Follow along: IG @birectifier
Welcome to the 4th installment! This project is keeping me from fermentation work, but I need to prepare you all for when Cory and my fermentation technologies debut. We need to know the 20th century history of rum if we’re going to make history in the 21st!
As usual, these pages are non linear and seem like a big collection of errata, but there is still a lot to be learned. They will be presented in the order I found them. In a previous section we acknowledge an initiative to collect artifacts related to Long Pond’s past history and that is what is up first:
The rum industry in Jamaica was built on slavery and after that, it was still build on colonialism. This is an inconvenient truth we must never forget. Long Pond appears on page 3. Many other names associated with the history of rum production are found on those pages as well. In the 1950’s, who found this document from 1829, and how far did they have to look? Was it in the estate house or already preserved in a library? We are left with no notes regarding their reaction to the documents.
“(2) The general quality of the Long Pond marks is good. They are heavy bodied and are of the Wedderburn type so greatly in demand in the U.K. and continental market. If required, the stocks should assist our Nelson Estates bulk rum program. Complete samples of all marks (1950 and 1951) are available.”
We are back to seeing documents from very early in taking over the estate. Can you imagine that tasting? These guys no doubt knew Scotch, were they dazzled by the finest rums?
Here we see early interest in merging with the Vale Royal property. “Distillery antiquated with room for substantial improvement. It lacks general cleanliness so essential to distilling efficiency. Its production capacity is limited. Considers that distillery should be replaced.” I hope they are talking only about the distillery and not about the fermentation rooms! Don’t mess with the ferments! Please don’t break anything magical…
“We may not be interested in the sugar business as such but we would need it to own the rum production and marks and if it proved to be available at less than £100,000 we should have no hesitancy.”
They did not want the complication of the sugar business that no doubt needed equipment modernizing and took extensive labor. They were obviously forced to take it… My understanding is that currently the Long Pond estate sugar business and distillery have separate ownership.
Here we see some interesting inventories. 35% of the Jamaica rum was stored in Jamaica versus the U.K. Demerara appears to make up 18.5% of the liquid volume. If Trinidad was such a volumetric oddity, does that mean it was unique stuff?
This is really hard to understand. Those fractions seem to count upwards and slightly skip around. Marks are written in red pen in the very far left and they are not in the typical order of prestige but slightly backwards. Are these physical location in storage or possibly the order marks come in by production completion? STC♥E appears last before crop residues. What are these crop residues? Is this more likely alcohol containing liquid from a retort (which must legally be accounted for) rather than dunder?
Another page from another year and did any of our questions get answered? Here we see more residues from more marks. It appears to all get vatted with its own marking that is just too hard to read in that faded red pen! It looks a little random, but I’d still dare to drink it. If a crop residue could be as small as 6 gallons, is that just the volume that did not fit in a barrel and is waiting to top up some angel’s share? If you must keep detailed notes for 6 gallons, then it must be somehow for regulatory compliance or to guard against theft and not exactly to help the sales team.
We already know most of this story, but note no. 5, where I can only understand 85% of the cursive, looks intriguing… (can anyone translate all of that?) Bradgate, who I still have mixed feelings about, arrived in 1946.
[Zack Pearson took a stab at the cursive and we are grateful:
5. “Much trouble with Aitken, former estate manager released in 45 (?) with year’s salary. Generally incompetent, weak, responsible for poor results at Long Pond. Wife was daughter of George Taylor, previous ? (Attorney?) Was L4000 short in funds etc…”]
Who invests in a slightly mismanaged but still legendary rum distillery? Not many results when googling any of these names.
This is cool because it spells things out very succinctly. They need more cane! They need bigger stills. The U.K. is awash in common clean, but that doesn’t concern Long Pond too much because they make wedderburns. Don’t forget, this common clean was pot distilled, but from ordinary ferments. The qualities of the ferment determines the heaviness of the rum.
“The marks have come to be recognized as Super Wedderburns necessary for the purpose of top dressing common clean rums. Although consumption is decreasing in the U.K. and inventories of common clean rums are piling up, there has so far been no slackening in the demand for Sherriff Wedderburns as yet.”
If you go back through the previous sections, you will see I used the term “super wedderburn” and this is where it came from.
“It is significant that the Sherriff Company some years ago introduced vatted rums when they found themselves in the position of being unable to meet the demand of their own marks as such. In blending their several vatted rums, notably “P Vat” of which over 80% is sold to Hill Thompson, they found an outlet not only for substituting different ages but also different marks on a basis whereby the finished product met customers’ specifications. It is believed that this business can be substantially developed always providing the quality of the marks used conforms to the high Sherriff standard. The majority of Captain Morgan stocks consist of common clean rums produced on the Innswood Estate. The only outlook the Sherriff Company can offer for certain of these rums lies in the development and promotion of further vatted rums by the Sherriff Company for marketing by that Company.
It is considered that good opportunities are opening up on the Continent, notably Germany, for high ether and possibly vatted rums and this market should be immediately explored and developed.
Wow! They’ve got “vats” but no declared master blender that they rely on. Inns Wood produced the IW and DCL common cleans. “High ether”? We all know that’s Hampden territory. They are still saying high ether and not high ester in the 1950’s.
This is written in some legal language, but does this imply Captain Morgan started as predominantly Innswood (IW, DCL) with “small quantities” of TTL, LWW, RONW, and IWO? All of that is common clean besides the IWO Frome wedderburn. That seems kind of lame but I could be persuaded…
L/WW Llandovery heavy common clean
TT/L Llandovery common clean with distinctive flavour
R/ONW Richmond common clean
IWO Frome wedderburn
“So far as Sherriff company is concerned, it should arrange to produce up to its present production of 600 puncheons of its own Long Pond marks such as in recent years while its purchase of other Jamaica marks should likewise be restricted to small quantities for blending. In this connection, it can likewise draw on some of the stocks of the other suitable Jamaica marks held by the Captain Morgan company.”
So their own business, for the most part, was selling their marks solo and almost everything else they purchased was blended to fill useful voids. The previous papers we’ve seen give you that sense, but here they spelled it out. Heavy marks were cash cows, you just didn’t mess with them. The spirits writers Dave Broom described Booker Bros. as “the principal shopkeepers of the colony” and those types of sales were another easy cash cow. This is a fascinating Booker read but it doesn’t mention rum.
They know they need someone but they don’t know the scope. We’ve previously seen that it was difficult to find anyone with the correct experience or personality for the cliquey rum trade.
We’ve seen many of these breakdowns but here is an interesting one to look at. And wow, 100% of the gorgeous Bell Vat was sold to the Liquor control board of Manitoba! Is this the connection to Canada that aroused Seagram’s interest in Long Pond? Someone tasted this vat and was seduced!
“therefore, before we can discuss increased sales of Sherriffs we must be assured of increased production.”
“Mr Jarrett explained that the development of vatted rums was done in order to meet the demands of Sherriff customers who want more Long Pond rums than Sherriffs are in a position to supply. In 1951 out of 43,845 liquid gallons of vatted rum sold by Sherriffs, 33,455 of “P Vat” was sold to Hill Thompson.”
So vatting purchased Jamaica rum was a cheaper alternative to investing in expanding production and all the active management that would require. It is 1952 and few are in a position to invest in themselves. We also know that a few years ago in the J.A.S.T. meetings, producers had admitted that they had lost control of production ideas started in the beginning of the century associated with Ashby, Allan, and Cousins. They approached Rafael Arroyo in 1944 through a Panamanian intermediary about his work with heavy rum using fission yeasts, but nothing came about. If Long Pond can successfully increase production of highly sought after marks that is a very big deal because at this time, others cannot seem to do it.
“If, for example, the Long Pond production could be increased by 10% this would give approximately 30 puncheons per annum of additional Long Pond rums, which might give as much as 300 puncheons of vatted rums; a sizeable quantity for sale to new accounts or for increasing supplies to existing accounts.”
“To do a thorough selling campaign for Sherriff’s rums would require much larger production than is at present likely to be available from the Long Pond Estates. The Importance, therefore, of the Vale Royal deal was emphasized as having a direct bearing on the amount of Long Pond rums that would be available for sale.”
Wow! We see some Seagram’s thinking from a company that is used to being very big. Even an estate as significant to Jamaica rum as Long Pond is just too small to justify a marketing presence unless it can expand dramatically. No wonder the industry stagnated. We learn they were estimating they could stretch their top marks 10X with common clean. If scale is so important, why didn’t estates invest in understanding the production technology of heavy rum? You would think in these executive memos we would see talks of top Seagram scientists being sent down to survey the production and add insight. At the end of Studies on Rum, Arroyo gives an acknowledgement to Dr. C.S. Boruff, the technical director for Hiram Walker, so no doubt the whiskey scientists of the day had opinions on rum production.
“Any additional vatted rums that might be produced for sale through the Sherriff name must include a sufficient proportion of Long Pond rum so as to retain the essentially Sherriff character. Any attempt to put out vatted rum without these Long Pond rums as a top dressing would seriously endanger the good name of Sherriff in the trade.”
This appears to be at odds with an earlier statement where the vatted rums were all about sneaking in purchased rums. Maybe this is merely a warning to not get overzealous.
“The question was raised as to whether in view of the restricted production facilities for Sherriff rums in Jamaica the immediate need for a sales manager for Sherriffs still existed. It was recognized that no all out effort for extra rum business could be undertaken immediately. At the same time, even if the Sherriff business continued for the time being at the present level a sales manager was required to look after this business on a day to day basis, to call on customers, maintain contacts, and, in due course, as more rum became available, expand the business.
The main areas for new business are England and Germany. As neither of these markets have been properly explored to date due to shortage of supplies potential sales are probably very considerable.”
More language confirming that lack of scale to justify a sales effort. We also see a reminder that Sherriff’s business have mostly been in Scotland and the English market has not been explored.
These comments raise a lot of questions with the special agreement that Seagram had with the Rum Pool. Was the special agreement possible because the sales capacity and relationships of Sherriff were so much stronger than other firms? They never wanted to be restricted in any way from selling their distinctive rums. Did they not want to be told that something they produced was a categorized as a “common clean” and therefore restricted because of the glut? Their peculiar position is that they have finicky buyers to maintain and their rums could not be swapped with others in anyway whatsoever. But what does this mean for Appleton who had a unique agreement or Hampden who did not?
We now know all these Long Pond marks, but don’t forget “services rum” turned out to be cheap stuff for state liquor control districts in Scotland to out compete illicit spirits production and not for the Royal Navy which would be many people’s first guess. To recap, the other S.M.A (Rum Pool) rums:
F/IW Frome wedderburn
MMW Monymusk wedderburn
PGR Jamaica Sugar Estates common clean
VR/W Vale Royal wedderburn
OC/G Worthy Park common clean
F◊P Frome plummer
DOK Hampden continental flavoured
C/HP Monymusk common clean
A/CB Frome light type
CH/II Barnett common clean
OC/W (nothing held after 1950) [that really looks like a W and not a G but typos happen. OC/G was the Worthy Park common clean]
M/IW Frome wedderburn (nothing held after 1950)
B/OL (nothing before and after 1951)
RH Rose Hall common clean (nothing held after 1950)
IWO Frome wedderburn
L/WW Llandovery heavy common clean
KRW (nothing held after 1950)
C/RW (nothing held after 1950)
A few of these are escaping me because the image is so bad, but is there a chance they were discontinued marks? The table of marks we have is dated:
Marks of Jamaica rum current at 3/17/1948
Revised by Mr. C.A. Bloomfield 10/18/1950
We know very little about the Demerara marks of that era and I suspect Caroni at the time was junk but Providence may have made heavy rum.
What can incredible list. Can you imagine what their offices were like? (I’m thinking of IG: @berrybrosrudd). The curious entry for me at the moment is the Government Liquor Control Commission of Winnipeg. Do they need to be reminded of their heritage as exquisite rum buyers? Conversely, we know the State Management Districts of Scotland were buying junk to compete against cheap illicit spirits.
For some reason these pages are duplicates but give us a different chance to look at those illegible marks. However, it does not seem to help much.
If you want to understand the sales of Trinidad rum, particularly Caroni, there you go. Notice that it is all barrels for the most part instead of puncheons and hogsheads. There is very little Providence, but incredibly we see 1943 Providence with a 1951 date of sale! 8 year old Trinidad rum! My esteem for Hill Thompson is increasing. There is also some vintage Caroni action if you look closely.
We’ve seen bits of this but the sales sheets start to get pretty intimate like no one has ever seen before. Am I reading this right? The Burns Monument Hotel, which is really a pub in Glasgow, bought a glass demijohn of rum from 1916! Nobody that drank that wasn’t also smoking a cigar! I’m sure of it. James Joyce is dead by then but Ernest Hemingway isn’t… A few other people bought incredibly small lots of exquisite older stuff.
We don’t see J.G. Thomspon & Co.’s purchase of Llandovery’s L/WW heavy common clean, but we do see John Bogg LTD. buying a puncheon as well as J.J. Blanche buying another (Keep in mind for later, this is 1950).
Winnipeg was buying 8 year old Bell Vat and lots of it! Where would it have shipped from? Jamaica or the UK?
I simply see a lot of mature rum I’d love to drink. If you look at all those sales dates you can start to infer things about what the season looked like.
Manuel & Webster of Glasgow bought the smallest quantity of LP/S and a quick google reveals they were also bottling ten year old Highland Park single malt in 1939. You know they had good taste!
The original Johnny Walker distillery in Kilmarnock appears to have been a strong Long Pond customer. Does this imply they were a “brewer” operating pubs? What else could they be up to?
And there we have it, a complete year! If we a find an antique bottle labeled with a vendor, we can start to infer much about what marks they purchased. However, we won’t know the degree they blended it down until we taste it. To my mind, this information makes collecting ultra rare mid century Jamaican rums a lot more exciting.
John Bogg is back and it is 1951! And they’re going from puncheons to barrels! Baird Taylor is back and they bought barrels last year so no big deal but A. Bell and & Son’s is getting their first barrels! Don’t forget, these are superstitious people resistant to change. If you transferred this data to a spread sheet you may enjoy a clearer picture about the cooperage switch to barrels. Was it ever a big deal? No one seems to be choosy.
There aren’t new insights to present so browse the above at your leisure. If you can read the cursive, you can get a sense of where the firms were all located.
Here we are, starting above, at a new year! #jamaicamarkporn
Another year comes to a close…
I stared at this for quite a while, finding it stunning. “And fo God fend the good ship to her defired Port in Safety. Amen. Dated in Jamaica the 30th April 1788.
This was the backside.
“These figures seem to indicate a slight improvement in the Rum market.”
Yet another view of the active marks:
It is interesting that Man bought rums as an intermediary for E&A. Scheer. Is this because they retained rights by long standing relationship to an allocation and were able to quickly flip it?
“Note: While sales to date in themselves hardly justify taking the extra 249 puncheons as yet unsold, a good proportion of the extra 249 puncheons will be needed for our own blending purpose. Moreover such a purchase, viz. 352½ puncheons, will allow us to rank for a discount of 3d. per gallon on the purchase price of the whole 1000 puncheons, which in effect gives us quite a fair quantity of rum at no cost when compared to cutting our withdrawals down to say 850-900.”
They were right on the cusp of a volume discount from the Rum Pool agreement and decided to go for it!
C.M. Local is Captain Morgan and the export version appears substantially larger than its cousin Lord Nelson. Ville LaSalle may have been a division of Captain Morgan in Quebec, Canada.
And there you have it! Next up is the 1960’s and 70’s! And I don’t yet know where that information is going to come from, but probably an oral history series.