American Rum Done Right: Privateer’s Maggie Campbell Sets the Bar

Maggie Campbell glances at the clock again, then toward the still. Even from twenty feet away, she knows the thin stream of still-warm rum coming off it is the “hearts” – ethanol, aka “the good alcohol” that we drink. She frowns a bit. Normally this is the raison d’etre of a distiller’s day, but for some reason, this distillation is taking far longer than she’d estimated when we began hours ago. In the hours since we started, Maggie has done the near-impossible – answered every single one of my wonky questions about every aspect of Privateer Rum’s production process, from cane sourcing to distilling to bottling. I’ve literally run out of questions to ask – a first for me.

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UK RumFest 2017 In Photos

For one glorious long weekend this past October, the rum world descended on London to celebrate all things rummy. Industry legends such as Alexandre Gabriel, Luca Gargano, Richard Seale, Martin Cate, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Bryan Davis, and of course Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell offered up rumtastic sessions, showed off their latest highly covetable rums, and spread the gospel of rum to a very enthusiastic crowd.

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Lost Spirits Reactor Aged Islay Whisky Dubbed “Liquid Gold” by Jim Murray’s 2018 Whisky Bible

Here at Cocktail Wonk, we pride ourselves on being on the bleeding edge when covering Lost Spirits and Bryan Davis, famous for their hyper-accelerated aging technology using wood, heat and light. Love what they’re doing or call it sacrilege, it’s always interesting to watch their story evolve.

The latest big news in Lost Spirits land is their impressively high  scores in Jim Murray’s 2018 Whisky Bible. Quoting from the press release:

Jim Murray’s famous 2018 Whisky Bible has awarded 94 points and its coveted Liquid Gold designation to Lost Spirits Abomination, a peated malt “aged” in just 6 days utilizing Lost Spirits’ revolutionary patented technology….

Lost Spirits entered two peated malts into the judging: Abomination – Crying of the Puma and Abomination – Sayers of the Law. Both started as Scottish malts so young they cannot yet legally be labeled whisky. The spirits were then finished in California over 6 days utilizing Lost Spirits’ revolutionary patented technology. The Crying of the Puma expression nearly also achieved the Liquid Gold designation, scoring 93 points. No additives or flavorings of any kind were utilized from start to finish.

The technology works by exposing oak to high intensity light and heat while suspended in a glass tube filled with unaged or young distilled spirit. The combination of specific wavelengths of light and heat has been proven to trigger the same chemical reactions that happen in casks aged for many years.

My most recent article on Lost Spirits, including tons of photos of their insane, ever evolving Los Angeles distiller can be found here.

California Rum Festival 2017 in Pictures

A quick post to share some photos from The Rum Lab’s 2017 California Rum Festival, recently held in San Francisco on September 8th.

A pre-show party at Pagan Idol the evening before featured Spiribam rums, and called together numerous rum industry influencers, including Foursquare Rum Distillery’s Richard Seale, Benoît Bail and Jerry Gitany of The Rum Embassy, as well as many hardcore California Tiki scene enthusiasts.

Benoît Bail, Cocktail Wonk and Jerry Gitany of The Rum Embassy, California Rum Festival 2017
Benoît Bail, Cocktail Wonk and Jerry Gitany of The Rum Embassy, California Rum Festival 2017

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Richard Seale’s Epic Takedown of “Rum has no rules”

The Ministry of Rum and Global Rum Club forums on Facebook are hotbeds of enthusiasts engaging in lively debates about all topics rum-related. Foursquare Rum Distillery master distiller and rum icon Richard Seale is a frequent contributor, injecting actual, real-world experience at every turn.

Recently, I shared my article on Cuban rum regulations, which started out, “Rum has no rules? Think again!”–a topic I’ve written about before.

In response to my post, Richard wrote an extremely long and well-articulated comment that’s simply too informative to lose in the desert of Facebook comments. So with Richard’s permission, I’m reprinting it here with just slight touchup of typos and such.

Quoth Richard:

Rum has no rules? Honestly, how could something so completely inane be not only spread but be believed and repeated again and again with authority?

And the notion that this “lack of rules” was somehow wonderful, so producers can be “creative.” What nonsense.

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The Complete, Unabridged Cuban Rum Regulations

In the aftermath of a May 2017 trip to Cuba with Havana Club, I wrote several articles about Cuban rum. The Cuban Rum Cheat Sheet provides a broad introduction to Cuban rum history and how it’s made. The follow up article took a detailed look at the many lives of the Havana Club brand. Next, I went inside Havana Club’s San José distillery to show how aguardiente and subsequently rum is made. In this final dispatch, I’ll go hyper-wonky, with a complete, English language translation of Cuba’s “DOP,” their regulations for making rum.

It’s popular to say that rum has no rules. But take a look around, and you’ll find that many rum producing countries have detailed regulations about what’s required to label your rum as a product of that country. The most famous, of course, is the Martinique AOC, considered by many to be very strict in its prescriptions for rhum production. Brazil also writes regulation for Cachaça. In late 2016, Jamaica’s rum producers approved a Geographical Indication (aka “GI”) for rums made there.

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