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?
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.
Longtime readers of this site know well that mad scientist Bryan Davis and his Lost Spirits distillery supply a steady stream of newsworthy stories to this little corner of the blogosphere. From a radical hyper-speed aging reactor (dubbed “THEA”), to an ambitious plan to license reactors to other distilleries, abandoning that, and moving operations to Los Angeles to create an ever-evolving “distillery as theme park,” Bryan has kept everyone guessing as to what’s coming next. It’s never predictable, frequently controversial, and always entertaining.
In early 2016, I toured a number of Jamaican rum distilleries as part of a tour organized by WIRSPA and their Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) program. What follows is my take on one of the distilleries we visited–in this case, Clarendon, part of National Rums of Jamaica.
Rum isn’t always pretty. Awash with images of tropical islands, sugar cane glistening in the morning sun, majestic pot stills, and silent warehouses full of angels taking their share, most people rarely encounter the mass scale and industrial process side of things: Stainless steel fermentation tanks holding 50,000 gallons of molasses. House-sized heat exchanger units. Towering multi-story column stills that look they wandered off from an oil refinery.
Much as we might imagine that all rums are made in picturesque distilleries like St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados, with barrels resting a few yards away, the reality is that the vast majority of rums–even highly regarded ones–are produced in almost unimaginable bulk and shipped around in tanker trucks. Nary an aging warehouse in sight. This is the side of the rum world we got to see at Clarendon Distillers Limited (CDL) in Jamaica.
In early 2016, I toured a number of Jamaican rum distilleries as part of a tour organized by WIRSPA and their Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) program. What follows is my take on one of the distilleries we visited–in this case, Innswood, part of National Rums of Jamaica.
Ruel is very lost. He’s driven back and forth on a flat stretch of highway flanked by sugarcane fields, looking fruitlessly for our destination. The only two signs in this four-mile stretch appear to have been created during the Kennedy administration and aren’t much help. In the back of his mini-bus are ten rum-obsessed explorers anxiously checking Google maps and scanning the horizon for anything resembling a rum distillery. Ruel makes a phone call. He drives a bit further, stops, pulls over, and makes another phone call. Mind you, this isn’t his fault. He’s already proven himself a highly competent driver: The previous day he bombed through the narrow, twisty roads of Cockpit Country to deliver us to Appleton Estate with nary a missed turn. But today he has the Herculean task of finding Innswood Distillery, which clearly wants to remain undiscovered.
In early 2016, I toured a number of Jamaican rum distilleries as part of a tour organized by WIRSPA and their Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) program. What follows is my take on one of the distilleries we visited–in this case, Appleton Estate.
The water source. At distilleries around the world, the first thing you invariably hear about their magical water source. You may be pointed towards a creek, flowing down from the Sottish highlands, as I saw at the Glenrothes, or peer down into deep, black pool emerging from a cave, like I found at the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee. But hands down, the most breathtaking water source that I’ve yet seen is at Jamaica’s Appleton Estate. After driving several miles on a bumpy, rutted path through cane fields, we emerge into a clearing with an oblong pond and a small pump house to the side. A grove of trees shields the far side of the pond, and one end narrows into a stream that wanders through a grassy field, a few cows lazing about in the sun. Surely the dark, aquamarine hue of the water is a trick of the light — perhaps a reflection from the sky. But as I left the car and approached the pond’s edge, my brain slowly accepted that the water really is an almost unnatural shade of translucent blue-green.