The Birth (and Rebirth) of Rum Brands


Now available for your comments and the resulting controversy:

I took the opportunity of the recent launch of the Hampden Estate rums to investigate the history and purpose of brands a bit. Featuring the significant contributions of a veritable who’s who of experts.

It’s a big topic, of course, but I wanted to get the discussion going. Now tell me how I could have done better!

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I like the piece and I like Jamaican pot still rum. I guess I’ll drink some rum and wait for the controversy to surface.

Seems to me that Hampden and Worthy Park might have the opportunity to redefine what Jamaican rum means, in the manner Carpano did some years back with Antica Formula. We’ve been accustomed to the middle-of-the-road Appleton products that have dominated “Jamaican rum” for decades. This new stuff is gonna be a shock if they can get it in front of bartenders and drinkers.

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Mostly kidding on “controversy,” since this isn’t Facebook.

Total agreement on the redefinition. Obviously that is the intent of those producers as well.


I’ll go out on a limb and assume that @Splificator’s quote won’t go down well in the rum community.


Which quote do I have to worry about?


This one:

“Rafael Arroyo figured out how to make clean rum,” Wondrich said. “If you wanted rum to taste great before that, the standard way to do that would be to ship it to England where it would sit in the London docks in barrels, or to Bordeaux where it would sit in the docks in barrels, for years, and some of the sweatier components would come out.” The transport to Europe was part of the “recipe.” “But Arroyo said if you ferment it clean and distill it clean, you don’t have to go through all that.”

Lo and behold: shortly after I posted here, I saw Richard Seale had posted the link on Facebook overnight, with that exact quote.


Well, ok; I was speaking briefly, even telegraphically, as part of a 15-minute, 2500-year survey of sugarcane distillation, and I was speaking in Puerto Rico, Arroyo’s home. The story is obviously more complicated than that. But he did pioneer the ultra-clean, scientific style of (mostly) column still rum that would for the most part define the successful Caribbean runs of the post-independence era—the (post-Cuban) Bacardis, the Appleton’s, the Mount Gays, the Cruzans, the Angosturas, etc. These rums do mature faster and were much more in line with global spirits trends than the heavier, long-aging potstill rums that were already in decline in the pre-war era. Of course there are subtleties and exceptions.


It’s always terribly disappointing to me that when controversy arrives, it takes the form of an out-of-context quote. :frowning_face:


To be perfectly clear, I’m not claiming Ben misquoted me or got me wrong at all; i’m Just saying in a more detailed discussion I would have provided a more nuanced argument. But based on what I know, I don’t think I’m fundamentally wrong.

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I think Richard is interpreting the quote in a different way than I do. I think he thinks of “clean rum” as a value judgment about historical forms of rum, but I don’t think David was describing a personal judgment. He was reporting on the change in what type of rum was most popular globally. That definitely happened. He’s summing up decades of events in a couple sentences, but he’s describing something real.

I think I could have been clearer in tracing the thread through this. What does the group think would be an appropriate clarification on this point?