According to the Jamaica Observer, Jamaica’s Long Pond rum distillery has been severely hobbled by a fire. The historic distillery, known for its classic pot stilled Jamaican rums adjoins a sugar cane factory and cane fields. Reports are that a fire in the cane field spread to bagasse (dried cane plant mass) and eventually to buildings holding tanks of rum and the fermentation area. Luckily, no one was hurt.
UPDATE: 7/25/2018 – See end of story for updated information from Ferrand. What immediately follows here is the original story.
From the Observer story: “Basically, what is happening here is that the fire is confined to the main store area. One area stores alcohol and the other section stores mainly raw material to make rum.”
The distillery, one of only six operating rum distilleries on the island, has a long history which I’ve written about previously (here and here.) Long Pond restarted operations just a year ago after a several year downtime for upgrades. Ownership of the distillery is split three ways between the Jamaican government, Demerara Distillers Limited, and Maison Ferrand, parent company of Plantation Rum.
What does the fire mean for the distillery? Maison Ferrand subsequently issued a press communique stating:
“The distillery itself including the stills have not been affected. The fire started in cane fields near the Long Pond distillery, midday on July 16. It quickly spread touching some part of the fermentation room and the fresh rum stocks (approximately 65,000 liters have been destroyed). As we don’t store or age rum at Long Pond Distillery, the aged rum stock was not affected. We are currently assessing the full extent of the damages.”
Based on my recollections of the distillery layout, it’s also possible that the muck pit, which is usually in the same vicinity of the vats has probably been irreparably damaged. Hopefully there are muck graves elsewhere that can be used to restart a new muck pit.
Plantation has confirmed the following additional details for me:
“…the vat fermenting house along with the rum stores have been destroyed .. Approximately 65,000 litres of finished rum stock and the equivalent of 15,000 litres of unfinished rum was destroyed.”
- 72 wooden vats (sizes 2500 to 3000 imperial gallons each).
- 10 4000 gallons copper rum storage tanks.
The muck pits were not affected. (This is great news!)
There is a plan to restart limited distillation within a month, using NRJ’s Clarendon’s fermenting vats for initial fermentation. In parallel, new wooden vats of identical size/shape to the original vats will be built at Long Pond.