FIBAR is the biggest bar Show in Spain and was held in Valladolid in a pretty cool building that looks like a giant football, the Cúpula del Milenio on november 17-19.
The first ever European Tiki Experience took place there on the tuesday nov 17th and it was for that I was invited to do a seminar about the history of tiki together with Oriol Elias from the Rum and Tiki blog Three of Strong. We made a seminar called “Paradise Lost, the Roots of Tiki” where we covered the history and roots of the American Polynesian Pop culture with all it´s past and present bars and bartenders, carvers, artists, writers, musics and what the tiki culture is all about.
We also raised a toast with Chief Lapu Lapus to Jeff Beachbum Berry in appreciation of all that he did to uncover the lost recipes and all the books he wrote containing history and recipes for a lifetime! because without him we wouldn`t have all these recipes resurrected today.
And he toasted us back….in a video he made back in New Orleans 🙂
The other speakers in the Tiki Experience were Sly Augustin, owner of the Tiki bar Trailer Happiness in London who made a seminar called “The Future of Tiki”, and Miguel and David Perez also know as the two “Brothers in Tiki” were talking about tiki bar and tiki products.
Thanos Prunarus, owner of the famous Baba au Rum bar in Athens did a seminar about the Anatomy of Tiki Drinks and Miguel Escobedo, (Kona Lei) did a seminar called “Tiki-Orama:50 years of Cocktails and Iberian Tiki”
Among the guest bartenders were Guillermo Uriel, bartender at Mahiki in London.
Pavon tiki mugs was also for sale and I was happy to be able to grab a few….they have some that are really cool like the big bamboo and the pineapple mugs, they also have a swimming vahine bowl that is pretty cool and another with a smiling tiki that looks very happy and drunk 🙂
One thing that I learnt at the Tiki Experience is that Tiki in Europe is most likely going to become bigger and bigger but be formed in it´s on fashion and inventiveness – but without losing connection with the traditions. I see a very exciting future for both rums and tiki in Europe…
A very interesting seminar that I attended was Luca Picchis seminar about the Negroni cocktail where he also presented his book “Negroni Cocktail an Italian Legend” which I also bought a copy of and I would recommend anyone who`s a lover of cocktails to get a copy, it´s a masterpiece.
Every night after FIBAR there was a party and good food to have…the bar to go to was El Nino Perdido, great cocktails and nice atmosphere! Bar manager at El Nino Perdido is Juan Valls, also the organizer of FIBAR Valladolid.
There were a lot more things happening at FIBAR but we had only one day of the three so the other things that happened at FIBAR I cannot write about…..but i`m very happy to been able to be there, it was a great experience and I met so many nice people both new and old friends and I hope I can be back again the next year!
Here is as usual when I go to these kind of events, a picture parade….because pictures speak more…
Cúpula del Milenio
Beautiful Daquiris like these…
Paired with Spanish croquetas…
Siderit Hibiscus Gin, made in northern Spain and very tasty.
….made a very refreshing gin and tonic.
Hendrick`s Gin booth, give him a drink….
Luca Picchi (Head bartender in Coffee Rivoire of Florence and author of the book Negroni Cocktail) made a great seminar about the Negroni – The history of the Negroni cocktail and the Italian appetizer !
(pic credit FIBAR)
FAIR Rum from Belize!
And Puerto Rican Don Q
Mezcal goodness and burnt cinnamon stick – yummy…
Plantation rums! and of course the famous Stiggin´s Fancy….probably the tastiest pineapple rum I have ever tasted.
Big pineapple tiki mug from Pavon.
And a swimming vahine.
Aloha shirt and rums….
Oriol at our seminar “Paradise Lost, the Roots of Tiki”
And now we`re entering the realm of tiki…
Three of Strong and A Mountain of Crushed Ice taking it through the history of tiki to show where it came from and that tiki is so much more than just the drinks, which btw were some of the world´s first crafted farm to glass cocktails – in tropical costume.
While Miguel Escobedo (Kona Lei, Madrid) made a seminar called – Tiki-Orama:50 years of cocktails and Iberian Tiki, and Thanos Prunarus (Baba au Rum) spoke about the anatomy of The Anatomy of Tiki Drinks and of course his world famous rum bar, Baba au Rum (pic credit FIBAR)
Guest bartending was Guillermo Uriel, bartender at Mahiki in London. (pic credit FIBAR)
The Tiki Experience was created by Miguel Pérez Muñoz and David Perez, also known as the “Brothers in Tiki” (pic credit FIBAR) who also did a seminar about tiki bar and tiki products.
Three Dots and a dash, one of my fav tiki cocktails
There were so much more than what these pictures have shown and we were there only one of three days! try to go and visit the FIBAR in 2016!
Here´s an old favorite again, the Penang Afrididi #1. It`s a “forgotten” tiki drink from 1937 and it was created by Don the Beachcomber. I like Donn`s drinks and I like this one! it was served at Don the Beachcomber’s Caberet Restaurant in the International Marketplace in Honolulu, circa 1958.
I`m curious about the name of this drink and wonder how it came to be and where it comes from…? if anyone knows please write in the comments.
There´s vibrant old dusty magic tasty tiki history here!
There´s also more versions of this drink, for example the #2 which simply cuts the same ingredients by half, blend and strain into a cocktail coupe or glass. Also Jason Alexander at Tacoma Cabana made his version of this drink and called it Penang Afrididi #3.
Penang Afrididi #3
2 dashes of Horror in Clay Tropical bitters, 1/2 oz each lime, orange, pineapple juices and 1/2 oz passionfruit syrup, 1/4 oz each falernum and fassionola, 1 oz ginger beer, 1 1/2 oz light rum, 1 1/2 oz Deep Ones Gold Blend (a house blend of three rums he makes), flash blend all ingredients.
Here´s the fassionola again, I need to try to make my own someday and I need to get the commercial version as well (the red one) I`d love to compare them, something I`ve had in mind for a while but that gonna be another post, and I also wanna try Jason`s version.
There´s also an interesting descendent of this drink that was dates back to the Mai Kai opening in 1956 and they had two versions of it, that drink is called the Zula and it`s flavor profile has only three ingredients, Herbsaint (or Pernod), pineapple, gold rum. You can read about the Zula over at the Atomic Grog.
From “Sippin’ Safari” page 95 by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry
1 1/2 oz. Light Puerto Rican Rum
1 1/2 oz. Amber Virgin Islands Rum
1/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. Passion Fruit Syrup
1/8 tsp. Pernod or Herbsaint
Put everything into a blender and add six ounces of crushed ice. Blend it at high speed for five seconds.
And I couldn`t resist to add some of the liquid from my jar of Maraschino cherries..and that´s what gave the drink that wonderful shades of red.
This is one of the typical old Don the Beachcomber drinks where he used his fantastic imagination to create types of drinks that at the time had never been seen before with multiple rums, juices, spices and “secrets” (like drops of Pernod)
His Rum Rhapsodies as he called them!
Next time I want to try the Atomic Grog`s Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Zula…and i`d love to make a twist on it as well.
But until then i`ll make this – a twist on the Penang Afrididi using an aged rhum agricole sweetened with a mix of 50/50 passionfruit syrup and hibiscus grenadine.
Afrididi Martiniquaise (or Penang Afrididi #4)
2 oz. Rhum agricole vieux (I used St James 12)
1.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz. Orange Juice
0.25 oz. Passion Fruit Syrup (homemade)
0.25 oz Hibiscus Grenadine (homemade)
1/8 tsp. Pernod or Herbsaint
Put everything into a blender and add six ounces of crushed ice. Blend it at high speed for five seconds. Pour into a snifter and add more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a palm leaf and sugarcane stick.
It turned out to be a fruity and distincly rhum agricole forward drink….not strong, just fresh! the day I have my own fassionola made i`m gonna try that in this drink!
Today there´s more spiced rums on the market than ever before and it can be tricky to pick out the good ones because spiced rums can be so much….
I think we tend to drink more spiced rums in the winter season, many in warm rum drinks to beat the cold and depending on what you gonna do you may need different types of spiced rums. In this guest post there´s a few spiced rums listed that can be worth trying but of course, taste is personal so this is just a guideline.
St Aubin Spiced
This is a spiced Rhum Agricole, made from sugarcane juice instead of molasses. It´s made by the St Aubin Distillery on Mauritius. In it you find orange peel, hints of gingerbread cake and cinnamon. St Aubin plantation located on southern Mauritius has been cultivating sugarcane since 1890 and takes it´s name from one of it`s first owner Pierre de St Aubin.
On the estate there`s both artisanal and a traditional rums made. The water used in the rum making comes from their own spring water from Bois Chéri. It`s all local produce
Tonka Bean Infused Rum by Old Amazon
This 100% pot still rum is infused with Tonka Bean. Tonka Bean is a vanilla substitute that has been banned in many countries including the U.S. due to it´s content of coumarin which in high concentrations can be lethal. But it takes enourmously large doses – about 30 entire tonka beans to eat to fall ill. About the same volume at which nutmeg are toxic.The Old Amazon No1 Tonka bean infused rum can be safely used and guarantees a pleasant surprise.
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced
From St Lucia Distiller´s, this spiced rum is known as one of the very best of spiced rums available today. It has flavor notes of Orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon, caramel and vanilla. Chairman`s Reserve Spiced is one of the classic spiced rums and is best enjoyed with coconut water or ginger beer.
Kraken Black Spiced Rum
Launched in the UK in early 2010, this rum has an rich, spicy flavour. Named for the legendary sea monster, Kraken is a blend of Caribbean rums distilled from molasses made from locally-grown sugar cane. The rum is aged 1–2 years and then blended with a mix of 11 spices, including cinnamon, ginger and clove. It comes in a quite cool package!
Bristol Black Spice Rum
Bristol Black Spice Rum is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, apple, rich plump raisins and orange zest. This combination creates a bottle that is filled with spicy goodness and rich fruit flavours.
Dark Matter Spiced Rum
Made by the Ewen Brothers, this is a perfect mixture of fiery young rum and fresh spices. It is a good choice if you are looking for rum without any vanilla essence. The rum is also one of the best for making Bloody Mary (which is a mixture of rum and tomato juice). It even got lots of attention at the UK Rumfest.
This is one of the newest on this list as it was launched in 2014. It provides rum drinkers with a unique experience. It is spiced with Ginger and Cinnamon making it a welcome departure from all the vanilla flavoured rums in the market today. Most of those vanilla flavoured rums are just replicas of the UK’s Sailor Jerry! Pusser’s Spiced has a rich and warming profile, irrespective of the 35% ABV.
Find your favorite
These are a few good spiced rums you can count on to provide you with an exceptional experience. They will probably live a short lifespan in any spiced rum drinker’s cabinet. However, like rest the entries in this article, it is not for ladies that play on Jackpot Jane but more for spiced rum lovers. They are good enough to hopefully convert anyone to a lover of the Caribbean culture of spiced rum drinking!
Traditionally, Caribbean islanders would make spiced rums at home with whatever was locally available, and used spices like allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon and most were locally consumed and only a very few made their way into the US.
Today we have more spiced rums available than before and there´s something for everyone!
The Tiki Farm 15th Anniversary Show with Big Toe, Ken Ruzic, Doug Horne, and Scott Scheidly showing wtih Michelle Bickford “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”
Friday, November 6th marks the opening night celebration of Tiki Farm’s 15th Anniversary, with a comprehensive exhibition of 500 of the most important and coveted selections of their over 2,000 different designs created to-date. Exclusive to the event, La Luz De Jesus will be world-premiering five brand new Tiki Farm limited edition Tiki mugs designed by Big Toe, Doug Horne, Flounder, Ken Ruzic and Michelle Bickford.
Each mug comes with a signed and numbered box label exclusive to that design, and one even comes with two Tiki Farm swizzle sticks.
Tiki Farm is credited as being the world’s largest and most recognized manufacturer of Tiki mugs, having produced millions of mugs over the last 15 years, designed by such notable artists as Shag, The Pizz, Crazy Al Evans, Rick Rietveld and countless others.
Picture credit Tiki Farm, this is just ONE wall of the Tiki Farm installation at La Luz de Jesus! Mugs that go on forever….!!!
On display as well will be a tribute display to Tiki Farm’s late Art Director, The Pizz. Dubbed “The Lord Of Lowbrow”, The Pizz played a pivotal role in Tiki Farm’s most recent years, lending his artistic and creative abilities to a massive amount of designs.
Tiki Farm’s client list includes Disneyland, Pixar, Mattel, Hard Rock, Trader Vic’s, The Discovery Channel, Fender, Body Glove, Hyatt Regency and literally 1000’s of other commissioning clients. On display as well will be a tribute display to Tiki Farm’s late Art Director, The Pizz. Dubbed “The Lord Of Lowbrow”, The Pizz played a pivotal role in
Tiki Farm’s most recent years, lending his artistic and creative abilities to a massive amount of designs.This exhibition should not be missed by any fans of the mid-century artistic movement as well of course by any fans of Tiki, Lowbrow Art and Kustom Kulture. “Tiki” is an integral part of these movements, especially here in Southern California, and no other company better exemplifies the passion, commitment and creative breadth that has made
Tiki such a household word any better than Southern California’s beloved Tiki Farm.Tiki Farm’s Holden Westland as well as many of the current artists involved in the Tiki scene will be on hand to celebrate an amazing and unparalleled 15 years of wonderful, mind-boggling Tiki artistry and creativity.
Since their inception back in the Fall of 2000, Tiki Farm has helped paved the way of the modern day Tiki mug resurgence, defining the movement and creating the head of steam that has allowed so many other Tiki enthusiasts to try their hand at mug making.
Tiki Farm’s founder and president, Holden Westland, is regarded as “The Hardest Working Man In Tiki”, and the results from his efforts evidenced in Tiki Farm’s continued manic-paced production will be on display for all to enjoy at this special exhibition. Guests will be treated to a free printed show compendium that will allow for an informative and insightful walk-through of this phenomenal display of world-famous Tiki Farm goodies!
Here are the five brand new Tiki Farm limited edition Tiki mugs designed by Big Toe, Doug Horne, Flounder, Ken Ruzic and Michelle Bickford:
Nari Rani Marquesan Mug by Flounder (Scott Scheidly)
Ltd. Edition of 100, 8″ in height, 22 oz. capacity, $50 each
Rub for Rum Easter Island Tiki Decanter by Michelle Bickford
Ltd. Edition of 100, 9″ in height, 50 oz. capacity, $75 each
Tiki Farm Temple Mug by Doug Horne
Ltd. Edition of 100, 7 5/8″ in height, 20 oz. capacity, $50 each Sold Out
Bobomb Hand Grenade Tiki Mug by Big Toe
Ltd. Edition of 100, 8″ in height, 22 oz. capacity, $50 each Sold Out
Poko Ono Pineapple Mug by Ken Ruzic
Ltd. Edition of 100, 7.5″ in height, 16 oz. capacity, $50 each Sold Out
My 10 paintings function as a love letter to the art of tiki mugs, the art of the tropical cocktail and to my relationship with Tiki Farm and my pal Holden Westland. I met Holden (aka “the hardest working man in tiki”) in the 80’s over happy-hour long island ice teas, then we were reacquainted in the mid-2000s when our love for tiki and Polynesian ‘pop’ culture caused our paths to cross again. It has been a unique pleasure to work with Holden to create what I hope is a unique voice in the tiki mug world, and it is my absolute honor to be a part of the Mondo Tiki art show. – Tom Laura a/k/a/ Big Toe
Big Toe – Party Bob Acrylic on panel, 8×11″ (12×14″ framed), $300
Big Toe – Marwal Maiden Acrylic on panel, 8×11″ (12×14″ framed), $300
Images of past pop culture mixed with current-day pop culture provide an endless source of inspiration and possibilities for me – states Long Beach area artist Doug Horne whose work reflects his love of mid-century atomic, deco and of course, tiki. Doug has designed numerous tiki mugs and worked with Fender on their Art-Coustics Tiki Art Series of guitars.
Doug Horne – Maori Head Pastel and pencil on paper, 17×20″ $600
Doug Horne – Kraken Rum Floater Pencil on paper, 16×27″, $700 Sold
Ken ‘Kinny’ Ruzic is a self-taught artist, former marine, and world traveler. Ruzic says he began his career in the surf industry doing tee-shirt graphic design for Rusty Surfboards and Hawaiian Island Creations. Wanting to pursue fine arts, Ruzic divided his time between honing his in both art and graphic design. Ken blends Polynesian myth and tradition with his personal artistic mythology and humor working with acrylics, water color, ink, & wood burning.
Scott Scheidly a/k/a Flounder
Scott Scheidly creates realistic renditions of the surreal, often with pop culture references. He has also developed a strong following for his incredible paintings of skeletal art and botanics, as well as his sense of humor. Scott lives and works in Orlando and has an art degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Scott Scheidly – Moon Goddess Acrylic, 12×29″, (16×31″ framed), $1,800
Scott Scheidly – Shrunken Modern Primitive Head Acrylic, 9.75×9.75″, (13.75×13.75″ framed), $800
November 6–29, 2015
Artist reception: Friday, November 6th; 8-11 PM Live music from Tommy Tokioka plus mid-century and more from DJ Lee of LuxuriaMusic.com
Featured post by Richard Seale of Foursquare Distillery:
I was very disappointed to read the November editorial of ‘Got Rum’ magazine by publisher Luis Ayala. It seems as though Luis is responding to hearsay rather than making a substantive commentary on the Gargano Classification of Rum. It is not about Pot v Column; it is much more nuanced than that. Luca Gargano of Velier, Italy is one of the leading independent bottlers of rum and considered one of the category’s foremost authorities. He is not “lacking in the knowledge to push the concept”. I am confident once Luis has it properly explained, he will support the initiative.
Lets start with Luis’s first claim:
“some people in the industry are proposing differentiating rums based on the type of still used for their distillation, the choices being “Pot Still” or “Column Still.”
This is entirely inaccurate! No such choices are proposed!
Here are the four categories of the Gargano Classification:
1. Pure Single Rum – 100% pot (i.e. batch) still
2. Single Blended Rum – a blend of only pot still and traditional column still
3. Rum – rum from a traditional column still
4. Industrial Rum – Modern multi column still
Traditional Artisanal Rum Distillation
Modern Industrial “Rum” Distillation
Luis then sets up his first straw man:
“to claim that the distillate coming out of a simple pot still (round copper bottom, onion head with swan neck) and an Adams Pot Still with Two Retorts is the same”
But no one has made such a claim.
Moreover, the point of the Gargano classification is not to place the “same” rums in the same category (indeed if that was the case we could just simply taste them). The purpose of the classification is to separate rums in an informative manner: traditional v modern, artisanal v industrial, endogenous v exogenous flavour, authentic v ersatz. The order of the categories is an order for authenticity, complexity and real intrinsic value. It is not an order of preference, more on that later.
And another straw man:
“To further assume that the distillate coming out of a “beer” or “stripping” column is the same as that coming out of a rectifying column is even more ridiculous.”
No such assumption is being made. I reiterate, the classification is about authenticity and value, not whether the rums are the “same”.
It further seems to me that Luis is making a common mistake. The dichotomy is not pot v column; the correct dichotomy is batch v continuous.
The “simple pot still” and the “Adams pot still” are both batch stills. And they are both traditional too, retorts and rectifying sections having been found on batch stills for rum since the early 19th century. As they are both traditional batch stills, they belong in the same category. A batch still with plates is still a batch still. There are no hybrid stills batch v continuous is a dichotomy. Distillers are very much free to make different rums from them. The making of the wine is an important step as distillation and so too is maturation. We expect and hope the rums within a category will not be the same!
What makes the batch v continuous dichotomy so important? Well in a batch still output is a function of time and in continuous distillation system the output is a function of position (in a system which is characterised by a steady state). The latter places an inherent constraint on profile of the spirit.
This key difference means several important things for our classification:
(1) Only the batch still affords the distiller access to the entire volatile component of the wine from which he can select his single heart or multiple fractions to make up his heart as he desires.
(2) Time driven output does not lend itself easily to automation because of the lack of a steady state for any meaningful amount of time. Even today with the best of automation the operation is still largely in the hands of the master distiller and thus inherently artisanal.
(3) The batch still is truly “small batch” and the cost of distillation is orders of magnitude higher than the continuous still (technically this is in part because in a batch still we are distilling a wine of decreasing strength whereas in the continuous still the strength of the wine is constant).
In simple terms the batch still is an indispensable component of premium rum. Or rather put another way, without true small batch distillation what exactly are you paying a premium for? It is unquestionably the most traditional method of distillation.
It will likely be suggested that “heavy” or “full bodied” spirits can be distilled from a column still. Indeed they can but they are inferior to the batch still. That is a subject for an entire article (or two) but a couple of quotes from Distillation scholars (from both rum and whisky) should hopefully convince the reader that it is not a spurious claim.
“Obviously, a carelessly distilled light rum is not a first-class, genuine, heavy rum”……..In preparing heavy rums, distillation of the fermented mash is best conducted in a discontinuous or batch still ” – Rafael Arroyo in Production of Heavy Rums (1945)
Arroyo likens making heavy rums from a continuous still as equivalent to carelessly distilling light rum.
“In order to obtain whisky of high quality, concentration of the spirit must be than 94.17 abv” – M Pyke in Journal of Brewing (1965)
Pyke’s comment reminds me of another common misconception. Whisky (or rum) distilled at high proof of 94% in a traditional ‘coffey’ still is a galaxy away from the distillate at 96% of industrial multi column plants with extractive distillation. Flavour is not a simple function of proof and you cannot directly compare the proof from a continuous system with what is the average proof of the output of a batch system.
But I digress unnecessarily. It is enough that the batch still is the only truly artisanal distillation to place it in the highest category. This might be a novel concept in rum but it is orthodoxy in whisky and brandy.
Luis poses the following as a challenge to the classification:
“Those who assume that all pot stills produce heavy, congener-rich distillates, forget (or conveniently ignore) the fact that many small (“craft”) distilleries actually use pot stills to produce vodka and other light/neutral spirits.”
This is entirely irrelevant!
What idiosyncratic craft distillers do with their pot stills is irrelevant to the classification. The batch still affords the distiller the opportunity to “capture the soul” of his flavourful wine. If he chooses through successive distillations to destroy the flavour that is his prerogative. Stupidity is everyone’s prerogative.
I would caution against the belief that “neutral spirits” do arrive from the pot still. While it is not theoretically impossible to make neutral spirits from batch distillation it is completely impractical. I know of no batch distillation making neutral spirit in practice. To meet the modern specification of neutral spirits a continuous technique known as extractive distillation is necessary. I have visited some of these so called “craft” distillers and observed the purchase of neutral spirits to be distilled again in the pot. Well vodka in, vodka out. Except its now called “craft vodka”. There is a pending court case alleging the same against a certain “craft vodka”. In other cases the product is simply not neutral spirit.
Distilled from low wines and call “pot stilled”? Perhaps more likely distilled from diluted neutral spirit. To meet the classification of “pure single rum”, the spirit must be distilled from the wine. I reiterate no one has proposed the vapid twin classification of pot and column. This is a serious classification. Silly games do not threaten it.
Luis apparently believes we are interested in the following question:
“How then, is one to differentiate the rich, congener-laden distillate from its lighter counterpart?”
Again this is irrelevant and not germane to the purpose of the classification. The classification is not about putting the “same” rums in a category and neither is it about separating “light” from “heavy”.
Luis’s answer to his own question is a tautology. Indeed if we were interested in classifying rums by congener counts, we would, wait for it, count congeners! But congener counts are a banal way to classify rums. It is inane to believe that a spirit containing hundreds of flavour inducing compounds should be classified by a handful of trite readily identifiable congeners. A poorly rectified column spirit even blended with neutral spirit will have ‘impressive’ congener counts. Does that make it artisanal? Can we tell from the lab test if the flavour profile is authentic? Does it capture the soul of the wine? Only an organoleptic test will suffice. These abridged lab results cannot even distinguish rum from whisky. A congener count of a few select congeners is just plain silly.
It is often said that Rum is a “global spirit” but it is far from the truth. Rum distillation as a 19th century distiller would recognise is today sadly uncommon. We have lost so many distilleries in the 20th century. There were 110 distilleries in Jamaica in 1901. Today there are 4. It is important to distinguish between traditional and modern distillation. Much “rum” today is absurdly neutral in character and not even produced by Rum Distilleries but rather by Industrial scale alcohol plants located to take advantage of cheap labour in some parts of the Caribbean. Traditional rum distillation in these territories has long disappeared. So-called “rum” is a tiny part of their output. They are the antithesis of artisanal. Consumers, bloggers, enthusiasts need to know the difference.
Rum is a spirit in the best of traditions but the category is facing two alternate paths. Is premium rum to have real value (as for whisky and cognac) or perceived value (as for vodka)? With rum’s renaissance too many ersatz products are arriving on the market to take advantage of consumers. Industrial scale production (from distilleries unknown or unseen), murky (or downright false) age statements, wine or other flavourings, sweetened by sugar and coloured like coca cola with caramel. At the same time, we have truly artisanal pure batch still rums with transparent age statements, from a named distillery, free of added colour, flavourings and sugar. Pure rum as it should be.
We need a framework that allows enthusiasts (and ultimately consumers) to distinguish between the two. Some will argue that typical consumers will care little about distillation and they would be right. But those same consumers know they must pay more for Cognac over Brandy and for Single Malt over Blended. These premium spirit buyers also know an age statements means, wait for it, its actual age! Not some ‘solera’ nonsense that is nothing less than a shameless attempt to obfuscate. When a brand asks for premium pricing, they must tick the boxes: artisanal production and transparent age statements. The new framework will help guide enthusiasts to understand if the rum meets the demanded value.
It is little wonder then that Rum does so poorly at the highest level. According to the IWSR only 16% of rum sales are at the premium/super premium level in contrast to 66% for Whisky (it is even 48% for Tequila). Our most expensive actively available rums can only barely make the top 50 list of the most expensive actively available whiskies. Why? We have to get our communication right and white/gold/dark for categories is pathetic.
Enthusiasts need to ask themselves what do they want from the category? Real value and authenticity or seduction with sugar and nice packaging for Industrial scale products. If the latter is sufficient to attract premium pricing, then traditional rum production may go extinct. It is already an endangered species. The large corporate brands will fight this classification. They prefer to sell perceived value, as it is far more profitable. We need opinion leaders like Luis on our side. Don’t dismiss a much needed classification as merely pot v column or light v heavy. The new classification is also not intended to create an order of preference. Just the same way you are entitled to prefer a blended whisky over a single malt, you are still free to love your Bacardi mojito or Captain and Coke (if you really insist!).
The new framework does not tell you what to enjoy but rather how to value what you enjoy.