Monday, October 1, 2018

Richard Seale

     Richard Seale has published on his Facebook page a document that refers to the protection of Barbados Rum.  This is a very important document that will lead to giving their rums a special set of rules that determine their “Geographical Indication”.  This is a very necessary thing to take rum out of the realm of a pirates concoction that can be made in any way a person wants to, adding anything they want to as long as it is made from a derivative of the sugarcane is rum.  Barbados, like Jamaica and Martinique, want their rum to be specific to their geographic locations.  

As Jamaica has completed their Geographical Indication for “Jamaican Rum” and Barbados moves to completion of their GI, it becomes increasingly important to dispel the canards around this important process.
With rum we have many canards - rum has no rules - rum is diverse and varied because of this wonderful lack of rules. Unlike other spirits, we are told Rum has no “global rules”. And that there are efforts to have a global rule which will crush our diversity.
A recent canard is that a GI (a registered intellectual property) is a further threat to this diversity and a threat to “innovation”.
The irony of this situation is that a GI seeks to preserve and protect this diversity. It is the essential tool by which this is accomplished. And the dreaded fear of selling rum under one “unified” rule is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS NOW AND IS PRECISELY WHAT A GI WILL SOLVE.
If Caribbean producers sell rum into the US, it is not the standards of identity (“the rules”) of Jamaica, Martinique or Barbados that apply. It is the rules of the United States TTB that apply. That is right, despite being from three very different and diverse rum producing countries, they will be sold in the US under the same ONE rule. This means that although AGAINST THE LAW OF JAMAICA to add anything to rum besides caramel a Jamaica Rum can be sold in the US with added flavors included sugar (and labeled as Jamaican Rum) because the generic rule for Rum sold in the US allows blenders to be added to any rum.
But the situation is very different for the spirits produced by developed countries. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Scotland for a Scotch Whisky sold in the US. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Cognac for a Cognac sold in in the US. The US will not protect a Jamaican Rum or a Barbadian Rum from adulteration in the US. The US does not control the use of the word ‘Agricole’ in the US market leading to all sorts of hideous products, not remotely consistent with the standards of ‘Agricole’ being legally labeled as Agricole
Now the US does not directly recognize GIs so creating a GI alone will not be enough to solve this issue in the US but the US illustrates the challenge of protecting our diversity very well and the GI will be the necessary first step.
The same situation applies in the EU save for the fact that the EU does recognize some GIs at this point (for example the word Agricole is protected) and it is hoped that they will recognize the GIs of Jamaican and Barbados in due course. At the moment, a Jamaica Rum and a Barbados Rum are sold in the EU under one and the same EU rule. If the EU recognizes our individual GIs, it means that a Barbados Rum sold in the EU will need to meet “Barbados Rules” and a Jamaica Rum will need to meet “Jamaica Rules”. That diversity everyone wants will be protected - that dreaded ‘global rule’ for rum, avoided.
Because the EU recognizes the GI for Scotch Whisky, the additional requirements to meet the standards of identity for Scotch Whisky over the EU generic standard for whisky are recognized and the label “Scotch Whisky” is protected throughout the EU. The GI for Jamaica Rum and the draft GI for Barbados pose additional requirements, over and above the generic EU definition of Rum (the “one” rule) to protect and preserve the identity of these rums. The GI is the tool by which we will protect our diversity. The GI is the tool by which we avoid having to produce under one “global rule”.
What of the claim that a GI stifles innovation?
Lets be clear what exactly is innovation. Marketing gimmicks that do not add value is not innovation. But a GI is not a legal restraint on a producer. All producers continue to operate under the existing laws. A GI is a piece of intellectual property protecting how a type of “trademark” can be used - it places no law whatsoever on production. It constrains no one from producing as they please. It constrains them from labelling as they please. A Jamaican musician can play any tune just do not expect it to be called reggae unless it sounds like reggae.
So what are these innovation stifling constraints in the Barbados and Jamaica GIs:
Barbadian trained operators
fermented and distilled in Barbados/Jamaica
Saccharomyces types only for yeast
local water source only
free of additives except caramel which must only be used for color (Barbados draft GI has a quantitative albeit generous limit on caramel) - the same restriction in Scotch
minimum ester levels for Jamaica rum (by marque)
aged in oak (“small” is the Jamaica requirement, 700 liters maximum for Barbados)
aged entirely in Jamaica (a min of two years in Barbados).
Jamaica rum must pass an organoleptic test
I will address the wisdom of “restricting to oak” in another post, save to say that is hardly onerous and Scotch Whisky has the same “restriction”. There is a plethora of excellent oak casks available for "innovation". One obvious point is that it keeps a point of difference between rum and cachaca and preserves an important distinction in our social and economic history.
Aging is Europe is a product of the colonial way of doing business where only limited value was earned in the colonies and product whether it be sugar, rum or bauxite was to shipped at the lowest commodity value. The advent had nothing whatsoever to do with product quality and it is absurd as ageing Scotch Whisky in southern Spain. It simply steals value from the local producers leaving rich European brands and decrepit local operations. The Barbados GI arguably does not go far enough. Bravo to Jamaica - this “restraint” is worth millions in forex earnings.
Conforming Rums must use the words “certified Geographical Indication” on all documents including labels. Non conforming rums can be made but they will not be able to simply state “Jamaican Rum” or “Barbados Rum” and most importantly - “the use of any indication or sign which may cause a buyer to believe that a rum has the right to use the protected Geographical Indication “Jamaica Rum”, although it does not satisfy all the conditions defined in the present decree will be prosecuted”.
You cannot sell your product under another’s brand because of trademark law and you cannot sell your product under another’s protected origin because of intellectual property law. You add something to Jamaica Rum - it is no longer Jamaican Rum - that is the law of the land of Jamaica. A recognized Jamaican GI means you cannot avoid Jamaican law by selling in Europe.
So you can continue to flavor Jamaica Rum you just cannot label it in a way that may cause confusion to the buyer that they have purchased certified Jamaica Rum. Diversity created by Jamaicans protected.
Europeans created the concept of protected origins and it is used extensively by developed countries to develop and protect the intrinsic value of their products. Our time is now.
We and fellow Barbadian owned producer St Nicholas Abbey are on the record as supporting the Barbados GI as drafted.