It’s time once again for my year-end roundup of the most important Cocktail Wonk stories of the year – 2019 Edition!
Despite my lest frequent posting in 2019, it was an
extremely busy year, and my first full year focusing entirely on writing, education,
and research. No pesky software job to keep me away from my Wonky work.
The first four months of 2019 saw Mrs. Wonk and I scrambling to get Minimalist Tiki, our first
book, to the printer. When the books finally arrived in July, it was a
full-time effort shipping pre-orders shipped.
During those same four months, we also dug deep into the
history of British rum, i.e. the story of Caribbean rum after it arrived in the
U.K. Think London Dock rum and British Navy rum. This work appears in a book
that should appear in 2020, with a section on the the effects of dynamic aging
In May I took on an additional role as the Community
Envoy for the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producer’s Association, better
known as WIRSPA.
October also had me on the road, with two major trips to
Europe to present at the U.K. Rumfest and Bar Convent Berlin.
Other rum related trips had me visit distilleries in Puerto
Rico, Guyana, and Trinidad. Stay tuned for those trip reports!
In short, there’s been slightly fewer posts here because so
many other related activities kept me away from my keyboard!
My ranking of the Top Ten Stories is entirely subjective,
rather than on which posts received the most traffic. What follows is ordered
by the story’s importance in a big-picture perspective. Rather than covering
the hot new rum release, or festival summaries, in2019 I focused my efforts
towards topics of long-term interest to rum enthusiasts and professionals
working in the rum space.
1) Can the U.S. Recognize Rum Regulations?
A common refrain among rum enthusiasts is that the U.S. government
won’t recognize rum regulations. However, this sentiment is misplaced. There is
a path to U.S. recognition, but to date, only one cane-spirit producing country
is known to have taken the steps to get a U.S. “Standard of Identity”. You won’t get recognized if you don’t ask. This
story is a deep dive into spirit regulations from the U.S. government
perspective, and how rum Geographical Indications would fit into them.
2) Geographic Indication Fast Facts
Geographical Indications (GIs) are a hot topic in the rum
world these days. You could call them the “rum rules”, but it’s more
complicated than that. What
GIs are, and what they enforce is the subject of this entry level
3) Setting the Record Straight on British Navy Rum
The daily tot that the British Navy served to sailors is arguably
the most mythologized rum ever. Numerous brands selling “navy style” rums make
claim to its tradition, history, and recipe. But how accurate are these claims?
Historical records tell a different
story. Deep history ahead!
4) Unraveling Plummer and Wedderburn Rums
Plummer and Wedderburn are names synonymous with Jamaican rum
and are today used as “marques” to differentiate different flavor intensities.
But this wasn’t always the case. A detailed
look where those names came from and what they originally meant. More deep
5) How the Financial Crisis of 2007 Reshaped the Rum World
Before the 2007 Global Financial crisis hit, one company
bought up Appleton
Estate, Angostura, Caroni, St.
Lucia Distillers, E&A
Scheer and whiskey giant Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), among many
other companies. How did this come
to pass, what happened during the financial crisis, and who these companies
were sold to is the focus of this surprising tale.
6) WIRSPA Chairman Komal Samaroo: On the Record
The West Indies Rum and Spirits Producer’s Association (WIRSPA)
plays a very large role in Caribbean rum. However, most of its efforts on
behalf of CARIFORUM rum (including Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad) receive
little attention from the public eye. In this exclusive and in-depth
interview, Komal Samaroo, WIRSPA Chairman and also Chairman of Demerara
Distillers Ltd. holds forth on WIRSPA’s past successes, current efforts, and
what’s to come.
7) The Gargano Files
Luca Gargano, head of Italy’s Velier, is one of the most
well-known and influential people in the rum world, having worked in it for
over forty-five years. In this exclusive, in-depth
interview, he holds forth on all sorts of geeky rum topics, including
Velier, Geographical Indications, and much more.
8) Mount Gay – Cornerstone of Caribbean Rum
Mount Gay lays claim as the oldest operating Caribbean rum
distillery. In this detailed
look at the Barbadian distillery’s history and operations, you’ll learn what
makes it so special.
9) Still Life: Saint Lucia Distillers
Since its purchase by Spiribam, St. Lucia Distillers has
been substantially revamped and is now releasing some of the widely acclaimed
rum today. In this
story, you’ll learn about the distillery’s history and operations, and how it constructs so many unique blends from its four
10) The Cocktail Wonk Comprehensive Caribbean Rum Tour: Bottles $45 or Less
If you’re looking for the one bottle that most encapsulates
the ethos of each Caribbean country, but without emptying your wallet, this
list is for you.
11) The Six Essential Tiki Rum Categories
OK, I lied. Like last year, I had a hard time limiting the list to just ten stories. Some tiki recipes are quite specific about which rum to use. But what if you don’t have that rum on hand? Other recipes are incredibly vague – what’s an appropriate “gold rum” in that situation? For beginning Tiki bartenders, it’s challenging to grok what the essential rums are; the ones they’ll use over and over. In this rigorous analysis of classic recipes, you’ll learn the six styles of rum that should be in your Tiki backbar, along with concrete examples of each style.
Early next year, I plan to go behind the scenes at yet more
canonical rum distilleries. Look for writeups on Serrallés, Demerara Distillers
Limited, Angostura, and more! More deep history posts might be in the making. And
away from this site, I’ll be kicking off another enormous writing project.
My public appearance dance card is already filling up. Look
for me at Miami Rum Congress in February, Arizona Tiki Oasis in March, the
Hukilau in June, and many more to be announced!