Spiribam’s Benjamain Jones – Director’s Cut Interview

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”

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.

Continue reading “How the Financial Crisis of 2007 Reshaped the Rum World”

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.

Continue reading “The Curious Tale of a Pineapple Press and the West India Docks”

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?

Continue reading “The Cocktail Wonk Comprehensive Caribbean Rum Tour: Bottles $45 or Less”

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?

Continue reading “Unraveling Plummer and Wedderburn Rums”

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.

Continue reading “Mount Gay – Cornerstone of Caribbean Rum”