There can't be any doubt in Alexandre Gabriel's mind about the demand for his Pineapple Rum. This remarkable stuff has achieved cult status since its first batch a few years ago, with growing demand for it around the world. And now it's finally getting a proper UK launch.
It's this demand that motivated a proper launch of this spirit in the first place. 'We weren't going to launch it,' the man behind Pierre Ferrand Cognac and Plantation Rum told Imbibe this week. The first batch consisted of just two barrels – one to drink, and one to share with CAPS (members of the Cocktail Apprenticeship Programme) at Tales of the Cocktail that year. In fact, that original label remains unchanged, complete with references to Tales. But after such an overwhelmingly positive response, a second batch was made.
Gabriel draws a parallel between Pineapple Rum and musical instrument producers of old, such as Stradivarius, as well as custom guitars in the world of rock 'n' roll more recently, saying: 'I like it when there's this interaction between the guy making something and the guy using it.'
Drinks historian David Wondrich, who Gabriel describes as an 'intellectual gourmand', is responsible for Gabriel's original motivation to create Pineapple Rum. Having previously collaborated on the creation of Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula, as well as Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, Wondrich was visiting Gabriel in France and suggested he resurrect the pineapple rum that was once famous in Dickensian times. Dickens character Reverend Stiggins is referred to in the full name of the rum: Plantation Pineapple Stiggins' Fancy 1824 Recipe.
After three months of pineapple tasting Gabriel and the team at Maison Ferrand decided on the Victoria pineapple. The secret, however, lays not only in the fruit, but in the pineapple skins too. Peeled by hand, the skins are infused in Plantation 3 Stars for a week before being distilled in pot stills. Meanwhile, Plantation Original Dark is infused for three months with the pineapple fruit. These are then blended together, and rested in casks for a further three months.
This isn't pineapple-flavoured rum, at least not at first. Rather, it's rum-forward, with an added perfumed, aromatic element from the fruit. The pineapple is more noticeable on the palate, with pithy fruit joining the rum, although without any excessive sweetness. The only sugar comes from the pineapple infusion, making this a relatively dry spirit.
'It blends the aromatics from the distillate with the freshness and sweetness of the fruit,' Gabriel explained. 'I didn't want something simple or in your face, but rather something more layered,' he added.
You might not immediately think about mixing this as it's more than good enough neat, but as the base spirit in a standard Daiquiri it does some pretty amazing things.
The batch on its way to the UK is the fourth, made with 3.5 tonnes of pineapple, and there are plans to produce the fifth batch before the summer.
What happens when Pineapple Rum continues to grow in popularity? Gabriel sees a potential second round of negotiations with French customs officials to expand production – the first time around he spent five years trying to gain approval to distil gin in Cognac, the result being the critically-acclaimed Citadelle. 'I'm used to these headaches, and Pineapple is adding another,' he says.
Stock is expected to land on our shores mid-April, and will have an RRP of £34 per bottle. It'll hit M&S shelves first, followed by select wholesalers from the end of April.
Identity Drinks Brands, 07890 277 024