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Old 01-27-2020, 01:34 PM   #1
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Location: Trinidad and Tobago
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Default West Indies Distillery View on the Barbados GI

A follow-up from my earlier post regarding the stance of the other three distilleries.

WIRD has released a statement. Here's the full note, and the following is the first part;

Many have asked us to partake in the discussion on the new Barbados GI and to share our insight on the topic. Here’s what the West Indies Rum Distillery stands for.

Under the laws of Barbados (Geographical Indications Act), geographical indications are defined specifically as,

“An indication that identifies goods as originating in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin”.

This means the GI must concretely permit to:
Differentiate and characterize Barbados rums with the identification of the place of origin, of their quality and their process specifications
Promote the “Barbados Rum” and increase the export sales of our country, Barbados

A GI should strengthen us (the rum of Barbados). It should allow all Barbados rum producers to honor their heritage and continue to do what they know and enjoy doing. By no means, must the GI be used as a competitive tool by one interested party over another.

We believe that both fermentation and distillation steps must be carried out in Barbados to claim its place of origin.

Ageing and double ageing

We are in favour of mandatory tropical ageing. Our proposed GI would require one year as it was commonly done in the past. [2]
However, the 350-year-old double ageing historical practice must also be preserved. West Indies Rum Distillery has been making rum that has been double aged since 1893 by producing rum in Barbados and then shipping it in its barrels to other countries where it was aged again before consumption (London Dock Rum & Navy Rums for instance).

Further, double ageing is unarguably a part of all Barbados rum heritage. It is an established historical fact that dock rums and navy rums[3] have contributed greatly to establish rum as we know it. Importantly, the sea voyage[4] of the rum in a barrel also contributes to its taste and aromatic character. This is not only a historical fact, it is a scientific fact.

This is why we want a GI that foresees ageing in Barbados but also preserves the tradition of further ageing in countries that legally respect the Barbados GI once it is registered. The key is transparency, which can simply be stated on the label.

Type of barrels

Nowadays, rum from all over the world is almost exclusively aged in former bourbon/whiskey American oak casks, because they are largely available and they are inexpensive. Oak does not grow in the Caribbean and is obviously not native to the Caribbean. Limitation that barrels/vats are to be made from oak only, does not make historical sense and limits rum-making to its recent practices. Before the great consolidation of the 20th century, rum barrels were made with oak and different hardwood such as chestnut, mulberry, acacia, etc. Importantly, these barrels were repaired on island by local coopers, often with regional wood[5]. West Indies Rum Distillery used to have a fully operational cooperage unit. We have found regional 19th century documents showing that these barrels were repaired with specific Caribbean woods and Central American woods.[6]
We need to be able to revive this unique heritage, which offers fascinating taste profiles to be re-discovered. We are currently using seven types of sustainable wood for our rums and are studying further with local and international historians and established barrel-makers. Limiting Barbados to American oak barrels or to oak barrels would be a great mistake that would obliterate historic practices.
Faithful to the history of Navy Rums and also ageing in Barbados, we want to continue to use barrels but also larger vats for their positive impact on the rum for ageing and blending like it has been done for over 350 years.

We defend the use of every food-grade wood to be used for Barbados rum ageing but also the use of small and large size of wooden barrels or vats for this purpose.

Caramel and sugar

The topic of sugar addition is much discussed and has been a focal point of other producers’ GI campaigns. History shows that Barbados rums have been made for centuries both with and without the inclusion of sugar and caramel. We know from research that historically, purchased E150a caramel was not used in rum. Rather, the caramel was made with burnt sugar, which left a small amount of residual sugar when added to the rum[7].
Sugar has been historically added to the rum by the form of burnt sugar, molasses or even Falernum. Dosage has always been authorized by the Europeans regulations on spirits of 1989 and 2008. The new regulation of 2019 stated a limit of 20 g/L of sugar.
We at West Indies Rum Distillery and Plantation support the production of each of these styles of rum, whether using E150a caramel or burnt sugar. We also urge rum producers to have firm transparency in whichever they choose to use.

We stand for both techniques, be it sugar or caramel, as long as it is derived from the sugar cane. We insist that any such inclusions should be stated on the label.

Water in rum fermentation

Archives show that there are historical references to rum being fermented using a hint of sea water[8]. This is a tradition that we value, continue to apply, and want to perpetuate. Salt does not pass through the distillation process. Rather, it creates a specific environment for the fermentation. Again, it is part of rum making history and it is a good tool for rum-makers.
Also, Barbados is a small island with limited resources, so using multiple water types supports sustainability. The aquifers are not endless, and much water is needed for fermentation and reduction processes. We do not want to restrict water use to only that of the aquifer at the risk of overstraining resources. This is currently a problem in Jakarta where extracting water from aquifers leads to soil erosion that sinks into the sea[9]. Rainwater can also be a good option as this would help to protect underground water reserves. We must diversify the types of water used for rum-making, out of respect of the island and its history.
Barbados water is key in fermentation and distillation, but is unnecessary - if not irresponsibly wasteful - to use for reduction.

Rather than limiting water use to water from the aquifer, we think that all kinds of Barbados water should be used for fermentation (aquifer/spring, rain, sea water).

Yeast bacteria used during the fermentation process

Historically, several types of yeast were cultivated and used to make rum[10]. The ability to import saccharomyces yeast from Europe or America is a recent phenomenon in the history of rum production. We used wild yeast or locally cultivated yeast in rum production[11]. Not only does this honor traditional rum-making processes, which vastly pre-date the discovery of yeast as a living organism, but it also brings to life the local flavor of Barbados.

This is why we are in favor of using all yeasts, including indigenous Barbados yeasts and bacteria to preserve the richness of Barbados rum. We are against GMO. We are also in favor of allowing the addition of yeasts and bacteria that are byproducts from any material commonly used in fermentation (dunder, cane juice, bagasse, water…).

Stills in rum production
Here again, the definition of the distillation process in the GI must reflect tradition and must be clearly defined. It means that it should include, not only column and pot stills, but also the chamber still, which is part of the history of Barbados. West Indies Rum Distillery is actually the only place in the world, that we know of, where an original 19th century chamber is still in operation. To exclude the chamber still is to exclude a piece of history of rum production in Barbados.
This is why we stand for the use of pot stills, column stills, and chamber stills in the production of rum.
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