Thursday, May 31, 2018

Moonshining is on the Rebound “It's Something to Do”

This Still Can be Ordered New on Line

     What is interesting is that you can own a still as long as you don't use it to make liquor.  You can distill water, a water maker if you will to desalinize sea water, or making alcohol for fuel, or reductions for cooking.  The catch is you can not make alcohol for consumption. There is a lot of lobbying going on to give hobby distillers the same right to make liquor for personal use like beer and wine makers can do legally.

      'It's something to do' _ Illegal liquor is making a comeback. says Sidney Smith,  a 77 year old, has been making moonshine in the rural Sand Hill community of Rankin County for many years, after learning the craft from his now late uncle.  Smith was recently busted by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents. ".    Yeah, I've been caught making this before. They know me. They got to do their jobs."  After a four-week operation led by ABC Special Agent Tony Ingram, agents destroyed the back-woods still, seized 22 gallons of moonshine and arrested Smith on a charge of possession of alcohol in a dry county.   Smith likely will also face a felony charge of possession of a still, said ABC enforcement Chief Rusty Hanna, but is likely to get probation and fines, not jail or prison time. Smith's was a relatively small operation, and courts and jails have bigger fish to fry, Hanna said.   Smith's operation in the woods near his home was gnarly and unsanitary: dirty barrels, buckets and jugs, bugs floating in the "mash" and God-knows-what in the final product. One wrong step by a moonshiner or a few degrees in temperature can produce poisonous methanol instead of high-test ethanol.   "You don't know what you're drinking," Hanna said as he and agents viewed Smith's still. "You don't know what was in these barrels before - chemicals? There's bugs in the mash. This is very primitive. It's not what you picture. TV has glamorized it, as clean, neat, pretty. This is nasty. Very unsanitary." 

Classic Prohibition and Forty's Moonshine Operation
     State Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson and Hanna said illegal moonshining has increased in recent years, waxing with the popularity of the TV show "Moonshiners" a television series on Discovery Channel.   Although ABC agents can't focus large amounts of time or manpower to moonshine, they've been busting six to seven stills a year, and have already reached that mark this year. Hanna said stills have gotten harder to find - many of them indoors under lock and key instead of out in the woods where people can see and report them.  Frierson said many moonshiners will sell to underage drinkers and that some even market their product toward them, adding "snow-cone" flavorings to the liquor.   "They add the snow-cone syrup - pina colada, all kinds of flavors," Frierson said. "They try to make it taste good, because if moonshine isn't aged, it tastes terrible ... We're even seeing people selling fake moonshine, taking “Everclear” or vodka and diluting it or adding flavors and saying it's moonshine so kids will buy it."

State and federal taxes and fees can total nearly $20 a gallon on liquor, revenue lost with moonshine. Frierson said his office does not have a good overall estimate on money lost to moonshiners.  Smith's operation, agents said, could have produced up to 50 gallons a week at full tilt. If sold at $30 a gallon, it could have grossed $1,500 a week. ABC has busted much larger operations.   Smith's operation, where he had been busted years before for making moonshine, was primitive, But agents were impressed with one aspect of it: He had three condensers running into separate barrels to collect the final product instead of the usual one or two.  Smith, who sat calmly on a truck tailgate as agents began destroying his still, cheerfully explained the three condensers.   "It's faster," he said. "It doesn't take you so long to sit there and wait."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Here is an Interesting Twist on a Mojito

     I was looking for a fresh idea for a spring drink as I walked through the produce section of the grocery store the other day.  I saw some nice chamomile and had an idea.  Use Grapefruit instead of lime and chamomile instead of mint and lets give this one a try.

Bahama Bob's Chamomile and Grapefruit

  • 2 oz. Atlantico Platino Rum
  • 2 Fresh Chamomile Leaves
  • 1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • ½ oz. Simple Syrup

Muddle two chamomile leaves in an 8 oz. glass with simple syrup. Add rum and grapefruit juice to a glass with ice and squeeze in grapefruit juice. Shake until chilled.  Garnish with a slapped Chamomile leaf

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Richard Seale: Talks about the Wooden Pot or Vat Still

Richard L. Seale
     Richard Seale is one of the most knowledgeable rum makers in the world.  His personal experience along with all of his research makes him one of the best sources for all things rum and the production of rum.  I have found his discussions to be very well written and very factual.

     I recently posted about those clever Jamaicans and their Cousins process for super high ester rum, today I will write about those clever Guyanese and their Wooden Pot Stills - the VAT STILL.  Today we marvel at the two remaining wooden pot stills but back in the day wooden pot stills, known as VAT stills were numerous in Demerara.  The pot/kettle part of a pot still is unimportant (save for setting the volume) to the character of the pot still.

The Pot/Kettle Part Is Not The Still, It Is Just A Vessel.
Demerara's Double Wooden Pot Still
     In a pot still it is the size and shape of the reflux surface - the surface where the rising vapor has an opportunity to condense - that decides the fundamental nature of a pot still. Reflux (the condensed liquid on the side that falls back) affects the timing of the arrival of the congeners in the final condenser and directly then the ability of the distiller to “select” the spirit he/she wants from the wine being distilled. Generally, large surface area, more atmospheric cooling, more condensation i.e. more reflux.   The material of the refluxing surface is also vital because of the catalytic effect of copper. Copper catalysis reactions which render unpleasant volatile sulfur compounds into non-volatile sulfides which then do not distill over into our rum.

     So the pot/ kettle part plays no role in either critical part of distillation. It does get exposed to the boiling acidic liquid and will eventually wear out and disintegrate making for an expensive replacement. The clever Guyanese figured out that replacing the kettle with readily abundant wood saved money and had no negative affect on the produced rum.
Vat Stills Became The Norm
Today our friends in Guyana promote a positive effect from the wood. Maybe. One thing is for certain, it has no negative effect.  Demerara was also famous for adding the rectifier to their pot stills - that was the subject of an earlier post.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Alberto Has Passed us by, Just a Bunch of Rain

     Feeling very fortunate today, Alberto is gone and all we got here in Key West is wet.  After Irma most of us on the island are a lot more nervous about tropical events these day that before.  It had been nearly 12 years since a major hurricane had come through here and we were feeling a bit bullet proof.  Today we are a bit more pensive about the arrival of even a tropical storm.

     Sunday morning's sun shine was a real great thing to behold when I walked outside to greet the day.  I hope that the storms track is just as soft for the rest of the people that it is about to impact.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Alberto's Approach is a Reminder of Last September's Approach of Irma

     We haven't even gotten to Hurricane Season and we have out first named storm of the year.  It reminds me of how we waited for the arrival of Irma and standing on the pier at Higg's Beach and photographing the waves as they came in on the soft side of the storm.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Here We Go Again with Alberto Heading into the Gulf of Mexico

     We aren't even into Hurricane Season yet, and we have a tropical storm headed toward us.
  Hurricane Irma hit us the first week of September last year and this past week, we finally got all of the damage repaired on "Sanity Too" and the rest of our "fleet" and now we have another storm headed this way already.

     This storm is not expected to develop into much more that a tropical storm, but there will be a lot of rain and that can cause a lot of flooding problems and keep me close to home for a couple of days.  It is suppose to pass closest to us on Saturday around noon, but winds here are not suppose to be over 31 mph and start diminishing by noon on Sunday to below 25 mph here in Key West.

      This is more of an inconvenience rather than a serious threat to the keys.  I'm going to miss my Saturday afternoon in town listening to good music and nice rum.  I'll probably still get to sip the rum, but I doubt that I'll fight the winds on my bicycle to get downtown.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Richard Seale on High Ester Flavored Rums

A WORD about HIGH ESTER (Flavored) Rums - the Cousins Process

Richard Seale

      Richard Seale is one of the foremost rum producers in the world and I found this post on the effect oa high esters to be very enlightening and well worth making available to all of you that are interested in this type of rum.

    During my impromptu meeting with Carsten E. Vlierboom of E&A Scheer recently in Miami, I expressed dismay at the recent independent bottling of the 1,600 ester DOK marque. Matt Pietrek who has been researching Jamaica Rum extensively of recent has also in his quiet manner explained that these marques are not for drinking.

     In the 19th century, Jamaica Rum was exported in great quantities to the UK and the European continent, Germany in particular. In 1889 Germany dramatically increased the import duty on Jamaican Rum and severely reduced this trade. The clever Jamaicans responded by creating a class of “Flavored Rum” (meaning for flavoring) which could create a blended rum to compete against the local spirits (subject only to nominal excise taxes).

     McFarlane (1947) classified Jamaica Rum into four categories - common clean, plummer, wedderburn and flavored. The first three were up to 300 esters (g/hl AA). The flavored category was 700 to 1,600. Now by esters, we mean ethyl acetate, the simplest of all esters. The others are not included in the count.

     At the 1908 Royal Commission on Potable Spirits, J C Nolan, special commissioner of the Jamaican Government to the UK, made it quite clear the purpose of the flavored rums.  “It is a flavoring essence. It is not a self rum”.   “No, you could not drink it as a self rum”
     In theory you can make these high ester rums in the normal way by extending the fermentation long enough. The longer the fermentation the more acids by bacteria are produced. The acids react with the alcohol to produce the esters. More acids, more esters. However, this starts to get very impractical and this will leave a very poor yield of alcohol in the ‘wash’ to distill.
To solve this problem, the brilliant Jamaican chemist HH Cousins developed a process to boost the ester count in rums in a more economical way. 

     The ‘lees’ in the retort at the end of distillation retains a considerable amount of the acids from the fermentation. Volatile enough to make it to (and concentrate in) the retort, not volatile enough to make it to the rum. The acids are recovered by adding lime (calcium oxide) to the lees to produce the calcium salts of the acids. This concentrated acid mixture after precipitation of calcium sulphate (by adding sulphuric acid) is added to high strength rum (i.e. lots of alcohol) and placed in the high wines retort where the esterification process (alcohol + acid) takes place. The resulting distillate is now supercharged with esters - up to 7,000 - and this distillate is used to ‘top up’ the rums produced in the normal way to reach the levels such as DOK at 1,600.

     Gentlemen bottlers please, the Jamaicans are laughing at you, Mr. Nolan and the Hon. HH Cousins are spinning in their grave. DOK and similar marques are flavoring essences, not for drinking. They are produced by a process adjunct to distillation.  Pungency is not quality.

     I know it has become fashionable in certain circles to marvel at flavor, any flavor. The burnt tires and excess fusel oil of the likes of Caroni for example (bad fermentation and bad distillation produces this).  It would well be advised to listen to the advice of HH Cousins:  “An increase in the ethyl acetate content of a rum…, if not supported by an increase in the other esters in suitable proportion will not add to its intrinsic value.”  “…there are certain “marks of rum (and among then some of stout body and attractive quality) which are as low as 100 esters”

The measure of ethyl acetate was as important to the regulation and control of Jamaican Rum as was a measure of alcoholic strength. It was not a mark of quality.  And it is well worth noting that esters are formed during ageing. And these esters are the more complex esters with very attractive aromas. For most aged spirits, these are the most important contributors to the flavor.
Jamaican Rums are certainly very remarkable for their ester content. A tradition we can still enjoy today. It is wise though to understand the differences.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Put a Little Ting in Your Cocktail

     The Jamaican soft drink Ting, a very unique soda, offers many uses in cocktail making.   There are any number of places that I have used it with great success,  "The Tingray", a simple mixture of Wray & Nephew Overproof and Ting makes for a wonderful cocktail for the afternoon party.

     During my week in Grand Cayman, I came up with another idea out of a need or a cocktail for the rainy afternoon that I didn't want to venture out into the falling rain.

Any "Ting" in a Storm

  • 2 Oz. White Rum
  • 1 Oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
  • Top up with Ting.

Place all ingredients in an tumbler filled with ice, stir and top up with Ting.  Garnish is optional, but a lime wedge would work well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

One Year Anniversary at Hemingway Rum Company

The Plant
     One year ago this week, I started a new career as a rum maker at the Hemingway Rum Company. fermentations and the effects of the barrels finishing the rum.  It is hard to believe that a year has gone by already.  It has been a real education for me learning some of the intricacies of rum making, running a still setting

Setting First Fermentation
The Original Rum Crew
     We were given a very unique pot still to work with and learning how to make it work efficiently and still getting a quality clean product from it has been a lot of fun.   We have had a lot of help from Ron Call a 30 year veterans of spirit making.   Carlton Grooms, Shawn Martin and myself  were the original rum crew, but with the departure of Carlton Grooms, Mark Straiton has become the third member of the crew.   Together we have learned what it takes to properly ferment molasses, the proper user of yeasts and additives to the wash in order to get a solid
Our Unique Pot Still
flavorful wash.

     Learning how to strip the wash  to remove the solids and other components before refining the output into rum.  How to separate the Heads and foreshots from the hearts and tails to end up with a full flavored medium viscosity white rum.

Solera Barrel Rack
     Finally proofing the rum down to put into the barrels to rest before it is later added to the blend and bottled for sale in our showroom.   It has been a great year and I am proud to have been a part of the operation for the past year.  Good luck to the entire operation as it heads into its second year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Making Healthier Cocktails

Cucumbers Pine Needles and Thyme
          “Healthyish cocktails appeal to everyone,” says Danny Kuehner, bar manager at Madison On
Park restaurant in San Diego. Stashed behind the bar are such wellness ingredients as alkaline water, turmeric, matcha, beets, carrots, aloe vera, nopales, seaweed, cannabidiol oil and activated charcoal. “People want to feel good, not only about what they are eating, but what they are drinking.”  Cocktails as healthful? Sounds like a contradiction. But consider history: Apothecaries originally compounded alcohol into healthful tinctures, elixirs and tonics.  And compared to drinks in the 1980s that used artificially flavored mixers with way too much sweetener, today’s fresh-ingredient cocktails are natural and refreshing. Plus, the current proliferation of low-ABV creations offers more wholesome quaffs.

     Bartenders often look to the kitchen for inspiration, which is where the health-food angle fits. When writing menus, chefs today focus on organic and sustainable ingredients, preferably locally sourced. And of course, drink lists that call out the latest superfood or unusual, arcane ingredients attract the attention of curious consumers thirsting for the new and novel.  “Bartenders love stealing ideas and ingredients from kitchens, and if the kitchen trends or what people are asking for gears itself towards health foods, then that’s how we’re going to lean into it,” says Jenn Harvey, bar manager at Temple Bar in Cambridge, MA. Items borrowed from health food for cocktails include carrot juice, chia seeds, cacao nibs and turmeric.

     Mixologists are ranging far and wide to unearth therapeutic ingredients. “If you think about the historical aspect of spirits as curatives, used in the apothecary style, I don’t think cocktails borrowing inspiration from health foods is a trend, but rather a modernized form of expressing creativity,” says Jenn Grossbard, bar manager and resident forager for The Drawing Board in Petaluma, CA., where you can a virtual pharmacy of holistic ingredients, including activated charcoal, bee pollen, ginger/turmeric honey, rosehip and hawthorn tonic, alkaline water and adaptogenic herbs such as eleuthero, fo-ti, astragalus and tulsi.  The aptly named Prescription cocktail features healthful bee pollen and ginger/turmeric-infused honey, along with Dewar’s Scotch, lemon juice and locally produced Amaro Bilaro and Fresno chilies.

     Using healthful, plant-based ingredients in cocktails can boost both flavors and sales, says Ryan Nolen, bar manager at Pitchfork Pretty Restaurant & Bar in Austin, TX. “Health-centric food and beverage consumption is mainstream: It has permeated pop culture. I believe it is here to stay and has appeal to some degree across all demographics.”  The restaurant features Texas Hill Country cuisine and the bar follows suit. Local carrots, butternut squash, tomatillos, avocado seed, avocado leaf, avocado flower honey, poppy seeds and fermented peach pits all appear in cocktails, which are priced from $10 to $12.   Examples include the A Drink Has No Name, featuring theobromine-rich yaupon tea, smoked ginger honey, clove, mint, lemon, bourbon and rum, with a Sasquash pictured atop.

Creating drinks with exotic components can be expensive, however. “Sometimes, these super-healthy ingredients can cost a lot of money,” says Harvey. And if the cocktails don’t sell, spoilage can be a problem.

     At The Drawing Board, they will “personally forage for many of the herbs or grow them in someone’s garden.” She also works with local purveyors for specialized ingredients, such as bee pollen or organic dried herbs.  Pitchfork Pretty sources from local farms that practice sustainable farming techniques and grow plants in ideal soil compositions, says Nolen. “We try to do this as far as it is cost-effective.”   “Using veggies and herbs gives the cocktail a fresh and herbaceous aspect that can’t be found in a bottle,” but “the challenge is sourcing the freshest possible ingredients. Your cocktail is only as strong as its weakest ingredient.” 

     This is only the tip of the iceberg, read more at

Monday, May 21, 2018

Flor De Caña Has Earned Fair Trade Certification

     With all of the health problems many of the workers in the sugarcane cutting and handling trade have this is a great step forward by the makers of Flor  de Cana.  I hope that more of the spirits producers around the world can follow in the footsteps of Flor de Cana and make life better for all.
     The certification with Fair Trade USA, the leading varifiers of Fair Trade products in North America, covers areas like safe working conditions, protection of fundamental human rights and environmental best practices.  The partnership with Fair Trade USA will come into effect by mid-2018.
     It assures that with every purchase of a bottle of Flor de Caña , the workers earn a financial premium called the Community Development Fund. The fund allows workers to choose how the money is used on projects of their choosing.  Flor de Caña is committed to sustainable practices – the rum has been distilled using 100% renewable energy for over a decade.  For the past 12 years, Flor de Caña has planted 50,000 trees annually to help protect the environment.  “In the global spirits, wine and beer industry there is still more that can be done in terms of sustainability,” said Eduardo Pellas, CEO of Flor de Caña   “We’ve been distilling our rums with 100% renewable energy for over 10 years and this has been certified by Lloyd’s Register. Some companies are just starting to adopt these practices.
     Among the company’s plans, Pellas aims to have a “fully sustainable production cycle”. Currently all CO2 generated during the fermentation is captured and recycled.  “Our next goal is to have completely green packaging, made from 100% recycled material,” he added.  Paul Rice, president and CEO of Fair Trade USA, has welcomed the partnership with Flor de Caña.  “In the spirits industry, the trend toward environmental sustainability and social responsibility is just beginning,” he said.   “Flor de Caña is one of the early trailblazers in this space and is one of just a few spirits companies to adopt fair trade practices in their supply chain. We’re excited by this partnership and the ripple effect that it’s poised to create.”  Flor de Caña is not the only fair trade-certified spirit in the world, Alexandre Koiransky launched Fair Trade USA in 2009.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rainy Season in the Keys

     I came home from Grand Cayman on Tuesday afternoon, a nice day here in Key West.  For the past two days we have had just a tome of rain and thunder and lightening flashing and banging at the same time.  Yes it was really close Wednesday night.   We really needed the rain here in the keys, but does it have to all fall at one time?  I believe that we have gotten 6.37 inches so far this month, that is a lot when we only have had 9.9 inches all year.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Why Does Alcohol Make Us Drunk?

     Every day as I research things for the blog, I run across many interesting tidbits.  I found this one very interesting.  It is a question I feel that most of us have asked ourselves after an afternoon or evening of partaking a wee bit too much of the beloved ethanol.

     Every day millions of people ask Google life's most difficult question.   As Homer once said, this infamous molecule is both "the cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems".  It was Homer Simpson who said that rather than the classical bard, but it's no less true or profound for that. Sometimes, the rubbish you come out with when you're drunk really is quite clever, or funny, or both, so long as you can remember it properly the next morning.  Why does alcohol make us drunk?   When you look at the history of our relationship with it in light of Marlatt's research, the smart ass, know-it-all-on-the-bar-stool's answer has to be, "Because we want it to."

     Our ambiguous relationship with alcohol is older than civilization - in fact there's a strong argument that it was the cause of civilization itself.  We've been drinking it since our dawn as a species, and it probably helped us evolve into humans in the first place. It may even have played a role in the very creation of life on earth. No, I'm not drunk. This is proper science.  For all that time, alcohol has been, as Simpson said so beautifully, both a cause of great pleasure and, for a minority, colossal pain. Our relationship as a society with alcohol swings on a pendulum over time between celebrating the positives and deploring the negatives, and right now we're over on the temperance side. Between 1785 and 1985, The Times used the term "binge drinking" a total of 49 times. The same paper ran over 300 stories about binge drinking in 2004 alone. Which is odd, because people were drinking much less in 2004 than their ancestors had been at pretty much any point in the preceding two centuries. 
     What does alcohol really do to us? And how does it do it? The truth is, neuroscientists are still in the process of figuring this out. To a significant degree, it depends on who you are, what your relationship with alcohol is, what and how you're drinking, ultimately, what you mean by "drunk".   Let's look at the physiological effects first. The active component in booze is ethanol, which as molecules go, has all the sly charm of one of those beery lads who can worm his way past the velvet ropes of any bar in the world. Water soluble and small enough to pass through and between cell walls, ethanol is drawn first to the liver, which immediately begins to break it down. But the liver only works so fast, so surplus ethanol shoots on through to every part of the body and ends up in the brain within minutes. It does all sorts of stuff to our digestive system, our motor functions, our need to pee and much more, but it's the feeling of drunkenness that fascinates us.  Information and instructions are carried around the brain by neurons - excitable cells that carry data. Neurons don't touch, but communicate across tiny gaps known as synapses, using chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Simplistically, these fall into two types: "excitatory impulses", which tell us to do stuff and are carried by glutamate, and "inhibitory signals" which tell us to do less, and travel via gamma-aminobutyric acid, or Gaba. Trillions of these signals are happening all the time, and their net effect is the mind itself, and our sense of consciousness.   Ethanol gleefully speeds into the synapses, cascading into the gaps between the neurons, and then sidles up to them, puts its arms around their shoulders and assures them it's their best mate in the whole world. You might be suspicious if a stranger did this to you in a pub unless you were already gathered, but your neurons totally believe the ethanol molecules, and scientists still don't really know why.

     Loss of motor function, memory loss, nausea and so on often only kick in at high blood alcohol concentrations, -bind effect - dulling the active signals and amplifying the sedative ones, is what we really mean when we say alcohol is a depressant, it doesn't make you depressed.    What it does is slows down and depresses your active functions, making the brain slower and more sedate and, given enough time it can accelerate the process until you pass out.  At the same time, ethanol also jacks up the release of dopamine, exciting the part of the brain that perceives reward.   Reward is related to the ethanol you consumed, so you consume more, depressing your brain function while increasing your sense of euphoria. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Diageo Launches Limited Edition Captain Morgan Bottles

     Diageo has introduced a new crew of captains to temporarily replace Captain Morgan, each designed to be the leader of a personality trait.  The collection includes Captain Drama, Captain Banter, Captain Comedy, Captain Genius, Captain Retro, Captain Clueless and Captain Karaoke.  The bottles have been created to celebrate different personalities within friendship groups. Captain Comedy is “the one we turn to for the latest fun viral videos”, while Captain Banter is “always ready with razor sharp wit and perfect timing”.

Nik Keane, global brand director, Captain Morgan, said: “Captain Morgan is all about the crew. We champion the kind of fun that comes from friends getting together and celebrating who they are.  “Following the overwhelmingly positive response from Captain Morgan fans to the one-off bottles for our famous Captains, like Leicester City captain Wes Morgan, these bottles take it to the next level and celebrate the great mix of personalities found in friendships around the world.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Prohibition Federal Chemists Used Poison to Prevent Consumption of Industrial Alcohol

     Here is an open case where if you can’t stop people from drinking alcohol by law, just poison
them.  Prohibition has many stories where the government of the time did some really despicable things to enforce prohibition.

     On January 15, 1922, The New York Times reported that 35-year-old Robert Doyle, a veteran of World War One, was found blinded and afraid in his rooming house on West 23rd Street.  A doctor conveyed Doyle to the hospital, where he died six hours later. The paper also reported the death of another local man-he had brought alcohol home from his workplace to add to his coffee. The problem was that America was in Prohibition, and he had worked at a furniture-polishing company. Both men had drunk a fatal dose of wood, or methyl, alcohol.        These deaths were part of an epidemic of alcohol poisonings that swept the country after the United States made the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal in 1919.  

     An illicit alcohol industry boomed, and despite increased border security, alcohol flowed in from Mexico and Canada. But some bootleggers, eager to cash in on black market prices, wanted to sell alcohol made closer to home. The government could ban the brewing of beer, but not the production of industrial alcohol, which was used to make everything from perfume to paint.  Bootleggers redistilled industrial alcohol to make it drinkable, the federal government responded by requiring manufacturers to add in increasing amounts of poison.     Doyle was an early casualty of the resulting showdown between federal chemists, who tried to make the country's industrial alcohol deadly to drink, and speakeasies' and bootleggers' chemists, who tried to remove the poisons. The Times article describing Doyle's death noted that an unnamed but "prominent" local club had employed a chemist to double-check that patrons' booze was safe to drink. The problem, reported the anonymous writer, was that much of the liquor flowing into speakeasies hadn't been brewed abroad, but was in fact "denatured" industrial alcohol. 

     There is a lot more to what was going on in those day.  You can read more at

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares, Chairman of Destilería Serrallés Has Passed Away

 Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares (Right) Roberto Seralles (Left)

     Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares, chairman of Destilería Serrallés, producer of Don Q Rum has passed   Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares served as the company’s president and CEO until 2017.  Known as ‘Don Fao’ to close relatives, employees and friends, fifth generation family member Serrallés Nevares was the company’s president and CEO from 1981 until his retirement in 2017. He continued to serve as chairman of the board of directors.
away at the age of 83.

     Destilería Serrallés has issued a statement with respect to the passing of its Chairman, Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares. He was 83. "It is with deep regret that Destilería Serrallés and its Board of Directors confirms the passing of our Chairman, Felix Juan Serrallés Nevares.  "Don Fao" as he was known to close relatives, company employees and friends, was the company's President and CEO from 1981 until 2017 and a member of the family's 5th generation. 

     Under his vision and tenure, Destilería Serrallés experienced unparalleled business growth and innovation, solidifying a leadership position for Don Q Rum in Puerto Rico and driving an aggressive expansion into the USA and other international markets. He will be remembered by all at Serrallés, and those who knew him for his noble spirit, his passion for the company and his brilliant intellect.  His values and legacy will continue to lead the way for generations to come", said Roberto Serrallés, family and corporate spokesperson.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tortuga Rum Company: Robert and Carlene Hamaty's Dream Come True

Tortuga Rum Cake Factory

     Upon visiting almost any Caribbean Island, you are often presented a glass of rum punch. but there is something else made from the rum of the Caribbean.  Tortuga Rum Cake is known throughout the cruise passenger and tourists, about 21 million visitors to the islands each year get to sample the world-famous delicious Tortuga Rum Cake.

Robert and Carlene Hamaty

     Where did it all start?   The Tortuga Rum Company was started in 1984 by Then Cayman Airways captain and his wife.   As well as his interest in aviation, a growing entrepreneurial spirit led to Captain Hamaty and his wife Carlene setting up the Tortuga Rum Company knowing the value of rum in the Cayman Islands.
     Using a four-generation family recipe, Carlene started baking the first Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes. They were a hit and became a popular part of their line, at the duty-free liquor stores.   By 1990 the cakes had gained so much popularity that Carlene and Robert had to open a commercial bakery to keep up with the orders.    Tortuga Rum Cakes are the top export of the Cayman Islands.   They are also the most-purchased souvenir of cruise passengers for the past 10 years.   Varieties from a six-pack of 4-ounce cakes to the big 33-ounce cake can be shipped right to your door.

     The intent was to introduce Cayman Islands rums to the ever-growing cruise business with an eye on Cayman’s tourism development. Later in the 1980s, the first duty-free liquor Tortuga store was opened and Carlene Hamaty – originally of Savannah, Cayman Islands – took an old family recipe, added Tortuga gold rum and created the famous Tortuga Rum cake, which is now shipped to over 70 countries worldwide. There are franchised bakeries in Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas.

Tortuga Rum Pot Still

    As a frequent traveler of the Caribbean Islands, I’ve noticed these famous rum cakes in virtually every port that I’ve visited.  This is a very impressive operation that I was thankful to have an opportunity to visit.   I also got to see their first venture into rum distillation in West Bay, Grand Cayman.  The still is a 53 gallon version of the 300 gallon pot still we operate at Hemingway Distillery in Key West.  Great to see them getting into the business of creating their own rums.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Cayman Island Sunday: The Streets are Rolled up and Most Things are Closed

     It was a morning to set on the veranda and watch a huge iguana at the pool and then head to Calico Jacks  on the beach for a nice lunch and beach scene.  This vacation has seen the mornings sleeping in and just hanging out on the veranda in the mornings.  Sunday was no exception, watching a beautiful day unfold in front of us was time well enjoyed.  Pretty flowers and a huge iguana make the morning very different from the rain out yesterday morning.

     We had some errands to run, but found that virtually every store was closed on Sundays, so it was off to Calico Jack's for lunch on Seven Mile Beach.  This is a cool beach bar and restaurant right out on the sand at the north end of Seven Mile Beach.  A pure  eclectic place that fits the beach and the island.  We enjoyed a beach side seat looking out over the beach and the water.  Lunch was good and it was back down the beach we went.

     Looking forward to our last full day today on
the island.  We plan on visiting a few more friends and getting packed up to head home early Tuesday morning.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Pedro St. James Castle

Pedro St. James Castle
     At the invitation of Walker Romanica and Nelson Delbert of Cayman Spirits, Marta and I made the journey to the Pedro St. James Castle in Savannah Township.  This is a historic site here on Grand Cayman that we haven't heard of in all of our visits, but well worth seeing.    Built in 1780, it has a history that spans 238 years, the great house, the home of plantation owner William Eden, is Cayman's oldest stone structure and the island's only remaining late-18th-century residence .

Marta and the Friendly Cat on the Swing
     The Great House, in its capacity as courthouse and jail, it was the birthplace of Caymanian democracy, where in December 1831, the first elected parliament was organized and in 1835 the Slavery Abolition Act signed. The structure still has original or historically accurate replicas of sweeping verandas, mahogany floors, rough-hewn wide-beam ceilings, outside louvers, stone and oxblood- or mustard-color lime-wash-painted walls, brass fixtures, and Georgian furnishings from tea caddies to canopy beds to commodes. Paying obsessive attention to detail, the curators even fill glasses with faux wine.

      The mini-museum also includes a hodgepodge of displays from slave emancipation to old stamps.
Old Pre-restoration Picture
The buildings are surrounded by 8 acres of natural parks and woodlands. You can stroll through landscaping of native Caymanian flora and experience one of the most spectacular views on the island from atop the dramatic Great Pedro Bluff.  The poignant Hurricane Ivan Memorial outside uses text, images, and symbols to represent important aspects of the 2004 disaster.

Old Cayman Kitchen
Cactus Garden in Front of the Great House

The View of the Cayman Trench From the Pedro Castle Bluff