Luca Gargano

During the article about reductions, I asked questions to several speakers in the world of rum, including Luca Gargano, emblematic boss of Velier … Without response from him, the man being very busy, I had not insisted too much for not disturbing him.

Until March 29 when I relaunch him to have info on its new products for 2020 and there, he offers to call me to talk about …. reductions and aging. Chatting with him is always a great pleasure, I don’t ask myself too many questions and I ask him when he wants to do this … answer: now 🙂

So here I am, conducting a small « express » interview with Luca Gargano on the phone for the second time, so I am offering you this charming discussion.

Reductions and aging

Hello Luca, first of all, how are you?

Ho it’s okay, I’m in my office … we were moving Velier’s head office, but with the confinement, the workers are gone and so I no longer have the old office and not yet completely the new one in fact.

The employees are not there either, the place is beautiful and psychologically I want to be there …. I would pay to work in fact, so much I like that.

Concerning the reductions, I already made an article but your opinion is always interesting obviously!

Yes I just saw, it dates but let’s go … For me in fact, the most important is the reduction during the cask.

It is the most important, reduction during the entry into the barrel … In the past, for a question of space, all the rums were put in barrels at very high degrees, in 80-85% alcohol. At Caroni, Demerara Distillers etc, they did all that …

And when rums began to be recognized as a very high quality spirit, the rule changed slightly. The rum was put in 66% in the barrel.

In recent times, the best distillers in the world have reduced a little more, in the 55% -60% range.

But it is this most important reduction; because it is this one which will define everything later. After that, the reduction for bottling must be done slowly as you know, but the product is already reduced before that.

Of course afterwards we have everything that happens in the barrel … what type of barrel, do you do the « ouillage », whether it is a new barrel or not etc.

So finaly, the independent bottler will not be able to do much more … he will of course reduce his rum as he wishes, but it is above all the distiller who will decide upstream.

In my case, for Rhum Rhum and my distillery in Port au Prince, I cask at 66%.

It also depends a bit on the type of cask used, right?

Exactly, in Port au Prince, my dream is to put aging in my own barrels for example … not ex bourbon or ex something, my own rum barrels.

But for that, obviously it takes quite a lot of time and money because when I receive my new barrels, I have to put white rum in it for a month.

Then a new white rum for 3-4 months and so on for a few longer and longer passages … and then put white rum in it but longer to prepare my barrel.

And so with that, I will have Providence, for example, fully aged in an « ex Providence » barrel … and there it would be magnificent.

Maggie Campbell explained to me that he also puts rum in their own barrels at Privateer …

Haaa, did you talk to Maggie? She’s great, huh?

Yes yes, very nice person that I didn’t know at all, nor Privateer. Discovered thanks to a post by Kate Perry with your new Habitation Velier.

Yes, Privateer is still very young in fact … I met Maggie because, as you know, I also import wines, the triple A.

And Maggie is « Master of Wine », so we naturally came to meet each other and we drank good wines and finally discussed barrel selections for Velier and Habitation Velier at Privateer. She shares the same philosophies as I do for distillation and wine in fact.

So we’re going to have Privateer rums for the first time in Europe …

So here we are when we are going to talk about the new features, and the least we can say is that there is going to be a lot! And between the now classic, shall we say, 2 great new products that are 100% exclusive!

Speaking of Privateer, could we take a quick tour of the innovations that you are preparing for 2020?

Yes of course … you know me, I’m a bit like Messner … Do you know Reinhold Messner?

It is the mountaineer who at each new summit wants to climb another more complicated one … I am a little like him, I need new challenges and there this year, there will be 2 magnificent things!

The first is a bottling that no one has ever made … I’m going to release 3 official Appleton 1994-1995 and 1999, 100% pot still in my black bottle.

There have already been Appleton bottlings for other people, I have in my collection an Appleton bottle for a bar in the United States, but it was not 100% potstill.

The second big news concerns my friend at heart in the world of rum, Gregory Neisson !

I managed to convince him to bottle Neisson in my black bottle too … Finally, I managed to convince him and his mother who she didn’t really agree at first 🙂

It is a real honor for me that one of the best distillator in the world is willing to do this with me.

It will be young Neisson, it will be three 2016 aged in 3 different small cellars at Carbet, but with 3 levels of humidity, hydrometry etc specific to them … We will put all these data on the 3 bottles in order to clearly show the differences that there can be, even with a distance of 50 meters.

Where people still think that aged Hampden in Liverpool are the same as in Jamaica, it will be a great experience.

But I did not make the same mistake as with my Monymusk from Scheer. I hadn’t thought that rum enthusiasts would want to taste them all 4, and so it was really investing a large sum.

So we are going to make 3 black bottles of 70 cl and also 3 black bottles but of 20 cl.

It is the first time that we are going to have a real 100% pot still Appleton and the first time that Neisson is not going to bottle in a Zepol Karé bottle …

Nice, really good news for all rum lovers! But tell me, I thought I saw other new bottlings too, right?

But you know things better than I, you should work here at Velier!

Yes, this Wednesday April 1st will release Richard’s new Foursquare Plenipotenziario and we will have a new 8 year old Hampden too.

In addition, there will be 3 Villa Paradisetto in the classic black bottle: a 2007 Monymusk, a 2013 Chamarel and the Privateer.

We are going to take out the old Sajous aged in barrels which are becoming real old rums, they are already more than 4 years old.

Besides, these rums are put in barrels at 55% for example, to return to our discussion earlier.

Providence white rum will also be sold … It is the rum I make in Port au Prince, distilled by Herbert Linge de Barbancourt in Muller stills. He is the last of the Barbancourt line and it is an honor to have him with me on this adventure.

After that, there will be Hampden single casks, in official bottling with the 4 oldest 10 year old casks and some single casks for customers, bars etc …

And Caroni?

No, there will be no new single Cask Caroni immediately … we will only have the 2 new Employees.

And to finish, we will have the « japoniani » as I call them, these are bottlings whose labels I « scribbled » on a plane, back from Japan. There will be a 2009 Karukera, a 2006 Savanna Herr and a 2016 Nine Leaves

Speaking of Nine Leaves, I was there in November and it’s really becoming something of this little distillery … it may have come out a little too early with very young rums, but there I tasted very very beautiful things, you will see.

Yes, they have a certain way of doing it there, a bit like Chichibu, it’s very small and very precise, limit « maniac » …

The incredible thing is that Yoshiharu is alone in the distillery … even his wife cannot come in, it really takes everything!

He does the receptions, the accounting, the distillation, the cask … he does everything by himself, it’s incredible!

That’s why I didn’t understand when I asked him how much more barrel he had … he told me 20 more than last year. So I didn’t understand, just 20 barrels in a year ??

I think in the next 2-3 years it will develop well.

Last project in date, I would also like to join Haitian art and rum through aged clairins with beautiful packaging.

Haiti had really interesting painters discovered in the years 49-50. People like Hector Hyppolite for example.

Our idea is to choose the 12 most famous painters and I made 12 single cask with these works on the labels. The concept would be to make an exhibition with the works and the bottles together in fact. But hey, all this will be done after this story of Covid 19 …

And finally we will have 1200 bottles of River Antoine at Grenada … It will be very limited but I am delighted with this bottling !

Last question … and Rhum Rhum?

The company is almost liquidated … me and Gianni we took over the still, bought the name and part of the barrels with some are in stock at Karukera since 2012 due to a lack of place at Bielle. We are probably going to release Liberation 2020 with the stock there. We’ve got 2/3 of the entire stock of rhum rhum, au Marie Galante and Guadeloupe.

Thereafter, we will become a real distillery, with all the necessary authorizations in order to be completely independent. Before we were a part of Bielle, now we will be a small distillery in the Père Labat distillery.

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