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Seon Ballah of St. Vincent Distillers assessing rum.
Seon Ballah of St. Vincent Distillers assessing rum.
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Rums produced by the smaller distilleries in CARIFORUM such as St. Vincent Distillers show tremendous diversity and stack up well against global brands says Mike Booth, spirits consultant and master blender for several international brands.

Booth was speaking during a sensory training workshop in Barbados at which rum brands under the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque were sampled side by side with brands from the giants of the drinks world.  These smaller regional rums represent great value and demonstrate high quality authentic product, Booth said.

The workshop was part of a CARIFORUM initiative funded by the European Union under their support for the Caribbean Economic Partnership Agreement.

It is part of a series of collaborative activities aimed at introducing best practice to smaller producers achieved through partnerships with larger producers under the umbrella of the regional rum grouping, WIRSPA.

“We have a very diverse membership in terms of size. These activities provide the opportunity for our larger better-established brands to give a helping hand to the smaller producers to ensure that we all continue to deliver top quality products in a very competitive market,” said Frank Ward, chairman of WIRSPA.

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The session was not just about testing of current rums but also aims to establish a best practice process for assessment and on-going measurement of sensory quality. This echoes the thoughts of Prime Minister of St. Lucia Kenny Anthony, who speaking recently at an exposition of regional brands in St. Lucia, referred to rums from the region as being “uniquely authentic — of absolute quality and absolute excellence”.

He encouraged the industry to maintain its investment in quality programmes and support for exports under the banner of Authentic Caribbean Rum.

The training session was held at the sensory evaluation lab of the West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados with participation from 12 Caribbean distilleries, from one of the largest producers in the Dominican Republic, Brugal, to one of the smaller, St. Vincent Distillers, makers of award winning Captain Bligh XO, Sparrow’s and, among others, Sunset rum brands.  For St. Vincent Distillers, the training workshop provided invaluable feedback on their brands and included a session where un-aged spirit from producers’ stills was also sampled.

“The integrity of our distillate is the starting point of our rum,” said Kenrick Greaves, GM of St. Vincent Distillers.

“From there we age and blend to produce all our brands.  The WIRSPA training was a fantastic support in this regard. We have a lot to learn from our larger and more experienced partners in the WIRSPA family.”