The Quebec Rum Club was launched some five years ago with a bunch of friends without any other intention other than discussing all things rum and educating fans around Quebec. Without even knowing it, we had just created the first Rum Club in Canada and have now become the largest rum platform in Canada with over 10000 people reached. This led us to meet some of the most prolific rum distillers and blenders.
One of these unforgettable encounters was with Alexandre Gabriel, founder and owner of the Plantation Rum Brand. Rum is now one of the biggest selling spirits in the world and this is largely the case because of Plantation Rum.
Alexandre was already running Cognac Ferrand and was selling his used Cognac barrels to some of the most well-known rum distilleries around the world. After a few successful aging tests with purchased rum from these distilleries in their own Cognac casks, he saw an opportunity and launched Plantation Rum in 1989 at Chateau Bonbonnet in Cognac – France. 30 years later; you can’t enter a bar without seeing a bottle of Plantation on the shelves and this is not the result of luck. I had the chance to meet Alexandre a few times, the guy is relentless and his passion undeniable. He is passionate about history and hired a historian at the chateau who digs into books and registers to learn everything they can about spirits; this is by far one of the most knowledgeable person I’ve met. Ask him one question and the answer can go on for hours and lead you to unthinkable territories.
Plantation doesn’t make rum (even though they now own West Indies and Long Pond), they buy tropical aged rums around the world and bring them back to Cognac to finish them in their own European and/or exotic casks. A tropical aging is what is also called fast aging, because of hotter weather than in Europe, alcohol and wood expand during the day and retract during the night which allows the spirit to interact differently with the wood than with continental aging. This is what makes Plantation Rums so good; it’s this balance you get from tropical aging in bourbon casks (vanilla and toffee flavors) and continental aging in European casks (fruits and nuts flavors).
We were fortunate enough to spend a few days at the Chateau with my colleagues from Quebec Rhum to visit the whole Ferrand/Plantation domain and had a blast roaming through the countless barrels of rum. We tasted some of the most balanced aging rums, some of the first casks they still had from 1989, very high ester rums they use for blending and even a 50 year old Cognac from 1936. What struck me when I got there is the friendly atmosphere; the whole team makes you feel part of the family and in the morning everyone gathers around a huge table in the kitchen for breakfast.
Last time I saw him, we were at a restaurant in Cognac talking about Solera aging (I firmly believe Solera aging is booed for the wrong reasons) and he told me that he would try it… I wonder if there is some Solera aging going on at Chateau Bonbonnet right now?