Saturday, February 28, 2015

Two Interesting Predictions for 2015

     The Spirit Business has made its predictions for spirit trends for 2015.  I found two items very interesting.   First the effect of the introduction of Cuban Rum in America, and the other is the growth of liquors like Cachaca.  

     The relaxing of the importing of Cuban products like Cigars and Rum
might lead to the strengthening of the rum category's sales here in the states.   The effect won't be felt as much is the rest of the world as here in the States, but it is definitely peaking peoples interest to see what will happen.

     "The US congress finally lifting the decades long Cuban import ban could provide the spark for the long overdue detonation of the category. While top line volume growth might continue facing headwinds battering low quality variants in emerging markets such as India, the category’s versatility and new found premium aspirations will inform its short term performance. Embracing the unique heritage of English, Spanish and French expressions, carefully dipping a toe into the flavored bandwagon and cruising on the enviable momentum enjoyed by dark spirits, rum will be one of the protagonists."
     The other Category showing some progress is the Brazilian cane spirit Cachaca.  There have been a lot of effort in the area of premiumization of this category as well.  This is a different type of cane spirit expression that warrants more exploration.
     These two predictions I feel are valid and worth watching as we progress into 2015.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Major New Initiative to Help Consumers Understand Rum

The Rum industry is faced with an unusual situation.  Rum has so many faces, causing a lot of confusion on the part of consumers trying to understand the category.  Basically there are three major types of rum out there.  There is Ron, Spanish style, which is generally lighter and more buttery in flavor.  There is Rhum,  French style primarily Agricole which has a more intense flavor and made to exacting legal rules.  The third and finally Rum, English style, Naval rum that has a bold and spicy flavor.

By categorizing characteristics of rum into three main styles – English, Spanish and French, it is hoped consumers will understand the spirit more clearly, giving them confidence to choose a brand outside their comfort zone.  


     Matthieu de Lassus, export director for Spiridom, claimed the map could help rum on its way to becoming the next great spirit trend.   “Our main intention is to better segment the rum market in order to create the necessary conditions for premiumization,” he said.   “Rum is the third biggest spirit category in the world and bartenders’ preferred spirit for cocktails. It has enjoyed steady growth worldwide for the last 10 years but still rum is the only spirit category to remain largely underpremiumized to date.   “We believe that premiumization will only come through a better education of our customers and a better segmentation of the rum category.”

     I'm in fully agree with Matthieu de Lassus, the only way that the category will grow is if and when the consumer learns the category, by finding a taste that suits your palate.   I'm hoping that this map will help you locate the place that your palate will call home.  ;o)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where is the Bahia Honda Bridge?

Beautiful Sunset Yesterday

     Wednesday morning I woke up in Bahia Honda and stepped outside to glance at those wonderful bridges that I say the sunset through the previous night and they were gone.   The past two days have given the Keys an unusual mornings, we have been fogged in.   I've been living here for nearly ten years now and I've only seen this a handful of times.  

Woke Up to No Bridge Today
     Camping at the Bahia Honda Marina in our "aquacamper"  has become a regular escape for Marta and I since August.  It does the both of us a lot of good to just escape Duval Street and relax in the stillness of the Bahia Honda State Park.   Last week we had our winter visit with low temperatures and rain, and this we'll we are going to have to stay a little later until the fog burns off before we can head out.  We can "fly by instruments, but it is dangerous to be out here without the ability to see other boats and things.

     They are predicting a noon lifting and we will be off to Key West and back home again.  I love this place, it just isn't boring.  There is always something new to see or experience.  ;o)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ferry Service to Havana ?

Possible Ferry Terminal in Havana
     Since president Obama's announcement of easing of the relations with Cuba late last year there has been a serious buzz from many Americans that want to visit the island.  The airport in Havana is very similar to most small Caribbean islands in that there are no jet ways, or other modern people movers there.  Since the infrastructure of the island is not ready at this time for a huge onslaught of aircraft the idea of a high speed ferry that will run from the keys, and specifically Key West just 90 miles from Havana would be a great idea.

Old Havana
 Soon, Cubakat will be inviting you and your family to come and join us for an extremely comfortable, safe, fun and one-of-a kind experience aboard our high-speed catamarans with daily trips between Florida Keys and Havana."
    CubaKat had the same idea and are in the process of working with both the Cuban and the United States governments to work out the logistics of this happening as soon as they finally drop the travel restrictions for the general population of America.  CubaKat says, "
  "CubaKat says it is working toward December 2015 as its official launch date, according to their web site, although that would require clearing a host of governmental hurdles, from customs to the laws of the embargo itself."    According to CubaKat’s release,  “While we are not currently operating ferry service from Florida to Cuba, we are working very closely with both US and Cuban authorities and other partners to gain full governmental approval for our service.”  While purely touristic travel is still prohibited for US travelers to Cuba despite the recent rapprochement between the US and Cuban governments, a number of categories of travel are legal; those are the categories through which CubaKat would apparently debut under.  Should the restrictions be lifted, the ferry service would open up a resumption of a service that was enjoyed by Americans before e the  Embargo, a regularly scheduled service between America and Cuba.

While the Keys and particularly Marathon would reportedly be the primary potential port, the company’s web site says CubaKat is “evaluating options including Key West, Tampa and Miami.”


     I would take the ferry in a New York Minute, the Ferry from Fort Myers to Key West takes just under three hours for the journey of 100 miles.  The distance to Havana is about the same.  It is possible to go the Havana for a day trip and be home for dinner.  I'm very excited about the possibility and all of the possibilities that it will offer for fun trips and adventures in Cuba in the very near future.  ;o)


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Mount Gay Elder

     Here is a fun little after dinner cocktail that will fit into your after dinner pleasure.   The Mount Gay XO rum and the elder flower flavors of the St. Germain mingle very well and it is brought to life by the dash of bitters and the lemon zest.   Try this one for your next evening relaxer.

Mount Gay Elder
  • 3 Oz. Mount Gay XO
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germain
  • Dash of Fee Brothers Old Fashion Bitters

Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until chilled, strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon zest.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Columbian Rum Limited Distribution in Columbia

 Dictator, a rum that is made in Columbia has been suffering from local controls of distribution in Columbia.  It can only sell 1% of its large production (1.1 million bottles) in its home country of Columbia.   I find this to be interesting, because the same type of laws are in existence here in the United States.   Every day I hear from my customers in The Rum Bar how they can's get the brands of rum that they discover here in Key West back home.  
     As reported by Bloomberg, imported spirits are available nationwide, but Dictador Rum – produced in Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast – is illegal in 98% of the country.   However, in a turn of events the government’s National Development Plan that was presented to Congress on 6 February aims to create a more level playing field for local and imported spirits alike.  
     There are distilleries owned by regional governments in Colombia who have power over sales of strong spirits in their areas.   Now it seems the country is trying to achieve a system that treats all spirits producers equally regardless of whether they are local, national or international, according to Simon Gaviria, head of the National Planning Department.
   Here in the United States there are the same local legal controls for the distribution of  spirits that has made it very difficult for the craft local distilleries to be able to sell their products outside of their own state or sometimes even their local showroom.  The Prohibition Era laws that give states and local government agencies control of the distribution are really as old and out dated as Prohibition itself.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Even the Florida Keys Have Their Winter Days

     Sitting at Bahia Honda under cover from the rain and chilly temps of barely 60 degrees, chilly for the benefit of those in the northern tiers with their below zero temps.  Even though we don't have that dreaded white stuff we do once in a while have times of this gray rainy days.  The good thing is it will be gone in a couple of days and the warm will return.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What is With All This Craft Stuff?

     It seems that in the liquor industry these days nearly every new product is craft, single estate, single vintage, or something to lead you to believe that it is something that is really special.  Most of us don't have any idea what they mean anyway. 

Tito Cordero and Single Vintage 1997
     For instance what is "single vintage" mean?  No idea, well it means that it is all made from the same years crop.  Whether it is wine or any other spirit, it is the same definition.  Diplomatico introduced a Single Vintage 1997 expression a few years back, Tito Cordero, offered an honest "Single Vintage" Rum that was released in a very limited number of bottles.   If the spirit is truly a "single vintage", then it is in fact one that will not be around very long.  When they are around year after year, than it is probably not a true "single vintage".  Richard Seale of Foursquare Rum Distillery, also offered a "Vintage 1998" expression.   Both of these are true  to the spirit of the term expressions, and not just a marketing ploy.

Foursquare Vintage 1998
     In the business, there is no real hard and fast definitions for these very  ambiguous terms.  What is a "craft" spirit, or a single estate spirit?    Unfortunately. there is a lot of usage of these terms by the industry and this practice has left the consumer doubting the validity of the terms.  There have been several "class action" lawsuits about the use of these terms on the labels, but the industry seems to continue to use them.

Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard has made some interesting statements for the use of the the word craft in the industry.  He said he was “struggling with the definition” of craft spirits, and argued that some of his company’s brands have more of a right to describe themselves as “craft” than other smaller producers.   “We need to communicate to consumers what ‘real’ craft is”, he said, continuing that it is less about the size of production than the “story” behind a brand and its people when it comes to the “craft” label.

     Until there is a real meaning for these terms as to what they really mean and how they are to be used on the label of your spirits, they are becoming a "marketing ply" in the minds of many consumers.  Lets really put the quality in the bottle that these terms are indicating is there and the problem will truly cease to exist.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Havana Club Revises Anejo Especial

     Havana Club said a new Añejo recipe, developed by Maestro Ronero, Don Asbel Morales, has been designed to provide a “sweeter taste profile and a smooth drinking experience”.   Retaining its 40% abv, the expression is a blend of aged rums which offer notes of vanilla, caramel, tobacco, cinnamon and orange peel.   Don Asbel Morales claims the new flavor derives from a “unique production process” where the rum bases are aged in young white oak barrels before being blended and aged for a second time ahead of bottling.   “At the Havana Club distillery in Cuba, we are continuously working on developing new recipes that will appeal to a wide range of rum fans around the world.”

     “The influence of the barrel ageing is evident in the flavor profile with notes of vanilla and caramel really coming to the fore, which makes it an ideal base for Cuban cocktails, particularly the Cuba Libre.”  Meanwhile, its new bottle has been designed to provide greater shelf stand-out on the back bar and communicate the brand’s premium credentials. The packaging now features handwritten-style font and oak barrel effect on the label.  “With this new recipe and premium look, we are confident that Havana Club Añejo Especial will satisfy demand from sociable young adults seeking a sweeter taste profile but for whom authenticity and high quality are equally important purchasing cues.” according to Adam Boita, head of marketing for Pernod Ricard UK.   

     “The new look bottle design will also help deliver a stronger product message and provide the brand with heightened visibility in the on-trade.”  In October last year, Havana Club reiterated its aim to strengthen its position in the on-trade with the launch of its flavored cocktail line designed to match its Anejo 7 Anos bottling.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Island Gingerito: Fun and Refreshing Cocktail

    Fooling around in the Rum Lab today, I came up with a new twist on the Mojito.  I'm looking for something that has a ginger taste and yet maintains the light and refreshing flavor of the Mojito.   One of the first things that came to my mind was the idea of using Barritt's Ginger Beer to liven up the taste, and to sweeten it with some agave nectar to give a richness that is lacking with regular simple syrup.  To balance the sweetness of the ginger beer and the sweetener I chose lemon juice instead of  the traditional Lime Juice.  I feel like this cocktail has a nice and very unique flavor that you might really enjoy.

Island Gingerito

  •      1 ½ oz. El Dorado Spiced Rum
  •       Juice of ½  Lemon
  •       2 oz. Barritt’s Ginger Beer
  •       8 to 12 Mint Leaves
  •       ½ oz. Agave Nectar
Muddle the mint leaves with the agave nectar and lemon juice. Add ice and garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

" Aren't Spirit Calories the Same as Food Calories?"

     There has been a huge push for the calorie labels to be put on your favorite spirits, wines, and beers, but what will be the real effect of this push.  Recently there was an interesting article in The Drinks Business, taking an interesting look at another side effect of the new labels.

     Labels carrying calorie information on beer, wine and spirits are causing an increased number of people to swap food for alcohol, prompting concern among health experts.   Dubbed by doctors as “drunkorexia”, an increased number of people are swapping their food calories for alcoholic drinks which contain little or no nutritional value, according to The Times.   Worrying also is that people therefore will tend to drink on an empty stomach, making the effects of alcohol more acute.
      Adrienne Key, consultant psychiatrist and lead clinician for eating disorders at the Priory Hospital, Roehampton, said that calorie information on drinks products was harmful for those with eating problems.   She said, “Recently the advertising of the number of calories in a glass of wine and other drinks, designed to help the population as a whole control their intake, has led to a minority adapting their diets to cut out food to allow for a drink. When someone already has a low weight, it quickly becomes an issue.”
     There are always side effects from everything, but drunkorexia is an interesting point that makes me wonder.  I wonder how much people will really be tempted to trade booze for food in reality?   I hear that this is a popular concept among college age people, but there are several other youth concepts that most of them grow out of.  Surely there is some validity to this idea, but  " Aren't beer calories the same as food calories"?  ;o)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

White is the New Gold

     It seems in the past few years white rums have been pushed back to the role of :red-headed step child" of the rum business.  It was the mass produced mixer, not something that you could sip or savor on its own.  It was just something that you used to produce a buzz.   Today many of the rum producers have put some real effort into creating new white rums that are truly sipable.

     One of the first that I got to enjoy as a stand alone white was Diplomatico Blanco.  This is a truly fine white rum that will stand on its own and yet quite flavorful.   This is an aged rum that is filtered to remove the color and still retain the flavor of the barrel.  Tito Cordero has put a lot of effort into the rum and the results are "clear" when you decant it into a glass, either neat or on the rocks and sip it.

     Plantation 3 Stars rum is another fine example of the sipable white rum.  Alexander Gabriel  has skillfully blended the best rums from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad.  The distinct rum styles of these islands developed over centuries of rum production has brought its own special character to Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum  Aged Trinidad rum imparts its classic elegance, Barbados delivers sophistication with a balanced mouth feel and Jamaica conveys its unmistakable structure and rustic edge.

     Bacardi has brought a couple of truly shippable rums to the table as well.   Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron launched initially into Duty Free market earlier this year.   This  blend of rums up to three years old, filtered through coconut shell charcoal, offers a sophisticated flavor that can be enjoyed over ice.    The Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron followed the launch of NEO, a carbon-filtered white rum aged up to eight years and part of the op of the line Facundo Rum Collection.

     Santa Teresa, Matusalem, Havana Club, Flor de Cana, Brugal, and 10 Cane have all brought a shippable white rum to the table in the past few years.  I wonder if this is going to be a new trend for the category.  ;o)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Captain Morgan is Introducing Flavored Rums

     For the first time under the flagship brand name of Captain Morgan, you will see three flavored rums on the market.  Captain Morgan has ventured into flavored rums under the "Parrot Bay" brand before, but this is the first as "Captain Morgan".    The are bringing on line pineapple, grapefruit, and coconut  flavors that will be mixed with their new Captain Morgan White Rum.

       Dan Kleinman, vice president of marketing, rums for Diageo North America, said: “This summer, we’re looking for consumers to flip over their hammocks and have a little fun with their Mojitos and Daiquiris by enjoying our new pineapple, coconut and grapefruit extension".

     I think that these expressions are aimed squarely at the young flavored spirits crowd and try to gain ground on all of the new flavored vodkas and whiskeys.   “After last year’s successful launch of Captain Morgan White Rum, we wanted to expand our offerings in the category. These flavors allow adult fans to diversify their cocktails, providing them with a taste of the Caribbean no matter where they may be responsibly enjoying our products.”

     The new flavored expressions will arrive for the summer, and be presented at 35% abv.  They are expected to cost around $16.00 a bottle here in the United States.  You can read more about this at

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Houston We Have Landed

    It was a rough and windy ride from Key West to Bahia Honda this wee, but the rest and relaxation time made it well worth the trip.   The wind even gave the birds a little trouble as they lit on the rocks at the entry to the Bahia Honda Marina.  ;o)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hemingway's Footprint in Cuba Part 4: Hemingway the Writer

The Memorial at Cojimar
     Ernest Hemingway needed the income from his writing in order to support his many other adventures.  He was a war correspondent, a magazine and short story writer and most of all a Nobel Prize winning novelist.  All of his writing outlets were widely read and enjoyed.  His inspiration for many of his writings was his location and what he was doing at the time.  Cuba was no exception.  Inspiration for his most famous book The Old Man and the Sea, was the fishing village of Cojimar, just outside of Havana.


Ambros Mundos
    His third wife, Martha Gellhorn, inspired him to complete his most famous novel, For Whom The Bells Toll,  which he started in March 1939 and finished in July 1940.   It was published in October 1940.   Consistent with his usual pattern of traveling around when he was working on a manuscript, he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in Cuba, Wyoming, and Idaho.   For Whom the Bell Tolls became a Book-of-the-Month Club choice and sold half a million copies within a few months.  It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and re-established Hemingway as a literary icon.

Finca la Vigia
    The monies earned from For Whom the Bells Toll allowed him to purchase his beloved Finca la Vigia in 1940.   Hemingway lived in the house from mid 1939 to 1960, renting it at first, and then buying it in December 1940 after he married his third wife Martha Gelhorn.  Hemingway paid $12,500 for the property.   This was the place where he seemed to be able to remain inspired better than any other when it came to his writings.

Pilar at War
    In the years prior to the United States entry into World War II, he convinced the Cuban government to help him refit the Pilar, which he intended to use to ambush German submarines off the coast of Cuba.   After war was declared by the United States he went to Europe to be a war correspondent again.   In 1947, Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery during World War II.  Hemingway was recognized for his valor, having been "under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions".    With the conclusion of the war, he returned to Finca la Vigia in January of 1946, where he began work on The Garden of Eden, finishing 800 pages by June.     During the post–war years, he also began work on a trilogy "The Land", "The Sea" and "The Air", which he wanted to combine into a single novel titled The Sea Book.  Both projects stalled, and  Hemingway's inability to continue was "a symptom of his troubles, believed to be bipolar, something that was not known in those years. 

The Tower at Finca la Vigia
     Hemingway met 19-year-old Adriana Ivancich in Venice.    The platonic love affair inspired the novel Across the River and into the Trees, written in Cuba during a time of strife with his then fourth wife Mary Welsh, published in 1950 to negative reviews.    The following year, furious at the critical reception of Across the River and Into the Trees, he wrote the draft of The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks, saying that it was "the best I have written in all of my life" .  The Old Man and the Sea became a book-of-the-month selection and established Hemingway an international celebrity and won him the Pulitzer Prize in May of 1952.
     In October 1954, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature.  He modestly told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen or Bernard Berenson truly deserved the prize, but the  prize money would be welcome.    As he was suffering pain from the African airplane crashes, he decided not to travel to Stockholm.  He sent a speech to be read instead.
    Shortly after he received the Pulitzer Prize, he headed off for a safari in Africa.  Following two near fatal airplane crashes trying to get to Entebbe,  Hemingway and Welsh finally arrived in Entebbe to find reporters covering the story of his death.  He briefed the reporters and spent the next few weeks recuperating and reading his erroneous obituaries.
     He returned to Cuba in 1957 where he began to assemble a group of papers recovered from the
Then there was only the Empty Room and the Typewriter.
Ritz Hotel he left behind after World War II into his memoir A Moveable Feast
.   Hemingway  ended a period of intense activity in 1959.  He finished A Moveable Feast, extended  True at First Light to 200,000 words, added new chapters to The Garden of Eden and spent some time developing  Islands in the Stream.   The last three were stored in a safe deposit box in Havana as he focused on the finishing touches for A Moveable Feast.   It was during this period that Hemingway started sliding  into depression from which he was unable to recover.  The Finca Vigia became crowded with guests and tourists and Hemingway was becoming unhappy with his life there.    Hemingway bought a home overlooking the Big Wood River just outside Ketchum, Idaho and left Cuba for the last time.    ;o)