In nineteenth-century England, a country that knew its spirits, one of the most prized was a thing called “pineapple rum,” a sipping spirit par excellence. Unfortunately, like many good things from the past, it eventually fell out of use and over the years its memory has faded. Unless you’re a reader of Charles Dickens’ immortal Pickwick Papers, in which pineapple rum features prominently as the favored drink of the esteemed Rev. Stiggins. Well, perhaps “esteemed” is to strong a word. It would take a perverse reader indeed to consider Mr. Stiggins as anything but a hypocrite for preaching temperance all the while largely existing on a diet of free drinks at Mrs. Weller’s Marquis of Granby pub. But it would take a reader just as perverse to deny his connoisseurship and expertise in the matter of those drinks, or Charles Dickens’. The Reverend, by the way, preferred to take his “warm [i.e., with a splash of boiling water], with three lumps of sugar to the tumbler.”
Alexandre Gabriel, proprietor of Maison Ferrand and rum master blender, and spirits and cocktail historian David Wondrich, have revived this forgotten nectar and have produced Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy Rum. This video featuring Gabriel and Wondrich reveals the work that goes into making this rum: https://youtu.be/dYdei9uq6jo
Plantation Pinapple Rum first appeared in the US at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in 2014. It was meant to be a ‘one-and-done’ project just for Tales and with a few extra bottles produced for very limited distribution in New Orleans and a few additional states. This first batch sold out immediately and the reaction from bartenders and consumers alike was so overwhelming positive that Gabriel decided to make his pineapple rum a new addition to the ever-popular Plantation portfolio. Due to the seasonality of the special Queen Victoria pineapples* used, Plantation Pineapple Rum will be available as an annual limited edition item with delivery in April/May and July/August each year.
Gabriel and Wondrich relied on several ancient recipes to recreate it, and added a few traditional techniques from their own bag of tricks. The 1824 English Journal of Patent and Inventions and the 1844 Journal of Agricultural Society were their main sources of inspiration—along, of course, with Mr. Dickens. To produce Stiggins’ Fancy, Gabriel tried hundreds of different pineapples and found that Queen Victoria pineapples from Reunion Island were the perfect specimens for this rum. For each batch of Plantation Pineapple, more than one ton of Queen Victoria pineapples are peeled by hand at the Ferrand estate.
The rinds (where the pineapple’s essential oil chiefly resides) of ripe Queen Victoria pineapples are infused with Plantation 3 Stars white rum for one week and then distilled in pot stills. Separately, the flesh of the Queen Victoria pineapples are infused with rich, aged Plantation Original Dark Rum for 3 months. Then these two liquids are married together and the rum is put into casks where it rests for three months. At the end, voila, Plantation Pineapple Rum!
Alexandre Gabriel says, “David and I did this project in part out of sheer curiosity. Mostly, however, we did it because the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality. The 1824 Journal of Patent Inventions notes that it was customary in the West Indies to offer pineapple rum to visiting European friends. Following the West Indian tradition, Plantation Pineapple Rum is our gift to you.”
*A note on Queen Victoria pineapples: Before the European arrival in the Americas, the pineapple, an American native, was cultivated by the Guarani people of the Caribbean. The Queen Victoria variety was first introduced in 1668 on Reunion Island; it is considered the best in the world due to its rich, juicy flesh and sweet taste. It works beautifully with rum.
Plantation Pineapple Rum Stiggins’ Fancy (80 proof)
Nose: Rich, natural pineapple with a chewy rum canvas. Hints of maraschino, peppermint and orange-clove round out the very evocative olfactory palate.
Taste: Medium-sweet with an obvious pineapple direction. The rum balances out the possibility of being too fruity and sweet with a goodly dose of cask flavors.
Finish: Long with a lot of different flavors coming out over time. Sweet, fruity, woody, spicy, and ultimately very, very tasty.
Overall: This is an old-school, rustic rum that evokes the 1800’s. Kudos to Dave Wondrich and Alexandre Gabriel for bringing this traditional West Indian style rum to a wider audience.
GSN Rating: A
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