Finally there is some progress to report on the GI front in Barbados. The process to get the four distilleries on the island to agree on a GI has been going on for years now. Mount Gay, Foursquare and St Nicholas Abbey have all agreed on a set of rules and qualifications for the general Barbados Rum brand, but Maison Ferrand (Plantation) owned West Indies Rum Distillery has been trying to stop the process in any way they can so far. Much about that can be read in this article.
It has come to a point now where the three in favour of a GI are starting the registration without the fourth. A necessary step that Maison Ferrand has forced the three to make, as the French company has shown no willingness to cooperate to protect the history and quality of Barbados rum. It's challenging for them to do this as it would go in against their colonial model of doing business. Buying rum cheaply from distilleries all over the globe, then claiming they improve the product by bringing it to France, putting it in cognac casks and adding sugar. It ends up as a product that has lost most of its terroir, has been made into something "smooth" and easy and is sold with a high degree of debatable marketing. Most importantly, the money made from selling the final product goes to France, not to the country that distilled and partly aged the rum. A product that's altered this much shouldn't be able to call itself Barbados rum. Steps are now being taken to get to a point where this is rectified.
What's slightly buried in all this is the news that two new distilleries are going to be opened in Barbados in the near future. They have already confirmed to be on board with the proposed GI.
Here are the press release and fact sheet:
July 15, 2022
BARBADOS DISTILLERS UNITE IN PUSH FOR A GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION (GI)
July 15, 2022 - Three of Barbados' largest rum distillers, Mount Gay, Foursquare and Saint Nicholas Abbey, have jointly applied for a Geographical Indication (GI) for Barbados Rum under the Barbados Geographical Indications Act.
This is the first step by the three companies, which together hold 90 percent of the island's aged reserves, before registering the domain in export markets, most notably the European Union.
A GI signifies that a product's "given quality, reputation or other characteristic...is essentially attributable to its geographic origin." Under EU Spirits regulations, "a name shall only be protected" if the production steps which give it this quality and reputation "take place in the relevant Geographic area."
Under the GI, Certified Barbados Rums will be required to be distilled, matured and bottled in Barbados, free of adulteration.
Barbados Rum is a geographically linked product and is markedly influenced by the local microflora and micro fauna and the climate in which it is produced. The growing of sugar cane, the mineral quality of the island's water, the microflora of fermentation and the climate of maturation, all shape the flavour and quality of the rum.
As Mount Gay's Master Blender Trudiann Branker explains, "If you moved the Mount Gay distillery to another country, even to another parish, the rum would have a different quality. This is the essence of a geo linked product"
Richard Seale, Proprietor, Foursquare Distillery added, "Unless a domain is protected, Barbados Rum shipped in bulk and sold in export markets can be legally diluted with rum from cheaper sources yet still marketed as Barbados Rum. Often these rums have added sugar and oak flavouring to mask the diluted quality. Certified rums will guarantee to the consumer that the bottle is 100 percent Barbados Rum, free of adulteration.
"Historically, like bulk sugar, rum was shipped in bulk to be matured and bottled abroad for foreign owned brands. Our economic future depends on making value-added products on the Island. A certified rum shows the consumer that the total economic value of that rum is earned in Barbados."
Agreeing, Larry Warren, Proprietor, Saint Nicholas Abbey said, "The value of rum increases as it matures. We lose foreign exchange earnings and jobs when bulk rum is shipped abroad for further maturation and bottling outside of Barbados."
Raphael Grisoni, Managing Director, Mount Gay further noted, "There is no downside to certification. Foreign brands can choose to continue to mature and bottle outside without the marque or bring that economic activity to Barbados and bear the marque. We are proud that 90 per cent of Mount Gay Rum is bottled in Barbados by Barbadians."
While it is the three distillers that are pursuing the application, any producer or brand can use the marque as long as they qualify by distilling, maturing and bottling their brand on island, free of adulteration. Registration places no restriction on bulk rum shipments but those rums bottled abroad will not bear the certifying marque.
- Mount Gay, Foursquare and St. Nicholas Abbey have created a Producer Group - Genuine Barbados Rum Inc., - to promote Barbados Rum in export markets. The three distillers together account for more than 90% of the rum bottled in Barbados and together hold over 90% of the island's maturing rum stock.
- Foursquare produces, in addition to their eponymous brand, the Old Brigand, ESA Field, Doorly's and Alleyne Arthur brands.
- Mount Gay produces Mount Gay Silver (the first Bonsucro certified blend in Barbados), Eclipse, Black Barrel, XO and limited editions XO Peat Smoke and Andean Oak (the 4th edition to the Master Blender Collection).
- St. Nicholas Abbey produces a range of aged rums from 5 years to 23 years old. - Two new rum distilleries, one at Bentley Plantation and one at Hopewell Plantation, are expected to be completed in Barbados in the next 12 months. These new investors in Barbados Rum have shared with us their enthusiasm and support for the development of the Barbados Rum marque.
- Article 22.1 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) in 1994 defines geographical indications as "...indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member [of the World TradeOrganization], or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin". The TRIPS Agreement is Annex 1C of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, signed in Marrakesh, Morocco on 15 April 1994.
- Barbados Rum is a geographically linked product. Barbados Rum is markedly influenced by the local microflora and micro fauna, and the climate in which it is produced. The growing of the sugar cane, the mineral quality of our water, the microflora of fermentation and the climate of maturation all shape the flavour and quality of Barbados Rum.
- Under the Barbados Geographical Indications Act, any producer, producer group or marketing organisation may apply to register a Geographical Indication. The Producer Group has submitted the application to the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO). Once the GI is registered in Barbados, the Producer group can register the GI in export markets. A GI cannot be registered in export markets before completion of registration in the home market. Qualifying rums will carry the marque or logo that is ultimately registered with CAIPO.
- The registration cannot discriminate against any brand, and any brand of Barbados Rum, whether a member of the Producer Group or not, can use the registered marque once the qualifying conditions are met.
- To qualify for the marque, the rum must be distilled, matured, blended and bottled in Barbados, free of adulterating substances.
- Without registration and protection of the 'Barbados Rum' name in export markets, rum brands in several export markets may bear the Barbados name with only a tenuous link to the Island. Under varying trade and other regulations in export markets they may be diluted with rum from cheaper sources or adulterated with flavourings or sweeteners yet can still legally be marketed as Barbados Rum. The certified marque will provide an independent guarantee to consumers that the contents are sourced 100% from Barbados and are free of adulterating substances.
- Each bottle carrying the marque will also carry a serial number which will allow tracing of the bottling to the Bill of Lading demonstrating the bottle was shipped from Barbados to the market where sold.
- The export of Barbados Rum, like sugar, was historically done in bulk with final branding and packaging completed overseas. The registration of the marque does not restrict bulk rum exports but incentivises foreign brands to move their maturing, blending and bottling operations here in order to bear the prestigious marque.
- Exporting matured and bottled rums earns significantly more foreign exchange over exporting rums in bulk for maturation, blending and bottling overseas. It also creates more local employment and generates more secondary economic activity, for example the production of printed labels.