Rum Wonk's 2022 Year in Review
Sliding in just under the wire (less than 12 hours to midnight on Dec. 31st), a recap of important 2022 rum news, plus a few rum-related personal highlights.
Dr. Yesu Persaud Passes Away
For 50 years, no person influenced Guyana’s rum industry more than Dr. Persaud. As I wrote after he passed away:
In 1975, he became the executive chairman of Diamond Liquors Limited. Over the next four decades, he led the Guyanese rum industry through many twists and turns, including:
Combining Diamond Liquors and Guyana Distillers Limited into a single company under state control – Demerara Distillers Ltd
The subsequent divestment of Demerara Distillers back to a publicly traded company
The closing of all operating rum distilleries in Guyana, save one: Diamond Distillery
As the chairman of Demerara Distillers, he oversaw its expansion into wide international distribution with its El Dorado rum brand. The 1992 launch of El Dorado 15 is widely seen as a pivotal moment in rum’s transition to a premium spirit.
Caroni Book Published
In 2022, after five years of research and writing, Steffan Mayer published his opus, Caroni 100% Trinidad Rum. The two-volume book clocks in at 1136 pages and weighs over 20 lbs. It should surprise no one that I bought a copy. When it comes to Caroni, Mayer’s attention to detail and exhaustive research is second to none
Mount Gay Sugar Mill Comes Online
After several years of growing sugarcane on Mount Gay-owned land, the distillery’s sugar factory finally began operations in 2022. The top-tier molasses from the mill will presumably be used to make premium Mount Gay single-estate rums. In addition, the company started the construction of yet another aging bond.
The boom in rum premiumization is prompting many producers to buy new equipment, build more aging warehouses, and otherwise prepare to make more rum. In addition to Mount Gay’s moves (see above item), an admittedly incomplete list of 2022 announcements also includes:
Appleton Legend 17-Year (Wray & Nephew)
While deliberately avoiding the Herculean task of enumerating the many intriguing rum launches of 2022, one bit of news simply can’t be avoided.
After much speculation about whether J. Wray and Nephew would bring to market a rum inspired by the famous Wray & Nephew 17 of the 1940s, a US TTB label was approved, suggesting the answer might be “yes.” The back label reads, in part:
In the 1940’s, J. Wray & nephew brought Jamaican excellence to the world with renowned aged rums produced on the Appleton estate. Legend says it was the rare 17 year old that inspired the bartending world, defining our rum as the quintessential Jamaican spirit. Today, Appleton estate 17 year old legend, a faithful re-creation of the original, pays homage to an enduring spirit.
At the time of this writing, there has been no formal announcement of the rum from the company.
Brown-Forman Purchases Diplomatico
A surprise announcement this year was US-based Brown-Forman’s purchase of the Diplomatico rum brand for a reported USD 750 million. It’s Brown-Forman’s first big move into the premium rum space. I wrote about the deal here on Rum Wonk.
The rum world’s move to more ethical and sustainable sourcing of its raw material is nothing new. However, in 2022 we saw several more high-profile announcements.
Cuba Maestro Roneros
Stephen Remsberg Passes Away
In the final days of 2022, the famed rum collector and historian Stephen Remsberg passed away. I was fortunate to spend an afternoon at Steve’s house in 2017. Steve was a gracious host and inspired me to go deeper with my historical research. Steve’s collection then numbered around 2,000 vintage bottles, and he told me he was still buying more. Shortly after our visit, Steve sold his collection to Velier’s Luca Gargano.
To wrap up, here’s a few of my personal rum-related highlights of 2022.
Modern Caribbean Rum Book
After six years of planning and three years of writing, Wonk Press published Modern Caribbean Rum. At 850 pages and weighing 8 lbs., it would have been the largest rum book ever written if not for Steffan Mayer’s Caroni book. (Steffan and I have signed editions of each other’s books.)
Rebranding as Rum Wonk
For many years nearly all of my rum-related writings appeared on my Cocktail Wonk site. However, with the rum book arriving, plus a desire to check out the Substack scene, I decided to split my brand identity. All my cocktail and general spirits writing content will still go on Cocktail Wonk, while hardcore rum content appears here, i.e., the Rum Wonk Substack.
My role as WIRSPA Community Envoy continued in 2022. In addition to much behind-the-scenes work, I also presented on WIRSPA-related topics at the San Francisco and Seattle Rum Festivals and at the oriGIn/WIRSPA International Online Forum on Spirits GIs. My favorite part of my WIRSPA-related work was continuing the Icon Series, interviews with icons of the Caribbean rum industry. In 2022, I interviewed:
The full set of Icon Series interviews, including Joy Spence, Frank Ward, Margaret Monplaisir, Evon Brown, and many more, is found here.
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