Barbados is world renowned for the quality of its rum, but a huge row is brewing after a French company bought a Barbadian rum company and started claiming it is a local drink despite its manufacturing process being done mainly in France.
Three of Barbados’ four traditional distilleries are up against the fourth, which was two years ago bought by a French firm, Maison Ferrand, that is now insisting on adding sugar to it instead of the molasses used for hundreds of years and shipping it to France for ageing instead of on the island, but still calling it Barbados rum.
Mount Gay, Foursquare, and St. Nicholas Abbey are saying that not only is West Indies Rum Distillery’s (WIRD) proposal not right and goes against long established tradition, but also ageing the liquid elsewhere negates the Barbados identity and should not be associated with the island in branding.
At the heart of the debate is the concept of ‘geographical indication’ defined by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. For this reason, a government agency, Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, is seeking to compose a definition of the island’s rum to use as its GI, giving protection to the four producers, who must all agree to it.
The trio who account for 90 per cent of rum bottled on island say they agree with the definition proposed.
The trio issued a statement this month making known its agreement with the proposal that among other things, “under the GI, Barbados Rum will be required to be matured in Barbados as the climate of maturation has a defining impact on the nature of a spirit”.
But Maison Ferrand wants the rum produced in “diverse and innovative ways”.
In a statement to Spirits Business magazine, Maison Ferrand asked, “why should we handcuff future generations of rum makers to one particular style of rum and lead to rum standardisation in Barbados?”