Last week, the Plantation rum brand posted a couple of tone deaf marketing videos about Barbados on their social media, using the phrase:"we are the terroir of rum". All this while promoting products that don't respect the terroir of Barbados rum.
How are they disrespecting Barbados rum? When you bring a very young rum from Barbados to France, age it there in your cognac casks and then add sugar syrup to it, you are drastically changing the flavour profile and clearly aren't respecting the terroir of Barbados rum.
Terroir seems to be one of their favourite words to use. I've heard Plantation's owner, Alexandre Gabriel, use it over and over. "We love all the different terroirs", "we respect all the terroirs". Right after he says that you get to try a Plantation Trinidad that doesn't taste like a rum from Trinidad, because it's been altered so much in France. He might love the terroir, but he certainly doesn't respect it. When questioned about this topic, he usually mentions how he's enhancing the terroir with French techniques. This is an oxymoron. Terroir has all to do with the local environment, climate and knowledge of the people where the rum is produced. Everything you do to the product in another country automatically reduces the level of terroir.
Their next post, which is the photo below, gets that point across even clearer. It starts with:"Wondering how to recognize rums made in Barbados?"
Good question! Certainly the answer should be:"Try some Mount Gay or Foursquare rum to find out". However, that level of truthfulness will never be heard from anyone connected to Maison Ferrand (the parent company of the Plantation brand) of course.
I'm guessing this is one of the things Barbados producers were afraid of when Maison Ferrand bought West Indies Rum Distillery. Fear of a drastic change to the reputation of Barbados rum. A devaluation of a brand that's been built up for decades, if not centuries. One that hasn't been legally protected, sadly.
Barbados is currently one of the leading examples in the rum world. They've reached that position by producing quality rum with a certain style and flavour profile. It would have never gotten to that point by producing flavoured products and using nonsense marketing. Plantation is benefiting from that reputation without respecting it, without having ever contributed anything to strengthen it. They are only taking, not giving.
These past few Plantation marketing posts show very clearly why they are against the Barbados GI proposal and also why the other producers want it. If you don't think that is true, this next sentence in their post should hammer it home:"Our Barbados Grande Reserve, 5 Years, or XO 20th Anniversary offer a true taste of the island's rich heritage". No, they certainly don't! That XO 20th is so confected, it doesn't taste like Barbados rum at all. I bet if you'd put that in a blind tasting, nobody will guess it comes from Barbados. Worse, if you don't tell the contestants what type of spirit it is, they might not even think it's rum. Calling that true Barbados heritage is deceitful and disrespectful to the people of Barbados.
You might not think anything of this type of marketing post. Maybe you love Plantation products and don’t care one bit about the behaviour of its makers. But let’s look at it from a different angle. Let’s see what the likely thought behind these messages is. Plantation is attempting to normalize the idea that Barbados rum has additives, is sweetened and aged in a country halfway around the world. Think about that for two seconds. Now imagine you are someone from Barbados who’s proud of their country and of rum as one of their national treasures. Even worse, imagine working at one of the distilleries and being proud of the rum you help produce. You are given a blind sip of Plantation Grand Reserve and XO 20th and are then told there is a company out there which would like the world to view Barbados rum to be synonymous with the two products you just tried. Products that don’t taste anywhere near a traditional Barbados rum profile. You are then explained that this company owns a distillery in Barbados and continues to use a colonial model of shipping young rum from Barbados to France for further ageing, and thus creating most of the added value in France, not in Barbados. Pockets are lined in Europe, not in the Caribbean. To put the cherry on the cake, you are told the same company has recently started selling an aged and bottled in Barbados rum that’s been sweetened. I think as a Barbados local, you might feel a little upset after all that. Perhaps even more than a little. We are not talking about the sale of used cars here. It’s the pride of a nation that’s being played with. It’s being trampled.
Europeans telling the world what Barbados rum should be like. It’s absurd.