Caribbean ambassadors to the United States sat down with The Washington Diplomat at the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago to discuss an ongoing row with Washington over rum. Pictured from top row left are Duly Brutus, permanent representative of Haiti to the Organization of American States; Ambassadors Deborah Mae Lovell of Antigua and Barbuda, Paul Altidor of Haiti, Sonia M. Johnny of St. Lucia, Hubert Charles of Dominica, Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin of St. Kitts and Nevis, Nestor Mendez of Belize, La Celia A. Prince of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and from bottom row left, Bayney Karran of Guyana, Stephen Vasciannie of Jamaica, Neil Parsan of Trinidad and Tobago, Anibal de Castro of the Dominican Republic, and John Beale of Barbados.
Arguing about who bottles the best rum in the Caribbean is sort of like debating which country produces the tastiest gourmet coffee, or who exports the finest cigars.
Ever since the 17th century, when slaves on West Indies sugar plantations began fermenting molasses into rum, connoisseurs have pondered that question — with modern contenders for the "best rum" title ranging from Jamaica's award-winning Appleton Estate and Haiti's legendary Rhum Barbancourt to pricey Mount Gay Rum from Barbados and the three Bs of the Dominican Republic: Bermudez, Brugal and Barceló.
Within the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), however, few would dispute the biggest threat facing the rum industry today: Washington's generous excise-tax rebates that are used to subsidize rum production in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.