Sugarcane harvest in Haiti (photo provided by Daniele Biondi)

For Rum's Sake: Sensational Clairin from Haiti

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I never wanted to be a pirate, but when I was younger I developed a keen interest in Italian cinema. I remember sitting cross-legged on my parent's carpet watching Fellini's Amarcord, feeling entirely awe-struck, somewhat overwhelmed, like I was discovering a new language for the first time. Soon thereafter, I was hooked, devouring every film I could get my hands on by the likes of Antonioni, Passolini, Visconti, Bertolucci, and others. But that first cut will always remain the deepest. In much the same way, I stumbled upon the Velier clairin bottlings by chance, on a visit to a friend's store in Greenpoint. There was a glint in his eye that night, a sign that he'd found something obscure and wonderful, and from the first sip I was hooked. Tasting these unique spirits I wasn't thinking of beaches, palm trees, tiki cocktails, or any of the usual frills associated with rum. I was taken back to that first viewing of Amarcord, to the excitement of discovering something precious, emotion-provoking and mind-blowing.

Long, indigenous yeast fermentations (photo provided by Daniele Biondi)

Rum is a muddled category. Encompassing everything from the mass-produced, multi-column distilled, vodka-esque expressions that are ubiquitous in almost every corner of the world, to some of the most expressive and terroir-driven spirits our eager palates have come across. Apart from the AOC Rhum Agricole on Martinique, there is a staggering lack of regulation. False age statements are prevalent, as is the use of the term 'solera' to simply refer to a blended product. Many producers augment their soulless and anemic distillates with additions of sugar (in terms of g/L, some are closer to liqueurs), caramel, and other flavorings. The Swedish government is a great source for finding out exactly what's being added to your spirits as they require all producers to supply that information, and then do further verification tests. In their quest for transparency I've known some rum enthusiasts to purchase density measurement kits. And while we don't usually have that kind of time here at Chambers Street, our hunt for beautiful and unadulterated spirits is equally passionate.

The still at Faubert Casimir's distillery
(photo provided by Daniele Biondi)

Clairin feels like a whole different category; it's almost a disservice to simply call it rum. Made with non-hybrid (an incredibly rare occurance), indigenous sugarcane varieties grown with no chemical interference, this is a true agricultural product. The diversity shown by the three expressions that we currently offer is astounding, each one a result of the unique terroirs and microclimates of Haiti, as well as the choices (and in some cases necessities) of these three distillers. We hope you'll share in our excitement in discovering what feels like a new frontier in rum. We'd also like to thank the fine folks at Velier (one of Italy's premier spirits importers) for finally bringing these to our shores.

Also offered is the first US release of Velier's Caroni rum, a beautiful 2000 vintage. For rum fans who previously only saw these bottles online or smuggled in suitcases from Europe, this is big news indeed.

 

We are unfortunately unable to ship spirits out of state. This offer is only available for pick-up, delivery, or shipping within New York State.

Velier Clairin Sajous Sugarcane Rum Haiti 54.3%

Michal Sajous makes this wonderful clairin in the small town of Saint-Michel de L'Attalaye, situated on a plateau surrounded by mountains, about a hundred kilometers north from Port-au-Prince. He grows several different varieties of cane, with the Cristalline being used for this particular bottling. Fermented in stainless steel with all indigenous yeast, this a beautifully mineral expression of fresh-pressed sugarcane juice rum, more effusive and intense than anything I've had from Martinique or Guadaloupe, but still carrying a similar flavor profile. Perfumes of dried flowers, tropical fruit, and the hallmark green grassiness is supported by the more herbal and dense aromas of tea tree oil and eucalyptus. There is an undercurrent of salinity, and the pronounced acidity keeps this fresh and lifted. Drink this neat or make the most phenomenal Ti' Punch. Oskar Kostecki

  • rum
  • 14 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

Velier Clairin Vaval Sugarcane Rum Haiti 48.8%

Fritz Vaval makes this completely unique clairin in the village of Cavaillon, on the southern coast of Haiti. The distillery Arawaks was founded after the war by Fritz's father, and today they have 20 hectares of a variety of sugarcane called Madame Meuze, farmed without the use of any fertilizers or chemicals. Fermentation takes up to 5 days and is done using only indigenous yeast. Vaval uses a home-made pot still that is steam powered (using a repurposed locomotive engine) by burning bagasse, the leftover pulp once the cane is crushed. The Vaval clairin is, for me, the most singular of the three. The more typical grassy and green notes of sugarcane juice mingle more the more esoteric prescence of anise, cinnamon, lemongrass and citrus peel. Oskar Kostecki

  • rum
  • 17 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

Velier Clairin Casimir Sugarcane Rum Haiti 48.3%

The Casimir clairin is a peculiar beast. This bottle is a shapeshifter; at times incredibly effusive and fruit forward, return to it a week later and it's dark, spicy, and full of mushroom and umami notes, almost reminiscent of furikake, Japanese rice seasoning. The Casimir distillery is in the village of Barraderres, only 25km from Cavaillon, but it's a three hour drive into the jungle. There, surrounded by lime, mango and banana trees, Mr. Faubert Casimir farms two types of cane, Hawaii red and Hawaii white, both low-yielding, but extremely fragrant varieties. Fermentation takes place in large mango wood vats, and, in the tradition of the area, Casimir occasionally adds citronella leaves, cinnamon, ginger, and other herbs and spices to the fermenting cuvee. This is a dense and complex clairin, and one to be savored over a period of time. Oskar Kostecki

  • rum
  • 14 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

Velier Caroni 2000 Trinidad Rum 55%

A very special bottling of vintage rum from Caroni, the now-legendary Trinidadian distillery that closed its doors in 2002. This is sourced from the cache bought up by Luca Gargano and Velier in 2004, and has continued aging in Trinidad under tropical conditions. Most long-aged rum available on the market these days is sourced from warehouses in Northern Europe, where it undergoes a much gentler maturation, at a rate of evaporation that is around 1 to 2 percent per year. This 17-year-old rum, spending its entire life aging in the heat and humidity of the Caribbean, experiences a loss of about 80% before it is bottled, resulting in one of the most deep and complex rums I've ever had the pleasure to taste. Notes of wood spice, cedar, mahogany, pipe tobacco, dried flowers, potpourri, dried stone fruit, grilled peaches, the scent of old houses, engine oil, and a slight rancio, varnishy quality are all interwoven on the nose and palate. The finish is long and satisfying. This rum drinks fantastically at the high proof. Oskar Kostecki

  • rum
  • 13 in stock
  • no discount
  • $199.99