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. Continue reading “Still Life: Saint Lucia Distillers”
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. Continue reading “Spiribam’s Benjamain Jones – Director’s Cut Interview”
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. Continue reading “How the Financial Crisis of 2007 Reshaped the Rum World”
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
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. Continue reading “The Curious Tale of a Pineapple Press and the West India Docks”
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? Continue reading “The Cocktail Wonk Comprehensive Caribbean Rum Tour: Bottles $45 or Less”
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.”
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? Continue reading “Unraveling Plummer and Wedderburn Rums”