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New Article: A Visit to River Antoine

August 29, 2019

Hey folks!

After visiting the amazing Renegade Rum project in Grenada this spring, we took a couple extra days to do a little sightseeing and spend some time at Grand Anse beach. Among the sights we saw was a chocolate estate, a mountain lake, beautiful waterfalls, and monkey-lined trees. Perhaps the biggest highlight among these sights, however, was seeing the River Antoine distillery in Tivoli, home of the famous “Rivers” rum.

Rivers has cult status among serious rum lovers because it’s super rustic, incredibly tasty, and basically not exported. (Needless to say, I drank my fair share while we were on Grenada, and brought a few bottles home for friends.)

Although I’ve been to several Caribbean rum distilleries, nothing could have fully prepared me for the sheer unchanged nature of River Antoine. It’s an amazing sight that everyone should visit at least once.

Check out my recap of the visit here, and scroll through the photo galleries to get a sense of what it’s like. I guarantee you you’ll want to visit by the time you’re done!

Cheers,
Josh

Loading bagasse into a hand cart at River Antoine distillery

New article: Renegade Rising

April 30, 2019

Hey folks!

Today I’m happy to share the details of my recent trip to Grenada, where Mark Reynier and his team are building a brand new distillery to make terroir-driven cane juice rum. To call this project ambitious would be the understatement of a lifetime. Having spent three years securing land leases and growing cane before breaking ground on the distillery, the project is finally nearing completion. I wanted to get down there and get a sense of how Grenadians were feeling about the project as it took shape, and I’m really glad I did. It’s probably the most exciting story in rum right now, so you’ll want to stay informed. Have a read and let me know what you think.

Cheers,
Josh

Renegade Rum office at Westerhall Estate

Fake Rum Unmasked

October 5, 2018

Fake Rum

Spend a while researching rum and you’ll find out there’s an open secret among rum professionals: many popular rums on the market contain non-rum additives. The most famous additive is of course sugar, and folks armed with hydrometers and alcohol meters have created a fairly large database of rums proven to contain added sugar.

Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll learn many rum producers are also adding ingredients that are more difficult to detect. Give an adulterated rum to a rum expert, and most will immediately recognize the presence of exogenous ingredients, but how do we flatten the learning curve for those still learning about the shadowy side of rum blending?

It’s difficult to prove the presence of additives without extensive lab analyses, so rather than spending thousands on lab fees to definitively out a bunch of suspect rums, I decided to approach the issue in reverse: I would make my own fake rum to show how it’s done.

Read the article here to learn about my blender’s toolkit and see how my fake rums actually tasted. And for the real gluttons for punishment among you, stick around as I attempt to unpack the U.S. government’s regulations on rum additives.

Cheers,
Josh

The Curious Case of Saint Benevolence

August 11, 2018

Right after I finished a ton of research on Haiti for my article on the US introduction of clairin, I noticed an invite to an event showcasing a new rum benefiting Haitian charities. Cool, I thought—another cane juice rum from Haiti! Not so fast. This rum was actually a blend of rums from elsewhere in the Caribbean. Wait, what?Saint Benevolence Rum front label

I went to the event anyway because it was a mile from my house and I’m very glad I did, because without speaking to one of the founders, I would still be a bit lost. The good news? It’s totally legit, and 100% of the profits really do go to Haiti. Read on…

New Article: Worthy Park is Ready For Its Close-up

July 10, 2018

Greetings, folks!

In keeping with my promise to write of new and exciting things in the rum world, the arrival of a new Jamaican rum line certainly merits a mention. That’s right, the rums of Worthy Park Estate have finally reached the shores of the United States. In this article you will find a very brief history of the estate, and detailed tasting notes for each of the marques imported by the Seattle-based Back Bar Project.

Read it here and let me know what you think!

Cheers,
Josh

Worth Park US Rum Portfolio

New Article: “Clairin: The Spirit of Haiti Finds a Home in the States”

March 20, 2018

I’ve gone down a  real Haitian history wormhole lately. After reading Empire’s Crossroads (highly recommended) I had to learn more about Haiti, so I picked up Haiti: The Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation (full of opinion and borderline racism), then I read Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, which was fantastic. Moving into the post-earthquake era, I read The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster and am currently reading a Mountains Beyond Mountains, a biography of Paul Farmer, an American doctor who runs a community health system in Haiti’s central plateau.

In addition to Haiti’s history, I have become fascinated with the country’s preferred spirit: clairin. Heretofore, the only Haitian liquor export we saw in the US was Rhum Barbancourt–a fine product to be sure, but a far different type of beverage entirely.

In a country where the average person lives on the equivalent of two dollars a day, Rhum Barbancourt is for most an unimaginable luxury. Clairin on the other hand, is relatively affordable and readily available from the country’s 530+ distillers, most often sold from large jugs into a receptacle you yourself bring to the point-of-sale.

Clairin is made from fresh-pressed sugar cane juice (and sometimes from cane syrup) but it is quite different from French-style rhum agricole. More rustic and flavorful, the wild fermentations take much longer, and the distillations are to proof. Now thanks to La Maison & Velier, we in the states can buy clairins from three different Haitian distilleries–each amazing in its own way.

Want to find out more? Read the article here or click the image below.

Cheers,
Josh


Clairin Casimir, Sajous, and Vaval bottles

New Article: How Does Water Quality Affect Rum Production?

December 8, 2017

Hey folks,

You’re in for a bit of a nerdy treat with my latest article (I hope). As some of you know, while rum is my undying passion, the bulk of my professional career has been spent in the industrial water treatment industry. Today I marry those two topics for the first time to find out how water impacts the rum we drink. Whisky folks talk about their water pretty regularly, but rum makers rarely touch on it. Why is that? The answers you seek are here.

Cheers,
Josh

How does water quality affect rum production?

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