In February 2019, I sat down with Spribam’s Benjamin Jones at the Miami Rum Congress to talk about all manner of wonky rum topics. Jones has been essential to bringing rhum agricole to the North American market over the past fifteen years – specifically the Rhum Clement and Rhum J.M brands. More recently, he’s spent a lot of time integrating St. Lucia distillers into Spiribam’s portfolio. Although not as omnipresent on social media as some rum industry luminaries, he’s deeply knowledgeable about today’s rum industry.
My recent Bevvy “Ruminations” column shares his thoughts about the revamped St. Lucia Distillers product lineup, including the new (outside of St. Lucia) Bounty offerings. However, we talked about many more topics that didn’t fit within the Bevvy interview: behind-the-scenes takes on the St. Lucia Distillers distillery upgrades; innovating within and outside the Martinique AOC regulations; the structure of Spiribam and parent company GBH; the influence of Richard Seale; sugar cane availability; how the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai competition came about; his own family connection to the Rhum Clement family. Lots of interesting information to be found in Ben’s answers, so rather than leaving his insights on the cutting room floor, I present it here.
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unifying theme, or those that rely on outdated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?
With the current era of rum gathering steam toward a golden age, an exciting by-product is the ready availability of full-throated, hogo-licious Jamaican rums. The intense, overripe banana and pineapple notes of Jamaican rum are bewitching and, truth be told, trigger a subconscious recognition of something primal. Names like Hampden Estate, Long Pond, and Worthy Park roll off the tongues of hardcore Jamaican enthusiasts, who collect dozens of special bottlings for their rum bunkers.
As 2017 draws nigh, it’s time for the traditional year end wrap-up, summarizing the highlights of what appeared here over the last 12 months. Some of what follows could be called self-indulgent navel-gazing; reflections on how my writing has evolved. But I contend there’s also value to you, the reader – it provides a broader context for what the site has become. And who knows, you might have missed a relevant post as the world speeds by.
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.
What if I told you that whiskey has no regulations?
Smart person that you are, you’d reply “Of course whiskey has regulations! Straight bourbon must be made in America and start with at least 51% corn in the mash. Aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years. And Scotch whiskey must be made from barley, pot distilled and aged in Scotland.”
But I press on: Brandy has no regulations.
You’d think I’ve lost my marbles. Obviously Cognac is limited to certain grapes from certain regions of France, and it must be pot stilled. Peruvian pisco is also confined to certain grape varietals, and can only be distilled once in a copper pot still.
And yet if I said “Rum has no regulations”, many people would nod in agreement. I could point out countless articles saying the same thing.