On October 10, 2018, the New York State Liquor Authority caused a stir within the cane spirits community. The subject: A press release regarding Clairin Casimir, distilled in Haiti and imported to the U.S. by La Maison & Velier, is being voluntarily recalled due to the presence of lead. If you’re a clairin consumer, this naturally might be a cause for concern. Below, I’ve assembled some background information which helps put this recall into a broader context.
When it comes to whiskey, most imbibers assume that categories like bourbon, single malt Scotch and Irish whiskey have been around since the dawn of time. However, the official, legal recognition of these categories is a relatively recent phenomenon. If you were to go back to 1950 to survey the global whiskey market, you wouldn’t find single malt Scotch whisky for sale. However, you might be surprised to find Mexican and Canadian “bourbon” on the shelf.
Every camera in the room is trained on a lone man struggling to open a rather plain brown glass bottle, unlabeled except for a paper tag around its neck. The red wax sealing the neck is not giving way easily to his run of the mill corkscrew. Sukhinder Singh, co-owner of The Whiskey Exchange, has opened countless rare and historic bottles in his time, but this bottle of obviously very old bottle is vexing him.
The 2018 edition of the California Rum Festival saw the four-year old-event hitting its stride. Held in the Soma Arts building for the third year running, many of the prior year’s small kinks were absent. People lined up around the block to get in, good rum flowed, and the international rum family joyously celebrated together–before, during, and after.
Nearly a decade into this modern rum renaissance, articles explaining rum for the introductory reader appear almost daily. On the whole, it’s a good thing; the more people aware that rum can be something much more than a vodka substitute is great. But in their desire to encompass the vast diversity of cane spirits, from rhum agricole to hogolicious Jamaicans to stately Cubans, too many writers and brand ambassadors rely on the easy sound bite: Rum has no rules.
In an ongoing effort to disprove the good-intentioned but flawed “Rum has no rules” sentiment, a number of rum experts have repeatedly and forcefully worked to shoot it down. Specifically, by highlighting actual legal documents defining exactly what the “standard of identity” is for various rum producing countries.