The Chairman comes under the hammer?

One of the Caribbean’s Best Rum Companies Has Been Sold

March 16th, 2016 | 12:50 am


One of the Caribbean’s best distilleries has a new owner.

The St Lucia Distillers group of companies has been acquired by Martinique-based Group Bernard Hayot, which owns two of Martinique’s top rum distilleries: Rhum Clement and Rhum JM.

“The acquisition of SLD brings together two established traditions of rum making – Rhum Agricole and molasses based – into one portfolio – See more at:,” the companies said in a statement. “GBH intends to put in place a comprehensive investment programme for St Lucia Distiller’s production and warehousing facilities – See more at:”

St Lucia Distillers; 1931 rum was named Rum of the Year by Caribbean Journal in 2015.

The company’s rums include 1931 and Chairman’s Reserve, among others.

“I am excited and very happy that St Lucia Distillers has a new owner committed to further investment in our distillery and helping us build our brands both locally and internationally,” said Margaret Monplaisir, managing director of St Lucia Distillers. “We certainly have a bright future ahead and we are keen to begin working with our new owners.  GBH also intends to use its considerable expertise to develop our tour at St Lucia Distillers making it a “must see” for visitors to St. Lucia, like they have done at Habitation Clement in Martinique.”

The latter has become one of the most creative distilleries in the region, now home to its own modern art museum.

In a statement, GBH Spirit Division Director Gregoire Gueden said the deal was a “a natural progression given the close proximity of Martinique to St. Lucia and the similarity of our heritage and cultures.”

“We admire the rums of St Lucia Distillers and believe we can build Chairman’s Reserve into a major global brand,” he said. “It is our intention to invest in the distillery, warehousing and SLD’s work force so that we can continue to make some of the greatest rums in the world.”


History Buff Interview with Ian Williams

Colonists Used Rum As a Weapon Against Native Americans

Nov 07, 2015
Is rum the subject of a vast historical cover-up?

of a vast historical cover-up? Ian Williams thinks so. A renowned journalist and rum expert, Williams is the author of the acclaimed book Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776. It’s a riveting read. Taking us from the plantations of Barbados to the battlefields of Revolutionary New England, Williams argues that rum’s pivotal role in the American Revolution was written out of U.S. history because of prohibitionism. We asked him about the spirit’s troubling past:

HistoryBuff: Can you tell us a little about the origins of rum? When did it go mainstream?

Ian Williams: Rum is the mongrel progeny of mixed technical genes. It was first mentioned in Barbados in 1651 by a much-quoted anonymous writer who wrote that “the chief fudling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Devil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish and terrible liquor.” Originating in Papua New Guinea, the sugar cane travelled via India to the Middle East and was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to the Americas. The British in Barbados imported the milling and refining technology from the coast of what is now Surinam when Dutch settlers were ousted by the Portuguese in Brazil and settled in Barbados, which rapidly became a sugar monoculture.

HB: How was it made?

IW: Rum was made from the by-product of sugar, the molasses and skimmings left once the sugar had been crystallised out. The natural yeasts in the air would have set the molasses solution bubbling and fermenting, but it produces an unpalatable and indigestible drink—until some unsung genius realised that distillation brought over the alcohol without the immediate intestinal upsets! It was a very ecological drink—using a waste product and not competing with food stocks.

HB: How did the spirit get its name?

IW: Originally known as “Kill-Devil,” the word rum seems to be derived from “rumbullion”—an English dialect word for “a commotion, a riot”—which is indicative of the effects! “Rhum” in French, Ron in Spanish and in other European languages all seem to be derived from the English word. But along the Eastern Seaboard of the US, features are often named after “Kill Devil.” The Wright brothers first flew near Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina, for example.

via Wikimedia

HB: When was it first popularized in the U.S.?

IW: Most of the American colonists were marginally productive of grain crops, so using grain for alcohol production was frowned upon. Apple crops allowed hard cider production but a gallon of imported molasses made a gallon of rum roughly, and from an early stage of colonial history, distilleries flourished. Rum was much more easily stored and transported and was often drunk in the form of punches rather than neat. And it killed the bacteria in the water!

HB: How much rum did the colonists really drink?

IW: The colonists drank huge quantities themselves but also traded it with the Indians, persuading them to hunt for furs beyond their own subsistence needs. Benjamin Franklin commented, “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that Rum may be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the Sea-Coast.” The colonists preferred Caribbean rum for themselves, but they also traded their locally produced New England rum for slaves in Africa, where it was the major trading item for the American ships. The British ships used cloth and other manufactured goods rather than rum.

HB: What role did rum play in the American Revolution?

IW: The original dispute was that while the British West Indian islands used their own molasses to make rum, the French colonies were not allowed to in case they competed with the domestic French Brandy industry—and so had a surplus of molasses from their sugar production. The American ships traded, salt, salted cod, and timber for this and since for much of the 18th-century France and Britain were at war—among other things about French threats to the colonies from Canada—this was trading with the enemy.

The colonists did not pay duty on the smuggled goods and later when the British tried to collect taxes to defray the cost of removing the French from Canada, the colonists first refused, then actively resisted as the British shifted the collection from easily intimidated or bribable local collectors to the Navy, whose Captains and crews collected prize money from any smugglers’ ships they caught. The conflict escalated. But they never asked for representation—they just did not want taxation!

Revere, Paul 1770
Paul Revere via Wikimedia

HB: Did Paul Revere really fortify himself with rum before galloping off for Lexington?

IW: The revolution was plotted in taverns over bowls of rum punch, and Paul Revere’s ride, far from rousing the countryside, was simply warning the Militia to hide their arsenals before a Redcoat raid. His first stop was with the owner of a rum distillery, Isaac Hall, Captain of the Medford Minute Men, who rewarded the messenger with several stirrup cups that “would have made a rabbit bite a bulldog,” and sent him bellowing on his way. During the war both sides tried to seize rum distilleries stores since it was assumed the troops would not fight without it. Faced with a severe shortage of rum George Washington wrote to Congress in 1777 suggesting “erecting Public Distilleries in different States.” He went on to explain, suggesting that even then he anticipated some resistance, “The benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor, have been experienced in all Armies and are not to be disputed.”

HB: Why did whisky surpass rum as America’s beverage of choice?

IW: After the Revolution, the opening up of the former Indian territories allowed corn to replace the molasses and rum from the Caribbean. Although rum remained a major commodity in New England, whisky replaced it as a drink and as currency. The combined effects of that and prohibitionism submerged its role in American history.

HB: What most surprised you while you were writing the book?

IW: Once I had begun to look into the subject, I was delighted and surprised to see how much of a role rum had had in the development of the modern Atlantic world. I began to research when I realized that the Caribbean was for centuries the cockpit of European history. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans went there to fight and die for control of its liquid treasures and it was seminal in the American Revolution. Faced with the choice between Canada and Martinique—the French chose Martinique. The West Indian colonies would have joined the USA—and reinforced the Southern slaveowners if it weren’t that they needed the British to protect them against the French and Spanish.

Rum was a delight to research whether in the archives of London and New York—or the rum-shops of Barbados and Jamaica!

Feature image via Wikimedia

Promoted Stories

Rum moving up

Remy along with Campari/Appleton taking rum to premium heights.


Added 26 August 2015

BARBADOS’ DISTINCTION of being the birthplace of rum is about to be “leveraged” like never before. Fresh from acquiring Mount Gay Rum Refinery and Mount Gay Plantation in St Lucy for a combined $28.7 million, French alcoholic beverage company Remy Cointreau has sanctioned a plan that will see its Barbados subsidiary, Mount Gay Distilleries Limited, giving consumers a taste of the world’s first “luxury” rum in six to seven year’s time.
Related articles
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Local Rum Industry could cave in…
‘Focus more on local molasses’…
It is a key part of a deliberate strategy – fashioned four years ago – to elevate the 312-year-old Mount Gay brand to premium and super premium status, thereby ensuring its survival and growth.
Detailing the strategy in an interview with BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, Mount Gay Distilleries Limited managing director, Raphael Grisoni, revealed that the company would now be involved in producing its special new rum, which is targetting the high end market, from the field to the bottle.
Mount Gay has contracted the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) to manage Mount Gay Plantation, and is working with the Sugar Cane Breeding Station and a team of “specialist” consultants, including agronomists, to produce its own “high quality” molasses for the “single estate rum”, Grisoni said.
“We made a deal with BAMC, so they are grinding for us and we are collecting the molasses from them, which is segregated, so it is really our molasses coming from our plantation. The rum produced will be something very high end, very expensive, because it will be very scarce and of course the growing super premium rum market is there so it will be beneficial, of course, for Barbados to have such positioning,” he said.
“It’s the early stage. We took over the plantation, we got the first harvest and our molasses. It’s not a common molasses, we have a special quality, so we are extracting less sugar from the cane so we have a better quality molasses, and we started our first distillation last month. So it’s really fresh and the product will go out in six to seven years.
“On the plantation, there is an old plantation house and an old windmill. So slowly we are going to refresh that and make it nice. Today, all of the plantation management is externalised with BAMC but with our guidelines. We are expecting them to manage our plantation by the book, we want an exceptional management and thanks to our consultant agronomist, we set up the standard on which we want the BAMC to operate,” he added.
Grisoni said the expectation was that in the end Mount Gay would have a product “that will deliver because of the quality of the cane, and because of the processes we are going to use will be unique”.
He said there was a market of affluent consumers who were “looking for unique, scarce, small batch products”, and the company was looking to capitalise on this in an international marketplace where no one was currently selling true luxury rum for between US$500 and US$1 000 a bottle, except the occasional special edition.
“It is really something unique and I think this is the way we should go forward. It was also a way to show we believe in the sugar industry. Purchasing a plantation is already a sign that we believe in this industry and we are willing to invest and it’s a significant investment. This is just the beginning. What I know is that overall luxury products are on the rise,” he asserted.
“There are more and more rich people who are demanding exclusive products and we have all the attributes to deliver those luxury products and we need to leverage our heritage. We were born more than 300 years ago in this area in St. Lucy. This is our story and it was logical to build on that and I am totally convinced that there is a consumer for that.
“It’s great but it’s also difficult for us because it’s new. Before, we were really only in the distillation, aging and blending. Now we are becoming farmers, so as you can imagine it’s quite complex. But thanks to God, we have great specialists on the island, we have great agronomists who are, of course, helping us in order to do it properly.”
– See more at:

FT Business of Rum Special Report with my article!


June 26, 2015 6:44 pm
Caribbean rum strategy wants more sip and not mix

Ian Williams

Although rum is a global drink, made across the tropics and drunk in all climate zones, its name shows its deep roots in the English-speaking Caribbean. It first appeared in Barbados in the mid-17th century, as “Rumbullion, alias Kill-Devil . . . made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish and terrible liquor”. The pioneering distillers soon discovered that redistilling the first flow made it considerably less hellish.

In a further boost to palatability, the only way to export rum in quantity was in the oak casks that were the shipping containers of the day, and soon drinkers discovered that rum, above all spirits, benefits from ageing in oak.

By the turn of the 17th century Jamaica too had begun to make rum. It soon eclipsed Barbados in production and British West Indies rum dominated the world. To make rum, the colonists used molasses, the byproduct of sugar-refining. That gave the British an economic edge as well as rum expertise since, until the end of the 18th century, French and Spanish monarchs prohibited their colonies from producing any spirits that would rival their domestic industries.

Rum was appreciated in the heart of the empire as well. In 2011 an inventory of Earl Harewood’s cellars in England discovered bottles of Barbadian rum laid down in 1780. Once the encrusted cobwebs were polished off, Christie’s sold a dozen of the bottles for £78,255 in January 2014. It followed with 16 further bottles, raising another £135,713 last December. That gave bottles of aged dark rum a premium price of £11,162 each. It was a telling reminder that the fortunes of much of Britain’s landed gentry were in Caribbean plantations, sugar and rum — not to mention slavery.

The Royal Navy’s adoption of rum, usually Caribbean, as its restorative of choice certainly helped bulk sales, but a government-guaranteed market of millions of gallons of what one could call a “robust” rum might not have spurred premium quality. Although the Pussers brand, based on the Navy’s official formula, attracts devoted customers today it is open to debate whether the tradition or the liquor is the greatest attraction.

Even before the Harewood sale Anglo-Caribbean rum makers were rediscovering that premium, aged rums have a growing market that adds value for consumer and distiller alike. But brand-building is an expensive business, even more so with premium spirits that need decades of lead time to build and age stocks. Local Caribbean producers do not have the resources to build global markets. Nor is it enough to have a quality product, since makers have to tell discerning drinkers about it and supply the product in quantities that deliver economies of scale in a crowded market place.

Frank Ward of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association was prominent in the “Authentic Caribbean Rum” marque campaign, funded by EU “reparations” for ending trade preferences that had protected the Caribbean against Latin American competition. He notes that, with a few exceptions, the English-speaking Caribbean has concentrated on bulk rum production, selling their products to be bottled and branded by others. This surrenders the high, value-added ground to the bottlers.

The premium share of the market is expanding rapidly as drinkers treat aged rums as sipping spirits rather than as mixers for cocktails. Both Appleton Estate and Mount Gay, the market leaders in the region, have responded to this and adopted a similar strategy — maintaining high-prestige “flagship” rums and concentrating on premium blends of consistent age and quality and to some extent cutting adrift the local markets’ favourite cheaper brands. Significantly, Campari had taken over Appleton and Rémy Cointreau Mount Gay, so both had become part of large global companies with the resources to invest in production and marketing and the courage to risk upsetting local island consumers and build exports.
“Local Caribbean producers do not have the resources to build global markets”Tweet this quote

It appears that smaller brands, such as El Dorado or Angostura, will have to risk losing some of their local character. Deals with, and access to, the marketing resources of the leading spirits producers may well be what is required to make an impression on a waiting world.

Mr Ward believes the EU Caribbean rum programme did help smaller brands obtain more exposure. But he adds: “It takes years to build a brand of rum and the first programme [which] only ran 18 months helped some suppliers to diversify, but it has a long way to go”.

The smaller, yet distinguished brands from Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent have appreciative consumers but find it difficult to secure distribution, particularly in the US liquor market whose structure is a hangover from Prohibition. If these brands cannot fill a container, they are at an immediate disadvantage. The “Authentic Caribbean Rum” marque did help publicise these smaller entrants, but Mr Ward says the campaign benefited all rums worldwide.

Nonetheless, the investment in premium brand-building by companies such as Rémy Cointreau and Campari is raising the prestige of the whole rum category, something that is sure to continue.

Not to be missed! But sadly I will

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and International Trade Expo for Rum

April 17-19, 2015

Home Page

The Rums

The Brands



Grand Tasting


Trade Expo

Rum Shirts

Hotel Rooms


Exhibitor Info


Rum Cruise

The International Trade Expo For Rum

Members of the Spirits Trade,

Mark your calendars for the Trade Day Preview on Friday, April 17 and the expanded three day International Trade Expo for Rum.

Be the first to discover new brands and new rum expressions entering the market.

Miami is the place where everyone in the rum category meets.

The 2015 Miami Rum Festival features a special Trade Exhibit Section, with many up-and-coming rum brands from around the world presenting never-before-seen rums in the United States.

Friday, April 17 from 3-6pm

Saturday, April 18 from 1-6pm

Sunday, April 19 from 1-6pm

Thousands of rum producers, importers, distributors, retailers, food and beverage managers, buyers, brokers, consultants and members of the spirit press will gather in Miami for this International Trade Exposition for Rum.

From the far reaches of the globe, rum producers will bring their finest products to meet with importers. Distributors will meet with retailers and beverage managers. Brands will meet with bottlers and label designers, corks and packaging specialists. The International Rum Expert Panel judges will be in attendance. Many new products will be on display for the trade to see, sample and discover.

Miami is the place where everyone in the rum category meets.

This modern, accessible gateway to the Caribbean region is the ideal setting to explore, plan and strategize the future success of rum. Don’t miss the most important global rum event in the world.

In order to restrict attendance to the Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo for Rum, tickets will not be sold at the door. Please register for your VIP Weekend Trade Pass in advance.

Register Online

Please don’t hesitate to visit the Miami Rum Fest web site for more details, call or write if you need more information.

Rob, Robin and Robert Burr

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The International Trade Expo for Rum

PO Box 144353, Coral Gables, FL 33114-4353


Are you a member of the spirits trade? A food and beverage manager or a bartender? A rum producer or a spirits journalist? Do you work at a liquor store or restaurant, caterer, distributor, importer or broker?

Register now for an exclusive VIP Weekend Trade Pass with complete access to all consumer and trade exhibits during the three day event.

Register Online

Rums debuting for the first time at the 2015 Miami Rum Fest include:

AfroHead 7

AfroHead XO

Amrut White

Amrut Two Indies

Amrut Two Indies Old Port

Bayou Satsuma Rum Liquor

Bayou Select Barrel Reserve


Blue Chair Bay Banana

Blue Chair Bay Vanilla

Blue Water Ultra Premium

Blue Water Caribbean Gold

Borgoe 8

Bristol Barbados 2004

Bristol Black Spiced

Bristol Port Morant Demerara 1999

Bristol Reserve Rum of Haiti 2004

Bristol Trinidad Caroni 1996

Caray Reserva Del Artesano

Caray Platinum

Citrus Spice

Citrus Chocolate

Club Caribe Silver

Don Papa 10

DonQ 151



Lost Spirits Prometheus

Mezan Jamaica 2000

Mezan Jamaica XO

Mezan Panama 2004

Monymusk Special Reserve

Mutineers Gold XO Special Reserve

Nine Leaves Clear

Nine Leaves Half American Oak Cask

Nine Leaves Half French Oak Cask

Opthimus 25

Opthimus Artesanal 25

Opthimus Artesanal 21

Opthimus Artesanal 18

Opthimus Artesanal 15

Opthimus Malt Whiskey 25

Opthimus OportO 25

Plantation Pineapple Stiggins Fancy

Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof

Pusser’s Spiced

Richland Single Estate Artesan

Siesta Key Distiller’s Reserve

Siesta Key Toasted Coconut

Siesta Key Spiced Beer Barrel Finish

Skotlander Rum III (Sea Buckthorn)

Skotlander Rum IV (Liquorice)

Skotlander Cask

Skotlander White

St. Nicolas Abbey 10

Stroh 160 Spiced

Travellers 5 Barrel

Westerhall Estate 10 XO

Wicked Dolphin Coconut

Wicked Dolphin Crystal

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced

Wicked Dolphin Strawberry RumShine

Yolo Gold 10

Yolo Silver

some products shown at the Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo are available to the trade only

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and International Trade Expo for Rum updates

are published by Quantum Leap Network

PO Box 144353 Coral Gables, FL USA 33114-4353

phone: 305-443-7973

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
– – –
– – –
– – –
interviews, details, follow-up contact:
Robert A. Burr
305-439-1376 cell
305-443-7973 office
web site:

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:

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


Barbancourt 150!

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


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.

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?

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:

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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.

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!

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)

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


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

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

Posted on December 19th, 2012