And The World Watched Jamaica…

Sponsor my distilling work simply by sharing the artisan workshop of the Bostonapothecary on social media. Copy, Paste, Support!
Here is a look at the Jamaican rum trade in 1915 which mentions trade with Germany nearly ceasing after an excise increase in 1889, but then being overcome by the development of a high flavored export grade used for blending.
This is just to hard to extract from the PDF into plain text but its a pretty intense look at the politics of the rum trade in 1908.
I’d say its a spectacularly important paper because by this time lots of myths are floating around and the testimony does little to clear things up. Here is a sample:
I will now deal with these false statements seriatim:
(l) 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 Anyone 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.exclusively exported 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 rums is due to the soil and the process of distillation is in effect quite correct. Certain sugar soils favor 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 bye products 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 of Jamaica.
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.
M 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.
M 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 of 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 tintorneter. 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.
(Signed) Herbert Henry Cousins.
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 5395/99 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.,
(Signed) Francis Bertie
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 Oflice par la colonie de la Jamaique au sujet d’une brochure intitulée “Le Rhum et sa fabrication,’ écrite par M. Pairault et éditée it Paris en 1903.
La réclamation du gouvernement de la Jamaique porterait principalement sur le fait que M. Pairault aurait déclaré qu’il était charge d’une mission scientifique aux Antilles par le Ministere francais des colonies.
“Les recherches qui ont été effectuées jusqu’a présent par ce Département a la demande du Ministere des affaires étrangéres n’ont pas permis de retrouver trace de la mission officielle qui aurait été oonfiée a M. Pairault.”
The following extracts from a letter by Prof. Harrison to the Director of the Imperial Institute, dealing with the subject of the alleged adulteration of Demerara rum, were read—

The fact that the esters in rum are the products of wild yeasts and of their accompanying organisms is well known, but up to the present, owing to what appear to be insuperable difficulties in practical working few, if any, investigations have been carried on with the object of encouraging the growth of such organisms in wash set for the production of rum. A fermentation chemist has been appointed by the Government of Jamaica and I presume that a study of the kind indicated in your letter will form part of his duties.

The production of rum, apart from the attendant yield of esters, has been the subject of investigations on scientific lines for many years past, and as far as the production of alcohol from the sugars present in the wash has, in many estate distilleries, been brought to a condition approaching perfection. This has not been done in the majority of cases by the use of selected yeasts, but by utilisation of the normally occurring factory yeasts under suitable conditions of temperature, environment and plant-food. I worked at this in several distilleries in Barbados between 1881 and 1889; in this Colony Messrs. Douglas and Seard have been very prominent and successful workers; in Trinidad the subject has been examined into by Professors McCarthy and Carmody and practically by Dr. Urich ; while in Barbados during recent years Professor D’Albuquerque has successfully attacked the problem. The theoretical yield of proof spirits per five degrees of attenuation for wash set with residual molasses containing approximately equal proportions of saccharose and of glucose is 1.16 gallons of proof spirit for every 100 gallons of wash per 5 per cent of attenuation ; the yield rising to 1.19 gallons if the wash is set with saccharose only and falling to 1.13 if set with glucose only. The following table will show how closely several of our distilleries in practice approach to this :— [table in link]

I may mention that in these distilleries the wash is rendered slightly acid by the addition of sulphuric acid in quantity sufficient to set free more or less of the combined organic acids, but not enough to have uncombined sulphuric acid present in the wash; and in some of them additions of sulphate of ammonia in small proportions are made to the wash to supply nitrogenous food for the yeasts and to thus enable them to multiply with rapidity and to retain a healthy active condition. The reason for rendering the wash slightly acid is to guard against the excessive production of butyric and lactic acid organisms, and to render it more suitable for active alcoholic fermentation.

The difficulty in the use of selected yeasts in tropical distilleries lies in the innumerable yeast cells which permeate all sugar-factories and their adjuncts during the crop-season. Within a very short time of the molasses being diluted it enters into very vigorous fermentation, and the fermentation rapidly proceeds to more or less complete attenuation. On the large scale adopted in this Colony it would not be feasible to sterilise the wash and to ferment it with selected yeasts under conditions preventing contamination with the air-borne factory-yeasts.

In Barbados at a distillery not connected with a sugar factory molasses purchased from sugar factories are fermented by selected yeasts. As far as I am aware the spirits thus produced are “silent spirits,” and have to be flavoured artificially before being sold as “rum.”

As I have pointed out in the report which you alluded to in your letter under reply, there are two distinct types of rum, one produced by slow fermentation of wash of relatively high density; the other and purer spirit produced by a clean and rapid fermentation of wash of low density. In the production of the former type wild yeasts and their concomitant organisms are given every opportunity to increase at the expense of the yeast proper, the fermentations being retarded by the addition to the wash of the spent lees or “dunder” from earlier distillations, and by the wash being set at a high gravity. Highly flavoured spirits are thus obtained at the cost of the quantity produced. In this Colony with its large sugar factories it is not feasible to successfully make rum by the slow fermentation process. Plantations would have to be supplied with six or eight times their present vat-capacity. It is a question of quick fermentation with high production of alcohol relatively low in its contents of esters as opposed to slow fermentation with lower production of alcohol with high ester-contents and marked flavour.

It is only of comparatively late years that the production of so called “German” rum has been developed in Jamaica. This is a spirit containing an abnormal amount of esters, as much as 1,200 to 1,500 parts for 100,000 of absolute alcohol by volume, and the object of its production was to enable German silent spirits to be flavoured with it so as to pass as “Jamaica rum.” Doubtless this policy on the part of certain Jamaica distillers of assisting their competitors to produce factitious rum is what has given rise to their recent campaign against all genuine rums which do not happen to have been produced in Jamaica.

The question arises, Is the presence of a very high proportion of esters a desirable property of rum ? Doubtless it is, if the rum is to be blended with other spirit for purposes of sale or used medicinally, but, it is a matter of opinion whether or not it is desirable in spirits for ordinary consumption. The practice in many distilleries twenty-five to thirty years ago was for the spirits of every distillation to be received in cans holding about five gallons each, and when rum of the best quality was required the distiller separately stored the second and perhaps the third cans resulting from a distillation for his best rum then known as “second can rum” and used the contents of the first can and of the later ones for his more ordinary spirits ; that is he rejected from his best produce the first portion of the distillate which naturally was richest in aldehyd, formic and acetic esters, and the latter portion which would be richest in butyric, lactic, caproic, and capric esters, in amyl acetate and butyrate, and the higher alcohols and furfural. Hence the efforts of the older distiller was to obtain a spirit with a medium amount of flavouring esters and free from objectionable impurities which he termed “hogue” or “hogre.”

I have noticed that Demerara rum has been stated to be adulterated with silent spirit by the use of Coffey stills. As a matter of fact, only about 1/3 of the total production of rum in this Colony is by means of Coffey or continuous stills ; and one of the original objects of these improved stills was to automatically make the selection of the clean rum from the “heads” and the “low wines” of the distillate which the distiller used to make by means of his system of “second can rum.” As a matter of fact the proportions of esters is governed by the method of fermentation to a far greater extent than by that of distillation. But the esters as usually determined by the analysis of coloured rum do not consist only of the esters produced by fermentation or by interaction of the free acid normal to the rum and the alcohol but in addition of compounds derived either directly from the colouring matter or by gradual interaction of the acids contained in the latter with the spirit.

I may remark that the various Colonies and in fact different districts in the same Colony produce rum of every varying properties. Thus an expert would have no difficulty in recognising and distinguishing between Jamaica rum, Barbados rum, Grenada rum, St. Vincent rum, Martinique rum, Trinidad rum, and Demerara rum. Every one of these has its own characteristic flavour and aroma, and these differ in kind and in degree beyond what can be accounted for by the relative proportions of esters present.

The easiest way of producing spirits having a specific or constant amount of esters present would be the addition of ester to the distilled spirits, but this is not done in the West Indies, except perhaps in the case of Jamaica, where the abnormally produced “German” rum with its high proportions of esters may be used for levelling up some of the lower (?) qualities of spirits.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]SERIES of articles have lately been published in the Bulletin of the Botanical Department, Jamaica, under the above title.

It will be remembered that in the July number of the Agricultural Record for 1892, in -‘Notes of Fermentation,” I showed that the Trinidad method of distillation gave “spirit almost devoid of flavour,” and pointed out that an examination of the processes followed in Jamaica for the production of the so-called “German Rum” would give interesting results.

Work in this direction has since been taken up by Mr. Percival H. Greg, with a large amount of success, and his results are in course of publication in the above-mentioned periodical under the head of “Rum Aroma.”

Mr. Greg’s investigation has not yet been concluded but the articles published in August and September, 1895, and January, 1896, appear to demonstrate that the experiments are being conducted with the greatest care, and that it is highly probable, that definite conclusions of the greatest importance to planters will ultimately be arrived at.

Without attempting a review of these articles, it appears from the papers referred to that the Aroma of Rum depends largely upon the boiling house treatment of the cane juice, and the development of a certain and peculiar kind of yeast or fermenting organism which Mr. Greg calls “No. 18.”

Mr. Greg concludes his third article as follows :—”It is obvious “however that even the practical side of the question is far from being exhausted and an ever widening field of investigation is opened up. If one may be allowed to theorize a little, there seems sufficient grounds for concluding from the results which I have up to now attained, that though the Aroma of Rum is in the first instance derived from the soil, that this influence is chiefly potential not actual; that it is latent, dormant, and only brought into existence during the process of manufacture. If this should prove to be the case, it would seem to hold out a hope that much may be done to improve our Rum both for the home trade in England and for export to Germany.”

Some may say, but if we do make a fine flavored Rum in Trinidad we shall never sell it! That remains to be seen; and is not such a proposition hard upon the common-sense of the English buyers, who would thus be openly accused of not knowing a good article? It is fairly clear that up to the present Trinidad has not put a highly flavoured article on the market, but if ever she does, it is more than probable she will get prices in accordance with quality, not at first perhaps—but a good article always meets its market sooner or later, and there appears to be no good reason why Trinidad Rum should form the exception.

It remains to be seen however whether the pure culture of No. 18 yeast will act in the same way in Trinidad upon a “wort” or “wash” made up on the lines of the Jamaica process, or whether there are ferments present here which will not allow of the growths of the special Jamaica ferments. For instance, unless the spontaneous 48 hours ferment grows and alcholizes the Trinidad wash, there is the greatest danger of viscous ferments monopolizing the charge of the vats, and in a few hours the sugar solution may be nothing more than a pasty mass. The ferment spoken of is one of very fast growth, forming in 48 hours the maximum amount of alcohol which it is possible to obtain. It is also one which by cultivation in cane juice can be brought to do its work even more quickly than 48 hours for it has been found that by using a setting of it on new material that a rapid fermentation at once begin, and in 3 hours wash is in a state of rapid fermentation. It is a bottom yeast, almost white, with a resemblance to some of the figured forms of Saccharomyces cerevisiae but with cells apparently much more circular than in any of the recognised forms, and will probably on being examined by an expert turn out to be a new species of that genus.

3 thoughts on “And The World Watched Jamaica…

  1. Out of interest were you able to download the royal commission papers?
    Every link I find ends in a dead end. Just trying to do some research on the cousins process if you’re able to point me in the right direction.

  2. Hi Ross, I know it exists and I’ve read it briefly. David Wondrich wrote an article about it that I think contained a link to the full document. If google books doesn’t show it, try the Hathi online library. Send me an email and I’ll make sure you have a few other important rum books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Boston Apothecary

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close