WIRSPA: Unplugged

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Capn Jimbo
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Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:17 am

Are you a fan of Caribbean rum? Most people are. A recent survey found that eighty-five per cent of UK respondents stated they would be “more interested” in “trying rum from the Caribbean compared to rum from other parts of the world”, with 38 per cent saying they would be “a lot more interested”. I suspect an American survey would be similar. The point: rum from the Caribbean doesn't need much promotion. Rum sales confirm this.

So what's with WIRSPA and their campaign to promote "Authentic Caribbean Rum" - so called "true rum" - and their seals guaranteeing age? Is this simply an attempt to "protect" the consumer, and promote rums from the (entire) Caribbean? Are we being threatened with counterfeit rums from the Caribbean?

Not for a second.

I won't re-publish it here but I recently completed a long article which may reveal the real motivations behind WISRPA's efforts (similar to those of the French "AOC Martinique designation"). In sum, simply a scheme to delegitimize cane juice or molasses rums made by others. This seems hardly honest, moral or fair. It is power in full play, and the consumer be damned. I'd be interesting in hearing how you interpret these efforts...

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MJL
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Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:39 am

Jim,

This sounds like branding to me. I am uncertain where the problem lays? Coke brands. Pepsi brands. Oreos brands. Burgundy, Chianti, Parmesan cheese and Bourbon all brand. Why can't Rum define its brand as well? What is the difference between Champagne and the exact product made in California or South Africa or Chile or Australia? Branding. Caveat emptor.

JaRiMi
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Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:11 pm

I agree with capn, this is to a degree an attempt of lifting the CARIBBEAN rums above other rums, and in this aspect this is not a very nice or delightful move. Implying that only Caribbean rum is somehow "authentic" rum is a lot of nonsense. In Philippines for instance rum has been made for more than 150 years: Even if I have lived in the Caribbean and am passionate about the West Indies (in terms of cricket for example), nobody can come and tell me that Caribbean rum is more authentic than that of my Pinoy brothers in the Philippines.

The romantic ideals and views many may still harbour in their mind about the Caribbean are slowly evaporating as more and more people go and visit the modern Caribbean and actually take the time to wonder out of their fancy American-run resort, only to realize that we are talking about a group of tiny third world nations suffering in many cases from typical and severe third world problems of crime, unemploymency, poverty and environmental issues. Marketing of both rum- and travel industry tries its best to fight against this by promoting these romantic, dream islands views. In rum marketing, the business also harvests readily the riches of tales of the Caribbean pirates - everyone knows dem pirates drank rum, haaarrgh! Yeh, right...duhh.

Trinidad & Tobago has the highest-ever murder rate ever: with a population of 1.1 million, about 550 people officially died this year as a result of homicide (and another 200 are dead, but cannot 100% accurately be ruled as murder victims, so will not show up in stats). The island of Trinidad has at parts sunk 6 metres below sea levels, due to all the oil being pumped from underneath the island, and this year also flooding has been devastating because of the often illegal logging and clearing of hills from any vegetation. Jamaica has massive unemployment and suffers from environmental problems stemming from uncontrolled bauxite mining http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJa2ftQwfNY . Haiti is in shambles and has been for 300+ years, and its environment is in places as dead as the surface of the moon http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a0 ... _slate.jpg. Thats the unromantic side of the Caribbean, the one the marketing guys won't mention - however it is the reality of the people living there.

Finally, not to get completely sidetracked, I do think that more importantly than as a marketing ploy, WIRSPA is also a much-needed attempt in bringing some discipline to regional rum production, by hammering through some common rules & conditions which everyone who join must then follow. This will put an end to the silly games played with age statements, possible (secretive) added flavoring of "pure rums", etc. - and this I strongly support, because how else can we take rum as a serious contender in the fine spirits game ever.

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Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:49 pm

Excellent points J, and I am so thankful you have highlighted the sources and conditions of rum production in the Carib.

Now I know my article is of my usual long-winded type, so allow me to highlight some important points. WIRSPA promotion of "true rum" from the Caribbean is superficial. Their efforts are directed at protection of rum from just the few Caribbean Commonwealth countries!

What's upsetting are those fine rum producing countries who will likely be excluded, including: Argentina, Brazil, French West Indies, Columbia, Costa Rica, Curacao, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Marie Galante, Martinique, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Reunion, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela. And many, if not most of these are certainly as Caribbean as British Guyana or Belize.

As a direct result of the deal cut between the Canadian Whiskey Assoc. and WIRPA, rums from these other (non-Commonwealth) Caribbean countries will no longer be able to use the words "Caribbean" and "rum" in Canada or the few protected Caribbean Commonweath countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago).

WIRSPA's efforts, much like the French AOC in Martinique, are little disguised attempts to disenfranchise molasses and/or cane juice rums made elsewhere in the Caribbean. As I mentioned, this is much like the attempt of a Texas company to steal the name "Basmati" from India.

Sinister. I believe WIRPA's efforts may backfire as rum drinkers ascertain their "true motives".
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JaRiMi
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Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:33 pm

Capn Jimbo wrote:Excellent points J, and I am so thankful you have highlighted the sources and conditions of rum production in the Carib.
Every now & then I get so upset with the media and their naive way of portraying Caribbean: It is always either some ole-time pirates and buccaneers nonsense, or then the typical "sunshine paradise islands, with their happy natives who love tourists" crap. It would do many tourists good to venture out of their all-inclusive resort and see what is the real life on the island like, or simply just buy a local newspaper, it tells you a lot about whats happening in a country (thankfully more people do this nowadays, I feel). Lets not forget the one of the biggest exports from the Caribbean is PEOPLE - and there is a reason for this. As much as I take pride in T&T for example, a drop of reality never hurts.
Now I know my article is of my usual long-winded type, so allow me to highlight some important points. WIRSPA promotion of "true rum" from the Caribbean is superficial. Their efforts are directed at protection of rum from just the few Caribbean Commonwealth countries!

What's upsetting are those fine rum producing countries who will likely be excluded, including: Argentina, Brazil, French West Indies, Columbia, Costa Rica, Curacao, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Marie Galante, Martinique, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Reunion, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela. And many, if not most of these are certainly as Caribbean as British Guyana or Belize.
Well, I would say that at least French W.I. including Martinique, Guadeloupe and Marie Galante, Colombia, Cost Rica, Curacao and the other Dutch ABC islands + Surinam, French Guyana, Guatemala, Haiti, Bahamas, Nicaragua, Mexico, Virgin Islands (UK & US) and Venezuela can claim some affinity to the term "Caribbean".
As a direct result of the deal cut between the Canadian Whiskey Assoc. and WIRSPA, rums from these other (non-Commonwealth) Caribbean countries will no longer be able to use the words "Caribbean" and "rum" in Canada or the few protected Caribbean Commonweath countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago).
That is really stupid, because it is robbing the other places and their products their just right to a geographical identity.
WIRSPA's efforts, much like the French AOC in Martinique, are little disguised attempts to disenfranchise molasses and/or cane juice rums made elsewhere in the Caribbean. As I mentioned, this is much like the attempt of a Texas company to steal the name "Basmati" from India.

Sinister. I believe WIRPA's efforts may backfire as rum drinkers ascertain their "true motives".
I know that India has tried very hard to get worldwide acknowledgement that the term Basmati would be coined only with Indian rice, but even this is wrong I feel, because "Basmati" type rice is historically grown with great succes in places like Iran.

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Tue Dec 30, 2008 3:09 pm

Good stuff. In the Texas case, the company went to great expense to trademark "Basmati", which would have denied any other country or entity from using the name! This is amazing, and fortunately, it lost! In the instant case, WIRSPA succeeded in capturing the generic terms of "Caribbean rum" insofar as the few Commonwealth countries were concerned.

I'd boycott their rums except I like em too much. This is one of those cases where sunshine is the best disinfectant. And they can't stop the rest of us from calling rums from the Caribbean, uh, Caribbean rums. Although it would be nice if honest age and flavored statements were the norm, WIRSPA is not the vehicle. Unfortunately their primary goals are far too damaging and protectionist to give them an ounce more clout than they already have.

I believe these efforts better fall to the distillers (like Richard Seale) or the country. And to an educated rum populace who demands such integrity.
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JaRiMi
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Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:39 am

After reading your long article regarding the Canadian discussions in Senate and the whole WIRSPA, I have one question please:

Quoting:
"Under this ridiculous legislation, only the Caribbean Commonwealth will be able to sell rum labelled as Caribbean in Canada. Nuttier yet, WIRSPA's ACP Caribbian Region includes countries in the Pacific and Africa!"

What do you mean here please by ACP, and which are those countries in Pacific and Africa?

Thanks in advance!

The point made if I understood correctly, that WIRSPA countries may import sugar cane or molasses from any other country, use it as raw material, and still call their rum Caribbeancan be seen a bit controversial if we look at this from a purely purist point of view. Ideally the islands all should be producing their own cane as raw material, and making their rum from it as well. Only then could it be called Jamaican rum, Trinidadian rum, etc, etc and be truly linked to the fine "terroir " and such of the country of origin. Given the current state of English-speaking Caribbean countries' sugar cane industry (Trinidad was pretty much the last stronghold producing significant amount of cane, and even there its now gone belly-up pretty much) and the size of the smaller islands (now much more dedicated to cater tourism needs) in comparison to the newly-found, rapidly growing international markets with a vast demand for their rum, this is an impossible equation.

Interestingly, in making Scotch whisky, the Scottish distlleries for example have for ages been buying barley from other countries in large quantities and processing it in Scotland to them make whisky out of it. Scotland simply does not produce enough barley any more. Nobody sees a problem with this practice. Only a few small-batch whiskies are made with a special statement "local barley" to show that the barley used was 100% Scottish (see Springbank for example).

What I feel is maybe more significant matter is this: I know many of the smaller islands and their rum brands or small distilleries have also for long time already been buying bulk rums, blending them and then calling the resulting product for example "Anguilla rum" - even if none of the rum used in blending comes from that island. Similarly many known rums from various countries actually contain bulk rums from completely different countries - for example, Borgoe rum from Surinam contains Caroni bulk rum from Trinidad. This is a matter I would like to see clearly stated in today's blends in the following manner:

1) If no rum is actually distilled (like is the case of Pyrat for example) on the island/country itself, then there should be a mention of where the rum(s) used in the blend come from if possible , or at least

2) a mention that the rum is a "blended rum of varied origin", perhaps then also mentioning that the rum is

3) for example "aged and blended at Anguilla rum factory".

This would make sense to me, and be an honest statement towards the consumer. Even if the raw materials come from country XYZ, I would like to know where the distiller rum comes from. After all, we do not have blended whiskies for example with a mix of distillates from Ireland, Scotland and Germany, for example - or a Swedish malt whisky sold as such, where the actual malt whiskies used would come from Scotland. The European law at least requires such a product to clearly state that the whisky comes from Scotland (in the latter case).

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Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:55 pm

Ouch! I never said I was a good typist!
Quoting:
"Under this ridiculous legislation, only the Caribbean Commonwealth will be able to sell rum labelled as Caribbean in Canada. Nuttier yet, WIRSPA's ACP Caribbian Region includes countries in the Pacific and Africa!"

What do you mean here please by ACP, and which are those countries in Pacific and Africa?
The complete list of countries in the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) region are here. Thanks very much for drawing this aside ("Nuttier yet...") to my attention. This is a old article and unfortunately I then relied on a Hamilton post wherein posted "editor's notes", added to an alleged WIRSPA release and which notes stated:
ACR brands are made in 15 Caribbean territories: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.

ACP’ stands for ‘Africa, Caribbean and Pacific’. The ACP States are the countries shown above and are signatories of the Lomé Convention signed in 1975. This was superseded by the Cotonou Agreement in June 2000.
Emphasis added. This was confusing. Although the countries listed are in the ACP, it was misleading to state the ACP states "are" the countries listed. I compounded the error by mistakenly taking this to mean that all the ACP states could be considered part of the Caribbean region.

I was wrong, and will amend my article, thank you very much. Fortunately, this was not much more than a fun aside, and not critical to the main issue of WIRSPA's exclusionary motivations in protecting the few Commonwealth Caribbean countries at the expense of excluded Caribbean distillers not in the Commonwealth. However, this aside is still valid in that Guyana and Suriname - both listed as ACR (Authentic Caribbean Rum) brands - are not in the Caribbean sea, but rather border the south Atlantic.

Again thanks. The incorrect statement "Nuttier yet, WIRSPA's ACP Caribbian Region includes countries in the Pacific and Africa!" has now been slightly amended to "Nuttier yet, WIRSPA's ACP Caribbian Region includes countries not in the Caribbean!". Still nutty, but cashews instead of almonds, lol...
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JaRiMi
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Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:17 pm

Capn Jimbo wrote:
However, this aside is still valid in that Guyana and Suriname - both listed as ACR (authentic Caribbean rums) brands - are not in the Caribbean sea, but rather border the south Atlantic.
This is absolutely true if one looks at the map, no doubt about it whatsoever.

The area called "Caribbean" is vague at best in its definition. Most of the islands we call "Caribbean isles" stand as a loose chain of islands between the Caribbean sea and the Atlantic. Technically one could argue that even the Bahamas as well as the Turks & Caicos are not a part of the Caribbean, since the larger landmass of the Island of Cuba sits between them and the Caribbean sea. Bemuda, way out in the Atlantic, is in no way connected geographically with the Caribbean. In the South, depending on where one wishes to see the Caribbean end, it could be questioned is Trinidad or Tobago actually lying in the Caribbean sea, or more in the Atlantic. Jamaica and the Cayman Islands sit comfortably smack in the middle of the Caribbean, and I would say geographically they and the Dutch ABC-islands are among the few only ones that can claim the title "Caribbean isles" without any reservations!

What most people (especially those from the region) will vehemently point out is that the "Caribbean" is not only a geographical term, but also one linked deep within the culture of the lands. For example, Trinidad & Tobago as well as Guyana (former British Guyana) do not identify themselves in the least with their South American, spanish-speaking neighbours, and their culture is much a part of the pan-english-speaking Caribbean culture in terms of food, music, language - in fact most of those things that make up a cultural identity of a nation and its people. Surinam is another oddity on the South American soil, having been a colony of Netherlands it maintains close ties with the Dutch ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) sitting just off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean sea. Similarly current Belizean language and culture is more closer to that of the english-speaking Caribbean islands than its neighboring spanish-speaking countries. Does this count? That is a matter of opinion.

Isla de San Andres belongs to Colombia, but the island is situated a loong, looong way from Colombia (nearer to the coast of Nacaragua). From what I've heard from friends who visited the island and also listening to the music that was brought from there, the islanders speak broken spanish heavily mixed with english, and the culture is, err, not quite the same as in mainland Colombia.

I gather that when Guyana and Surinam for example claim their Caribbean heritage, they appeal to the undoubtedly strong cultural ties & links. Bermuda states the same, since the culture is strongly linked to that of the english-speaking Caribbean.

I am not certain if the Venezuelans, Colombians, Costa Ricans or Mexicans for example actually WANT TO stake their claim to their location on the border of the Caribbean sea and advertise their rum as Caribbean rum? If they do, then I cannot see how anyone could take this right from them. Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico probably do automatically wish to use the term Caribbean in conjunction with their products, and this is obviously their right if you ask me.

I guess it remains to be seen how this kind of legal restriction will be enforced in different places. I doubt that Bacardi for example would refrain from using the term Caribbean in their ads if they want to do it, and Barbancourt's old ad is unmistakenly Caribbean in its feeling, even though I don't think the term is mentioned during the ad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx9h29Bn_5w


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Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:44 pm

Image

The "Caribbean" is actually pretty well defined geographically as shown. This region is defined on the north and east by the Antilles (Greater and Lesser), to the south, southwest and west by the shores of Mexico, Central and South America. The Bahamas - though technically not in the Carib - are a strange case as their location is in a gray area. One can see why.

Indeed one description describes the region thusly "...The region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), and the Bahamas which are in fact in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba, not in the Caribbean Sea."

Politically , there are a number of organizations like CARICOM and CARIFTA that take the Caribbean name, but include nearby countries on the mainlands of Central and South America (like Guyana, Belize and Suriname), all of who have cultural ties to the Caribbean. However on this basis one could easily also include mainland Southeast Florida and the Florida Keys which also have substantial cultural ties to the Carib.

The lessons here should be (1) the Caribbean is reasonably well defined at least geographically vs (2) "Authentic" or "true" Caribbean rum means little beyond WIRSPA's protectionist motivations.
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Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:04 pm

This sounds like branding to me. I am uncertain where the problem lays? Coke brands. Pepsi brands. Oreos brands. Burgundy, Chianti, Parmesan cheese and Bourbon all brand. Why can't Rum define its brand as well? What is the difference between Champagne and the exact product made in California or South Africa or Chile or Australia? Branding. Caveat emptor.
Oops, sorry I meant to address this earlier, MJ. Were it only a matter of "branding", ie advertising/marketing hype, it wouldn't make a whit of difference or be of any real concern. But WIRSPA's efforts go far beyond that. Please read the article linked in the top/original post.

When you do, you will see that WIRSPA has been quite actively working to legally exclude and delegitimize Caribbean rums made outside of the relatively few Caribbean Commonwealth countries. Accordingly - and it is now law - other non-Commonwealth Caribbean countries (and there are many) are prevented from using the generic terms "Caribbean" and "rum" and selling their Caribbean rum labeled as such in any of the Commonwealth countries (including Canada)! This protectionist arrangement was reached by WIRSPA and the Canadian Whiskey Association and was passed by the Canadian senate.

Link

Let me put this another way. "Caribbean" and "rum" are generic terms long, long in the public domain. "Caribbean rum", to anyone I know, would be understood as any rum emanating from any country within the Caribbean region. This would include almost all the rums we all love and enjoy. But the WIRSPA scheme begins to change that. Now Caribbean rums from say Martinique, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, the US Virgin Islands, Haiti, Curacao, etc. - can no longer use those terms in the Caribbean Commonwealth countries or Canada.

Like saying Kraft must relabel their Parmesan cheese as "Grated Cheese Product" in Canada, while Canadian producers can continue to call it Parmesan, lol...
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