export subsidies, make use of discriminatory taxation, and use such subsidies to cause adverse effects to the interests of other WTO members, in this case the countries of Cariforum.

Specifically the Caribbean’s case relates to the application by the US Government of a ‘cover-over’ programme which remits 98 per cent of all excise duties raised on rums sold in the US back to the US territories of Puerto Rico and the USVI.

In 2010, this amounted to approximately US$450M. In order to secure a greater amount of this ‘cover-over’ support the USVI and Puerto Rico have since 2008 entered into new contractual arrangements with major multinational producers offering extremely generous concessions, subsidies and long-term support, in exchange for them agreeing to site their distilleries and production facilities in their territories.

In the case of the USVI its government signed a contract in 2008 with Diageo that promised the company very large subsidies over a thirty year period in return for the company’s commitment to produce locally all Captain Morgan rum sold in the United States. Estimates suggest that in these new contracts the value of the operating subsidies alone exceeds the actual production cost per litre of bulk rum.

It is also believed that the combined new production capacity which is planned as part of the agreements will be equivalent to at least 80 per cent of current US rum consumption.

Unsurprisingly, rum producers in the anglophone Caribbean, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have viewed this development with alarm.

So too have Cariforum governments which have recognised the dangers for themselves and the region’s largest agriculture-based export industry which generates an estimated US$500M in foreign exchange and well over US$250M in tax revenues, which is to say nothing of the industry’s role as an important provider of employment or its close relationship to tourism.

While there is understanding of the economic problems facing the USVI, the reality is that the US Congress has allowed its USVI development programme to divert hundreds of millions to primarily provide a development programme for the largest distilled spirits company in the world. In this way the US is damaging one of the few competitive industries that Cariforum nations have and which helps underpin the economic viability of small and sometimes vulnerable Caribbean states. For this reason the dispute is at a government to government rather than an industry level.

There is also a sense that the manner in which the cover-over programme is being used raises serious questions about US consistency in relation to its international obligations under WTO rules.

The US has for many years taken a leadership role in promoting strong WTO disciplines on trade distorting subsidies, so it is surprising that it has allowed a situation of competitive harm to arise.

International distilling groups may have more political and economic muscle to flex in Washington, London and Brussels than do the countries of Cariforum, but the region has the facts and strict rules of world trade on its side.

This is therefore an instance where Caribbean governments and the people of Cariforum need to stand tall, draw the line in Washington and, if necessary, in Geneva , and fight to win.

Rum has a special place in the hearts and minds of Caribbean people.

It is a product that brings identity through small producers to the islands and countries of Cariforum from which it comes. Unlike the product of large multinational distilling groups the success of Cariforum producers does not result from artificial tax breaks, transfer pricing or subsidy.

Instead it is an industry dominated by small local distillers whose product is export oriented, brings much needed foreign exchange, adds value to primary agriculture and provides significant levels of tax and revenue to governments struggling to deliver social programmes.

That is why rum has always been a product worth fighting for, as Europe knows to its cost and the US is about to discover.

Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org

For the original report go to http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/features/05/06/rum-is-a-product-worth-fighting-for/

Image of rum under a microscope by Michael Davidson from http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cocktails/pages/rum.html

12 Feb

Bacardi 150

David Cid tells me that this rum is not the same as the exquisite ones that Facundo Bacardi had us taste at his HQ during last year’s Rum Renaissance… they were indeed very very good by any standards.

Rumpundit

 

 

For 150 years, Bacardi Rum has been celebrating the good life. Bacardi Limited will celebrate unlike ever before in 2012 with promises of innovation, special celebratory affairs, launch promotions and a special, limited-edition decanter of rare Bacardi rum. Of course, it’s that $2,000 rum we’re here to talk about.

Bacardi Rum has been a family business since 1862, so when it came time to developing a one-of-a-kind Bacardi that combined the expertise of 150 years of talent, Bacardi turned to eight Maestros of the Ron Bacardi family to create Ron BACARDÍ de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII®.

The limited edition blend combines the craftsmanship of more than a century of hard work with the perfection developed in several fine rums laid in oak barrels for 20 years. The Ron BACARDÍ de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII® was finished in 60 year old cognac barrels and will be presented in a hand-blown, 500ml crystal decanter swathed in a leather case. Only 400 are produced and available at various international airports around the globe.

150 years doesn’t just merely get a private bottle, but also a host of activities. Celebrity Cruises will help Bacardi celebrate February 4 with a trip through San Juan, Puerto Rico; the Bacardi tradition of a Legacy Cocktail Competition will shake things up as more than 25 countries compete for the prize on February 20th in Puerto Rico; National Geographic Channel’s “Ultimate Factories” plans to showcase the Puerto Rico Bacardi rum factory on February 11.

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