Rum regulation and the Gargano rum Classification. What is this all about?

The rum regulation topic seems to pop up every other day, especially when the subject of additives is brought up. There is this big misunderstanding about the lack of rum regulations. We also thought that rum was not regulated, when we first started our rum journey. Richard Seale (Foursquare Distillery), Ian Burrell (Global rum ambassador), Peter Holland (Floating Rum Shack) and some hardcore rum enthusiasts have been answering this question for a while now.

Rum IS regulated. What makes this subject confusing is that the level of regulation varies from country to country. For example, Martinique is well known for their strict (AOC) regulation, where countries like the Philippines have a poor track record when it comes to theirs.

Luckily there is a good number of countries where rum regulations are more strictly enforced, such as Jamaica, Barbados, Martinique: under the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), Guadeloupe: under the IGP (indication géographique protégée) and some other Caribbean producers under: ARC (Authentic Caribbean Rum). Individual producers such as Don Q from Puerto Rico and Chairman’s Reserve from Saint Lucia, for example, are also well regarded in the rum industry in that matter.

Moving on from rum regulation, the current hot topic seems to be rum classification/categorisation. In recent years, Luca Gargano from Velier in partnership with Richard Seale from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados have introduced a new rum classification that aims to improve the rum category and help promote a better classification closer to the Whisky industry, and moving away from using categorisation such as white, gold, dark, amber and age statement commonly used nowadays.

In order to try to address this classification issue, the ‘Gargano Classification’ was created. This classification focuses on methods of production, rather than age, country, or blend. It is broken down into four main categories, which are:

  1. Pure Single Rum – 100% batch still comparable to cognac/single malt
  2. Single Blended Rum – blend of batch and traditional continuous still comparable to blended whisky
  3. Traditional Rum – traditional continuous still e.g. savalle, coffey, etc, comparable to grain whisky
  4. Rum – multi column still

We kindly asked Richard Seale for the above information, and he also clarified that this classification also applies to rhum agricole and not just molasses based rums.

In the diagram below “Single Blended rhum” seems to have been left out, we are not sure why. We thought the one from Bielle distillery in Marie Galante was one, but it is a double distilled column, pot rhum, which is not the same as a ‘Single Blended Rhum’.

Unfortunately, this new classification is being promoted incorrectly in some cases, which is causing people like us to question its purpose and why the rum industry should adopt it if it does not appear to benefit every rum.

The subject came up when I had a chat with Ian Burrell a little while back. Ian mentioned that the Gargano classification is not meant for every rum, rather this was meant for ‘rum enthusiasts’ and spirit drinkers who may already be familiar with the whisky classification. But in time, Rums that want to take themselves as a serious spirit may want to be protected from the “Rum Charlatans” of the world thus may adopt something similar to Luca’s classification.

To paraphrase Richard Seale, the Gargano classification is not intended to be an order of preference, but as a way to help consumers identify real premium rums based on value, tradition and authenticity, rather than packaging and marketing bs.

Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove has created a more detailed classification, which he says is more of an extension of the Gargano classification rather than an alternative. If you want to know more, check out Cocktail Wonk’s post on this subject here.

The whisky classification as we know it nowadays hasn’t happened overnight, this rum movement is going to require ongoing support of the rum industry, from producers, bottlers, ambassadors, and rum enthusiasts.

However, with all this said, the conclusion has to be that introducing this is more of an ideal. In order for any rum classification to get good support and backing, they would need big brands such as Appleton, Havana Club, Clement, Don Q and Bacardi for example, to share the same vision.

We have seen some social media posts, where some bars have categorised their rum menu using the Gargano classification, which is great, but we have yet to see other producers and bottlers apart from Velier and Foursquare adopting this. Richard has told us that Oxenman, which owns a number of rum brands in Mauritius, will be releasing one, as well as Worthy Park when they release their brand.

We think any new rum classification/categorisation should allow the consumers to:

“Drink what they like, but know what they are paying for”, to steal a Richard Seale quote.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. We are no rum experts, just rum enthusiasts sharing our love of the sugar cane spirit, who also want the authentic rums to do well.

It would be great to have an event organised involving; ambassadors, producers, distributors and bloggers/writers, in order to discuss the value of a new rum classification, and comparing the Gargano classification to one or more alternatives.

It is not yet confirmed, but there might be rum classification seminar at the UK (Rum Experience) rum university next month, which we are looking forward to attending.

Do you think the new Gargano classification is the way forward? How would you change it or how can we achieve a better classification?

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Until next time, keep rumming!

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