This blog is moving

January 3, 2010

I’m moving this blog to the Ministry of Rum site. I hope you’ll follow me there.


Looking forward to the next decade

December 29, 2009

The appreciation of sugar cane spirits has grown significantly over the last ten years, but my favorite spirit is just beginning to be noticed on a larger scale. More producers are exporting more sugar cane spirits to more countries and consumers are taking notice of better offerings.

In the middle of the last century, advances in fermentation technology and improvements in distillation fueled a change in the way rum was made in the Caribbean. Today almost every distillery uses stainless steel fermentation tanks and only a few distillers don’t have instruments to monitor the temperature and pressure in their distillation columns or pot stills. Once it was understood that cleaning fermentation tanks after each batch could improve production quality the practice was adopted at nearly every distillery. Today gas chromatography is a standard tool at all of the larger distilleries.

At the end of the last century rum distillers prepared to expand their production to meet the growing demand for their spirits. The price of used whisky and bourbon barrels has soared over the last fifteen years as distillers are putting more fresh spirits in barrels to age and replacing older barrels that were once considered ‘good enough’ to age the rum. Today the standards for aged rum are much higher than they were in the 90s.

Today almost every distiller is either reclaiming their spent yeast and capturing the methane to burn in their boilers or planning to reduce their polluting effluent in the next two years. Waste recovery is no longer considered too expensive, but rather an integral part of sustainable spirits production.

The interest in sugar cane spirits will certainly attract some less than scrupulous entries into the market just as the financial boom attracted more than a few operators who preyed on the less knowledgeable and experienced. As we enter a new decade, the way sugar cane spirits are marketed will see some of the biggest changes in an industry that dates back nearly 400 years in the western hemisphere.

As finances are stretched consumers are keener than ever to learn as much as they can about what they consume before they lay their money down next to the cash register, or, click the ACCEPT button on the electronic payment portal. The internet has changed the way we learn about new products and the way companies get their products noticed. Services like Twitter and Facebook are proving to be invaluable tools to connect with others of similar interest and to learn from others before we spend our hard earned money, which is becoming harder to earn. Electronic media is changing the way we get our news, newspapers are falling faster than politicians moral barometers, but those same electrons are enabling us to learn more about everything from the name of the latest celebrity to fall from grace to a trusted review of the bottle of spirits on the shelf in front of us, all from what we used to call a phone. Not our telephone, we haven’t used them since the last century.

In the next decade we will be able to learn even more about the products we consume, including the sugar cane spirits in our glass, before we click the ACCEPT button. In addition to competitive prices in our purchasing region, which may be a few miles to entire political areas like the EU, we’ll also be able to get real information about things like the carbon footprint of the container and its contents. Reviews by trusted colleagues, many of whom we only know by their screen names but who will become even more influential in the coming years, will be as accessible as the ingredient panels on the food packages we buy.

This won’t be a one way information street. As consumers, we will be able to challenge claims made by the hucksters and marketing companies that today claim no responsibility for their actions and are shielded from consumers by corporate lawyers. Consumers will be given more access to the people who are responsible for manufacturing and marketing the products we consume.

Of course not every producer, marketer or retailer is going to participate in the new age of product transparency. That will be limited to those who want to succeed on the merits of their products.

The holidays are coming and rum makes a great gift.

November 3, 2009

Growing up I never knew what to get my older sister and her husband. Many years they got a bottle of rum. They weren’t surprised but it was something they enjoyed. Daylight savings time and the world series are sure signs that the holidays will be upon me again this year before I know it.

What I’ll give for gifts this year will undoubtedly include rum. Or, if you’re like me you’re hoping someone close to you will make a bottle of rum part of their gift to you this holiday season. What better way to give a little hint than to leave your computer browser open to the Ministry of Rum website where someone else can see what you’re thinking about for the holidays.

If you’d like to suggest a rum to be added to the list, take a look at the Rum Lovers forums to see how you can add your suggestions to the list.

Rum Forum at the Ministry of Rum website

March 26, 2007

A new Forum for rum lovers is now operational on the Ministry of Rum website. There is still a lot of work to be done integrating all of the new features of the new website so your patience will be rewarded. If you have a favorite username, register it before someone else uses it.

I plan to continue to post articles about my travels here on this site for at least the forseeble future no one really knows how technology will change our directions on the internet.

The new Ministry of Rum is almost ready to go live.

February 22, 2007

Over the last ten years Ministry of has evolved with the internet. In the next week or so, a completely new site will replace the old site complete with a new MySQL database. There will be a few problems since I’m far from being a proficient software developer but I think you’ll find the new site easier to use and more informative than ever before. Converting the filemaker Pro 4.0 database records over to MySQL has been a challenge but I’ve been able to incorporate several new features that should greatly improve your online experience.

Trades are now able to edit their accounts and keep more up to date lists of the rums which they sell.
Rum Lovers are now able to sign up on line to recieve periodic emails about events and maintain a list of their favorite rums. Although none of the information provided in the registration process will be made public or shared, rum lovers will have the option of using their Ministry of Rum username to log in to the new rum forum which will be online in the near future.

Take a test drive here.

Will the real Havana Club please stand up?

October 9, 2006

Over the last few months there has been increasing conversation about Castro’s health, Havana Club and Bacardi, not necessarily in that order. For a little background, Pernod Ricard partnered with the Cuban government in a deal which allowed them to market Havana Club Rum around the world. But since the US continues to impose an embargo on some products from Cuba, the Cuban Havana Club Rum isn’t sold in the US. And in a further twist, in August, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused Pernod trademark renewal for the name Havana Club in the US. Rum giant Bacardi had seized on the opportunity to register the name Havana Club in the US and is now selling a white rum in the US under the Havana Club name.

The Arechabala family, who owned the distillery where Havana Club was first made in 1935, moved to South Florida after Castro took over the country and then sold the recipe for their namesake Cuban rum to Bacardi. Last week I had an opportunity to try the new Bacardi distilled Havana Club rum and was very surprised at the marked vanilla flavor in the finish. I have tasted a lot of rums and have only found a distinct vanilla flavor in one other white rum. In the aging process sucrose in the oak wood used to make the barrels gives the spirit a slight vanilla flavor accompanied by a slight woody note. If the barrel has been charred, a smoky oak flavor is also generally present.

In Cuba’s Havana Club, which is claimed to be aged three years in oak barrels and then carbon filtered, I taste a very dry spirit with a slight citrus flavor which is devoid of the vanilla flavor found in Bacardi’s Havana Club. Over the years, I’ve also had the opportunity to taste a number of Havana Club rums distilled before Castro seized control of Cuba and they taste more like what Cuba is exporting today than the rum Bacardi now claims is made according to the original recipe.

Bacardi’s Havana Club bottle is markedly different from that used for their other rums and there is no comparison to the bottle or label used by the Cuban distillery. Bacardi’s sculptured bottle will stand out on the shelf and I doubt anyone will confuse this with the Havana Club for which Cuba is so well known around the world.

Whether or not America is going to be smitten by the new Havana Club is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain, the legal posturing is going to continue for a long time. And that can only be good for the lawyers.