Thursday, September 13, 2018

Haitian Clairin: Haiti's Traditional Rhum

Commercial Clairin Vaval

     Clairin, a traditional rum made in Haiti, the spirit is beginning to appear in the United States.  Clairin is a regional spirit that is unregulated in its home country, Clairin occupies a distinct place the spectrum of rums   It even stands apart from other sugarcane distillates like rhum agricole or Brazilian Cachaca.    Caribbean rum culture is well known, but little is said about Haitian Clairin, despite the country housing more than 500 local distilleries. This booming doing it yourself distilling scene makes Haiti home to some of the most diverse rum production in the world. 

     To make Clairin, sugarcane is hand-harvested and carted to the press. The resulting juice is moved to tanks where it ferments for the most part spontaneously.  There is no certification for Clairin, but it is largely organic because there is commercial farming or pesticides used in these remote villages.  Natural inoculation of wild yeast from the plant requires longer fermentation than commercially produced yeasts.   Longer Fermentation time allows for more complex flavors and there are no two batches of Clairin that taste the same.

     Single distillation also helps, retaining flavors that would be lost from further refinement. Clairin is also an unaged spirit much like the Cachaca once was in its local origins in Brazil.
In this world of unlicensed distillers, unlike commercial bottling sold by regulated producers, raw material varies between Clairin distillers, as does the quality of the spirit.   Bad Clairin can simply lack character, though in extreme scenarios, if poorly made, could contain poisonous levels of methanol.  To be productive and make the leap to a commercially successful operation, many of the methods and facilities will have to be improved to get a consistency to the product.