MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS Winners: Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum
Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum won the award for Best New European Spirit or Bar Product at last year’s MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS. In the lead-up to the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2018, we continue our look back at last year’s winners. Andrew Wilkin spoke with Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand, about how the rum went from crazy idea to smash-hit.
Spirits launches are a dime a dozen nowadays. A quick look through the last few months of product launches reveals a glitter gin, a vodka made from food waste, and a premium gin flavored with Harley-Davidson engine parts.
It’s this veritable glut that makes Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum – a spirit marrying innovation and accessibility – even better. The rum, released by Maison Ferrand in 2015, was conceived by Alexander Gabriel, owner of the company since 1989, and none other than eminent barstool historian David Wondrich. Speaking to Gabriel nearly one year after Stiggins’ Rum was named Best European Spirit or Bar Product at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS, it’s clear that this success has come as a gargantuan surprise.
A Brotherhood of Booze
Stiggins’ Rum wasn’t always intended to become an award-winning back-bar perennial. “To understand Stiggins’, you have to understand that we are always doing research,” says Gabriel. “We are producing ten new ideas now, all of which probably won’t come to market,” he explains. Most of the company’s new money is pumped into exploring new ideas for products.
“I wake up dreaming of distilling,” he says. “And so does David.” Gabriel and David Wondrich – described as “brothers from the bottom of the bowl” – had already collaborated on the company’s 1840 Original Formula Cognac and Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao. One day, Gabriel asked Wondrich, “so what’s your new idea?”
Wondrich showed Gabriel a historical patent he’d dug up, for rum made with pineapple bark. Although you wouldn’t know it today, pineapple rum was a thing back in the 1700’s or earlier. Some, but not many, distillers had soaked pineapple in their barrels of rum on the Caribbean islands. Gabriel wondered, “what do I do with the bark?” Should he ferment, or macerate it? Or was distillation the way forward?
101 Ways to Make Pineapple Rum
“After three months of pineapple, my team were sick of it,” says Gabriel with a laugh. Luckily for them, by then he’d worked out what he had to do. Most parts of the pineapple were used in the process. The pineapple skin is infused in Plantation 3 Stars White Rum for three weeks, before being left in a cognac still. Meanwhile, the pineapple flesh is infused for three months in Plantation Original Dark Rum. Finally both rums are blended together. Gabriel points out that there is no added sugar in Stiggins’ Rum.
Wondering about the name? Wondrich took the name from Reverend Stiggins, from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. The good Reverend, as befitted his duty, would preach the virtues of sobriety, in between drinking his favorite tipple, that is – none other than pineapple rum.
Originally, that was supposed to be it for Stiggins’ Rum. “One cask for us to drink, one cask to be sent to Tales of the Cocktail,” smiles Gabriel. “But one batch led to another, and another, and another…” Indeed, reception at the 2014 edition of Tales was so positive that the duo decided to release Stiggins’ Rum commercially in 2015.
A Dynamic Mixer for Modern Bars
One of the biggest surprises was how bartenders had praised the mixability of Stiggins’ Rum. “I’m not one to play music, I’m building the instruments,” Gabriel says, laughing. Many have praised it as a rum that’s both sippable on its own and subtle enough to play well together with other flavors. It’s a pineapple rum for rum lovers, not a sickly sweet, entry level product for beginners.
Stiggins’ Rum is selling very well and has – unsurprisingly given the warm reception from bartenders – popped up in many bars. “It’s a great pat on the back when we are in bars,” Gabriel says. What about his mixing recommendations? Gabriel says “classic drinks that call for aged rum work perfectly,” – even a Mai Tai.
Of course, he’s also delighted by the industry reception. Alongside the victory at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS, Stiggins’ Rum scored awards at both the Lisbon Bar Show and Tales. “It’s wonderful to see the little guys like us with little to no marketing budget do well,” Gabriel says, beaming.
The Future for Maison Ferrand
“We always have something cooking,” says Gabriel, enigmatically. He’s expecting more collaborations with Wondrich to come to fruition. So we should expect high levels of experimentation. “I like to work with guys who want to make a difference,” he says. Gabriel adds that innovation is key: “our product has to tell a different story or we won’t make it. We don’t imitate.”
Gabriel can’t say too much in concrete terms about what’s coming next, but he lets a few ideas slip out. On his own, he has plans to make an eau de vie aged in a chestnut barrel, which, due to regulations, can’t be called cognac. There’s also a gin aged in a cherry barrel – utilizing a holistic process, distilling using both the cherry flower as well as the cherry wood.
But that’s not all. Exploring the idea that throughout history, rum was aged in woods other than oak, Gabriel is currently ageing rum in barrels of Borrana wood from Brazil – a project together with the University of São Paulo. “The rums we are producing are delicious,” he says. They’re “a new palette of taste hidden behind history.”
Foto: Photo via Pixabay.