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Old 04-03-2008, 12:43 AM   #1
Edward Hamilton
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Default History of Rum in the New World

There has been a lot of discussion about where rum was first made. Mount Gay claims to be the oldest rum in the world based on a property title from 1703 that mentioned a still.

While reading A Jamaican Plantation by Michael Craton and James Walvin, a very well researched book about Worthy Park in Jamaica, the inventory Francis Price's Guanaboa estate in 1673 included 2 stills, a boiling house, sugar pots, puncheons, etc.

The Royal Navy celebrated their victory over the Spanish in Jamaica in 1655 with rum for all the sailors of the deck.

It is well documented that Columbus brought sugar cane to Hispaniola in 1493 but I've yet to find any documentation of where rum was made before 1655 or in the Canary islands where Columbus picked up the sugar cane that he brought to the New World.

I'll be interested to see what our members have found.
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Old 04-03-2008, 02:40 AM   #2
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Besides being written in the book, do you know of any documentation proving the stills in action in Jamaica in 1655?
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Old 04-03-2008, 07:12 AM   #3
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Its a real interesting topic and i look forward to hear what those who knows has to say..
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:53 PM   #4
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Besides being written in the book, do you know of any documentation proving the stills in action in Jamaica in 1655?
Francis Price's Guanaboa plantation was a working sugar estate in 1673 as witnessed by the inventory of two stills, boiling house, sugar pots and other assets including slaves. Unfortunately, most of the records in 17th century Jamaica were destroyed by fire, earthquakes and other disasters.

I didn't ever see those stills working with my own eyes, but the fact that there were two stills tells me that this was more than a speculative real estate move by the original owner. There is also reference to the amount of rum made in the early years of the distillery. It should also be noted that this wasn't an inventory of an estate sale but rather an inventory of a working estate.

Worthy Park has only been owned by three families. Here's more from the Worthy Park Estate website.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:58 PM   #5
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I'm confused, it says in their timeline:

1741 - First record of rum production 3,000 gallons produced

It says they didnt even take over the estate until 1660. Was the previous owners making rum?
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Old 04-06-2008, 04:20 PM   #6
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This has been a topic that has casually fascinated me for some time.

I believe, Ed, that you feel that the origin of rum began with either the Portuguese and Spanish colonies and I agree.
After reading Wayne Curtis' entertaining book and a Bottle of Rum, I started to do a little investigating.

The Portuguese were growing sugar cane as early as the mid 1400's, certainly in the Algarve and probably in the Alentejo, where my parents were born. There are several references to the "alambic" in Portuguese writings at this time. The spirit distilled at that time was not rum, though. The spirit was distilled from grape bagasse, so technically a brandy. Sugar processing then moved to Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands in the early 1500's and then to Brazil.

The first written proof of Brazil's sugar industry dates to 1516, and by 1519, Brazilian sugar was on the market in Antwerp. The first reference I could find to sugar cane spirit dates to about 1532, when a Portuguese captain of the Sгo Vincente, transported the "vinho da cana-de-aзъcar" to Brazil from Madeira. It's apparent that the Portuguese were perfecting distillation techniques, learned perhaps from Arabian culture. I haven't been able to find a transition period from grape to sugar cane distillation, that's going to take a little more digging.

From this point on, wherever you had sugar production, you had cachaзa

It's at this point that I'm having a little difficulty. My interest is to find the longest continuing producer of cachaзa, and see if that company predates any of the colonial English producers in the 1600's.

I've been trying to acquire a couple of books by Luнs da Cвmara Cascudo, a Brazilian historian and scientist. He was the preeminent authority on cachaзa.
His belief, from the little I can find, is that cachaзa was first produced in Europe or Africa. In Prelъdio da Cachaзa, Cascudo writes that there were over seventy distilleries in Salvador, the largest city in Brazil in the late 1500's. Most of these were either small artisanal producers or rogue individual entities. Perhaps the oldest known producer is among these seventy.

I haven't been able to get a copy of Prelъdio da Cachaзa, it's just not available here in the States. There is a copy on file at Princeton University's library, about 25 miles from me in Pennsylvania. The book is readily available in Brazil, but I have some reservations purchasing a book online from Brazil. There is also a specialty bookstore in New York that deals specifically in Luso-Brazilian literature, and although they don't have this book on file, they could probably get a copy.

If anyone is interested, I'll keep you posted on any progress
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Old 04-06-2008, 04:54 PM   #7
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Its indeed very interesting, please keep us posted!
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Old 04-06-2008, 05:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by RumBarPhilly View Post
I'm confused, it says in their timeline:

1741 - First record of rum production 3,000 gallons produced

It says they didnt even take over the estate until 1660. Was the previous owners making rum?
Francis Price was given the estate in 1663 upon the death of his friend Captain William Clee. It appears that the inventory above was from Francis Price's nearby Guanaboa estate which he sold to Peter Beckford on Oct 3, 1673.

I'm surprised at the late date of 1741 for the first record of rum production from Worthy Park since there was a blight that affected the cocoa trees on that island in 1670 at which time sugar became the dominant crop.
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Torpnubber View Post
I haven't been able to get a copy of Prelъdio da Cachaзa, it's just not available here in the States. There is a copy on file at Princeton University's library, about 25 miles from me in Pennsylvania. The book is readily available in Brazil, but I have some reservations purchasing a book online from Brazil. There is also a specialty bookstore in New York that deals specifically in Luso-Brazilian literature, and although they don't have this book on file, they could probably get a copy. If anyone is interested, I'll keep you posted on any progress
Have you contacted the Academia da Cachaзa in Leblon and Barba? They gave me a booklet listing much information about cachaзa products, reporting on 90 notable spirits in terms of ABV, color, age, distillery, location, barrel woods, history and tasting notes.
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Hamilton View Post
Francis Price was given the estate in 1663 upon the death of his friend Captain William Clee. It appears that the inventory above was from Francis Price's nearby Guanaboa estate which he sold to Peter Beckford on Oct 3, 1673.

I'm surprised at the late date of 1741 for the first record of rum production from Worthy Park since there was a blight that affected the cocoa trees on that island in 1670 at which time sugar became the dominant crop.
How economically viable was rum in the 16th and 17th centuries? Was it comparable to today?
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