The Chairman comes under the hammer?

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

March 16th, 2016 | 12:50 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


History Buff Interview with Ian Williams

Colonists Used Rum As a Weapon Against Native Americans

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

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

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

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

HB: How was it made?

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

HB: How did the spirit get its name?

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

via Wikimedia

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

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

HB: How much rum did the colonists really drink?

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

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

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

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

Revere, Paul 1770
Paul Revere via Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature image via Wikimedia

Promoted Stories

Rum moving up

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


Added 26 August 2015

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

Not to be missed! But sadly I will

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and International Trade Expo for Rum

April 17-19, 2015

Home Page

The Rums

The Brands



Grand Tasting


Trade Expo

Rum Shirts

Hotel Rooms


Exhibitor Info


Rum Cruise

The International Trade Expo For Rum

Members of the Spirits Trade,

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 17 from 3-6pm

Saturday, April 18 from 1-6pm

Sunday, April 19 from 1-6pm

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

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

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

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

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

Register Online

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

Rob, Robin and Robert Burr

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The International Trade Expo for Rum

PO Box 144353, Coral Gables, FL 33114-4353


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

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

Register Online

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

AfroHead 7

AfroHead XO

Amrut White

Amrut Two Indies

Amrut Two Indies Old Port

Bayou Satsuma Rum Liquor

Bayou Select Barrel Reserve


Blue Chair Bay Banana

Blue Chair Bay Vanilla

Blue Water Ultra Premium

Blue Water Caribbean Gold

Borgoe 8

Bristol Barbados 2004

Bristol Black Spiced

Bristol Port Morant Demerara 1999

Bristol Reserve Rum of Haiti 2004

Bristol Trinidad Caroni 1996

Caray Reserva Del Artesano

Caray Platinum

Citrus Spice

Citrus Chocolate

Club Caribe Silver

Don Papa 10

DonQ 151



Lost Spirits Prometheus

Mezan Jamaica 2000

Mezan Jamaica XO

Mezan Panama 2004

Monymusk Special Reserve

Mutineers Gold XO Special Reserve

Nine Leaves Clear

Nine Leaves Half American Oak Cask

Nine Leaves Half French Oak Cask

Opthimus 25

Opthimus Artesanal 25

Opthimus Artesanal 21

Opthimus Artesanal 18

Opthimus Artesanal 15

Opthimus Malt Whiskey 25

Opthimus OportO 25

Plantation Pineapple Stiggins Fancy

Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof

Pusser’s Spiced

Richland Single Estate Artesan

Siesta Key Distiller’s Reserve

Siesta Key Toasted Coconut

Siesta Key Spiced Beer Barrel Finish

Skotlander Rum III (Sea Buckthorn)

Skotlander Rum IV (Liquorice)

Skotlander Cask

Skotlander White

St. Nicolas Abbey 10

Stroh 160 Spiced

Travellers 5 Barrel

Westerhall Estate 10 XO

Wicked Dolphin Coconut

Wicked Dolphin Crystal

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced

Wicked Dolphin Strawberry RumShine

Yolo Gold 10

Yolo Silver

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

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and International Trade Expo for Rum updates

are published by Quantum Leap Network

PO Box 144353 Coral Gables, FL USA 33114-4353

phone: 305-443-7973

Rum Renaissance rolics on!

2013 Miami Rum Festival Expands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, activities planned during Miami Rum Week and exhibits at Miami Rum Fest, call 305-443-7973 or visit the web site at
– – –
– – –
– – –
interviews, details, follow-up contact:
Robert A. Burr
305-439-1376 cell
305-443-7973 office
web site:

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

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


Spirit of Xmas Future!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Posted on December 19th, 2012

Spirits of Americas – new event

IWSC Group launches Spirits of the Americas


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

Tequila, agave’s answer to the cane!

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

GP Libations No.1: TEQUILA

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


Harvesting the Blue Agave “pina”

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

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

Readying the pina for roasting

worldwide during the Crash.

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

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

Tequila aging in Oak Barrels

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

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

Ian WIlliams nosing a blanco

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

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

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

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







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

[Photos via Ian William + Respective Tequilas]

Rum, first love is best!

GP Libations No. 2: RUM


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

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

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

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

The Rum Sugarcane Field Harvest yesterday…

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

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

and today.

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

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

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



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

Age in Palate of Besniffer

GP Libations No. 3: Aging Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on October 29th, 2012