By Raffique Shah
August 02, 2018
Sometimes when you live long enough, you get around to enjoying the proverbial “last laugh”, or, in this case, the “last cry”, depending on your perspective.
On Republic Day 2000, I wrote a story in the now-defunct Independent newspaper telling of a report compiled by a professional “alcohol valuator”, American Robert Fuchs, that assessed the value of the aged rum stocks that Caroni Ltd held at its bonds on the compound of the distillery at Caroni Village.
Fuchs told Caroni that its 18,000-plus casks of rum of varying vintages, if converted into premium aged rums on a phased basis, could gross between TT $1 billion and $6 billion, depending on “intent of product”.
I quoted two officials of the companies’ staff associations (ATASS and SISA), who explained: “One cask, for example, yields 275 cases. Caroni has in its bonds 18,146 casks. These will yield around six million cases of rum, or 70 million bottles of blended products…”
At the time, Basdeo Panday, who was Prime Minister, had told an AMCHAM meeting that Caroni’s rum stocks were worth “considerably less than (TT) $100 million”, and there were rumours that the Government was planning to sell a 49 percent stake in Caroni’s Rum Division (later renamed Rum Distillers Ltd) to Angostura for TT $35 million.
The associations, along with the cane farmers’ body I led (TICFA), did not object to a joint venture with Angostura. However, we argued that given the value of Caroni’s aged rums, Angostura should inject at least $500 million.
Well Papa, as late comedian John Agitation would have said, who tell me to raise what was tantamount to a hornets’ nest over the valuation and the value of Caroni’s aged rum stocks? People high-and-low all but hounded me out of town. “Look de billion dollar rum man!” they would shout, laughing raucously. “He t’ink dey have gold in dem barrels! Shah talking Shmit!”
Fast forward to last week when the Business Express, under a banner headline “Caroni lives on”, told a gripping tale about Luca Gargano, boss of an Italian fine wines and spirits importer, Velier.
During a routine visit to Trinidad in 2004, the story went, Gargano supposedly “stumbled across the shuttered Caroni distillery, and was led, Indiana Jones-style, to a boarded-up warehouse and shown thousands of wooden casks of rum, some dating back to 1974…he bought all the barrels, took some to Italy and left the others to mature in Trinidad…”
According to travel writer Elizabeth Heath, as quoted by the Express, Velier “has been releasing small batches of Caroni rums…for rum connoisseurs…” Price? Between US $400 and US $1,000 a bottle!
Gargano’s story of stumbling across this cache of “liquid gold” (my description in the story I wrote in 2000) is hogwash. Caroni’s distillery and bond were still intact in 2004, and the “ghost” who led him to that source of immense wealth was some flesh-and-blood crook who saw an opportunity to make millions off Caroni’s rum stocks that ultimately belonged to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Readers may want to Google “Caroni aged rums” and see for themselves that bottles of this precious product indeed sell in the price-range quoted. In fact, a limited edition (2,000 bottles, I seem to recall) of Caroni Legend, which was blended and marketed by the Rum Division shortly after the year 2000, and sold at the time for TT $400 a bottle, remains a collectors’ item that today fetches 20 times that price in online auctions.
Interestingly, no one who was authorised to sell off the company’s aged rum stocks is prepared to state categorically where those 18,000-plus barrels went. In the Express article, an unnamed former Angostura executive admitted that the distillers bought some and kept others in storage for Rum Distillers Ltd and Gargano.
Gerry Hospedales, who, at different times, was chairman of Caroni and head of the Divestment Secretariat mandated to wind up the company’s operations, when questioned about disposal of the rum, told the Express reporter, “Let sleeping dogs lie, nah! Yuh know rum evaporates?”
Rum stored in oak casks lasts for decades, and gets better as it grows older—even I know that. But here’s Hospedales talking tripe about aged rum evaporating. Since there are no records to show exactly where those 18,000 casks went, who bought them and at what price, Hospedales may well be correct: our “liquid gold” evaporated into the bank accounts of persons unknown.
Gargano has forged both a myth and a legend out of Caroni’s aged rums (in the article, reporter Heath wrote about a “secret handshake” to alert selected connoisseurs to its availability, and a “cult” for its flavor dubbed “Caronimania”), and is clearly making many millions of dollars off rum stocks that Panday and Hospedales, among others, deemed worthless.
Governments (Panday’s and Patrick Manning’s) got rid of the sole element in the sugar industry that could have brought in big bucks—molasses and rums.
In a curious twist to the tale, Trinidadian engineer Raphael O’Neal who managed the distillery when it produced the special edition Legend blend, went on to Barbados where he manages one of that country’s sugar factories.
O’Neal has presented to that Government a simple spreadsheet that shows 100 tonnes of cane fetching B’dos $16,500 in sugar and molasses—which is unprofitable.
But the five tonnes of molasses, distilled into rum, fetches a clear profit of B’dos $187,000 for the distillers, with the rum priced at a paltry $10 per bottle.
I can only hope that our Bajan cousins are not as stupid as we were, that their brains don’t “evaporate”.
10 thoughts on “Crying over Caroni’s evaporated aged rums”
Caroni’s aged rum stocks valued at up to $6 billion
By Raffique Shah
Independent – September 24, 2000
NEW information in the hands of the Independent shows that two recent valuations of Caroni’s aged rum stocks put its 18,146 casks of rums at between $1 billion and $6billion, depending on whether the cash-strapped sugar company sells its stocks as bulk rum or as blended aged rums. At least one of these reports was done by a foreign expert in the field (who valued it at $6b) and was presented to the company’s board of directors, which, in turn, will have passed it on to Minister of Agriculture, Trevor Sudama.
And according to well-placed sources, the Agriculture Minister is obligated to present such information to the Cabinet. Last week, Prime Minister Basdeo Panday heaped scorn on Opposition Leader Patrick Manning’s claim that the Government planned to sell off Caroni’s distillery to “its friends at Angostura” for a fraction of its real value.
The Government has taken a formal decision to divest 49 per cent of the plant and its bonded warehouses and Angostura is known to be the “preferred partner”. The Laventille based company first offered to buy the 49 per cent for $13 million. It then improved its offer to $25 million, and later $35 million. Following protests by a number of trade unions and even senior management officials over the proposed sale at what is seen as a ridiculously low price, yet another valuation is currently being conducted. But, according to Washington Demas, vice-president of ATASS, which represents senior staff, “signals coming from the Prime Minister are not encouraging”.
“Mr Panday either does not know anything about rums, or he does not know what’s happening in his own backyard,” said Demas, “or it could be that since he moved up into the Johnny Walker Blue high society he has forgotten everything about Caroni’s aged rum stocks, or rum in general. If he knew anything, he will not have told AmCham members that our aged stocks are valued at less than $100 million!”
Demas was among a number of unionists who were livid after Panday, speaking to members of the American Chamber of Commerce at a meeting last week, slammed Opposition Leader Patrick Manning’s platform statement that 49 per cent of Caroni’s rum division, which had stocks valued at close to TT$1 billion, was being offered to Angostura at $35 million.
According to reports from the AmCham meeting, Panday said that Caroni’s “own estimate of its rum stocks is considerably less than $100 million. Based on the quantities supplied by the Leader of the Opposition and his aggregate of close to a billion dollars, an economist has calculated that a bottle of Old Cask or Felicity Gold would sell for over $400. Check out your numbers,” he urged his audience.
However, documents in the hands of the Independent show that the Prime Minister is way off target, and that two valuations of the company’s aged rum stocks put the values at between $1.2 billion and $6 billion, depending on what industry experts describe as “intent of product”. A report prepared for Caroni by Thomas Fuchs, a recognised valuator of rums, dated August 9, 2000, which was submitted to the company’s board of directors, put the “total case value” of its aged rum stocks at US$934,522,349.18. Converted to TT dollars, that will be just over $6 billion. Another in-house valuation that the Independent obtained, which was said to have used “very conservative numbers” and which put the value of a 750ml bottle of rum at TT$25, estimates the total “case value” (wholesale price) at TT$1,250,350,130.00. This valuation, which an ATASS source said was done “very recently”, gives the breakdown from casks to cases to bottles. One cask, for example, yields 275 cases, which, when bottled, amounts to 3,307 bottles. Caroni has in its bonds 18,146 casks. These will yield 5,001,401 cases of rum, or 60,008,822 bottles of blended products.
“You should note that a bottle of rum is conservatively estimated at $25,” said Jai Ramkissoon, president of SISA, the association that represents middle-level staff at Caroni. “It does not in any way reflect the true market value of products that could range from $40 a bottle to as high as $700 a bottle for 15-years aged rum. When Panday suggested that using Manning’s estimates, a bottle of ordinary rum will have to be sold for $400, it was he, not Manning, who did not do his sums right. And I wonder if he remembers that Angostura put out a special 15-year-old last year that the company sold at $675 a bottle? My understanding is that all that rum was lapped up by elite consumers.”
Employees with decades of service at Caroni who formed the backbone of Panday’s support upon his entry into trade unionism and politics back in 1973/74, say he has “damned the bridge he crossed”.
“After using sugar workers to ride to prominence, and later Prime Minister, he is looking to shaft Caroni today,” a group of them told the Independent. “The distillery could prove to be the saviour of the industry. Why is he so eager to undervalue our rum stocks? Is it that he now wants to sell out our patrimony to his new-found friends at Angostura?”
Efforts to contact Caroni chairman Joe Ramkissoon were unsuccessful.
Unions seek talks with chairman
THE Joint Staff Associations of Caroni Limited and Ticfa, the main body representing cane farmers, have written to the company’s chairman, Joe Ramkissoon, requesting a meeting with the board to discuss the proposed sale of the distillery. The letter was dispatched last week, but a reply was not had up to Tuesday last.
Spokesman for the group, Jai Ramkissoon, said that while the unions do not oppose divestment or going into partnership with Angostura or any other company, “they must come good”. He said an offer of $35 million for 49 per cent of the distillery, reportedly made by Angostura, was “peanuts”. “If that’s what they propose to sell half of the distillery for, then we, the unions, will raise that capital to purchase it. We raised this with Jerry Hospedales of the Divestment Secretariat, but he told us that bids were invited and we did not bid. How could we, when we thought whoever was trying to partner Caroni would cough-up more at least $500 million? We don’t have that kind of money.”
Ramkissoon and Washington Demas of ATASS explained that there was no problem with a joint venture partner, providing he or she “brings something to the table”. “If our rum stocks are valued at between $1 billion and $6 billion, isn’t it fair for a partner to come in with at least $500 million? Are we asking too much?” Demas pointed out that Angostura’s six-month profits dropped from $22 million in 1998/99 to $10 million in 1999/2000. “(Lawrence) Duprey said that in his report. But he did not give the reasons. We know what accounted for that drop. Angostura invested in new plant and machinery to the tune of millions of dollars, but they then faced a frontal assault from Caroni’s White Magic rum. In addition, Angostura has struck up strategic alliances with, or bought out, companies like Todd Hunter in Florida, St Lucia Distillers and a company in Holland.”
Demas said that Angostura badly needed aged rums to service its own operations as well as meet its commitments to its foreign partners. “That’s their main interest in Caroni. And I repeat, we have no problem with them-except they must put something of value on the table. Are they in a position to penetrate new markets for us? I doubt it, since they can’t find foreign markets for their own products.”
The Independent was told that sometime recently, Brown Foreman of the US, the third largest spirits manufacturer/distributor in the world, sought to forge a strategic alliance with Caroni. The company was willing to plough in capital to allow Caroni to upgrade its plant, machinery and bonded warehouses (it’s short of space to store aged rums), in return for the right to buy Caroni’s aged rums, blend and brand them and sell them on markets they controlled. “But someone sabotaged those talks and I believe we lost a great opportunity. They didn’t offer a paltry $35 million, nor did they want control of management the way Angostura does. So we would have made substantial profits through that alliance.”
Demas also said that a plan by the distillery management that was prepared for the board was never presented to it because a senior member said the Government had already decided to divest the company. “At least they could have looked at the proposal. It showed where the distillery, if it is given the proper tools, could turn around the fortunes of Caroni.” He said the company needed to understand the biggest cost in selling rums and penetrating new markets must be spent on promotion and marketing.
In fact, the most recent in-house valuation allows for 60 per cent of revenue to be allocated to production, promotion and marketing costs. The remaining 40 per cent will be profits. Based on this new report, which considered only three-to-five year-old stocks, the company could realise profits of over $500 million over the next few years. “But they need to allocate capital for a new plant that will cost around $20 million, and another $30 million to start aggressive marketing both at home and abroad.”
The unions say there is no way they will allow the Government or Caroni to part with the distillery for $35 million. “That’s like taking the life blood of sugar workers and cane farmers and giving it away to a stranger to save his life! Angostura does not need to be saved. But Caroni does, since more than 15,000 people are dependent on the industry.”
Aged rums worth their weight in gold
…..how alcohol is valued, blended
ALTHOUGH Caroni’s rum division, now known as Rum Distillers Limited, controls only about ten per cent of the local rum market, its aged rum stocks are far bigger and superior to Angostura’s. And that’s the main reason why the giant rum manufacturer wants to get its hands on Caroni’s distillery, senior officials at the sugar company believe.
“In order to understand how rums are valued, you need to understand many aspects of the business,” a senior company official told the Independent. “Firstly, we must be the only company in the region that has some rum in casks that are over 25-years-old. Though these are few, they are worth their weight in gold. The company also has a significant amount of 10-to-15 year-old rums, which is also very valuable. And the remaining stock is made up of three-to-five year-old rums, which also have their value.”
The process of blending rum starts with the product one wants to put on the market. Caroni currently has a 15 year-old blended rum, Legend 2000, that was done as a “limited edition”, and which will sell for upwards of $600 a bottle. On the other hand, its three-year-old rums will retail at around $40 for a 750ml bottle.
When rum is blended, the manufacturer uses 20 per cent of pure alcohol and mixes that with distilled water. Of the 20 per cent alcohol, 20 per cent of that comes from the aged stock one wants to market. So, for example, if you are marketing a 12-year-old special, a mere four per cent of the contents (20 per cent of 20 per cent) comes from 12 year-old casks. The remaining 16 per cent is “new” pure alcohol (which does not carry anything close to the value of the aged stocks). And then distilled water is added before the product is bottled and sold.
“So that when you buy, say, a 20 year-old rum at anything close to $1,000 a bottle, only four per cent of that is actually 20-years-old. But that is what gives the rum the smooth taste the connoisseur recognises and pays for,” the source said. He explained that that was what accounted for the high value applied to Caroni’s rum stocks. “If, however, you sell rums by the casks to foreign manufacturers, who would in turn blend, label and market them as prime products, they, not you, will make the real profits.”
The Independent understands that the current valuator who is from the Main Rum Company of the USA has asked for more time to complete his work since when he came here he was under the impression it was to value 1,800 casks. “He was shocked to learn that we have 18,000-plus casks. He said it would take longer. It’s an intricate process, since you have to give different values. You give the company a value based on casks, then another based on cases, and yet another based on bottles. This is what is referred to as ‘product intent’. And it’s why you have such vast disparities in valuations.”
Interesting; as politics have a morality of its own so do the crooked purveyors that are given the control of divesting the company’s purse. All are eventually destined to meet the black soil where the sugar cane plant comes from. God’s plan in solar energy conversion into potential energy- the sugar cane plant, is equitable to the blessings – competence of the utilization of brains from his creation and not the sin of stealing for individual growth.
Alcohol distilled from the 4 column Gebr Hillmann Still (capacity of 6000 gall/day from 45,000 gall of fermented molasses wash/day) is a valued added tertiary product from the secondary product molasses where the primary product is sugar from the sugar cane plant. Hold on! Think about the volume of carbon dioxide can be tapped off to become a refrigerant for Bakers yeast manufacture. The distillery was producing its own strain of distillers’ yeast successfully for many years. But when discussions at the time was for a 5000 tonne per annum plant where modules based on an incrementation fermentation process can be employed locally the idea was scrapped because the parasitic oligarchy could not have had their way of importing a 50,000 tonne per annum plant from Red Starr in Australia. Why should that be on the understanding that such a large plant would be sitting idly for most of the year? Because the importing house for bakers’ yeast in Trinidad would be losing a lucrative part of their business. Who was the president of the senate at the time? The same can be said for the production of vinegar and quality vinegar. Keep in mind that the 6000-gall fermentation cooling tower could have been optimised just as the heat exchangers in the fermentation house were during the conversion from batch to incremental. The same could have been done for the 250,000-gall distilling cooling pond to enhance better cooling effectiveness.
Did Trinidad had the ability and capacity at the time to deal with environmental problems with the distillery discharge into the Caroni river i.e., killing of fish in the hot season? Yes! Publications recognised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, India, China, CSIRO and the Ministry of Environment in France recognized and added to the credence of the work done jointly by UWI and the distillery at the time by looking at a utilization utilizing mutual benefits as opposed to a treatment process costing millions of dollars. The phase 1 rice project identified that the inherent gift of the distillery waste, which is rich in nitrates, phosphates and potash if managed properly can save dollars spent for these imports. Solution: Instead of discharging the waste into the river bring the water from the river into the distillery waste in their holding tanks where there would be the cooling effectiveness and the reduction of the biological oxygen demand (from 23000ppm to 500 ppm) during the 3 days holding time in the distillery compounds.
The 18000 plus barrels of rums were aged in 4 bonds. Bond 6 was the newest with racks where the barrels were rolled unto the racks and evaporative losses were small compared to the oldest bond had the rums stacked on skids 5 tier high. Meaning each barrel (45 gall) of rum weighs 500lbs with 4 barrels sitting on 1 skid therefore with time as 8000 lbs sit on the bottom skid. Therefore, losses on the top tier closest to the galvanize roof (hot sun in the daytime) would have at times more losses as the bottom barrels bearing such a weight. This is when the coopers were employed to do plugging’s of these prized stocks on an annual basis when there was no need to assemble barrels from the imported staves and stakes.
So, Raff, I believe you were a director of Caroni at the time where you can bear testimony of the above assuming it came up in agendas for Board meetings. Just as O’Neal was in ATASS fighting tooth and nail with management for issues on equitability. For myself I will maintain the problem with Caroni was the manipulative, thievery, exploitive and disgusting behaviour of its management and some board directors. The company stank with the sweetness of sugar.
You know truths. What about the Oil Industry and the dipstick honor system and I am talking about the big boys and not A&V? what about The procurement of office furniture and equipment…who gets those billions over the decades? what about The govt. consultants who recruit for high tier positions that are filled with non-citizens…who are these private companies that are still operating with a colonial mindframe?
I am not a drinker, just don’t like the stuff but $6 billion could have run the Children’s Hospital for at least over 20 years. Where and who are the thieves savouring the national patrimony. And how could so many barrels of rumstock just disappear.
This matter is of great national interest and I call upon CoP in waiting Gary Griffith to open an investigation into this matter. A bottle of rum well aged selling for $2000. Gargano must have had a near heart attack and many sleepless nights when he found out that barrels were aging since 1974. But anything managed by the state is routinely pillage and plundered by those in charge.
Here is a clear case of not only $6 billion but $10 billion of the national patrimony on the global market.
Caroni rum started to become liquid gold in Europe after Mr. Gargano (and later a British source around 2007) purchased parcels of Caroni rum in casks. In many cases the old tropic-matured casks had very little rum left in them – evaporation IS very high in Trinidadian climate, and what was left in the cask may have been as little as 10% of the fill level. In the same climate conditions often water actually evaporates faster than alcohol (if you do not believe me, do check out this from google – we see same happen in for example Kentucky Bourbon, due to the excessive summer heat), so the remaining rum was bottled after combining many casks together – to produce just hundreds, at max a few thousand bottles at cask strength or at least 46% (higher % is preferred by all connoisseurs – you can always add water, but its hard to take out).
These rums are totally incomparable in taste to what Caroni itself bottled and released. I have and have tasted many a Caroni original bottling, and suffice to say, they were filtered and blended into absolute obscurity! They taste nothing like those bottlings which now in last 14 years have been released by independent bottlers in Europe – Velier, Bristol Spirits, Cadenhead, Hunter Laing, Duncan Taylor, Kintra, RumSwedes etc.
Caroni´s own bottlings are lame, quite tasteless in my humble opinion. The heavy filtration, releasing at 40-43% (or 38% even), and blending job done has completely masked the true beauty of the aged spirits – almost as if the blenders were afraid that the rum was too powerful and tasty to be sold as such. If it wasn´t for the independents of Europe, we would have never known the true beauty of Caroni Rum. Fortunately we do now.
Most Caribbean nations producing rum make the very same mistake (and more) with their beautiful Rum spirit as what Caroni did. Even worse, they not only try their very best to make the spirit light, easy-going, they also sweeten it with copious amounts of sugar, put in glycerine to get a “smoother” mouthfeel, and even go as far as to create the “rum´s” (and it is no longer pure rum) flavour by adding essences, fortifined wines etc to the concoction they finally push to the markets as rum.
Up until recently they vehemently denied these practices, but proof of it came from government laboratories in Europe. Guess if the connoisseurs of Europe are willing to pay big money for these chemists´concoctions which also often sport a false age statement now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak? The answer is a resounding NO – they go for the good stuff, like Caroni from the independent bottlers.
Velier´s 1974 Caroni bottling cost 180 euros when it came out ab. 10 years ago in Italy. Now the collectors pay more than 2 000 euros for a bottle if they find one in auctions. As for the original Caroni bottlings, they fetch no such price – for a reason I mentioned above.
It is sad Trinidad chose a path of not respecting and cherishing its Rum – todays bottlings from the remaining company are far from collectors items – or pure Rum. But then the rich of Trinidad always did rather spend they blue money in Scotch or Hennessy Cognac rather than Trini rum. Well – the cool cats in POS didn´t lift the tail of Caroni – at least the European independent bottlers did it. Caroni is dead – long live Caroni.
In the 60s and 70s Golden Glow a Caroni produced and blended rum was the best seller in the island of Trinidad. Then in the mid 80s a blender was lured from Angostura to come to Caroni and blend their rums as the Old Oak and Vat 19 took over the rum market since then. This led to the production of Caravel, White Magic Light etc. In transition to that point Caroni had a rum consultant from Puerto Rico attached to the Rum Pilot plant as well as he had strong connections to Seagram’s and Bacardi. He literally oversaw the fermentation, distillation, casking and maturing of rums as well as the compounding and blending, water treatment and filtration of rums prior to bottling at Caroni. In between the production the quality of yeast, the carbon treatment and the final esters and fusel oils ppm concentrations from gas chromatograph analysis was rendered before bottling to maintain consistency. The consultant approval mattered a great deal at that time.
After the arrival of the lured blender from Angostura, Caroni parted ways with the rum consultant as the blender was worshipped as the ‘Saviour’. At this juncture it must be mentioned that Caroni used to sell spirits (high proof alcohol) to Trinidad Distillers Ltd, in bulk – straight to their storage tank farm at Chaguramas as well as smaller quantities of aged rums to the Fernandes complex.
When rum is evaporated during maturation it is known it becomes more concentrated in the congeneric content and bitter due to the charred barrel itself. This means carbon treatment of the like of Darco G60 and Norit Ultra to improve upon the smell and taste through organoleptic evaluation was imperative. Smoothening agents such as glycerin was added to the blends as practised by most distilleries but what should be denied vehemently at NO times was copious sugar ever added. It is known for the gold rums the caramel would have an inherent amount of sugar which would be conveyed to the product, obviously not the white rums. Even in the rum punch production the spiced rums (post marination) NO sugar was ever added both from the Consultant and the highly purchased blender from Angostura in Caroni rums production. The same can be said of fortified wines and essences. Maybe the charge was levelled against West Indian Rum and Spirits Production Association (WIRSPA) but Caroni rums was never part of such up to 1989 as I personally did know. I cannot speak for other Caribbean islands as well as Angostura.
The arrival of the lured blender at Caroni did release the cat out of the bag i.e., small volumes of aged rums made up with neutral spirit would never alter the ppm concentration of the congeneric levels as the product was made up as mg/L of alcohol then the required bottling strength 24UP (43% v/v) would be arrived at with the addition of treated water. Flash back, Golden Glow (the Caroni blended rum) was ALL blended rums, NO neutral spirits ever added.
Agreed that Caroni is dead because of some dumb asses at the hierarchy of executive management whose functionality was for ‘self’ as opposed to as a team. Even at the distillery when the suggestion was put forward for the abundance of cool water from the 2 artesian wells on the compounds be circulated firstly thorough the bonds basically to bring about better cooling effectiveness in the bonds to reduce evaporative losses of aged rums. Keep in mind the water table is quite high in the Caroni plains, then that said water can continue its merry way to the Fermentation House and Distillation House respectively.
After the Spence report outlining the rationalization and diversification plans for the company and then followed by the Rampersad Plan outlining the international, regional and local markets with the supply of sugar, he identified the need to review and look at the exorbitant costs to produce a tonne sugar which was making it very non-competitive. He did not factor in as to the entities contributing to the exorbitant production costs. This deceased gentleman who exhibited a very clinical mind wrote most of the budget plans for the late Prime Minister Eric Williams. He knew through discussions what had to be done which led to me producing a paper ‘Sugar Technology to lend itself to Biotechnology Developments in Trinidad and Tobago’. That paper spelt the following against this background which was strongly focused on industrial diversification:
The distillery at the time had ten (10) undergraduate projects with Natural Science, Soil Science, Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture and Agricultural Economics faculties of UWI at the time and had one post graduate project. There were mutual benefits to both students and the distillery. Projects such as:
(a)Utilizing the waste product from the refining of white sugar (JETT) to manufacture high grade syrups for cordial manufacture
(b)Identifying the fruits (Orange Grove cultivation) for proposed cordials. Dialogue with Prof Sammy and experimentation based on his success story with sorrel and lime.
(c)Analysing the distillery effluent for its inherent makeup
(d)Utilization process as opposed to expensive Treatment processes (anaerobic digesters) to break down the BOD levels of the effluent
(e)Teaming up with in house hydraulic engineers to channel the effluent (natural irrigant) into Rice Project Phase 1
(f)Surveying the species of rice compatible with this modified liquid irrigant compared to the river water
(g)Surveying yields as to the most desirable species of rice
(h)Establishing optimum requirements for cooling effectiveness in the effluent ponds in house
(i)Identifying the rampant distribution of fungus because of the sugar substrate prevalent in the environment and converting that into meaningful positives
(j)The proposed bakers’ yeast (active dry, compressed and instant) in the form of a feasibility focusing on the economics and utilizing existing infrastructure in house and areas for optimisation
This was very well supported by staff at UWI as well as the promise that sons and daughters of indentured labourers and slaves had the opportunity to take forward their studies and gelling of future companies from embryonic satellite to full fledged companies.
This can only come about if the company can be divided into:
(a)Fermentation complex housed at Caroni proper
(b)Bagasse Complex housed at BC besides particle Boards animal feeds
(c)Sugar Complex housed at USM
It is my humble opinion that the propensity of humanism – man is the measure of all things – and since the formation of Club 88 the litmus test availed the doom and gloom of Caroni (1975) Ltd. Since partisan politics came into full swing with the Executive Chairman of Caroni Vishnu Ramlogan aligned himself with Basdeo Panday and the Minister of Planning and Mobilization Winston Dookeran aligned with the Prime Minister ANR Robinson. Together with the asinine qualities of Executive management and the partisan politics interplay how can a small island much less the company overcome such. Personally, I suffered a lot, but it is not of me even in my retired years. What it felt like for Christ to be nailed to a cross 2000 plus years ago?
At the site of what was Caroni distillery was the barracks for indentured labourers and one of the first sugar factory in Trinidad. In the 60s and 70s Golden Glow a Caroni produced and blended rum was the best seller in the island of Trinidad. This was achieved by a Canadian biochemist on behalf of the company. Then in the mid 80s a blender was lured from Angostura to come to Caroni and blend their rums as the Old Oak and Vat 19 took over the rum market since then. This led to the production of Caravel, White Magic Light etc. In transition to that point Caroni had a rum consultant from Puerto Rico attached to the Rum Pilot plant as well as he had strong connections to Seagram’s and Bacardi. He literally oversaw the fermentation, distillation, casking and maturing of rums as well as the compounding and blending, water treatment and filtration of rums prior to bottling at Caroni. In between the production the quality of yeast, the carbon treatment and the final esters and fusel oils ppm concentrations from gas chromatograph analysis were rendered before bottling to maintain consistency. The consultant’s approval mattered a great deal at that time.
After the arrival of the blender from Angostura, Caroni parted ways with the rum consultant and the local blender oversaw all blends. At this juncture it must be mentioned that Caroni used to sell spirits (high proof alcohol) to Trinidad Distillers Ltd, in bulk – straight to their storage tank farm at Chaguramas as well as smaller quantities of aged rums to the Fernandes complex.
When rum is evaporated during maturation it is known it becomes more concentrated in the congeneric content and bitter due to the charred barrel itself. This means carbon treatment of the likes of Darco G60 and Norit Ultra to improve upon the smell and taste through organoleptic evaluation was imperative. Smoothening agents such as glycerin was added to the blends as practised by most distilleries but what should be denied vehemently at NO times was copious amounts of sugar ever added. It is known for the gold rums the caramel would have an inherent amount of sugar which would be conveyed to the product, obviously not the white rums. Even in the rum punch production the spiced rums (post marination) NO sugar was ever added both from the Consultant and the blender from Angostura in Caroni rums production. The same can be said of fortified wines and essences. Maybe the charge was levelled against West Indian Rum and Spirits Production Association (WIRSPA) but Caroni rums was never part of such up to 1989 as I personally did know. I cannot speak for other Caribbean islands as well as Angostura.
The arrival of the blender at Caroni did release the cat out of the bag i.e., small volumes of aged rums made up with neutral spirit would never alter the ppm concentration of the congeneric levels as the product was made up as mg/L of alcohol then the required bottling strength 24UP (43% v/v) would be arrived at with the addition of treated water. Flash back, Golden Glow (the Caroni blended rum) was ALL blended rums, NO neutral spirits ever added.
Agreed that Caroni is dead because the re-structuring of the company was inevitable. Executive management of the company was sugar manufacturing oriented and seemed unable to accommodate the mindset required for diversification especially industrial diversification. At the distillery when the suggestion was put forward for the abundance of cool water from the 2 artesian wells on the compounds be re-routed via channelling through the bonds basically to bring about better cooling effectiveness to reduce evaporative losses of aged rums. That was denied. Keep in mind the water table is quite high in the Caroni plains, then that said water can continue its merry way to the Fermentation House and Distillation House respectively. this was very feasible with long term benefits.
After the Spence report outlining the rationalization and diversification plans for the company and then followed by the Rampersad Plan outlining the international, regional and local markets with the supply of sugar, he identified the need to review and look at the exorbitant costs to produce a tonne sugar which was making it very non-competitive. He did not factor in as to the entities contributing to the exorbitant production costs. He knew through discussions what had to be done which led to me producing a paper ‘Sugar Technology to lend itself to Biotechnology Developments in Trinidad and Tobago’. That paper spelt the following against this background which was strongly focused on industrial diversification: The distillery at the time had ten (10) undergraduate projects with Natural Science, Soil Science, Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture and Agricultural Economics faculties of UWI at the time and had one post graduate project. All projects were very successfully conducted with some getting published. There were mutual benefits to both students and the distillery. These projects ranged from utilization of distillery effluent, species of rice compatibility and yields with the new liquid irrigant, utilizing jet streams from granulated sugar manufacture re- lime and sorrel cordials as developed by Prof Sammy, the intent was to look at crops such as citrus, passion fruit etc., etc. and the prospect of bottling including miniatures for local and export markets.
This was very well supported by staff at UWI as well as the promise that sons and daughters of indentured labourers and slaves had the opportunity to take forward their studies and gelling of future companies from embryonic satellite to possible full-fledged companies.
This can only come about if the sugar company can be restructured into:
(a)Fermentation complex housed at Caroni proper
(b)Bagasse Complex housed at BC besides particle Boards animal feeds
(c)Sugar Complex housed at USM
As to the reasons why such was scrapped remains unexplained to this date. Agriculture diversification i.e., citrus, milk, beef production etc. would have had its own holding company. Is it difficult to envisage where Caroni would have been today if some if not all was implemented?
Three attempts made and the editor rejects my contribution.
Let me state quite categorically that if Ramesh Maharaj did not harass and oppose the Duprey proposal to buy over the Rum Division with its huge stocks of aged rums in oak barrels stacked in the compound the rum division will still be operating and providing employment to hundreds of people. These rums disappeared into thin air and today everything is rusting and now occupied by the Mechanical Services Division of the Ministry of Works and Transport. I do not thinks that the Exchequer got any funds from the rum’s disappearance thanks to Patos who closed the sugar industry in 2003 and facilitated the greatest theft in the political economy of T&T.
The Beer and Rectifying columns are all copper and the recovery and hydro selection columns stainless steel. The eleven fermenters (11000 gall each) as well as the two 3000 gall. yeast fermenters and the plates of the heat exchangers all stainless steel. More evaporation into the pockets of scrap dealers. What a shame!!!
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