St Vincent Distillers will not reduce alcohol content of strong rum – Greaves
Local Vibes
July 25, 2017
St Vincent Distillers will not reduce alcohol content of strong rum – Greaves

by Bria King

With words like ‘iconic’ and ‘pure’ being used to describe the Sunset Very Strong Rum made in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), it’s no wonder that persons go to extreme lengths just to take a bottle back to their homes abroad.

Notices issued by the Argyle International Airport (AIA) inform travellers that it is prohibited to travel with alcoholic beverages that exceed 70 per cent by volume or 140 proof. Yet, recent reports indicate that persons are attempting to disguise the 84.5 per cent by volume rum in their luggage, in an effort to travel with it overseas.

“This is a product that we make for the local market. We don’t make it for international travel. We make it to be sold here in St Vincent,” Phillipa Greaves, the public relations officer at SVG Distillers Limited told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

Greaves said that the overproof rum is a passion with Vincentians, that can be found in rum shops all across the country, as it is the best-selling product from the distillery.

But, persons say that taking a bottle abroad has nothing to do with drinking it.

In fact, one Facebook user explains: “When you live in a foreign country, having a bottle of Sunset rum in your cabinet is like a trophy. Most of the time, people like to look at it and smell it. It does get drink, but it takes years”.

Another user claims she has had a bottle of Sunset Very Stong Rum for over 15 years.

For some, it is equally important to have a bottle of the Vincentian Sunset Very Strong Rum on hand, if only to brag to other nationalities that the best rum comes from their homeland and the gem of the Antilles.

And although many garner a sense of national pride from owning a bottle of the 2016 World’s Best Overproof Rum, others are calling for a reduction in the volume, as it is “too strong”.

However, Greaves said that the distillery has no intention of lowering the proof.

“Why would we do that?” she questioned. “There is no way we would consider lowering the proof, because then it would not be as popular. You’re asking us to cut our profits for a handful of people that travel.”

The public relations officer said that the rule of not being able to travel with alcohol exceeding 70 per cent or 140 proof is not new, but scanners at the ET Joshua Airport were not equipped to pick it up.

Greaves said as a result people were able to leave SVG with the product, only to have it taken away in Barbados where the scanners were better able to identify the very flammable liquid.

She added that she has no clue of individuals’ reasons for smuggling the rum, especially since the distillery exports it by sea to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; several states in the United States of America, including New York and Maryland; Canada and England.

“Many people abroad don’t get strong rum because only certain states have it to sell and it is so expensive and it doesn’t even taste like rum and if you not living where it is selling, well crappo smoke [your] pipe,” one Facebook user declared.

In SVG, the suggested retail price for a 750 ml bottle of Sunset Very Strong Rum is $28.04.

Persons in the diaspora say that prices range from 40 pounds in England, up to 60 Canadian dollars in Canada and up to 35 USD in the United States.

Still, the public relations officer told SEARCHLIGHT that SVG Distillers Limited makes three great alternatives that are safe for travel as they are only 40 per cent alcohol by volume.

These alternatives are the Sunset Light Rum, commonly known as SLR, Captain Bligh XO and Sparrow’s Premium Aged Rum.

“It’s just Sunset Strong Rum is a passion for Vincentians…and that’s the one they want to take with them,” Greaves said. “It’s an iconic product, but I would beseech them, do not take it on the planes. It’s for safety purposes and I certainly wouldn’t like to be travelling on a plane with five people on a plane with five bottles of Sunset. If anything happens, man that would blow that plane out of the sky.”

But for many Vincentians living abroad, these alternative products just don’t compare, given Sunset Very Strong Rum’s multipurpose nature.

“From the connoisseurs, it is said that there is no hangover from it; that when you awake the next day, you are fresh as a daisy!” one individual proclaimed on Facebook.

Others say that the overproof rum is best for keeping them warm when it is cold, mixing alcoholic drinks, especially rum punch and can also have medicinal uses as one shot can help to “mend the body”.

No matter the purpose, Greaves said that she believes the uproar from not being able to travel with the alcoholic product will soon die down.

“It’s not only St Vincent taking it away, but it will take a while to get used to,” she said.

l See also Back Page