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The Curse in a Verse: A Twiggie Debate

 
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Do you think rum with additives should be labeled "flavored"?
Yes
100%
 100%  [ 4 ]
No
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Unsure
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Add this!
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Total Votes : 4

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Kevin Myers
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Joined: 04 Jul 2008
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:22 am    Post subject: The Curse in a Verse: A Twiggie Debate Reply with quote

To every thing, There is a season
And a time to every purpose under heaven

What Ecclesiastes implied, And the Byrds left out
Of this there can be no doubt:

A time for sweet, A time for savory
A time for Zaya, A time for Old Navy

Ponder these words before you next loose your zeal
A strong opinion doesn't make it any less real

Now if this truth you cannot see,
It's just that you haven't yet caught up to me

A time for sweet, A time for savory
A time for Zaya, A time for Old Navy
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:45 am    Post subject: Beautifully done... Reply with quote

A sophisticated version of "the rum in your glass...".


Quote:
Fact of the matter is, there is no hip world, there is no straight world. There's a world, you see, which has people in it who believe in a variety of different things. Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence.
Frank Zappa
US musician, singer, & songwriter (1940 - 1993)


Speaking of variety, and Zaya:

Quote:
Tongue - a variety of meat, rarely served because it clearly crosses the line between a cut of beef and a piece of dead cow.
Bob Ekstrom, Pitt, MN


Thank you for the thought. We need a little variety around here...
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Kevin Myers
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
We need a little variety around here.


What I need is for the title tune of Seussical The Musical to exit my head, stage left. Pronto.

I was hoping to spark some conversation about how sugar is in the mind of the beholder, how "real" rum can be sweet and that sweet has a not-narrow nor shameful place in the scheme of things.

The best analogy I can come up with is that of dinner and dessert. Chefs sometimes use sweetness to compliment savory dishes (think pâté de foie gras with a cherry reduction or simply jam on bread) and to contrast sour (mixologists do the same). But sugar's forte is its ability to round off a meal, to put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence. So, too, rum. I've met countless people who have never given the slightest thought to the concept of drink as dessert. They're missing out.

Now that's not to say drier rums don't make good after-dinner drinks anymore than, say, coffee doesn't present an excellent end to a meal. But try arguing a triple-chocolate flourless cake is just too "cloyingly" sweet and see how far that gets you in most circles.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:03 pm    Post subject: I do agree... Reply with quote

You've got a good point. The staff of life, from any perspective is glucose - the fuel of human beings. Most of what we eat is slowly disassembled by the digestive process into simple sugars. And there are few, if any people who don't have a sweet tooth. Perhaps that's why.

Even tasting glasses - for example the Reidel Cognac glass - is designed with a slight flare with the notion of delivering rum first to the front of the tongue - alleged to have more sweet receptors than the sides or back (although the difference is not much). With the notion that sweet is the primary motivator and ought be the first sensation. Many of the classic rum drinks feature both sweet (say cane sugar) and sour (lime juice). And who among you would resist a nice rum cream after dinner?

So sweet surely has it's place with rum, the spirit of the sugar cane. How apropos!

Still, there are distillers like Richard Seale who prides himself for rums made entirely - entirely - without additives of any kind. If his rums are superior - and they are - they stand on their own. Whatever sensations they communicate - and sweet is among them - it is due to the skills of distilling and aging.

Where I get off the bus is not natural sweetness per se, but when sweetness is induced, as well as a host of other flavor additives. When a rum is too artificially sweet, reeks of clove, pepper, orange and the like. When the rum is altered or hidden to the point that who knows how it stands on its own anymore? When how a rum tastes is the product of the taste engineers and not of the distiller.

I think its fine that there are sweet, spiced or desert rums. There's even a section here for them But the producers of altered rums need to have the cajones to honestly label them as such...

How bout "rum-flavored drink", lol...
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Kevin Myers
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Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2008 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We all have our own preferences when it comes to sweetness. A number of factors are involved including habit and cultural conditioning but, above all, we're each born with different tasting abilities. Those of us with higher than average capabilities to taste bitter, we tend to prefer sweeter drinks. This also explains some people's aversion to heavily oaked wines and spirits while others either can't detect or discern the bitter component or view it as a positive attribute. There have been studies indicating the ease of detecting bitterness is inversely proportional to the rate of alcoholism so there is some decided benefit to having one's preferences fall on the sweet side of average (in contrast to the displeasure experienced growing up when forced to eat your broccoli).

Such genetic variables lie on top of ancient programming hard-wired into all our brains: sweet = good, bitter = poison. Sweet sensations are, by definition, pleasurable. The reality is, it all comes down to degree, each of us to determine what is too much (or, more precisely, what is too much for a given occasion).

If we can agree on the basic premise that sweetness isn't evil or unsophisticated but actually desirable to one degree or another, then we seem to be left discussing by what method the sugar reaches our tongues.

I propose there is no logical, rational place to draw a line between "natural" and "artificial" when it comes to rum-making methodology. Artificial vs. natural ingredients, yes. But discrimination between natural and somehow artificial methods in what is a manufactured (i.e. artificial) product can only result in arbitrary judgments -- and a great deal of confusion.

Distillers are indeed "taste engineers" as you put it, the same as any good chef. They create recipes and procedures, any component of which can alter the taste of the final product. Should they be restricted to wild yeast, is a cultured yeast to be judged artificial? Is molasses an artificial "industrial byproduct", to be disdained in favor of natural cane juice? If the product that drips from the still is pure rum, then what of the aging process? Wood adds a myriad of flavors, all artificially induced one might contend. Those flavors don't naturally occur in sugar distillate after all.

How blurry would the line have to be to incorporate the fact that much rum is flavored with bourbon, the result of being aged in used barrels? Richard Seale is known to employ old sherry casks and Madeira drums to impart those flavors in some of his finished rums. What of that?

Perhaps your objections might be better described as non-traditional methodology, yes? That would preclude involving any of the abovementioned issues (as long as you glance quickly over some of Seale's innovations) as well as others (multiple-column vacuum stills and additives such as dunder). But even so, you cannot rely on tradition for where to draw a line as spicing rum dates almost as far back as rum itself. And coloring rum with burnt sugar has a long history as well.

Should spiced and otherwise flavored rums be labeled as such? Yes. I certainly want to know if a bottle is going to taste of, say, mangos when I get it home. But that distinction is often not an easy one to make. It's not even like art in that one knows it when one, uh, tastes it.

Where do you draw the line between rum flavored with vanilla beans or clove buds versus rum flavored by contact with oak? I'm talking specifically about flavors which could come from either wood contact or other "natural" sources. How should they be labeled, "Artificially flavored with natural ingredients"?

Where is the line between sweetness from residual sugar and sugar added post-distillation? How could the technique employed possibly make the slightest bit of difference in the end?

I propose there is a better and far simpler method by which to judge rum: Taste in the glass. Isn't that what really counts? If I'm in the mood for a sweeter rum, does it really matter how the sugar got there or what words are printed on the label? (Baring any reference to Splenda of course.)

(Speaking of taste in the glass, must we label Riedel rum glasses artificial if they alter the taste we perceive, "artificially" dispersing some flavors, intensifying others. Or is a tumbler the artificial glass form…)
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sure, and orange flavored drink is as valid as fresh squeezed orange juice...

You should attend a presentation by Richard Seale. We did at a tasting of Barbados rums in Miami. An amazing man. There's nothing wrong with orange-flavored drink as long as it is honestly labeled and all the additives are listed (which they are). There is actually a movement afoot to restrict, eliminate or enforce labeling of additives to rum.

Let me once again relate his demonstration that day. Just before he started he pulled out an unlabeled rum stating he had a special treat for us, and a round was poured for the audience of tasters. We were excited - a new rum from Richard?! He requested that we all taste it and that after he would ask us three questions about the rum. Anyone who answered all three correctly would win a bottle of his amazing Seales 10.

First question "Is is a cane juice or molasses rum?", Most said molasses. Second, "Pot or continuous distilled?". Most said pot or blend. And last, "How long was it aged?". The consensus fell between 5 to 7 years.

Nobody won (but he gave away the Seales anyway).

Seale then admitted it was a brand new, continuous distilled rum that he had "phonied up with vanilla and some other things" and that we'd been had, but good. A dramatic and effective presentation. He then noted that except for Foursquare Spiced Rum, none of his rums suffer the addition of any additives; further, that his age statements mean that every single drop of rum in his bottles are at least the age stated.

Please don't confuse taste engineers with distillers or fine cooks. I number both among my friends and I can assure you calling them "taste engineers" will earn you a quick right cross. A real taste engineer can make horse piss - or a cheap rum - taste like Zacapa 23. In fact, Zacapa 23 is horse piss (but only a little is actually 23 years)! But such a sweet and lovely horse piss, complex and so very smooth. Mmmmm, yummy!

I kid the Zacapanistas. There is not a horse in sight at the distillery, and the rest rooms feature proper, modern plumbing. I think.

Seriously though - if the Twiggie's would just label their products as "flavored", "spiced", or even "flavored rum beverage" and/or list the additives and I'm a happy camper. But call it "rum" and they're sneaks and liars. As for barrel aging that's a simple matter of the (honest) tradition of classic rum making, about which distillers are usually quite forthcoming and actually promote.

As for glasses being artificial, I think you've had too much sugar, lol...
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Kevin Myers
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:50 pm    Post subject: Labels Reply with quote

Labels

I believe in strict truth in advertising and honesty in labeling. Age statements are a perfect example of where marketing spin can cross the line into outright deceit. But when it comes to making rum, one man's additives are another's traditional techniques. Since I am trying to focus on the subject of sweetness here, I will use that as illustration.

I assume your descriptions above ("natural sweetness" and "sweetness is induced") refer to residual sugar (sugar not converted to alcohol during fermentation) vs. sugar added post-distillation. Both are traditional techniques but for some reason you choose to make a distinction. To what end? Why, as a consumer, should I care? Sugar is sugar, I don’t care how it got there.

I get that Richard Seale is a traditionalist and I respect him for that. I get the distinct impression you feel the same way. As do I -- to an extent. As a sailor I'm very much rooted in the ways of old and hold many nautical traditions dear. But I don't sail wooden boats because that's just choosing to make life difficult without reason. In the same way, Seale uses the most modern equipment and techniques available. Certainly you don't fault him for that do you? Traditions evolve, techniques change; I'm happy as long as the rum in my glass pleases me.

What, precisely, is wrong with the way things are now? What good could possibly come from arbitrarily-contrived label statements? There are no truly artificial ingredients involved (saccharine) or allergy-inducing components (peanuts) or preservatives or partially hydrogenated oils or anything else a consumer might need to know about. And you couldn't possibly ever list all the thousands of components anyway.

What I perceive to be Seale's position seems like elitist "My way is better than your way because... because…" Well, I don't know the "because" as it doesn't make any more sense to me than why you'd choose to label "yummy" Zacapa 23 "horse piss". The Cap'n drinks horse piss -- and likes it??? That's not very flattering.

Actually I do know the "because", it's called differentiation by marketing types. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with the technique, it's just that I look at all this as a consumer and from a big-picture perspective. No offense to Mr. Seale, but he has a vested interest in promoting his artificially narrow (pun intended) viewpoint. As I've already stated, probably ad nauseam, I just don't care about such distinctions and labels.

So why should I care if you do? I think we, as proponents and advocates of rum, must be very careful of the labels we assign. By calling something horse piss, or -- a thousand words later and I'm finally getting to my point here -- Twiggy's Tie-Died Rum, we turn people off whom we should be encouraging to try the full range of rums and find ones they like. Few people would want to be seen consuming what others label inferior lest they themselves be viewed in that light.

And if, in turn, sales of Zaya fall off, I could be out one of my favorite pleasures. The same danger exists if you mandate bottle labels that consumers view as negative.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting but...

The facts remain:

1. The time honored definition of rum is pretty simple and straight forward, and has changed almost not at all for 300 years and pretty much remains as a spirit "distilled solely from sugarcane juice, sugarcane molasses or from the refuse of the sugarcane at a strength not exceeding 150% proof". This was only slightly modified by the European Union in 1986.

Perhaps the leading authority in things English is the vaunted Oxford English Dictionary which defines rum as "A spirit distilled from the various products of the sugarcane... The name has also been improperly applied to all spirits made in imitation of this from beet-roots or other materials".

How do you spell a-d-d-i-t-i-v-e-s?

2. At the absolute least a flavored rum should be labeled as, well, "Flavored Rum", meaning rum with various added agents. The "rums" listed in the Twiggie section are clearly and substantially flavored. We are not talking about trivial amounts of caramel (to adjust coloring), or of sugar. The additives are significant, such that they noticeably mask and modify the original distilled product literally beyond recognition.

3. Even sugar is debatable, as recognized in cachaca, where sugar is limited to a meager 6 grams per liter. More than that and cachaca it is not.

5. Seales "traditional" approach is actually on the cutting edge and is anything but "elitist". It is noteworthy that as we speak there is a movement afoot in the industry recognizing the slippery slope of additives, and aims to either eliminate them from the product and/or to reflect their presence in the labeling. Note too the stringent regulations and labeling requirements that already exist for cane juice rums made in Martinique ("Rhum Agricole AOC Martinique). More regulations are coming elsewhere.

6. WIRSPA (West Indian Rum and Spirits Producers ) also reflects Seales position and has already taken steps to label both origin and real age, a subject addressed under politics and sex (not necessarily in that order).

In closing when one says "I'm happy as long as the rum in my glass pleases me" (a version of "the rum in my glass") this assumes we all know what rum is in the first place. With or without additives? Orange flavoring OK? How bout vanilla? Maybe a bit of "almond"? Smoke? What if the additives amount to more than 50% of the product? Is there a cut-off? Is it OK to phony a rum to add undistilled complexity, aromas, tastes and faux aging effects without nasty labeling?

I think not.

Seales demonstrated how easily he could fool a room full of tasters (some quite experienced) and modify a new, cheap continuous rum to taste like an aged pot stilled rum. And discussed how misleading most age claims are anyway. The Twiggie section is designed specifically for those rums which have gone over the top in being altered and adulterated. For those that like them, and/or horse piss...

To your health! May your horse be a sturdy steed! But at least know what you're drinking. It isn't real rum.
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Kevin Myers
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 4:28 pm    Post subject: It's Not All Good But It's All Real Reply with quote

Unanswered Questions

(1) I will assume you're quoting the definition of rum as a service to others who aren't well versed in the subject. Where my education seems to be lacking is in the use of additives. Can you give me examples of the additives being used in specific rums? To be clear, I am not referring to post-distillation manipulation, only to procedures that would violate the basic premise of rum being distilled from sugar cane derivatives.

(2) I agree flavored rum should be labeled as such and have stated so previously. But you have avoided the specifics of what constitutes "flavored". To the point: How much caramel / burnt sugar / sugar syrup can you add before you cross the line? The fact that you concede "trivial" amounts of certain substances are acceptable is a concession that the entire matter is subjective and is therefore impossible to define. A problem defined is a problem solved or, in this case, a problem you can't even define, cannot be resolved. All we're left with then is your judgment that certain "tie-died" products are somehow no longer "real" rum.

You are of course entitled to such opinions but neither you nor Richard Seale are empowered to force such decisions upon the rest of the world. Your contention the rums in question are "literally beyond recognition" is, well, simply not true. Did I misunderstand the statement? I can tell they're rum and everyone I know can tell they're rum. Moreover, they are some of our favorites and gaining popularity every day. There are numerous rums flavored in such a way as to be indiscernible but, as far as I know, they're already labeled appropriately.

(3) I have tasted cachaça that I would deem very sweet so the legal limit is, it would seem, well past meager and into the significant category. The best example I can provide from my currently available inventory is that Água Luca is virtually as sweet as Zacapa 23. (Note: I admit this is a less than scientific analysis for a number of reasons including that perceived sweetness can be influenced by many factors. In any case, this is pretty much off topic as what the Brazilian government considers cachaça, a sub-category of rum, isn't really relevant here.)

(4) No number four so I'll insert my own: You keep referring to "the rum in my glass". Will you enlighten me as to the reference please?

(5) I fail to grasp how anything can be both traditional and cutting edge at the same time. Seale incorporates elements from both categories in his approach but then complains that other producers are violating traditions and must be regulated. Confusing. Inconsistent. Regardless, is that not saying his way is the right way and others are inferior, one rum is "real", the next is not by his own, personal standards? I can't think of a better example of elitist.

Again, I am not faulting Seale for his position. He has a business to run. The bottom line is his interests and mine are completely different. I thought yours were too but now I am beginning to wonder. Can you explain the apparent inconsistency between your blatant disdain for french regulation of their so-called Rhum Agricole (the contempt of which I applaud) and your support for similar regulations for the rest of the industry? What has proven useless and even counterproductive for the french should not be propagated elsewhere.

(6) Here you seem to concede that regulations are about politics and marketing. Unless you can tell me exactly how any new regulations would benefit me, you're putting yourself in the position of siding with manufacturers' interests. I ask again, what good could possibly come from arbitrarily-contrived label statements?
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Additives, like porn and obscenity: "(can't be defined)... but I know it when I see it".
Justice Potter Stewart, US Supreme Court opinion, 1964

Actually, both the beauty and the horror of great additives is that you may not know they are there. Orange? Distilled or added? Aged? Maybe. Real rum or flavored? Your guess.

As happens on the net, this thread has now officially reduced to a Meta Conversation, or a conversation about a conversation. They are recursive, repetitive, confusing, boring and tend to become endless. The very, very few productive meta's are best conducted in private between two caring people over a bottle of wine. These are usually conducted by lovers who seek to repair or improve their relationship. Public Meta is quite the opposite and akin to farting in a theatre. And ruins the movie for the entire audience.

No meta in these here parts, partner! Otherwise this would surely become the longest, most useless thread on the forum, lol.

As far as I'm concerned both Kevin's and my positions have been well made some several posts ago and need not further be detailed, defended, parsed, quoted or misquoted, properly or misrepresented.

Allow me to summarize.

1. Kevin has little use for labels. Neither do I.
2. Kevin likes beverages he considers rum. So do I.
3. Kevin is aware there are unlabeled flavorings. So am I.
3. Kevin supports honesty in labeling. So do I.
4. Kevin is moved by Richard Seale. Me too.
5. Kevin thinks I am a Compleat Idiot. I am.
6. Kevin agrees to disagree. So do I.
7. Kevin numbers things. Ibid.

And last...

8. For a better understanding of "meta", refer to (1) through (7).

Repeatedly.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:34 am    Post subject: Re: It's Not All Good But It's All Real Reply with quote

In honor of dead horses... and dear departed Kevin Myers

Quote:

List of Kevin's Challenges (emphasis added)...

(1) Can you give me examples of the additives being used in specific rums? To be clear, I am not referring to post-distillation manipulation, only to procedures that would violate the basic premise of rum being distilled from sugar cane derivatives.

(2) I agree flavored rum should be labeled as such and have stated so previously. The fact that you concede "trivial" amounts of certain substances are acceptable is a concession that the entire matter is subjective and is therefore impossible to define.

You are of course entitled to such opinions but neither you nor Richard Seale are empowered to force such decisions upon the rest of the world. Your contention the rums in question are "literally beyond recognition" is, well, simply not true. Did I misunderstand the statement?

(3) I have tasted cachaça that I would deem very sweet so the legal limit is, it would seem, well past meager and into the significant category.

(4) No number four so I'll insert my own: You keep referring to "the rum in my glass". Will you enlighten me as to the reference please?

(5) I fail to grasp how anything can be both traditional and cutting edge at the same time. Seale incorporates elements from both categories in his approach but then complains that other producers are violating traditions and must be regulated.

Can you explain the apparent inconsistency between your blatant disdain for french regulation of their so-called Rhum Agricole (the contempt of which I applaud) and your support for similar regulations for the rest of the industry?

(6) Here you seem to concede that regulations are about politics and marketing. I ask again, what good could possibly come from arbitrarily-contrived label statements?


The answers:

As much as I really, really hate to beat a dead and rotting horse, I do feel obliged to respond if only in the interest of clarity for those who sincerely wished I had answered these questions. So I shall. But I will ignore the obvious challenging meta-tone of them.

"Can you give me examples of the additives being used in specific rums?"

Sure. Added caramel, molasses, sugar, vanilla, orange, clove and other spices. I could go on but why bother? Pre or post distillation doesn't matter; what does is that these additives, which may well include artificial flavorings, cover up or phony the rum to an obvious and excessive extent.

"The fact that you concede "trivial" amounts of certain substances are acceptable is a concession that the entire matter is subjective and is therefore impossible to define."

I am not Bill Clinton and I DID have sex with that woman. However, the kiss on the cheek that preceeded our banging each other's brains out was indeed trivial.

"You are of course entitled to such opinions but neither you nor Richard Seale are empowered to force such decisions upon the rest of the world. Your contention the rums in question are "literally beyond recognition" is, well, simply not true."

Again, the author has obviously been drinking an excessively sugar laden rum drink, and not without consequence. I am but a humble Compleat Idiot, empowered by nothing more or less than my human and fragile ego. If indeed I could force my decisions on the rest of the world we'd have a Democratic president. That'd be "Democrat" president for the purposefully ignorant and deprecating Republiclones.

And oh, but I DO mean "beyond recognition". Literally. Readers should review my report above where the aforesaid Richard Seale demonstrated that additives could make a simple new (young) continuous stilled rum appear to be what it was not: a complex, aged pot stilled rum.

It was altered - easily - "beyond recognition". Like Pyrat XO.

"I have tasted cachaça that I would deem very sweet so the legal limit is, it would seem, well past meager and into the significant category."

I rest my case. Altered cachacas are no less acceptable than altered rums.

"You keep referring to "the rum in my glass". Will you enlighten me as to the reference please?"

This is a reference to our dear and beloved Preacher Ed who was given unearned credit for the notion that the "best rum" is, uh "...the one in my glass". This of course is perfect for a rum competition organizer and rum sales representative who will go to almost any length to avoid offending his corporate sponsors. I correctly applied this phrase to the author who seemingly has never met an additive he didn't like.

"I fail to grasp how anything can be both traditional and cutting edge at the same time."

This is a tricky one. The author, not I, labeled Mr. Seale as "traditional". I then opposed this notion, using his adjective satirically and in "quotes", and I then referred to Mr. Seale as "cutting edge". Point, counterpoint, in the same sentence. Since I've never been accused of being terribly subtle, I can only assume the learned author either wasn't paying attention or decided to put words in my mouth.

"Can you explain the apparent inconsistency between your blatant disdain for french regulation... and your support for similar regulations for the rest of the industry?"

Sure, and it's easy. First, the French regulations are mindboggling, voluminous and miniscular. They regulate the type of cane, method of harvest, fermentation, types of containers, temperature, pH... ad infinitum. The French regs compose a literal book, and are stringently enforced by layer upon layer of institutional committees and cover production from the field, through distillation, to aging, bottling, labeling and sale.

Mindboggling. This is truly "rum by regulation".

Second, I've never - never - never recommended "similar regulations" for rum. Never. Am I clear? Never. OTOH, I have simply reported - with little comment - that WIRSPA and Brazil have instituted very simple truth in labeling schemes (years of aging, and maximum added sugar).

Other than AOC products, almost all rum (and cachaca) remain comparatively free of stifling regulation and may fairly be called "rum by art". Personally, I could care less if the master distiller urinates in the barrel. What I do ask is simple.

If you did... say so.
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