How the Financial Crisis of 2007 Reshaped the Rum World

In the course of researching various rum-related topics, there’s some recent history that I keep bumping up against. Between 1997 and 2009, one company purchased several extremely important rum companies such as Angostura and Appleton. It also acquired a few other well known spirits brands. It then went bankrupt during the world financial crisis that started in 2007. The echoes of this bankruptcy have been heard as recently as 2017.

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The Curious Tale of a Pineapple Press and the West India Docks

Researching distilled spirits history is a bit like panning for gold—lots of work for the occasional grain of gold remaining in your pan. But there are also jaw-dropping moments when a sizeable nugget suddenly appears. These “A-ha!” moments motivate you to keep dipping your pan in the riverbed and swirling away.

Over the past eight months I’ve become fascinated by the history of the rum arriving in the U.K. during the 1700s to 1900s. This was the era of London Dock rums and British navy rum. What I’ve uncovered is quite surprising and little known by the vast majority of today’s rum enthusiasts. In an upcoming book that Plantation Rum commissioned me to research and write, I tell many of these stories; it’s in the final production stages and should be available later this year. Still, with my enthusiasm for the topic quite high, I keep finding interesting tidbits that make for a more detailed picture.

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The Cocktail Wonk Comprehensive Caribbean Rum Tour: Bottles $45 or Less

There’s no shortage of rum listicles lately. Rum is a hot topic du jour and publications push them out with abandon: “Nine Rums I Found at My Local Bar” or “Seven Rums Too Expensive for You.”

All too frequently these stories elicit groans from rum enthusiasts, because the author only dabbles in rum, thus providing well-intentioned but often misguided recommendations. Equally wince-inducing are lists without a unifying theme, or those that rely on outdated and discredited rum categories such as silver, gold, and dark.

Yes, I cast a suspicious eye toward most rum listicles, preferring a more nuanced approach to rum writing. Yet here I am with a rum list of my own. What gives? And why is my list any better?

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Unraveling Plummer and Wedderburn Rums

Among Jamaican rum aficionados, two names hold almost mythical allure: Plummer and Wedderburn. They’re known as old, obsolete Jamaican rum marques from a glorious time when all Jamaican rums were chock-full of funky flavors and hogo.

The main reason most aficionados know these names today is thanks to Smith & Cross, the gateway Jamaican rum for many people. Its dark blue label proudly declares, “PURE POT STILL – PLUMMER & WEDDERBURN.”

Similarly, Bristol Classic Rum and Velier have issued rums labeled as VRW – Vale Royale Wedderburn. Undoubtedly, the Wedderburn name is still out there in common use.

But what exactly do “Plummer” and “Wedderburn” mean?

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Mount Gay – Cornerstone of Caribbean Rum

Telling the story of Barbados rum–and of rum itself–is impossible without referencing Mount Gay. The distillery operations at its Barbados site are arguably the oldest and longest running in existence. Spanning nearly four centuries, Mount Gay has something to say about every era of rum’s existence.

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The Gargano Files

In September of 2018, I sat down with Luca Gargano in London immediately prior to the Rum Tasting of the Century, celebrating the launch of Hampden Estate’s aged rum.

We had a wide-ranging interview that covered many topics, resulting in far too much material for a single interview piece. In my Bevvy Ruminations column, I excerpted two portions that cover topics of broad interest to the rum audience. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

However, there was plenty of material left over that’s manna to the more hardcore rum wonks. Topics that are a bit more esoteric and inside baseball. A lengthy bonus reel, so to speak.  I’ve polished it a bit but haven’t added a ton of explanatory comments to the numerous references Luca makes. In short, this is raw, very lightly filtered Luca–and he has plenty to say.

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