Idyllic images come to mind when picturing rum: Sweeping Caribbean cane fields, historic pot and column stills. Barrels slowly maturing in the hot sun for decades. A master blender wandering the warehouse, carefully selecting barrels to produce the perfect blend, bottled and transported to your local bar or liquor store. While this narrative may be somewhat true for brands like Bacardi, Mount Gay, Appleton, or Havana Club, distillery-driven brands are a relatively modern concept – rarely seen prior to the middle of the twentieth century. The vast majority of rum brands operate in a different universe, much as they did a century or more ago: the world of bulk rum, merchants, and blenders. Continue reading “Liquid & Logistics: Inside E&A Scheer, Master Bulk Rum Blenders”
The seaside city of Liverpool, England (yes, home of the Beatles), was one of England’s major shipping hubs in the not-so-distant past. Magnificent ocean liners like the RMS Titanic, Lusitania, and Queen Mary were all registered there. The city is also infamous for its part in the triangle trade, where rum, sugar, finished goods, and enslaved humans crisscrossed the Atlantic between the Old World, Africa, and the New World, with Liverpool as a northern Hub.
Hugging Liverpool’s dozens of remaining docks are gigantic brick warehouses, built in the 1800s as the city rose to prominence. On a blustery October day, I find myself inside one such warehouse, descending to the basement in a rickety freight elevator, although “suspended metal cage” might be a more apt description. I’m doing my best to contain my excitement at what lies in wait once the doors open. For among my journeys to the epicenters of rum, this particular warehouse has become a singular obsession.
Walking through the canal district of central Amsterdam can be disorienting to all your senses. The cobbled streets and sidewalks are narrow and filled with what seems an endless stream of bicycles, mobile and stationary. The 17th century-era row houses lining the canals are all similar in style and color — three stories tall and nestled tightly together as far as the eye can see. Every block looks similar to the prior block, austere but beautiful. It’s only thanks to Google Maps that we’ve located a particularly important address, a major epicenter of the rum world. From the street, though, it appears like any other nicely appointed Dutch residence; it’s only sign of what’s inside is a small polished brass plate under the doorbell Mrs. Wonk and I have found our way here on this February morning to visit the inner sanctum of E&A Scheer—a serious heavy hitter in the worldwide rum business, but one you’ve likely never heard of.