Setting the Record Straight on British Navy Rum

History presents a special challenge to those writing it or seeking knowledge from its pages: It constantly changes underneath your feet. Facts we once believed to be true may be contradicted later by later-arriving sources. Reasonable assumptions made about one era may not apply to another. New sources come to light which recast conclusions made by prior sources.

I’ve seen this firsthand when it comes to British Navy rum, a topic I’ve dug deeply into over the past year. Its stories are popular with rum enthusiasts and even make it into the mainstream press on occasion. Unfortunately, these stories mutate over time and become factually incorrect, much like the children’s game of “telephone.” And once a less-than-accurate narrative is released into the wild, it’s particularly difficult to stamp it out.

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The Montanya Files: Wonking Out with Karen Hoskin

The American craft rum scene is blessed with several high profile women at the helm of the company. Having started Montanya Distillers eleven years ago, Karen Hoskin is legitimately a pioneer among them. I recently sat down with her in San Francisco, on the day before the 2019 California Rum Festival. Over the course of an hour, we had a fantastic and enlightening discussion.

We went deep on a number of topics, including the emerging identify of American Rum and what’s holding it back, why she makes a “low ester” rum, the challenges and benefits of making rum at high altitude as compared to the Caribbean, a deep dive into how Montanya’s source materials are made, the debates in the rum community about authenticity, how improved labelling may be better than categorization, and what Constellation Brand’s investment in Montanya means for her. Plus, a whole lot more!

With no word count dangling over our heads, Karen could really explain her thoughts in detail, rather than compressing everything into a one paragraph answer. While this interview may be a little longer than you’re used to, you’ll come away with a much deeper understanding of what Karen and Montanya are about.

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WIRSPA Chairman Komal Samaroo: On the Record

NOTE: This interview originally appeared on the ACR-Rum web site. However, it’s of relevance to rum enthusiasts here on Cocktail Wonk, so it’s also shared here, with permission from WIRSPA.

As Chairman of the Executive Board of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), Komal Samaroo has a very deep knowledge of the rum industry. Having worked in the rum industry since the late 1960s, he’s now put in over fifty years of service to the cause of Caribbean rum.

In addition to his WIRSPA duties, Mr. Samaroo is now Executive Chairman of Demerara Distillers Limited, an indigenous Guyanese firm with thousands of local shareholders that makes, among other things, El Dorado Demerara rum. He also sits on the Board of Directors of National Rums of Jamaica, the consortium that owns the Clarendon and Long Pond distilleries and the Monymusk brand.

During a recent trip to Guyana, I interviewed him in his office at Demerara Distillers Limited. What follows are his thoughts on the WIRSPA, including its role in the rum world, its past and its future.

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Still Life: Saint Lucia Distillers

Every few months, a tanker ship pulls into Saint Lucia’s Roseau Bay, and anchors. A diver drops into the water and attaches an 8-inch flexible hose to the ship. The hose is connected to a 12-inch pipeline that runs for 194 meters underwater before hitting land and popping up in the middle of a beach and continuing overland for just over a kilometer. Eventually the pipe connects to one of several gigantic tanks.

For the next several hours, thick black liquid flows from the ship to the tank—liquid that is vital to the site’s operation. Not oil, but rather molasses: Since Saint Lucia no longer grows enough sugar to make any appreciable amount of molasses on the island, this undersea dance is how the island’s one distillery– St. Lucia Distillers – receives its vital feedstock.

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