Back at the Plantation

This has to be good news. Ferrand makes exquisite premium spirits! It gives Barbados rums a cultured niche in world markets!

OFFICIAL PRESSS RELEASE FROM FERRAND

EMBARGOED UNTIL  – MARCH 10, 2017, 18:00PM  French time 

Maison Ferrand, the award winning Cognac, Gin and Rum producer in the heart of Cognac, France, has acquired the historic West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados which has produced rum continually since the 19th century. Maison Ferrand is the owner of the Plantation rum brand with global distribution in 68 countries. The company produces Pierre Ferrand Cognac and Citadelle Gin at its facility in Cognac, France and the purchase of West Indies Rum Distillery (WIRD) marks the first distillery acquisition outside of France. The acquisition signifies Maison Ferrand’s long term commitment to the quality production of Plantation rum.

Plantation Rum was first introduced in 2003 with the desire to bring rum to the same quality standards of the best Cognacs. Since then Maison Ferrand has been selecting, aging and blending rum from the best Caribbean distilleries for its award-winning Plantation Rum expressions. Barbados is the historical birthplace of rum making and Barbadian rum has been the backbone of Plantation vintage editions as well as its special blends.

“We are production guys and having our own distillery in the Caribbean has been a dream for many years,” says Alexandre Gabriel, proprietor of Maison Ferrand. “It is like getting married, we wanted to find a great match, one for life and we have found it in West Indies Rum Distillery and the exceptional rum makers there. The team there is as passionate as we are and we can’t wait to start producing delicious rum together.”

Barbados holds so much rum-making history, as does West Indies Rum Distillery, and Maison Ferrand is committed to working with this ancient distillery as one cohesive team to produce exceptional rum. Maison Ferrand plans to tap back to the early roots of this historic distillery and its very rich heritage. The distillery has some ancient pot stills, one that is possibly the oldest in the Caribbean and has been dormant for almost 100 years. Alexandre Gabriel is committed to bringing these stills back to life, and as he says ‘make them sing again.’ Additionally, The West Indies Rum Distillery aging warehouse is uniquely located right on the sea which imprints the rum with a specific style not found anywhere else.

Gabriel says, “We control the production of our Ferrand Cognac and Citadelle Gin because we own the facilities in Cognac. We love challenging ourselves to make the best there is and it requires total commitment. We wanted the same holistic involvement for our Plantation rum so this investment is the natural course of things for us. We are both excited and humbled by what lies ahead. When signing the purchase of this historical distillery, my thoughts went to Laurie Barnard and Thierry Gardere, two rum icons and friends that we have lost all too soon. They were great inspirations to me.”

In the purchase of the West Indies Rum Distillery, Ferrand will also have access to excellent Jamaican rum as West Indies Rum Distillery is one third owner of National Jamaican Rum Company with Monymusk Distillery and the famed Long Pond Distillery. It is very meaningful for Ferrand as Jamaica is the second source of rum for Plantation. Together, this gives Maison Ferrand and Plantation the tools to go even further in its mission for marrying terroir, passion and time for great spirits.

West Indies Rum Distillery is the preferred rum production partner for other companies and will continue to honor their relationships and contracts with them.

Rum Wars in Cuba

I am not sure Havana Club is quite as good, but the brand in the US thrives on the forbidden fruit thrill from the embargo. Will Trump reinstate it?
July 23, 2016

In taste test, which Havana Club rum will win?

 

Play Video2:38
Does Cuba’s Havana Club rum hold up to its legend? The Washington Post invited four rum aficionados for a blind tasting of dark and light rums at Cubano’s restaurant in Silver Spring to find out. (Danielle Kunitz, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

In a warehouse stacked with casks and suffused with aromas of old oak and intoxicating spirits, Asbel Morales is always thinking years ahead. At 48, he’s one of eight maestros roneros, or master rum-makers, on the island. They maintain the quality and tradition of Cuban rum — a staple of the economy and national identity that conjures summer daydreams of Ernest Hemingway knocking back daiquiris in art deco bars, while somewhere the Buena Vista Social Club band plays forever.

Morales splashes a clear liquid onto his hands. It’s potent aguardiente, the soul of rum, fermented and distilled from the molasses of Cuban sugar cane. He rubs his wet hands, assessing its viscosity. He waves scoopfuls of air toward his face, inhaling yeasty traces of cane, alcohol and subtler notes.

“If the aguardiente isn’t right,” he says, “even if you age it 100 years, the rum will never turn out well.”

But not just any Cuban rum. In three to seven years — sometimes longer, depending on the flavor Morales is going for — after filtering, aging and blending, this rum will be bottled as Havana Club, one of the two most storied brands in the history of Cuba.

The other is Bacardi, no longer made in Cuba since shortly after Fidel Castro’s revolution of 1959. For years, Bacardi and Havana Club rums were rival spirits, and their founding families — the Bacardis and the Arechabalas, respectively — were fierce competitors, until both clans were forced into exile in 1960.

The revolution didn’t end the rivalry. In time, a rum called Havana Club flowed out of Cuba and was eventually exported the world over — except to the United States. From a new base in Bermuda, Bacardi, too, went global, and Bacardi brand rum came to dominate the U.S. market.

Now, in a dramatic twist, another Havana Club is poised to make a big splash. After two decades of lawsuits, lobbying and congressional hearings, a Havana Club made by Bacardi is rolling out nationwide this summer and should be available in Washington by September.

It is not to be confused with the Havana Club made in Cuba by Morales and his colleagues.

Will the real Havana Club please fix us a daiquiri?

Within this splendidly bitter rum war — Havana Club vs. Havana Club — is a tale of geopolitical jousting that has more turns than a Cuban mambo. The drama is reaching a climax just as historic changes are taking place in the fraught relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

At its emotional core, the rum war is a proxy for an even more epic struggle over the brand of Cuba and Cuban identity. The saga of revolution and exile has left unresolved issues. Are some claims on what it is to be Cuban more legitimate — more authentic — than others?

Americans embrace all things Cuban

Morales’s aguardiente has been ripening just fine for Havana Club International, a joint venture between Cuba Ron, the state-owned rum enterprise, and the French liquor giant Pernod Ricard. Sales have grown tenfold since the partnership began in the early 1990s. Cuban Havana Club is the No. 3 rum in the world, with sales of 4 million cases a year in more than 120 countries — and that is without access to the U.S. market, because of the trade embargo imposed in 1962.

The French and Cuban partners were buoyed by the stunning announcement nearly two years ago that President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro resolved to normalize relations. Embassies re-opened, travel became easier. Then, earlier this year, the rum partners scored a surprise victory at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where the U.S. government reversed a decade of opposition and allowed Cuba to renew its disputed trademark for Havana Club.

Still, Congress has not heeded Obama’s call to lift the embargo. For now, Cuban Havana Club reaches U.S. shores primarily in the luggage of travelers.

The French and Cuban partners say it’s only a matter of time before trade is allowed to resume and their Havana Club can flow freely across the land.

“We are ready to face this market, no matter what the date,” says André Leymat, director general of the Havana Club distillery.

The potential is huge — and not just because Americans drink about 40 percent of the world’s rum. Fascination with all things Cuban is intensifying with each small step toward a full embrace of the Cold War adversary. Americans are visiting in record numbers. Charter cruises have launched; direct commercial flights are coming shortly. American movies and TV shows — “Fast 8,” “Cuban Chrome” — are rushing to be produced there for the first time in half a century.

The appeal is bigger than any single product or experience. What’s for sale is the cachet of Cuba itself — once forbidden, now trendy. If only it could be bottled.

“For us, rum is not just merchandise; it’s also the expression of a culture,” rum master Morales says. “It’s something inherited from previous generations, passed down Cuban to Cuban for more than 150 years. You must never betray the rum.”

Bacardi International has sold its version of Havana Club in select markets. The label doesn’t mention Bacardi — but does list Puerto Rico. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A 1936 Bacardi advertisement evokes dazzle and glamour from an era where people visited Cuba for its cocktail culture. (Bacardi/Bacardi)

Clash of the liquor giants

It’s early June in the posh Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, where Bacardi is celebrating the national launch of a line of rums with the help of blue-feathered showgirls, salsa dancers and a 10-piece band playing Cuban classics.

The bash is meant to evoke what Bacardi calls the “golden age” of cocktails in Havana, in the middle of the last century, when Americans flocked to their favorite tropical sin city, until the revolution killed the party.

Waiters in guayaberas carry bottles of the rums — one clear, one amber — like icons on mirrored trays.

The name of the brand is printed in big letters on the labels:

“Havana Club.”

Almost as big is: “Puerto Rican Rum.”

Nowhere on the label is Bacardi cited.

The clear Añejo Blanco is a tweaked version of a white Havana Club that Bacardi has been selling in a handful of markets. The amber Añejo Clásico is new — or maybe old. Bacardi says both rums are based on a recipe the Arechabalas used to make Havana Club until 1960.

It’s a rival line of Havana Club for sure.

A “falsa Havana Club,” in the words of Morales.

But then, Bacardi’s lawyers call the Cuban Havana Club an “ersatz Havana Club.”

Which is the real Havana Club?

The question lies at the heart of this titanic showdown between the world’s fourth-largest spirits company (Bacardi) and the second-largest (Pernod Ricard).

Bacardi is the top rum-seller in the United States (7 million cases a year) and in the world (17 million cases). It has evolved into a global powerhouse in other spirits, too, with such brands as Grey Goose vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin.

Rum is a comparatively smaller part of Pernod Ricard’s lineup. Still, Havana Club is one of the company’s top 10 brands, behind the likes of Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

“For many years, Bacardi played the rum game with one brand, the brand that carried the name of the family, and that is ‘Bacardi,’ ” Fabio Di Giammarco, global vice president of rums for Bacardi, says. “We know we have consumers who are more and more interested in brands that deliver a story. We think this is a brand that has a very rich story.”

One of the names on the guest list at Bacardi’s Havana Club party in Miami Beach is part of that story: Arechabala. Some heirs of the rum-making family attended.

After the revolution, the Arechabalas let their American trademark for Havana Club lapse, and they drifted into other lines of work. The label on the Bacardi Havana Club sketches their story, a kind of counternarrative to the one Morales tells in his Cuban rum warehouse.

“Our family was disheartened after the forced exile from Cuba, and has always felt the need for justice for what happened to our ancestors,” José Arechabala, a great-grandson of the founder, says in a statement released by Bacardi. “We feel their life’s work continues to live on through this rebranding of Havana Club.”

Fidel Castro, at left, led the revolution that would pitch Cuba into isolation from the Western world. Rum operations were seized in the aftermath, and many families fled. (Associated Press)

A 1930s photo of the José́ Arechabala distilling columns in Cardenas, Cuba. (Bacardi)

‘From now on, I am Pepe’

In the beginning was Facundo Bacardi, who launched his company in 1862. Rum historians credit him with pioneering Cuban-style rum: lighter than other types, perfect for cocktails, but also aged and blended into fine sipping rums.

The Arechabala company, founded in 1878, and other Cuban rum-makers worked in the shadow of Bacardi.

Americans discovered Cuban rum when veterans of the Spanish-American War returned home. A plaque in the Army and Navy Club in Washington commemorates the moment in 1909 when, as the story goes, the daiquiri was introduced in the club’s bar after being invented in Daiquirí, Cuba.

American appreciation of Cuban rum deepened during Prohibition, when partyers made their way to the island to slake their thirst. Later, Hemingway wrote about El Floridita, the Havana bar where he refueled on daiquiris.

The Arechabalas introduced Havana Club with Americans in mind in 1934. The name of the Cuban capital was spelled in English, rather than the Spanish “Habana.” Soon Havana Club was served in places such as the Stork Club, a high-society night spot in Manhattan.

Bacardi executives initially supported Fidel Castro, according to journalist Tom Gjelten’s 2008 book “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba.” They toasted brother Raúl Castro’s 1959 wedding to a revolutionary fighter who was the daughter of a Bacardi executive.

The Arechabalas, on the other hand, according to Gjelten, sympathized with dictator Fulgencio Batista, whom Fidel Castro overthrew.

Soldiers showed up at the Havana Club office on New Year’s Day 1960. The late Ramón Arechabala was a sales manager, while one of the top executives, his uncle José María Arechabala, or “Pepe,” was in Spain.

“From now on, I am Pepe, and you people will do as I say,” declared a military commander, as Ramón Arechabala recalled in court testimony in 1999.

“I say, ‘Okay, no problem, whatever you say,’ ” he testified, “because he was armed with a machine gun.”

The Bacardis’ Cuban rum operation was seized nine months later. Their company already had significant rum facilities abroad.

Ramón Arechabala, on the other hand, went on to sell cars in Miami.

In 1973, he realized that the Havana Club trademark was due for renewal. He asked his uncle whether they should file the paperwork.

His uncle said no. The family did not have enough money to produce rum in the U.S. and mistakenly believed they couldn’t renew the trademark without making rum.

“He told me we could not do anything right now with it, because, ‘Let’s wait because we might be going back to Cuba any moment,’ ” Arechabala testified.

In 1976, a state-owned Cuban enterprise secured the American trademark for Havana Club. It was a cunning yet hopeful investment in the day when Cuban rum might once again be poured on the other side of the Florida Straits.

The bat, logo of Bacardi, sits atop the art deco building once used as the company headquarters in Havana. (Reuters)

Artists have incorporated the Havana Club logo into their work as an element of Cuban identity. (Eliana Aponte/For The Washington Post)

Much depends on a U.S. trademark

The rum war was declared nearly 20 years later, when two things happened.

In 1993, news broke that Pernod Ricard had struck a deal to become equal partners in Havana Club. (Pernod Ricard declines to specify terms of the partnership. Fidel Castro has referred to it this way: “Long live the peasant-worker alliance and the friendship with Pernod Ricard!”)

In 1994, Bacardi filed its own application for the U.S. trademark for Havana Club. Bacardi paid the Arechabala family $1.25 million for any rights to Havana Club that the family still possessed, plus a portion of any sales of Havana Club.

Ever since, Bacardi and Pernod Ricard have battled on legal, regulatory, political and commercial fronts.

The Arechabalas “were free to maintain the trademark if they wanted to; they only had to pay a $25 fee,” says Ian FitzSimons, general counsel for Pernod Ricard. “The moment they abandoned the trademark in 1973, the trademark fell into the public domain.”

“At the end of the day, [Pernod Ricard] partnered with the Cuban government for property that is stolen,” says Rick Wilson, Bacardi’s senior vice president for external affairs. The law does not recognize trademark rights connected with confiscated Cuban property, he adds.

The American trademark was not stolen, FitzSimons counters, because “the Arechabalas were able to keep their trademark registration up until 1973, 13 years after the Cuban revolution. They chose not to take the necessary steps to keep it after that.”

Nor is Cuban Havana Club being made with seized Arechabala property, he says. The Cubans built a new distillery in the 1970s. Pernod Ricard added a state-of-the-art distillery in 2007, where Asbel Morales works.

Wilson argues that what matters in the law is intent and that the Arechabalas never intended to surrender their trademark. Over the years, they attempted to find partners with capital to make rum in the United States. Further, Wilson says, trademarks are founded on actual use, not mere paperwork.

“The only people to have used the Havana Club trademark in the United States have been Arechabala and Bacardi,” Wilson says.

Bacardi appeared to win the rum war in 2006, when the Cubans and Pernod Ricard were not allowed to renew the trademark. The reason: New rules required a license from the Treasury Department to write a check for the renewal fee of several hundred dollars. Treasury, on advice from the State Department, refused to grant the license.

The case was still pending in the trademark office early this year — though Bacardi disputes that the matter was truly alive — when the rum world turned upside down.

“In light of a number of factors, including … the landmark shift in U.S. policy toward bilateral relations with Cuba,” the State Department advised the Treasury Department to give the Cubans and Pernod Ricard permission to write the check to renew the trademark through 2026, a State Department official testified before a House subcommittee in February.

Now the dispute is back in U.S. District Court in Washington, where both sides are seeking a ruling on who owns Havana Club. The case could last well into 2017. Meanwhile, Bacardi’s Havana Club will be sold in the U.S.

If Bacardi prevails, the French-Cuban partnership has a backup plan. It has registered the name “Havanista.” Under one name or another, should the embargo be lifted, they will be the first to sell Americans a rum that is actually “made in Cuba.”

How much that matters is the last and perhaps most important front in the rum war. Authenticity is like another flavor note.

“It’s not just the juice,” says spirits writer Wayne Curtis, author of “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” (2006). “There’s a lot of money to be made in selling that Cuban story to Americans, who want to have that authentic brand.”

A couple settles in for a relaxing day at Megano Beach outside of Havana. (Eliana Aponte/For The Washington Post)

People linger at the Malecón, Havana’s sea wall, as the sun drops. (Eliana Aponte/For The Washington Post)

‘If I don’t drink Havana Club,
I’m not Cuban’

At sunset on the Malecón, Havana’s sea wall, Lazaro Rizo Modochi, 46, a cook, and his wife, Merlin Fernandez, 42, are strolling and sharing the remains of a bottle of Havana Club, accompanied by their twin 13-year-old daughters, Yaremi and Yaneisi. It’s a Saturday evening tradition for the family.

“Havana Club of Cuba is richness, it’s the sugar cane, it’s the African heritage of the cane-cutters — all that is Havana Club,” Rizosays. “If I’m in Italy or France and I drink Havana Club, I’m in Cuba. If I don’t drink Havana Club, I’m not Cuban.”

After Rizo takes his last swig, he kisses the bottle and throws it into the sea, toward the north.

“A message to Miami,” he says.

The logo is ubiquitous in Havana — on bicitaxis, on the tunics of parking lot attendants (“If you drink, don’t drive”), even in the paintings sold by street artists.

“When there’s an opening of the blockade, Havana Club will present to the United States a symbol of Cuba,” says Luis Rodriguez, a barman at the Bar San Juan in central Havana, where singer Beny Moré is said to have drunk Cuba libres before the revolution. “It represents traditional Cuban rum.”

Across a plaza from the cathedral, a plaque on what is now the Museum of Colonial Art notes that the 18th-century mansion used to be the offices of the Arechabala rum company. Graham Greene, in his novel “Our Man in Havana,” set a fateful checkers match here in the Havana Club bar, where free drinks were served to tourists in the hope they would buy bottles to take home.

Several blocks away, the majestic art deco Bacardi Building now contains travel offices, while its signature bat, wings spread, still presides atop the tower.

At El Floridita — where a statue of Hemingway occupies a spot at the end of the bar — the periodic arrival and departure of busloads of tourists give a tidal rhythm to midday, as a band plays hits from the Buena Vista Social Club. Veteran bartender Manuel Carbajo Aguiar grabs a bottle of Havana Club and raises his arm high in a showy pour of a silver stream into one of four blenders purring simultaneously. In a flash, he fills two dozen glasses with tangy-sweet and icy daiquiris.

“Havana Club has status,” Carbajo says. “If you’re relaxing with friends and on the table is a bottle of Havana Club, it gives the moment more personality than another rum … Havana Club is the rum that represents Cuban-ness.”

Two can play the authenticity game.

The labels on Bacardi’s Havana Club carry a picture of founder José Arechabala and the phrase “based on a recipe created in Cuba.”

The labels’ synopsis of the family’s story continues: “Decades later, this family of rum makers would be forced to flee during the Cuban Revolution, precious recipe in hand. After years of controversy, this well-kept treasure has been dusted off once again for crafting this incomparable rum in Puerto Rico.”

Bacardi does not claim to have resurrected the exact Arechabala Havana Club. The chain of knowledge from rum master to rum master was broken for too long. Certain ingredients are different. The technology is modern. A single recipe can yield a variety of flavors.

Still, the result is close, says David Cid, global ambassador of rum for Bacardi: “We are applying the Arechabalas’ techniques and methodologies along with our yeast with the aim of replicating the aroma and flavor balance of the original Havana Club.”

“What certainly cannot be said is that the other Havana Club has anything to do with the original,” Bacardi’s Di Giammarco says.

Indeed, the Cuban Havana Club was created after the revolution, though the bottles say “Fundada en 1878,” the year José Arechabala founded his rum company.

“The only Havana Club I know comes from Cuba,” says Jérôme Cottin-Bizonne, chief executive of Havana Club International, the Pernod Ricard-Cuban joint venture. “If the rum is not made in Cuba by a master of Cuban rum, if it’s not made with Cuban sugar cane, you can’t make the same product.”

But how does it taste?

The most recent skirmish in the rum war takes place on a Friday afternoon at Cubano’s restaurant in Silver Spring: Four experienced spirits tasters conduct a blind test at the invitation of The Washington Post.

It’s Havana Club vs. Havana Club: Bacardi’s Añejo Blanco and Añejo Clásico against the Cuban Añejo 3 Años (white) and Añejo 7 Años (dark). The Bacardi contenders cost about $20 and $22 for a 750-milliliter bottle, respectively. The Cuban rums sell for about $7 and $18 in Havana.

To confound the tasters, we throw in two more white rums — regular Bacardi Superior and premium Caña Brava by The 86 Co.

Amid the sounds of slurping and deep inhaling, the four Havana Clubs quickly distinguish themselves over the other two. Then things get interesting.

“I love the way that it decays on the palate,” says Lukas B. Smith, a bartender at Dram and Grain who is helping to launch the Cotton & Reed rum distillery planned for Washington. He’s tasting the Bacardi Añejo Clásico, though he doesn’t know it.

“It has this soft heat,” says M. Carrie Allan, spirits columnist for The Post.

“If you still have training wheels on” — if you’re not a sophisticated drinker — “you’re not going to like that,” says Jarad Slipp, estate director of RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Va.

“I love it,” says Adolfo Mendez, owner of Cubano’s, who left Cuba just after the revolution when he was 3.

Then they try the Cuban Añejo 7 Años, again without knowing its identity.

“It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser,” Smith says, calling it “a mouth bomb.” “I think they might have overdone the sugar a little bit.”

All the tasters guess that this sweet, brash pleaser is by Bacardi, while the subtler, “handmade”-tasting rum is from Cuba.

Wrong.

“Wow!” they exclaim.

As for the white Havana Clubs, the tasters are divided. A couple find that the sweeter Cuban entry is richer and more flavorful than Bacardi’s. To others, the Cuban sweetness is a bid for mass appeal.

“Basically, these are both big fat sweet tourist rums,” Smith says of the Cuban Havana Clubs.

“There’s a reason why [the Bacardi Havana Clubs] are in a different label and not branded under Bacardi proper, which is that people who typically drink Bacardi wouldn’t get it,” Slipp says. “Good on [Cuban] Havana Club, because they’re going to be getting a lot more tourists now, and they’re making a tourist-driven product.”

“Maybe that’s part of the tradition,” Allan says. “One of the things that I thought was interesting here was the idea that ‘authenticity’ … doesn’t necessarily mean nuance, subtlety. Something that is authentic is not necessarily better out of the bottle.”

Mendez proposes a compromise. He places the bottle of Bacardi dark Havana Club and the bottle of Cuban light Havana Club together on the table — his two favorites.

“These two guys are inseparable,” he says. “I support them both.”

It’s a pleasant vision — perhaps inspired by the warmth of fine spirits — the idea of a reunited front of great Cuban rums. A Havana Club all-star team. But for now, in this rum war, you have to choose sides.

A Gentleman and a Distiller

Personal circumstances have led me to neglect Rumpundit, but Thierry’s death spurs me back to business and I will do more from now on.

I last met Thierry in New York at the Financial Times “Business of Rum” supplement launch. He was there, not because he was a huge financial player, but because all of us involved respected the quality that Barbancourt represented, not least because of the adversity of conditions in Haiti.

At the conference, I reminded him of what he had told me years before – and he had forgotten. Smiling, he told me in his soft French accent, “Ian, you know, Bacardi are very clevèr.”

“How?” I asked.

“If you look at zeir advertizements, they always want you to drink zeir rum with something else!” he said.

I have to say recent Bacardi products  from Facundo mean it is no longer true but it was a wonderful put down – that could be said of many other mass sale rums!

 

Ian

 

The man behind Haiti’s best-known export, Barbancourt rum, dead at 65

Rum moving up

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

I
http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/71435/remy-upscale-rum

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, shawncumberbatch@nationnews.com
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.
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‘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: http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/71435/remy-upscale-rum#sthash.9Z4qvpPi.dpuf

FT Business of Rum Special Report with my article!

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dbc62760-0adf-11e5-98d3-00144feabdc0.html

 

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.

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.

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

Finding El Dorado – in Western Pennsylvania!

Fun time in Scranton… nice audience at the Everhart Museum, for a talk on rum history. They  became even nicer after sampling some of El Dorado range, 3, 8, 12, cream and spiced. Good effects: one wine connoisseur rushed off to a cigar bar while the 12 yr taste lingered . And they bought”Rum”  books!

Stayed over for the Xmas parade and took IAN & Owain to Steamtown. All those years on British Rail and the iron horses are still magnetic!

And Did Trelawney (Gold) Die?

“And did Trelawney die” was the song of the Western Men, whose defeated prisoners might well have ended up as indentured labour in Jamaica. Trelawney Gold did die, but who knows it might be coming back – in spirit at least! Rumpundit.

Husseys make another half-billion bet on Long Pond

Published: Sunday | April 3, 2011 2 Comments

A front view of the Long Pond Estate in Clark's Town, Trelawny. The factory has a history of being the largest employer in the community and used to produce the famed Trelawny Gold Rum.
A front view of the Long Pond Estate in Clark’s Town, Trelawny. The factory has a history of being the largest employer in the community and used to produce the famed Trelawny Gold Rum.

Mark Titus, Business Reporter

Hussey family, controlled Everglades Farms Limited is investing more than US$6 million (J$515 million) to modernise the Long Pond sugar estate that was shuttered after a disastrous start to its first year as a sugar manufacturer in the 2009-10 season.

Long Pond then churned 1,400 tonnes of sugar, easily the worst in the history of the plant.

Two years ago, Everglades acquired Long Pond in a package that includes the Hampden Estates, both located in Trelawny, but was forced to sit out the 2010-11 crop year after it was agreed that substantial work was needed in order to realise the potential capacity of the new assets.

“When we acquired the assets, it was in very bad condition, and we got no opportunity to see how it ran,” Outman Hussey, Everglade’s design and special projects manager, told Sunday Business in an interview on Wednesday.

“When we did take over, the first thing we saw that did not make sense was the oil usage,” said Hussey, a director of the company and professor of architecture at Howard University.

“You could not supply Bunker C oil by a tanker fast enough …”.

Hussey said Everglades relied on the evaluation of the engineers from SCJ Holdings to diagnose the problem and come up with the solution solution, but came to regret that decision.

“Records will show that we did everything that was recommended to be done and more, but when we started the factory the following season it was very apparent that it was not going to happen,” he said.

The Husseys, known mainly in tourism and horse-racing circles, brought in international experts and evaluators in the industry, and is now accepting bids for the engineering work to be done which will see Long Pond retrofitted to ensure that the factory can churn sugar cane throughout the season once commissioned.

The new crop year kicks off at around December.

“It is hard when you are used to doing business in a more private setting to come in a business that is constantly in the public domain, but we think we now have the right people in the right place to now do things the right way,” a more reserved Andrew Hussey, also a director, said.

This will include returning the boilers to the design specifications that they were made for, and eliminating the use of oil at the factory, relying totally on bagasse.

Everglades’ business plan goes beyond sugar production and calls for a diversified product: rum and tourism.

“In diversification, you have to look at what the region is, what the region has to offer, and what the resources are in terms of materials, lands, the people, and the skill level, and then you can determine the matrix,” Andrew said.

Tourism is a key part of the company’s plan, which details a tourism product that includes a rum museum for Hampden, a sugar cane museum for Clark’s Town, and tours of the great houses and sugar cane mills now being refurbished. Horses are also being bred on the properties.

The family said their entry into sugar was easy, as the senior Hussey, Laurie, had been a cane farmer years ago, supplying the Bernard Lodge factory in St Catherine.

“Our dad does not want to see land waste, and what that has done for us as the younger ones is help us to see empty land as not good,” said Andrew.

Everglades employs almost 40 persons on the estates’ farms where crops such as cabbage, lettuce, tomato, pak choi, sweet pepper, hot pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, Irish potato, string beans, carrot, sweet corn, pumpkin, sweet potato, pineapple, cantaloupe, water melon, thyme, escallion, and onion are planted for the hospitality industry in Western Jamaica.

“In this model, you come to Everglades and there will be a number of different job opportunities, whether it is in rum, horses, sugar, or tours,” said Outman.

“Sugar is very important in the mix of our diversified products because we will need sugar more now than before, especially good, organic sugar. And that is why the cane farmers must know that they are a very important part of our plans going forward. We will need their cane to complement ours to produce the quality sugar we intend for a proper return on our investment,” he said.

The entire plan will be rolled out over a five to 10-year period. For now, the Husseys say the next milestone is packaging and marketing their own branded sugar.

The family says its sales of bulk rum to Europe are up 30 per cent since 2009, and they will be developing a warehouse for rum storage. They were unwilling to speak to the details of the project, however.

Hampden has launched a new spirit, Rum Fire, in partnership with Red Stripe Jamaica as its distributor. The Husseys hope to capture 20 per cent of the Jamaican rum market over time. The market is dominated by Wray and Nephew.

Both Hampden and Long Pond figured prominently during the heyday of sugar production in western Jamaica, and at one time, were chief sources of income for residents of Clark’s Town and other Trelawny communities.

However, in the last two decades, sugar hit a steady decline and the estates and their equipment aged.

At the turn of this decade – the 2000-01 crop – the two factories produced a combined 20,000 tonnes of the sweetener, 5,000 tonnes of which came from the smaller estate, Hampden.

The tonnage, quoted by itself, tells little, but consider that just three years before, in 1997, Hampden alone, which had the capacity for 15,000 tonnes, was churning out 12,000 tonnes of sugar.

Despite the availability of some 1,284 hectares of land for planting cane, only 676 hectares were put into cultivation for the 2000-01 crop.

The estate, which was teetering on the brink of financial ruin and had been rescued by the Government in the 1990s under the bailout programme for the financial sector, would later be placed in receivership.

Before that time, the estate was controlled by the Farquharson family.

The records show that during the 1997-2002 period, Hampden sustained losses of more than J$45 million.

Long Pond and other sugar assets were last in private ownership under a deal in 1993 that gave 51 per cent control to a Wray and Nephew-led consortium, that included Cliff Cameron’sManufacturers Investment Limited and Booker Tate Limited of the United Kingdom.

Each private partner held 17 per cent, whereas the Jamaican Government retained a minority 49 per cent.

The state would eventually re-acquire the SCJ after the consortium failed to turn the company into a money-maker.

Under the deal with Everglades, the new owners must maintain 60 per cent of the leased lands for sugar-cane production or related products for 15 years.

The deal covers the two factories and surrounding 40 hectares of land, plus an additional 7,100 hectares, which are leased for US$40 per hectare per annum for the first 10 years of the agreement.

For 2010-11, the company has planted 5,000 hectares of new cane, and will plant an additional 1,408 hectares of cane over the four years to follow, which is projected to yield 280,000 tonnes of cane in the next five years.

“This means businesses in the communities will see an increase in trade, taxis will have more passengers to carry, and there will be additional opportunities for employment,” said Outman.

“So in essence, we are mixing green infrastructure with traditional, infrastructure, and in that way, we are conducting a business while preserving the heritage.”

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com

Readings in Rum

Tolstoy, Dickens, Chesterton, rum permeates literature globally – Rumpundit

Scholar to Discuss Rum as a Symbol in Literature

Dr. Jennifer Nesbitt

Dr. Jennifer Nesbitt will share her research findings concerning rum as a symbol in literature.
3/30/2011 —

Jennifer Nesbitt, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Penn State York, will give a lecture entitled “Rum Histories: Drinking in the Past Postcolonial Atlantic Literature and Culture,” on Thursday, March 31 at University Park. Nesbitt, an Institute of Arts and Humanities (IAH) Resident Scholar for 2010-11, will speak at noon in Sparks Building, room 124. This is the first time a faculty member from York has been named an IAH Resident Scholar since the program began in 2003-04.

The IAH Resident Scholar program is jointly sponsored with the College of Arts and Architecture, the College of the Liberal Arts, and the commonwealth campuses. The program provides up to nine faculty members per year with one semester of release time from teaching, a $1,000 mini-grant for research expenses and/or materials, and the use of an office in Ihlseng Cottage at University Park.

Nesbitt joined the Penn State faculty in 2003. She specializes in 20th Century British literature, postcolonial literature, and women’s literature. She earned an undergraduate degree in History and Literature in 1987 from Harvard University, Cambridge, Ma., and a doctorate in English with a certificate in women’s studies in 1999 from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. She is originally from Winchester, Ma.

“This project has allowed me to look at the ways popular texts—everything from 1950s tour guides to cookbooks to the film “Pirates of the Caribbean”—inform the way rum works as a symbol in literature,” said Nesbitt. “Even the song “Rum and Coca-Cola” has a really interesting story behind it,” she said.