After many years of impatient waiting, rums from Italy’s Velier S.p.A. have finally landed in the U.S. market. Long considered the premiere independent bottler of rum, the company has had massive success with European rum-wonks due to its near-legendary releases from distilleries like Hampden Estate, Foursquare, Demerara Distillers Limited, and Caroni. Meanwhile, American rum aficionados could only salivate over Facebook photos or, if they were lucky, squirrel away a few bottles in their suitcaes on European jaunts.
La Maison & Velier, the recently announced partnership between France’s La Maison du Whisky (LMDW) and lets Velier’s rums and other artisanal spirts finally break into countries where they weren’t previously available.
Spearheading the new enterprise’s entrance into the U.S. are Kate Perry (formerly of Seattle’s Rumba) and Daniele Biondi. For the U.S. kickoff of the LMDW/Velier partnership, they pulled out all the stops, bringing in some of the biggest names in the rum world for the Feb. 5, 2018, event at Brooklyn’s Dumbo Lofts. The cast of characters included Ian Burrell, Martin Cate, David Wondrich, Paul McGee, Paul Senft, Ed Rudisell, Nicholas Feris, Gayle and Christian Seale, and Fred Minnick, among many others.
The afternoon event began with a happy hour of clairin and Caroni-based cocktails–fitting as three clairins and the 2000 vintage Caroni are the initial Velier bottlings to reach U.S. shores. Thierry Bénitah, CEO of La Maison du Whisky, kicked off the formal presentation, spelling out how the joint venture came to be. He handed off to Velier CEO Luca Gargano for the remainder of the event.
If you’ve ever seen Luca speak, you know he’s extremely exuberant in words and gestures, and this event was no different. Luca had so much to say that his presentation was given in two parts, with an intermission where guests enjoyed pours from a very extensive selection of Velier’s vast reserve of great bottlings. My eyes nearly popped when I saw what was freely available for the pouring.
Luca first spoke to his discovery of clairin in Haiti and his subsequent efforts to bring it to market. In attendance were Faubert Casimir and Michel Sajous, the distillers of two of Velier’s clairins, and Luca brought them both up to say a few words.
Following the intermission, Luca launched into the story of his first visit to the Caroni distillery in Trinidad, which had recently been shuttered. Luckily for we rum aficionados, plenty of aging stock remained in their warehouse. In short order, Luca purchased many of the casks and arranged for them to continue aging in the Caribbean, rather than shipping them off to Europe. No continental aging for Luca! It’s a point of pride for him.
It was quite a thrill to see so many members of the global rum family in one place–catching up, taking selfies, and enjoying some of the best rums made. Shortly after the event ended, a few of us slipped off to catch a taste of the Foursquare’s upcoming Probitas expression, an aged/filtered white rum blend of Foursquare and Hampden Estate rums, which will play in the same space as Banks 5 Island and Plantation 3 Star, also multi-island blends intended primarily for mixing. Two word review: Yes, please!
I wish to extend my sincere thanks to Kate, Daniele, and Luca for including me in this extraordinary meeting of the rum family, and I look forward to the future arrivals of even more La Maison and Velier rums.
If you have any questions about La Maison & Velier or their rums, don’t hesitate to contact Kate Perry: firstname.lastname@example.org