When Maison Ferrand (parent company of Plantation Rum) purchased the Barbados-based West Indies Rum Distillery in 2017, it came with a bonus: One-third ownership of Jamaica’s Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries. While master blender Alexandre Gabriel is no stranger to Jamaican rums – witness Plantation’s Jamaican vintage rums and blends like O.F.T.D. Overproof–in the past year he’s ventured deeply down the Jamaican rabbit hole. The first visible sign just hit the wires today with Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry announcement – a 100 percent pot still, blended rum from the two aforementioned distilleries.
During my recent visit to Maison Ferrand (home of Cognac Ferrand and Plantation Rum) I posted a picture on Facebook that seemed innocuous enough. The caption read: “If you’re going to drink a cask-strength, 18 year Long Pond marque, the ITP (280 g/hL AA) is highly recommend. Even Mrs. Wonk loved it.”
A few minutes later, someone extremely knowledgeable about the rum industry posted a comment that caught me completely off-guard. The gist of the comment: Long Pond’s ITP marque is known to be in the 90-120 g/hL AA range. How can it be 277 g/hL AA?
In the past year or so, the chatter amongst the uber-wonks frequently turns to the perceived friction between Richard Seale of Foursquare Rum Distillery, and Alexandre Gabriel of Plantation Rum. Without getting into myriad of points of contention, it’s safe to say Richard advocates for precise rum categorizations, geographical indications such as Martinique’s AOC, and rum free of undisclosed additives. Alexandre says that badly-formed Geographical Indications freeze a spirt category in time and constrain innovation. In addition, Alexandre believes rum can be further enhanced by traditional techniques like boisé, aka “dosage”. Trust me, it goes much deeper than this. I could write a book on just this debate, but that’s not my goal here.
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 an avid Tiki-hound home bartender, I am always seeking out the next unusual recipe twist that gets me excited. And while Tiki draws from a very broad palette, there’s really only so many combinations of citrus, syrups, spices, and rum you can concoct before you’re essentially riffing on variations of the classics. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
After many years of impatient waiting, rums from Italy’s Velier S.p.A. have finally landed in the U.S. market. Long considered the premiere independent bottler of rum, the company has had massive success with European rum-wonks due to its near-legendary releases from distilleries like Hampden Estate, Foursquare, Demerara Distillers Limited, and Caroni. Meanwhile, American rum aficionados could only salivate over Facebook photos or, if they were lucky, squirrel away a few bottles in their suitcaes on European jaunts.