H.H. Cousins Rebukes E.A. Pairault, 1908

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This document is not new to the rum world, but was recovered in late 2019 by the fantastic work of Marco Pierini at Got Rum?. I am adding an annotated copy here to draw more attention to the work and build upon All The First Person Accounts of Jamaica Rum Production Made Accessible. My additional contribution is translating Pairault’s entire chapter on Jamaica as a companion at the very bottom of the post. Cousins references pages 107−108, but I translated through 113; how else would we capture gems like “smells like slippers”? [presumably leather slippers]

That leads me to an interesting point, many of the aspects of Jamaica rum that bewilders & beguiles Pairault, relate not to esters but to rum oil (rose ketones like damascenone). This is a topic that has still not been covered by the popular gate keepers of rum discourse. Producers have also not tackled it because it is a blind spot for ordinary GCMS analysis and requires university level tools.

I never really trusted Pairault and have skimmed, but never bothered to translate his work. This past year we discovered Sausine’s writings and they strike a contrasting tone of reverence for Jamaica.

G. Saussine—The Chemistry of Rhum, 1899.
G. Saussine— A chemical control trial in a rhummerie in Martinique,1899.
G. Saussine— Rhum in Martinique,1900.

Pairault claims he was in Jamaica in March, 1901. He also claims to have sent back Jamaican yeasts to Pasteur’s lab so he must have acted in some official capacity. Descriptors Pairault draws attention to are leather, tobacco, and iris. These are all associated with rose ketones and the idea of radiance. My suspicion is that H.H. Cousins deflects and focuses on esters because that chemistry is known while the rose ketone chemistry was unknown (but recognized as valuable). Jamaica also likely had the haves and have nots which created an internal lore of how the character gets there.

H.H. Cousins reinforces the idea that some Jamaican yeasts produce esters exclusively and this is still not well understood. Overlapping phenomena make some of this hard to tease apart. Where do esters created in the ferment stop and esters created during distillation begin?—bio transformation or brute force? Fission yeasts can go from blandness in pure culture to producing appreciable esters (possibly of a narrow band) and this is thought correlated with top ferments that produce creamy heads and “rum fat”. At the same time, Ashby isolated a yeast that produced exclusively esters, but we don’t know if it was more than just ethyl acetate. In my post, Rational Bourbon Production —> Heavy Rum, I hypothesize that in some cases of esterification it may take one organism to create the alcohol, a second to create the acid, and possibly a third to stitch them together as a bio transformation. It is likely that there is no one way and there are a lot of very sound possibilities. However, rum producers currently don’t have the inhouse skills to develop this stuff. What we have, we have, and nothing will change until a new generation of government funded collective research. Private industry is cash cow focused, not very competitive, and capable of little when it comes to microbiology.

COPY OF A MEMORANDUM BY HERBERT HENRY COUSINS, M.A., F.C.S., Director of Agriculture and Island Chemist for Jamaica, relative to the extract from “Le Rhum et sa Fabrication”, by Mr E.A. Pairault pp. 107−108 forwarded to the Colonial Office by the Governor of Jamaica.

This extract contains a series of false statements that are injurious to the trade and commerce of Jamaica. The public attention directed to these statements as a result of the evidence before the Whiskey Commission, in which this extract was cited, has resulted in serious injury to the trade in Jamaica rum on the Continent. A large firm in Bremen has complained to me that large contracts for the sale of Jamaica rums to buyers in Germany have been thrown up on the plea that the public do not desire to drink rum flavoured with tobacco and the skins of animals. 

I will now deal with these false statements seriatim

(1.) Hardly any Jamaica rum is exported to the United States (0.3 per cent average of last three years). 

(2.) It is not true that a good part of the Jamaica rum exported to England is made into whiskey. Any one with a knowledge of the flavour of the two spirits would recognise the absurdity of such a suggestion. 

(3.) No rum made in Jamaica is known as “stinking rum.” I have a wide knowledge of planters and distillers in Jamaica and have never heard the term. It is unknown in commerce, and the term makes its first literary appearance in the work of M. Pairault. 

(4.) We make high−flavoured rums in Jamaica that fetch three to four times the price of ordinary “common clean” rum, but it is not true that these rums are almost exclusively exported to Hamburg. 

As a matter of fact nearly all rums that sell for 4s. a gallon and over are exported to merchants in England, and it is very rare for a rum of “three to four times the price of ordinary rum” to be exported to Hamburg. I speak advisedly from general knowledge of the marks and prices of Jamaica rums and of their sale, storage and use in trade derived from a close study of this industry for the past five years. 

(5.) The statement that the intense perfume of these rums is due to the soil and the process of distillation is, in effect, quite correct. Certain sugar soils favour peculiar yeasts adherent to the canes and certain bacteria productive of esters and alcohols of high molecular weight which impart the aroma to the rum. The process of distillation is a scientific and practical process for securing the maximum development of fruit−ether yeasts and the esters and alcohols just mentioned. 

In place of the 30−hour fermentation of diluted molasses, as at Martinique, our Jamaican distillers of high−class rums prepare acid and flavouring materials from the byproducts of the sugar−cane and ferment their wash for periods of 18 to 25 days. 

The sediment of dead yeasts collected from the dunder is specially treated so as to undergo a slow bacterial action which produces acids and alcohols of high molecular weight. 

(6.) It is absolutely false that these flavours are due to “des sauces dans lesquelles entrent la peau un peu échauffée ou ayant subi un court séjour dans les fosses de tannerie.” I declare from personal experience as a distiller and as the officer in charge of the investigations on rum in Jamaica that no flavourings are employed other than the specially prepared products of the sugar−cane in the distilleries in Jamaica. 

[“sauces in which the skin is slightly heated or has undergone a short stay in the tannery pits.”]

Further it is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever worked at the matter that such materials supply all that is required to produce any type of flavour found in the rums made in Jamaica. 

Pairault has written without knowledge and made himself responsible for slanders that are absolutely without justification. 

It is equally absurd and untrue that we use “American chewing tobacco” made by J.H. McClin, Virginia, or “orris root.” 

Pairault’s statement of having knowledge of such procedure is the more remarkable, seeing that he has never seen a high−flavoured rum made in Jamaica and in all probability has never tested a good sample high−flavoured Jamaica rum in his life. 

(7.) The white rum coming from the still has the full flavour of the final product. We only add cane−sugar caramel to attain a colour averaging 19 on Lovibond’s tintometer. The flavour of Jamaica rum is mainly due to ethers, and our rums contain more ethers than any other spirit distilled in any other country. These ethers are not derived from tobacco, skins, or orris root, but are produced by careful and elaborate acidic fermentations of sugar−cane products in combination with a main alcohol fermentation. 

The yeasts and bacteria at work in a Jamaican distillery are unique. Our yeasts will stand an acidity of 3 per cent., while some species produce ethers almost exclusively.

(8.) I read with some amusement the ridiculous statement of M. Pairault, when his book first appeared. As his ideas were formulated in the shape of a gospel of silent spirit to the distillers of Martinique. I decided that the interests of Jamaica rum would be best served by ignoring his false charges against Jamaica rum, in gratitude for the good he would do to our trade by encouraging the production of a neutral flavourless rum in Martinique. 

The publicity given to his fantastic statements owing to the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Whiskey has resulted in serious damage to the trade in Jamaica rums on the Continent. A sentimental revulsion, akin to that against tinned meats owing to the Chicago horrors, has been engendered amongst the public on the Continent. As the accusations are false, and based upon ignorance, it is clear that some emphatic means of contradicting these slanders is desirable, and I have been instructed to prepare in this memorandum a refutation of M. Pairault’s false charges. 

Department of Agriculture,
Kingston Jamaica,
24th October, 1908.


COPY OF A LETTER FROM SIR F. BERTIE with its enclosure transmitted to the Colonial Office by the Foreign Office:−
April 14 1909

I have the honour to transmit to you herewith a copy of a Memorandum which I have received in reply to an unofficial representation which I addressed to the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs in accordance with the instructions contained in your despatch No. 41 Commercial (5395/09) of the 27th of February last, calling attention to certain unwarranted reflections on Jamaica rum contained in a work written by Monsieur E.A. Pairault, who is stated to have been sent on a scientific mission to the Antilles by the Minister of the Colonies. 

The Memorandum states that no trace can be found of any official mission having been entrusted to Monsieur Pairault, and it is difficult to see how, in these circumstances, any further action can be taken by His Majesty’s Government in the matter. 

I have the honour to be with great truth and respect, &c.,
The Right Honourable
Sir EDWARD GREY, Bart., M.P. &c., &c. 

“Suivant une note en date du 8 mars, émanant de l Ambassade d Angleterre, une plainte a été adressée au Foreign Office par la colonie de la Jamaique au sujet d’une brochure intitulée “Le Rhum et sa fabrication,” écrite par M. Pairault, et éditée à Paris en 1903.”

[“Following a note dated March 8, emanating from the English Embassy, a complaint was addressed to the Foreign Office by the colony of Jamaica concerning a brochure entitled “Rum and its manufacture,” written by Mr. Pairault, and published in Paris in 1903.”]

“La réclamation du gouvernement de la Jamaique porterait principalement sur le fait que M. Pairault aurait déclaré qu il était chargé d’une mission scientifique aux Antilles par le Ministère français des colonies.” 

[“The claim by the government of Jamaica relates mainly to the fact that Mr. Pairault declared that he was in charge of a scientific mission to the West Indies by the French Ministry of Colonies.”]

“Les recherches qui ont été effectuées jusqu’à présent par ce Département à la demande du Ministère des affaires étrangères n’ont pas permis de retrouver trace de la mission officielle qui aurait été confiée à M. Pairault.”

[“The research which has been carried out so far by this Department at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not made it possible to find any trace of the official mission which would have been entrusted to Mr. Pairault.”]

pages 107−113



Jamaica produces a considerable quantity of rum, almost entirely exported to the United States and England where a good part is transformed into whiskey (1).

(1) Consult the statistical article in the first part of this work for the quantities exported.

It produces a kind of extremely odorous rum that the English call “German rum” German rum or “stynking rum” stinking rum. These rums are almost exclusively exported to Hamburg; and, locally, in Jamaica itself, they pay 3 to 4 times the price of good ordinary rum.

These rums are in fact so fragrant that they allow almost unlimited blending with neutral alcohols. In Jamaica, rum merchants seriously say that it is the terroir and the way of distilling that these rums owe their intense aroma.

I now have enough experience in rum making not to fear being wrong in asserting that these intense aromas are due to sauces in which animal skin is slightly heated or has undergone a short stay in the tannery pits and, as I learned, a very small quantity of alcoholic infusion of American chewing tobacco tablets, J.H. Maclin’S Virginia brand. Traces of iris are sometimes also added.

The same goes for old rums; it is enough to examine, as I did, the white rum coming out of the still to ensure that this rum is neither better nor worse than that which we obtained in the good rum factories of Saint Pierre, and that this rum, by aging naturally, cannot produce either Stynking Rum or most of the very expensively or very old rums sold.

In Jamaica, there are strictly speaking neither industrial rum factories nor agricultural rum factories, but a large quantity of sugar makers, most of them very primitive, and all these sugar factories, numbering 122, have as an annex a rum factory whose importance is in direct reason for that of sugar making. There are some who only make 10 ponchons (4,540 liters) of rum per year, others make 60−80−100−150 and 200 ponchons (approximately 91,000 liters) a very small number exceed this figure.

In Jamaica, as in all the English colonies, the rum producer is required, under penalty of a considerable fine, to transport to the Government warehouse all the rum he manufactures, and he is strictly forbidden to take the smallest quantity. In these warehouses merchants examine and purchase rum either for export or for local consumption.

At the time of my visit to Kingstown (Jamaica) in March 1901, the price of recent white rum at 35 above proof (78° Gay−Lussac), varied from 2 schillings 1 pence to 2 schillings 6 pence per gallon of 4 l. 54, or 2 fr. 60 to 3 fr. 10 per gallon or o fr. 55 to o fr. 68 per liter approximately.

If the rum is intended for local consumption, the buyer also pays a duty of 8 schillings to 8 and a half schillings per gallon (more than 3 times the value of the rum) depending on its strength, or approximately 2 fr. 10 per liter of rum (1).

(1) In Martinique this duty is only 0 fr. 50 per liter of rum at 55° or 0 fr. 90 per liter of pure alcohol.

For local consumption, the rum is reduced to 16 or 18° below proof, or 47 to 48 Gay Lussac.


The raw material used in all rum factories is molasses coming from the centrifuging of raw sugars produced in the small sugar mills which have just been mentioned; Vinasse (“dunder”) and washing water from boilers, pipes, turbines, etc. are added.

According to the information I was able to obtain, this is what the composition used would be:

Molases ………………………………………… 100 liters
Dunder ………………………………………… 400 liters
Washing water from the appliances … 250 liters
Water ………………………………………..     250 liters

total:   1000 liters

A little fresh bagasse is usually added. Everything is mixed in the composition pit and fermentation begins in the pit before sending the liquid into vats. Fermentation lasts 4 to 5 days.

I was able to obtain samples of fermenting must in two rhummeries; the purified yeasts were subsequently sent to the Pasteur Institute in Lille.

[He gets two Jamaica yeasts and sends them back to Pasteur! They are likely frozen somewhere!]

The distillation apparatus used in Jamaican rum factories is very simple. It is an intermittent device with a flat boiler, most often heated over an open fire, but sometimes also with steam. This boiler is topped by an enormous capital in the shape of that of Father Labat, but more voluminous and taller. From the top of this capital comes a large pipe of approximately 20 centimeters in diameter which goes to the lower part of the next boiler, a bulky copper cylinder containing alcoholic water (small waters) from a previous operation. This cylinder has a capacity equal to a quarter of that of the boiler and the tube which brings the steam from it plunges into the alcoholic water.

The steam leaving this first cylinder goes into a second one as large, entirely similar to the first, and like it containing alcoholic water. Finally the steam coming out of the second cylinder goes to the refrigerating coil. The cylinders also have at the base and on the side a tap for emptying them and at the top an opening for introducing low wines.

There is no retrogradation of the condensed liquid to the boiler in the Labat device. The distillation is pushed to the end, but from the moment when the product distills to a few degrees below the marketable degree, we receive in two separate containers the products which then pass and which are divided into two approximately equal parts. We continue until only water passes through.

We then empty the copper cylinders (A and B) after letting them cool, then we pour into the one closest to the boiler in (A) the small waters set aside in the last parts of the distillation, and into the second cylinder (B) the weak alcohol set aside when we stopped collecting the sellable rum; finally after reloading the boiler we start a new distillation.

This device is very simple, robust, but very bulky. However, it produces good products. The boiler is 1,000 gallons (4,540 liters) and the cylinders each a quarter of that capacity.

Jamaican distillers realize their losses and even their yields even less than in Martinique; because with the use of washing water, they have no idea how much sugar or molasses they actually put in their composition.

They usually admit that 100 gallons of molasses gives them 80 gallons of rum at 35 above proof, but in reality they don’t know what they are getting.

Recent rums are very good without being superior to many Martinique rums; but those for export are most often colored and added sauces. All of them are absolutely reminiscent of those awful products decorated in France with the name of rum, and which, as the people say in their expressive language, “smells like slippers”. [sentent la savate].


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