Haiti’s Forgotten Spirit

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As small beads begin to develop on your brow, a gentle breeze comes to caress away the heat. The ocean calms your mind as you gaze on its eternal ebb and flow. Laughter echoes off the water as everyone around you soaks up the sun. An ex-pat dives into the sea as you seek shelter from the heat. You sip a local spirit to solidify your Caribbean experience.

You pick the seat closest to the rust-covered fan that is moving the moisture soaked air from one corner of the bar to another. The barkeep is talking to another Islander. You’re on Caribbean time now. Your order can wait a minute while you soak up the scene.

“What’ll it be?” The bartender asks without looking in your direction. They’re talking to you. If you’re smart you’ll get something with a lot of rum and little work.

Origins of Rum.

From time to time, a refresher is needed. Before I can breakdown the category we will explore, we need to be reminded of the origins and differences between the different regions that have come to produce one of the world's finest elixirs.

The history of the Sugar cane spirit is rife with dark tales but through it all the countries that produce the spirit do it as a point of pride creating and showcasing the Terroir of their country, turning a history of struggle into a bright future.

When the western powers of England, France, and Span began to claim their new territories in the west a sinister cycle began. Slaves were shipped from Western Africa to work the sugar plantations. The Sugar was shipped to New England for goods, including Molasses Rum (British Style) and those goods were used to once again get more slaves. This is now referred to as the triangle trade. A terrible history that is linked forever to rum.

While European countries developed these morally bankrupt trade routes they brought with them imprints of their culture, including how they distilled their spirits. It is for this reason that rum has traditionally been divided into three different categories of English, French, and Spanish.

DIFFERENT STYLES OF RUM

British Rums were traditionally made in an industrial style. They would use the Molasses by-product of sugar production to create rich dark Rums. Blackstrap, and Appleton Estate Jamaican rum are prime examples.

Spanish Ron is known for creating lighter styles of Rum that stand up well to age. These Rums are typically produced from Molasses as well. The great focus of the Spanish style is the aging process they can undertake. Brugal is one of my favorite clear rums of the category, while Ron Zacapa creates excellent aged selections.

Then of course we are left with the French Rhum Agricole. In typical cognac fashion, these Islands produced spirits driven by the terroir of their regions. Natural fermentation and fresh-pressed juice was used. Creating products that can dazzle the senses. It is here that we find our first reason you don’t know rum. While Agricole methods are well known there is a style that is new to the American market. It has changed our perspective in this category. Say hello to Haiti and their national spirit of CLAIRIN

DEEP DIVE: CLAIRIN

Haiti is a country with a noble legacy. The first Caribbean country to throw off the shackles of colonialism and forge their own history in 1804. Haitian forces were even sent over to help the United States in its battle for independence.

Because Haiti was able to separate from colonial power at an earlier stage, better traditions were able to be upheld in production. Natural sugar cane is the only kind used in Clairin production. It grows alongside banana and mango. This polyculture farming practice promotes the terroir of each field, creating a product that sings the natural splendor inherent in the Island. Don’t just trust me. Experience the Rhum for yourself.

Haiti’s Great Spirit: Clairin Sajous

A closer look

The nose: envelops you in tropical overtures and it gently leads you into rich funk

The Palate: More subtle than the nose but strong herbaceousness lends itself to overripe fruit

Finish: Long yet clean leaving subtle anise and cinnamon notes lingering.

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TRIPLE “A” CLAIRIN PROTOCOL

For Agricole rum, which is called Clairin in Haiti, to obtain a “Triple A” designation, it must be produced respecting the rules of the following protocol.

AGRICULTURE

  • The varieties of sugar cane must be native
  • The cultivation of sugar cane must be organic; it must follow traditional production techniques, without the use of synthetic chemicals

HARVEST

  • Harvesting must be done exclusively by hand.
  • Transportation of sugar cane from the fields to the distillery must be done by animals.

PRODUCTION

  • The fermentation of sugar cane juice must take place solely through the use of natural yeast.
  • The fermentation should last at least 120 hours.
  • The distillation takes place within a maximum of 5 stills with copper plates in direct contact with the flame.
  • The spirit must be bottled as soon as it comes out of the still
  • Bottling must take place in Haiti.

Haiti is a country with a noble legacy. The first Caribbean country to throw off the shackles of colonialism and forge their own history in 1804. Haitian forces were even sent over to help the United States in it’s battle for independence.

Because Haiti was able to separate from colonial power at an earlier stage, better traditions were able to be upheld in production. Natural sugar cane is the only kind used in Clairin production. It grows alongside banana and mango. This polyculture farming practice promotes the terroir of each field, creating a product that sings the natural splendor inherent in the Island. Don’t just trust me. Experience the Rhum for yourself.

From all of us at Wayward Muse we hope you found this article insightful, and useful. Whether you are behind the bar or want to be a better guest, we have the resources you need.

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