Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Long Pond is a Jamaican Distillery that hasn’t featured on Rum Revelations yet. I figured it was time to change that. Founded in 1759 and located in the Parish of Trelawny, just like Hampden Estate. It is perhaps not the most well known Jamaican distillery, likely due to the fact they don’t have their own branded rum on the market. They mainly sell bulk rum. However, if you like funky Jamaican rum, you have to get your hands, or your lips, on a bottle of their rum.
Long Pond Distillery is owned by National Rums of Jamaica. NRJ is owned by three parties who have an equal ownership share: the government of Jamaica, Demerara Distillers and Maison Ferrand. Ferrand recently got into this position when they acquired West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados from Goddard Enterprises. This included the one third ownership of NRJ. A rather sweet deal for them, pun intended.
Jamaica has a Geographical Indication, or GI, for their rum. All Jamaican producers got to an agreement on this in 2016. “The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.“ This means Jamaica rum can only be called that when it’s produced and aged according to certain requirements. This includes:
· The territory where the rum can be made in Jamaica (where limestone filtered water is present, which is the water that needs to be used)
· The permitted raw materials
· The permitted yeast for fermentation
· Ageing in oak barrels only
· Age statement being the youngest rum in the blend
There are far more requirements, like a tasting panel, but I don’t want to go into this too deeply. What’s missing from the GI is any wording about adding sugar to rum. It is however mentioned in an excise tax document, prohibiting the usage of sugar or anything else other than water and colouring.
So far, this seems to be a saving grace. Traditionally, Jamaican rum doesn’t have sugar added after distillation. At least not when it’s bottled on the island. This provides a certain level of clarity towards the consumer that is rare in the rum universe, unfortunately. Knowing that a product is made in a traditional way, without the addition of any (hidden) sugar or other flavouring is a great endorsement and strengthens the reputation of rum in general.
Even though the GI is in place, Jamaican rum with added sugar exists in the market. Maison Ferrand’s Plantation line of rum is one of the more well known examples of this practice. The reason why they can still call it Jamaica Rum is because the GI hasn’t been ratified yet by an influential entity like the European Union.
When Ferrand got their one third ownership of NRJ, a discussion started about amending the Jamaica GI. One of the proposed changes is to allow the addition of sugar to Jamaica rum. Every Jamaican producer is against this, except NRJ. NRJ, who agreed to the GI in 2016 but have changed their tone since Ferrand became part owner. A similar scenario is going on in Barbados, which Rum Diaries wrote about.
From a consumer perspective this can turn into quite the nightmare. There would no longer be that guarantee of traditional, untainted, quality rum coming out of Jamaica. Furthermore, this might affect other existing Jamaican distilleries in the future, in case they get taken over by larger entities. Sweeteners typically provide the quickest way to making money in rum it seems, so it might cause an increased interest. Imagine Hampden not really being Hampden anymore. What a nightmare scenario.
This debate is of course very much about financial gains, as with most things in life. One side wants to protect their money making rum tradition which they’ve built up for hundreds of years, while the other side, who’s done nothing to build up this reputation, wants to financially benefit from it while tainting it.
This isn’t an anti versus pro sugar added rum story. People who like sweetened rums don’t need to worry, it will always be available. Even if the current GI gets ratified by the EU, companies like Ferrand can keep selling sweetened rum from Jamaica, they just can’t label it as “Jamaica Rum”. Call it Reggae Rum instead. That also nullifies the argument that the GI would stifle innovation, as anything can still be done. Besides, can the addition of sugar really be classified as innovative? An incredible variety of rum can be made with all the different available oak barrels, char levels, different stills, different fermentations, etc. A skilled rum making team certainly doesn’t need the sugar shortcut to make great rum, do they?
Rum’s reputation already suffers from the false “rum has no rules” idea that a lot of people have. That’s very unattractive for large groups of consumers, as it screams cheap and unreliable. You don’t know what you are buying. That’s one of the many reasons why rare rum making traditions like the one in Jamaica need to be protected. It’s one of the foundations of the world of rum. Wanting to change it in the manner as described above should be criminal.
Now that’s off my chest, let’s look at some rum from this iconic distillery.
A couple of years ago, Luca Gargano of Velier was able to buy a large amount of tropically aged Long Pond rum. He started bottling it in the Velier house style black bottles, resulting in the release of 4 different LP rums in 2018: 2006 Vale Royal VRW, 2005 Cambridge STCE, 2003 TECA and 2007 TECC. Since then, more have been released, including ones in different style bottles.
The three and four letter combinations on the label represent marques with certain ester levels:
The term “Continental Flavoured” is also on the label. Richard Seale recently explained this term in a Facebook rum group:”In the late 19th century, an important export market (mainly Germany) for J