Traditional Rum vs. “Marketing” Rum

Currently experiencing an unprecedented popularity on a global scale, rum and vodka can both be produced in different geographic zones. Nevertheless, as a producer from Guadeloupe, I do not want the rum industry to be subjected to the same almost complete lack of rules by which vodka is regulated. To this end, I regularly bring to the attention of French and EU authorities the need to fix and ensure adherence to a certain number of rules, in order to guarantee consumers the quality and origin of the products offered to them.
First of all, rum should only be produced with base materials originating from sugarcane.
This will undoubtedly surprise our readers, but as part of the trade agreements currently being negotiated with India, we have discovered that the country is producing an alcohol named “rum” from cereals, which the Indian producers intend to sell under that title in Europe!
Secondly, the consumer must be able to make the distinction between a quality rum with designated origin and a “marketing” rum (where the idea of tradition and quality are invented as a marketing scheme, rather than genuinely integrated into the production methods and the product). This would require the creation of labels of quality, and checking the eligibility of products using a specification, allowing consumers to differentiate between a “traditional” rum, made exclusively from local base materials, and a “generic” rum produced using imported materials.
In my opinion, it is not possible to give a product a geographical indication when the base material is not produced in the country of production (which is, however, the case for whisky, Ed.).
Although the rhums of French overseas territories have had their geographical indication registered with the European Commission, there remains much to do in order to bring clarification to the range of rum on offer, and above all to inform the consumer so that they may differentiate between a quality product whose origin is certified by the European label “Geographical Indication” and which is distinguished as “traditional”, and the numerous “industrial” rums on the market, which should not in any case lead consumers to believe that they have a defined origin whilst they do not comply with any set of specifications which could verify this.
The non-European applicants for registration of Geographical Indications, for which it was only possible to obtain an extremely succinct set of specifications, did not reassure me in terms of the fundamentals, especially regarding the origin of the base material, the reference to the aging process and excessive sweetening practices, as well as the possibility of adding ingredients after distillation, which does not seem to correspond with the traditional methods that define rum.
If the European Union decides to uphold the highest qualitative demands, which GI makes possible, these conditions will come together so that the rum industry can continue to progress and offer consumers quality products with designated origin. The added value to the sector will be equally shared between all actors in the industry, and production will respect high social and environmental standards (a subject which is close to my heart, and to which I will return to in a future column).

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