Call me biased, but at my fourth Tales of the Cocktail, the global rum family seemed front and center at the annual cocktail and spirits show. I didn’t do a rigorous analysis, but more than any other spirit, rum seemed to be on the rise–the most sessions, tasting rooms, and special events. As much as I wanted to attend every rum-related event, there were simply too many! So what follows are my personal highlights of rum-related events at Tales, with no slights intended to the events I missed.
While Plantation’s 2017 West Indies Rum Distillery purchase has received the lion’s share of recent press about the brand, the deal also granted them one-third ownership in the Jamaican Long Pond and Monymusk distilleries. Plantation has been strongly emphasizing the Jamaican lately: The high profile Xaymaca blends distillates from both distilleries, while the latest Extreme Series (No. 3) comprises two very long aged Long Pond marques. At a private dinner during Tales of the Cocktail 2018 in New Orleans, Alexandre Gabriel unveiled yet another exotic Jamaican release – a limited edition rum, for a good cause, as well as some very surprising news for rum collectors.
Early on my path to rum wonkdom, after exhausting the rum selections at my pitiful state liquor stores, a certain set of elegant looking and pricey bottles caught my eye while scouring the shelves at an out-of-state liquor store. The labels read Berry Bros. & Rudd, and each bottle held rum from a different country. I quickly realized that these were somehow different from the big rum brands. I was fascinated and realized I had much to learn. However, the $120 price tags were prohibitive, especially so for someone not yet well informed on the nuances of different countries, much less different distilleries.
In recent years I’ve vociferously advocated for the purity and sanctity of the classic 1944 Mai Tai. This Victor (“Trader Vic”) Bergeron concoction is arguably the king of all Tiki drinks. Unfortunately, for some misguided souls, the Mai Tai is a catch-all term for whatever random collection of fruit juices, rums, and syrups are on hand behind the bar—rendering this classic one of the most abused cocktail recipes of all time. There’s no pineapple juice in a classic Mai Tai, folks!
However, it’s totally fair game to modernize a Tiki classic and name it something different. The modern Tiki world is full of innovators such as Jason Alexander, Daniel “Doc” Parks, and Justin Wojslaw, who day in and day out push Tiki’s boundaries while retaining respect for the classics. While I don’t put myself in their league, I do occasionally have a decent idea that ends up good enough to share here.
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?