Luca, Richard, Alexandre and David Talk Geographical Indications

UK RumFest 2017 Panel

In the past year or so, the chatter amongst the uber-wonks frequently turns to the perceived friction between Richard Seale of Foursquare Rum Distillery, and Alexandre Gabriel of Plantation Rum. Without getting into myriad of points of contention, it’s safe to say Richard advocates for precise rum categorizations, geographical indications such as Martinique’s AOC, and rum free of undisclosed additives. Alexandre says that badly-formed Geographical Indications freeze a spirt category in time and constrain innovation. In addition, Alexandre believes rum can be further enhanced by traditional techniques like boisé, aka “dosage”. Trust me, it goes much deeper than this. I could write a book on just this debate, but that’s not my goal here.

At the 2017 UK RumFest, Ian Burrell moderated very spirited panel discussion during the trade day featuring Luca Gargano (Velier), Alexandre Gabriel, David Cid (Bacardi), Philip Krizanic (Spiribam), and Richard Seale. Despite the profusion of rum samples prior, I managed to catch some of the best parts on video.

In some ways, the panel was a replay of the rather fun and contentious When Is a Rum Not a Rum Session at Tales of the Cocktail 2016 (see video here) featuring many of the same group. However, the UK RumFest panel dug quite a bit deeper into wonky topics.

In this eight minute clip, the topic is (loosely speaking) geographical indications. To briefly recap the speaker’s points in order of appearance

Richard Seale: Speaking about GIs and barrels. A GI protects producers and their long established techniques.

Alexandre Gabriel: Disagrees with Richard.  A badly-written GI freezes tradition in time, and can prevent traditions from the past from being brought back. He points to the cognac regulations of 1945, which were too constraining, and didn’t allow casks like chestnut and acacia, which were a prior tradition. The beauty of rum is the diversity, but it also requires transparency.

Luca Gargano: GIs are great, but don’t define the style of rum, e.g. pot vs. column distillation. He doesn’t like how Long Pond and Hampden Jamaican rums (both pot stilled) are lumped into the same category as Clarendon (column, but also has pot stills.)

David Cid: GIs are great. However, we have additive rums and non-additive rums. They live in the same space, which isn’t fair. Richard has to play in the same space as the additive rums. Bacardi adds sugar to their rum, and they have an internal cap, below 20g/sugar. Carbon filtration has a huge impact on how the distillate ends up.

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2 thoughts on “Luca, Richard, Alexandre and David Talk Geographical Indications”

  1. Do you happen to know specifics about the GI jamaica is working on and what effect it would have on IB’s? I’m all for protecting proper Rum but if those GI are restricting the work of IB’s too much, it would do more harm then good…
    Just imaging never knowing about New Yarmouth, high ester hampden or any other gem you can only get due to the work of independent bottled and (mostly) continental aged Rum…

    1. I’m hoping to write about Jamaica’s GI soon.

      Any GI wouldn’t restrict the IBs. It would just prevent them from using certain wording to describe the product.

      For example, Plantation could sell a Martinique Rhum that they second aged in Cognac. But they couldn’t use the “appellation d’origine contrôlée” wording on the label.

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