Appleton 30 year old in Seven Courses

Luxury Rum launched

Published: Thursday | November 26, 2009

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

The juicy pan-seared fillet mignon with slow roasted rosemary potatoes and vegetables of the market sautéed in garlic butter. – photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

J. Wray and Nephew launched its new luxury rum last Thursday with a delectable seven-course dinner at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel along Waterloo Rd.

The event promised a quiet evening of the hotel’s famous cuisine but, to complement the fare, some of Appleton Estate’s finest products. To top it off, the company’s 30-Year-Old Jamaica Rum would be the show-stopper. But even before the ‘official’ pairings began, the opening course -a honey pumpkin bisque -had more than a hint of Jamaica Run creme which smoothed it out, and gave it an extra lift. Off to a great start! The Salad Imperial was a crunchy mixture of vegetables and nuts, just whetting the appetite for the main courses.

The first pairing was with the entrée choices and the Appleton Estate Extra 12-Year-Old. The choices were pan-seared fillet mignon (with slow roasted rosemary potatoes) or thyme marinated chicken, with steamed wild rice, raisins and toasted almonds. Both dishes were served with a sauce or glaze, with the rum as its main ingredient. To say it was delightful would be an understatement. But the rum wasn’t just guzzled down like a pint at the pub. Master blender Joy Spence took guests through the meticulous process of truly appreciating all the fine rums on offer. From the visual to the taste, each rum scored a 10 with the lucky invited.

A devilishly smooth chocolate mousse was then served with the Appleton Estate 21-Year-Old Jamaica Rum. The combination was divine as the 21, with its long, dry finish and sugary taste made the mousse go down even more easily. Afterwards, the lime sorbet cleansed the palate for the show-stopper.

The grand finale came when pieces of caramelised banana were sampled along with the anticipated new luxury rum. Each guest was meticulously instructed to place a piece of banana in the mouth, and then take a sip of the 30-Year-Old. The result: an explosion of flavour that left the ‘real rum heads’ asking for more.

Left: The cocktail of the evening was Royal Aperitif, an eye-popping combination of champagne, Appleton Estate Reserve, honey syrup and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Right: The naughty chocolate mousse with the Appleton Estate 21-Year Old Jamaica Rum.

The opening course was a honey pumpkin bisque with cinnamon croutons and a swirl of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum Creme.

Crab cakes anyone?

Tanduay brewing up capital

Tanduay joins fund-raising bandwagon
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 18:50

LIQUOR firm Tanduay Distillers Inc. announced on Wednesday that it plans to sell P5 billion worth of retail bonds to fund spending activities and to refinance maturing obligations.

In a filing to the stock exchange, parent company Tanduay Holdings Inc. said the 5-year fixed-rate bonds will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both companies are owned by business tycoon Lucio Tan.

First Metro Investment Corp. and PNB Capital and Investment Corp. have been selected as joint issue managers for the offering. Sister-company Allied Banking Corp. has also been appointed as joint lead manager.

The Credit Rating and Investors Services Philippines Inc. has already assigned the highest rating or “Aaa” to the proposed issuance, which indicates a strong capacity and low probability of default by the issuer.

Tanduay Holdings said the rating agency considered the company’s brand equity and healthy financial performance, indicated by its strong gross margin and net income margin averaging 21.4 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively, for the last five years.

For the third quarter, Tanduay Holdings said net income rose 12.44 percent to P197.18 million. This brings the company’s net income for the first nine months to P499.44 million, up 6.53 percent from the same period last year.

Consolidated revenues were also up 6 percent to P7.5 billion. The 6-percent increase in selling price in January this year allowed the firm to post higher earnings, despite a slight drop in sales volume.

The production facility in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental also made a positive contribution in meeting the higher demand in the Mindanao region, which accounts for almost half or 42 percent of the total sales volume.

Earlier, Tanduay Holdings said it will spend P500 million to expand the production capacity of one of its plant in Negros Occidental.

The 155-year-old firm is considered the second-largest producer of rum in the world through its flagship product Tanduay Five-Year Rum. The holding company operates four bottling plants and two alcohol distilleries across the country.

Other subsidiaries of Tanduay Holdings include Tanduay Brands International Inc. and Unimark Investments Corp.

Celebration of Goals

McDowell to use soccer platform for promoting rum brand
Press Trust of India / New Delhi November 22, 2009, 15:41 IST

Vijay Mallya-promoted United Spirits is focusing on football as platform for promoting McDowell’s Celebration rum.
The company, which spends 50 per cent of its branding budget through sports, is looking at growing sales of Celebration by 12 per cent in next one year.

“After cricket, football is the most popular sports in India. United Spirits has a long association with sports in the country and following that tradition, we are now focusing on football as platform for promoting the Celebration brand,” United Spirits (USL) Business Head Mathew Xavier told PTI.

McDowell’s Celebration Rum is the third-largest selling rum in the world and the company has sold over 10 million cases of the rum in the last fiscal.

Xavier said that by associating more with football, USL expects Celebration Rum sales to grow by over 1 lakh cases per month. Thus, annual sales of the rum are likely to go up by 12 per cent or 1.2 million cases in the next one year.

USL is kicking-off its nation-wide football event — ‘freestyle football extravaganza’ — under the McDowell’s Freestyle Friendzy banner from November 27 in 21 cities.

The event is an aggressive format of football that involves the expression of dribbling and other jugglery skills.

Rum and Power outages hit Santa Teresa!

Outages dim Chavez popularity
Power failures, unpaid civil servants and falling oil revenue play havoc with support for the Venezuela leader.

By Chris Kraul

November 21, 2009

Reporting from El Consejo, Venezuela – Power outages are hitting Henrique Vollmer’s rum distillery several times a week, interrupting production, damaging equipment and jeopardizing the jobs of his 375 workers.

President Hugo Chavez blames the inadequate power production by Venezuela’s hydroelectric plants on low rainfall. But Vollmer says the problem has deeper roots.

“The blackouts have gotten more frequent over the last couple of years,” said Vollmer, whose family-owned Santa Teresa distillery 50 miles southwest of Caracas, the capital, is the nation’s second-largest rum producer. “It’s not just us — glass, paper and oil companies are suffering too.”

Power outages in this sugar-growing region now last from a few minutes to four hours and are just one symptom of deteriorating conditions in an oil-rich but politically unsettled country. Others are regular cutoffs of running water, even in Caracas hospitals. So are double-digit inflation, rising crime and a sinking economy.

And the government’s failure to pay its employees — be they healthcare workers in San Cristobal in the west or professors in Caracas — has become another rallying point for unrest, with numerous groups taking their complaints to the streets this week.

Several crises have appeared to converge recently in Venezuela, highlighting the effect of declining oil revenue and what Chavez’s critics say is a failure to invest adequately in public works since he took office in 1999.

Chavez, on the other hand, blames Mother Nature, the news media and excessive consumption by upper classes for the nation’s growing problems.

Owing partly to the decline in public services, the public’s confidence in Chavez is flagging, according to a new public opinion survey released this week by pollster Alfredo Keller. Only 35% of those polled said they would vote for Chavez-aligned candidates in September’s legislative elections, compared with 46% saying they favor opposition candidates.

The number of respondents pointing to public services as the biggest problems they face grew to 19% this month from 5% in August, Keller said.

On a more ominous note, two-thirds of 1,200 poll respondents believe that a popular uprising against Chavez is a possibility in this deeply polarized nation, Keller said.

“The public thinks the government isn’t doing its job,” Keller said, adding that rampant crime is the biggest public preoccupation. Caracas police reported 40 slayings over a 36-hour period last weekend.

The controversy over public services swirls as new data show Venezuela’s economy is dropping deeper into recession, even as other countries in Latin America are emerging from the global crisis, said economist Francisco Monaldi at IESA, a Caracas graduate school and think tank.

Venezuela’s central bank reported that the nation’s total output of goods and services declined 4.5% over the quarter ended Sept. 30 when compared with the gross domestic product of the previous three months. Unemployment in October rose to 8.1%, according to official figures, a 1.4-percentage-point bump from a year ago.

“The worsening trend is clear and contrasts with most of the region. The . . . economic decline was worse than anyone expected,” Monaldi said.

Chavez responded to the economic news by saying that the measurement being used is an old capitalist method and that new forms should be used to measure economies in socialist transition. He didn’t offer any specifics, however.

Any way you measure it, Venezuela is in the midst of classic stagflation, a shrinking economy combined with rampant inflation, currently exceeding 30% annually, the highest in Latin America, one multinational bank economist in Washington said.

Much of the economic decline can be pegged to the falling price of oil, which accounts for 90% of the nation’s exports and more than half the government’s budget. For the first six months of the year, oil revenue plummeted to $32.5 billion, a 52% drop from the same period last year, the state-controlled oil company PDVSA reported this week, tracking the slide in global crude prices. As has happened before, Venezuela’s oil-fueled boom economy is suffering a severe hangover with plunging prices.

Some economists say Venezuela’s decline is exacerbated by price controls and the inefficiencies that have resulted from the nationalization of dozens of energy, telecom and manufacturing companies.

Peasant takeovers of 6 million acres of cattle and farm land have also cut food production, said Ismael Perez Vigil, director of the country’s largest manufacturers’ trade group, Conindustria.

The result has been periodic scarcities of chicken, cooking oil, milk and other items. Increasingly, Chavez has had to import food because domestic producers can’t meet the artificially low prices set by his government.

And the Keller poll results were released as Chavez also finds himself at the center of a divisive foreign-relations controversy. This month, Chavez told the nation to prepare for war over the Pentagon’s use of seven Colombian bases to fight drug and guerrilla operations — an idea that, according to a different poll, four-fifths of Venezuelans oppose.

On Wednesday, army units in Venezuela blew up the moorings on its end of two footbridges connecting the two countries, a move Colombia’s defense minister described as an “act of aggression against civil society.”

As for the power shortages, an industry group this week urged the Chavez government to invest $15 billion to upgrade the national grid and transmission lines. Chavez has responded by ordering companies to share excess electricity.

At Vollmer’s rum company, which has been in his family since 1885, the fifth-generation distiller has been able to keep his head above water by pushing exports to Spain, Italy and Britain. But Venezuela’s business environment is increasingly “detrimental” to domestic manufacturers, Vollmer said.

“It would be easier to produce outside the country and import [products] here,” he said.

“Not being able to rely on electricity . . . well, it’s no way to operate a business.”

Kraul is a special correspondent.

All At Sea with the Cap’n

Rum Rescue Calls Out to Captain Morgan

TITAN Salvage’s and Crowley Maritime’s Herculean Efforts get Shipment to Safety

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PENNSAUKEN, N.J., Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Captain Morgan abandoned rehearsals for a very a special music awards event on the west coast to welcome to safety a barge containing 90,000 gallons of his finest rum that is to be used in his latest line extension, Captain Morgan Lime Bite Rum. Crowley Maritime’s 580-foot-long barge La Princesa had fallen victim to last week’s Nor’easter and remnants of Hurricane Ida, which raced up the coast and combined to generate over 25-foot seas and 45+-mile-per-hour winds. The vessel became stranded on the shores of Sandbridge, Virginia Beach when both of its tow wires parted from the 136-foot ocean-going tugboat, Sentry, which had been traveling up the East Coast and was approximately 140 miles from its destination. Any excessive delay or damage to the Captain Morgan rum inventory may have significantly impacted the rollout of this new product.

The TITAN Salvage crew of Crowley Maritime successfully re-floated the barge La Princesa off Sandbridge beach at 7:48 a.m. Wednesday morning. The crews used two tugs pulling together on the bow and stern of the barge at high tide to free it. The barge, which broke free from the Sentry on the evening of November 12th, grounded on the beach near Little Island Pier Friday morning, November 13th. The Crowley and TITAN Salvage personnel worked together to remove the barge from the beach while ensuring the safety of the public and environment. The American Bureau of Shipping and all necessary government response teams surveyed the vessel to ensure it was safe before heading to its destination port in Pennsauken, N.J. under the direction of Sentry’s 32-year veteran Capt. Elijah Seals.

“I knew that the best crew in the world would be made available to salvage this battle of wills against Mother Nature,” said Captain Morgan. “90,000 gallons? That is 425,000 bottles of Captain Morgan Lime Bite that would have never made it to the store shelves over the holidays and enjoyed with a mixer or to liven up a domestic beer. Whether it is the Nor’easter of the decade or the storm of the century, Captain Morgan is there to battle, support and guard over the world’s most popular spiced rum so that all my friends of legal drinking age can appreciate its joys like I do, in a very responsible manner.”

“The quick resolution of this situation was a testament to the professionalism and teamwork displayed by TITAN, Crowley, the Coast Guard, and all the first responders in Virginia Beach,” said Rob Grune, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager of Puerto Rico and Caribbean services. “After ensuring the safety of the public, the environment, the vessel and its cargo, our priority was to get our customers’ cargoes to their destinations as quickly as possible – including Captain Morgan’s rum. Communication with all our customers was constant to ensure they knew what was happening with the operation every step of the way.”

The Captain Morgan Rum is now situated at Crowley’s Petty’s Island Terminal located in the Delaware River directly across from Philadelphia and is getting ready to be shipped to its plant in Relay, Maryland. The oak aged rum is transported across the Atlantic Ocean to its final bottling destination in 20-foot and 40-foot tanks with 6,800 gallons or more capacity.

“Some diligent commitment by all parties brought forth a success story for everybody, especially for my bottling team in Relay, Maryland who were greatly anticipating this important shipment to meet our supplier deadlines,” said Diageo-Relay Plant Manager Rick Robinson. “We are very thankful to all the Crowley Maritime team for their world class professionalism and seamanship in getting this shipment to its destination in the safest manner possible.”

Unconfirmed stories about Petty’s Island go back to Elizabeth Kinsey, a Quaker, who acquired the island from Lenni-Lenape Indians in the late 17th century and later transferred the property to William Penn. Petty’s Island has had a long and colorful history; indeed it’s been home to a slave depot and possibly even pirates. The island takes its name from John Petty who owned it around the time of the American Revolution. During the 19th century schooners were built here and a summer resort flourished before industrial operations took root in the early 1900s.

According to documents kept by the Camden Historical Society, it was the property of the Lenape Indians until 1678, when a Quaker woman bought it for $240 and annual payments of 16 barrels of gunpowder and 16 barrels of rum. It was later owned by William Penn, and it received Benjamin Franklin on his first trip to Philadelphia. At times, Petty’s Island was a place for parties, duels, slave ships and, on at least one occasion, a lynching.

Whether you’re saving a marooned barge or simply marooned at the bar, Captain Morgan reminds consumers to drink responsibly. Captain’s Orders!

About Diageo

Diageo (Dee-AH-Gee-O) is the world’s leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, wines, and beer categories. These brands include Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Smirnoff, J&B, Baileys, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards wines.

Diageo is a global company, trading in more than 180 countries around the world. The company is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (DGE). For more information about Diageo, its people, brands, and performance, visit us at Celebrating life, every day, everywhere, responsibly.

About Crowley

Jacksonville-based Crowley Holdings Inc., a holding company of the 117-year-old Crowley Maritime Corporation, is a privately held family and employee-owned company. The company provides diversified transportation and logistics services in domestic and international markets by means of six operating lines of business: Puerto Rico/Caribbean Liner Services, Latin America Liner Services, Logistics Services, Petroleum Services, Marine Services and Technical Services. Offered within these operating lines of business are the following services: liner container shipping, logistics, contract towing and transportation; ship assist and escort; energy support; salvage and emergency response through its TITAN Salvage subsidiary; vessel management; vessel construction and naval architecture through its Jensen Maritime subsidiary; government services, and petroleum and chemical transportation, distribution and sales. Additional information about Crowley, its subsidiaries and business units may be found on the Internet at

Cap’n Morgan prepares to Repel Grousers.

Monday, November 16, 2009
Congressional Rum Fight Escalates

By Rich Edson, Washington Correspondent

With tax revenue and local pride at stake, the U.S. Virgin Islands escalated its multibillion-dollar rum fight Monday, harshly responding to charges of “unreasonable and excessive” corporate subsidizing leveled by the Puerto Rico congressional delegation last week.

“These disturbing attacks were launched solely because of displeasure over a company’s market driven decision not to renew a supply relationship with a Puerto Rican company, when continuing a relationship with that company represented an unfavorable business proposition,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John P. deJongh, Jr, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY).

* Scroll down to read the letter

British liquor-producer Diageo, which makes Captain Morgan, is allowing an agreement with a Puerto Rican subcontractor to expire, and is planning to build a production facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Through its share of federal rum tax money, the Virgin Islands has offered to finance a water treatment center and distillery and market Captain Morgan in exchange for a 30-year commitment to produce its rum there. U.S. Virgin Islands representatives said the new Diageo distillery and waste-water treatment facility will be paid for by local government bonds. Those bonds, they said, will be paid off by Diageo from its share of the rum tax rebate.

Also, Diageo’s relocation gives the U.S. Virgin Islands a higher percentage of the federal rum tax, at the expense of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s congressional delegation claims the deal would provide more than 2.7 billion federal tax dollars over 30 years to Diageo meant for economic development and infrastructure improvements.

“What makes the Diageo deal deeply troubling to any objective observer is what Diageo was promised in exchange for moving to the USVI (U.S. Virgin Islands), and how these promises will be paid for,” said four members of the Puerto Rico congressional delegation last week in a letter to Chairman Rangel.

The letter claims Puerto Rico uses 6% of its federal rum tax revenue to promote “Puerto Rican rums in general.” The Virgin Islands will use up to half its revenue to subsidize Diageo, said the letter.

The U.S. Virgin Islands governor shot back Monday, saying “Puerto Rico’s own intricate system of tax breaks and benefits has provided significant subsidies and incentives for decades to business.” Governor deJongh Jr. added that the U.S. Virgin Islands initiatives are “true to the letter and spirit” of the legal uses of the rum tax.

The Puerto Rican delegation is pushing the House Ways and Means Committee to pass a bill that would limit the uses of federal rum tax money. The Virgin Islands is requesting Congress permanently extend the rum-tax rebates.

“We plan to continue our education efforts to shed light on the misinformation spread by Puerto Rican allies, including the false notion that the USVI lured Diageo from Puerto Rico,” said Louis Penn, deJongh, Jr.’s chief of staff. “We will ensure Congress understands that this successful public-private partnership will strengthen the USVI’s economy, put our fiscal house in order, grow a historic industry and keep production of Captain Morgan rum in the United States for 30 years.”

Rum War fermenting on Capitol Hill

Lawmakers lean on Pelosi and Rangel as rum squabble mounts
By Susan Crabtree – 11/12/09 The Hill

The tug-of-war between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over rum taxes has grown more intense in the wake of House passage of the healthcare bill.

Puerto Rico’s top supporters in the lower chamber this week fired off letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) imploring them to turn their attention to the dispute between the two island territories.

The members who signed the letter to Rangel were Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D), as well as Democratic Reps. José Serrano (N.Y.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) and Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.). The same legislators, minus Pierluisi, sent a similar letter to Pelosi.

At issue is an unusual tax deal that lured rum producer Captain Morgan from its longtime home in Puerto Rico to a new facility in the Virgin Islands — with the promise of billions of dollars in subsidies to the liquor company paid from U.S. rum taxes.

Puerto Rican legislators are outraged that Diageo, the British-owned liquor giant that produces Captain Morgan, is receiving tax dollars the U.S. government intended for the territories’ economic development and infrastructure needs. Pierluisi has written a bill that would cap the amount of U.S. rum-tax money the islands can spend directly on the liquor industry at 10 percent.

Virgin Islands officials, including Del. Donna Christensen (D), have countered that Diageo was planning on leaving Puerto Rico anyway and likely would have set up rum operations in South America, costing U.S.-territory jobs.

What makes the Diageo move so troubling for Puerto Rico is that the company will be provided with direct subsidies and other incentives that could amount to up to 50 percent of the Virgin Islands’ rum tax revenue. Puerto Rican policymakers worry that the Virgin Islands will give similar deals to other companies, which could offer their rums at reduced prices, making it impossible for other rum producers to compete. In fact, the Virgin Islands recently announced a similar deal with rum-maker Cruzan, which was already operating in the territory.

Conservative estimates place the Diageo gain from this enticement at more than $2.7 billion over 30 years, according to Pierluisi and other critics of the arrangement, who also argue that it will cost Puerto Rico $6 billion over 30 years and 320 rum production jobs.

The lawmakers asked Rangel to provide time on the Ways and Means Committee schedule to consider their bill and for the opportunity to brief members of the panel about it.

“[The bill] would ensure cover-over funds are used by territories in a responsible manner and to benefit the general public in both jurisdictions,” they wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Hill. “The bill will help preserve strong bipartisan support in Congress for the cover-over [tax] program. Absent the adoption of [the bill] or something similar, we fear that the program will be vulnerable to the charge that it is mere corporate welfare.”

They wrote a similar letter to Pelosi asking for a meeting to discuss the matter at her “earliest convenience.”

“We are writing to express concern regarding a federal tax program, which, if left unchanged, will end up providing corporate largesse at the expense of the taxpayer,” they said in the letter.

Rangel has not scheduled any time on the Ways and Means calendar for consideration of the Pierluisi tax bill.

The bill has seven co-sponsors who hail from both sides of the aisle: Reps. Gutierrez, Serrano, Velázquez, Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.).

The rum-tax controversy has taken a backseat recently as Democratic leaders focused on passing healthcare reform. Pierluisi and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus lobbied this fall to secure higher Medicaid reimbursement rates in the House measure that passed last weekend. Pierluisi cited the Medicaid provisions in backing the bill, saying it “addresses unprincipled funding disparities that the territories have always faced under Medicaid.”

Rangel, meanwhile, has attracted criticism in recent weeks for lining his campaign coffers with donations from those on both sides of the contentious rum-tax issue.

Contributions to Rangel from the Virgin Islands totaled more than $167,000 between 1999 and 2008, and more than half of that — $84,800 — was given during the 2007-08 election cycle, just as the islands were finalizing the deal to relocate Diageo’s rum operations.

Since Puerto Ricans found out about the deal, their giving to Rangel also has shot up. Puerto Rico now ranks second only to New York this cycle in places from which Rangel has collected contributions, according to CQMoneyLine and a report in The Washington Times. Donors in Puerto Rico have written $36,600 in checks to Rangel this cycle.

Rangel, who is under investigation by the ethics committee for unrelated charges of financial violations, has denied taking sides in the rum-tax dispute and has not indicated whether he will consider moving Pierluisi’s bill.

Rangel’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

The Rum Grenade from Grenada

Rum with a punch

Grenadian spirit so potent it’s banned from airplanes

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One of many beautiful windswept beaches on the Caribbean island of Grenada. (Toronto Sun/Diane Slawych)

ST. GEORGE, Grenada — There are lots of souvenirs you can bring back from a trip to the spice island of Grenada, but a bottle of River Antoine’s strongest rum is not one of them.

“Our rum is not allowed on airplanes,” explains guide Withfield Lyons. “It’s too flammable.”

Arguably few other Caribbean rums, if any, can top the potency of the brand, which is called Rivers Rum. At 75% alcohol by volume or 150 proof, it’s nearly double most other rums, which are typically 40% alcohol or 80 proof.

But surely other bottles of alcohol people bring home on planes from trips abroad are flammable, too, I counter.

“Yes, but there’s a limit,” maintains Lyons.

A glance at the label on one of the bottles shows a picturesque scene with blue skies, a beach and a palm tree, offering no hint of the fire inside.

Rivers Rum can’t make the claims of other Caribbean rums. It’s not the world’s oldest rum (that title belongs to Mount Gay of Barbados, which has been in continuous operation since 1703). Nor can it compete for quality with, say, a Cuban anejo rum, which is aged in oak barrels for seven years or longer.

Rivers produces a young rum, but what it lacks in age it makes up for in strength. The label may give the alcohol content as 75%, but in fact, it’s sometimes even higher.

During the dry season, when there’s less rain, the cane juice becomes more concentrated and sweet, and results in a higher alcohol content.

“We could get 86% alcohol from dry season,” says Lyons. You won’t find this information on the label though. Apparently, since the rum is not exported, it’s not subject to strict labelling requirements.

Whether it’s 75% or 86% alcohol, it seems a little goes a long way. Yet the distillery, which produces about 700 bottles a day, is having trouble keeping up with local demand!

Even if you’re not a fan of rum, the distillery is worth a visit, if only for a chance to see how rum was made more than 200 hundred years ago. Established in 1785 and currently operated by three Grenada residents, the distillery has what Lyons says is “the only working water wheel in the Western Hemisphere.” Go between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., to see the wheel, powered by water from the Antoine River, in motion.

Fields are still harvested by hand (though the cane is now transported by tractor not donkey) and the bottles are filled manually. Cane is loaded onto the original conveyor belt from 1785, also powered by the water wheel, and taken to the press where juice is extracted. The remains, called baggas, are used as fuel to boil the cane or sent back to the field as compost.

The tour takes you through the boiler house and fermentation room, where you learn, among other things, that it takes 40 gallons of well fermented juice to produce one gallon of drinkable rum.

Rivers Rum could save money by converting to a modern production, and operate with just 10 employees. Instead, the company continues to run the old-fashioned way, so 94 people can keep their jobs. There’s also a benefit to visitors who get a fascinating and rare glimpse into traditional rum-making, complete with antique cane-crushing machinery.

At the end of the tour, we arrive at a sampling area with three of the company’s rums on display. One is a rum punch (16% alcohol), another is an “airplane friendly” rum (69% alcohol) which you can take home, and the third bottle is the strongest of all, at 75% alcohol.

I opt for a “very small amount” of the latter in a plastic cup, just enough for a taste. But before the liquid even slides down my throat, my lips are on fire.

“Yowch! Water, water!” I scream.

You may not be able to take River Antoine’s strongest rum on the plane, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be flying high after a few sips of this potent Grenadian spirit. My suggestion? Dilute with liberal amounts of fruit punch!

The Man Who Makes Havana Club

Interview: Don Navarro, master rum-maker

It was love at first sight when former professor of thermodynamics Don Navarro discovered rum-making – and it’s an enduring affair. He’s now the head master rum-maker for Havana Club. Here he tells Helen Ochyra about his passion for the spirit and why it’s an expression of Cuban culture


Rum maker Don Navarro

Maestro ronero Don Navarro at work

People who are truly passionate about what they do are few and far between. Many of us have to drag ourselves out of bed and into work each morning, dreaming all week long of the weekend and a much-needed break from the mundane.

Not so Don Jose Navarro, maestro ronero (master rum-maker) for Havana Club, who fell head over heels in love with the sugar-based spirit when he started making it back in 1971.

“I can tell you the exact date,” he says. “It was May 12. I was a university professor teaching thermodynamics when I came across the rum-making process. I discovered its technical challenges when I visited the distillery and I could see that some stages could be improved. I set out to conquer it, but it conquered me in return. It was love at first sight.”

Rum-making is a very complex process and as maestro ronero, Don Navarro must know every stage of the production intimately. “A maestro ronero must be able to recognise each part of the process and know exactly what is happening,” he says.

The first stage of rum production is selecting the base product: the sugarcane. “Cuba has the best sugarcane in the world,” says Navarro, “and Havana Club has its own crop so it has its own unique aromas and flavours.”
Barrels of Havana Club rum

Once selected, the sugar molasses are fermented with yeast and pure water to produce the distilled aguardientes, the soul of Havana Club rum. This is then aged and blended repeatedly. “We age 100% of our rum in oak barrels,” Navarro explains. “It’s very complex, we blend our rums many times and combine rums of different ages. There’s nothing artificial in our rum, no essences are used and we do not speed up the ageing process with UV light as some producers do.

“The ageing process is extremely important. Eventually ageing stops automatically and when Havana Club reaches this point we blend again. We start back at the beginning again. Age creates flavours and increases quality. The final product has the properties of sugar cane spirit, nothing else. It’s what rum should be.”

Rum should also be “more than merchandise”, according to Navarro. Indeed, it goes to the heart of what it means to be Cuban. “It is an expression of culture. Mixing the rum represents our mixed culture in Cuba. Don Fernando Ortiz [an eminent social scientist and ethnologist who founded the Cuban peace movement] said that Cuban culture is like ajiaco, a Cuban stew which is made with lots of different meats. We have people from the Caribbean, Spain, India, China… lots of different cultures and races. It is the same with rum, every Havana Club is a result of different blends.”

Nowadays Havana Club exports rum to 125 countries. “We don’t want it to be small,” says Navarro. “We want lots of people to drink Cuban rum. Every bottle has a piece of Cuban culture inside it.”

Today Havana Club is the only authentic Cuban rum, produced in Cuba with Cuban ingredients following the traditional Cuban rum making process. Fortunately the Cubans didn’t keep it to themselves of course: it’s enjoyed by discerning drinkers around the world.
Head master rum-maker at Havana Club, Don Navarro

Cuban culture is something Navarro is justly proud of, and something he wants to promote around the world. “Our rum is very similar to our people. It’s smooth and gentle but also lively, fun and colourful. We want to communicate this to people.”

So, why should we all be drinking rum? “Other spirits are more limited,” explains Navarro. “Rum is very versatile. It has rich flavours and can be made in many different types: white, golden, dark, sweet, dry. It’s the most universal spirit. And it mixes very well in cocktails.”

In 2007 Havana Club opened a new distillery in San Jose, Havana Province. But nothing has changed, insists Navarro. “The production process is something that has been passed from distiller to distiller, heart to heart, for generations. In the cellars we have rums made by each of our maestro roneros. It’s just like a family who move house. We needed new equipment and more space, but the rum is the same.”

And what of the future? “We have around 25 trainees at our school of distillers so our future is secure. It’s a community where all generations meet. I attended the leaving parties of three previous maestro roneros and for a while my daughter worked in quality control. It’s a privilege to be part of something immortal.”

Navarro’s passion for his craft shines through in everything he says and I am struck by the novelty of his attitude. Few products in this age of increasing mechanisation and computerisation are produced with such love and respect for tradition as Havana Club. This is a product that arrives in your glass straight from the heart. I’ll drink to that.

Tanduay, sexy rhum maker

One of biggest rum brands in the world, Tanduay is little known outside the Philippines, but its annual calendar is one of the effective but non-pc ways it makes its presence known back home.

* Latest Gossip

Nina Jose is Tanduay’s 2010 Calendar Girl
Nov 10, 2009
Written By: Monica Brava

After Katrina Halili, Ehra Madrigal and Bangs Garcia, former Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition star Nina Jose is the newest celebrity endorser of Tanduay Rhum. She is set to do sexy pictorials for the said alcoholic product and will represent the company starting with the 2010 Calendars. Expect to see a tv commercial of hers […]

Tanduay's new calendar girl

Tanduay's new calendar girl

After Katrina Halili, Ehra Madrigal and Bangs Garcia, former Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition star Nina Jose is the newest celebrity endorser of Tanduay Rhum. She is set to do sexy pictorials for the said alcoholic product and will represent the company starting with the 2010 Calendars. Expect to see a tv commercial of hers in a sexy mood by middle of 2010.

Nina Jose just finished filming the gay indie film ‘I Love Dreamguyz’ and will appear in Mano Po 6 as Dennis Trillo’s other girl. It is also expected that she’ll have a sexy film of her own.