Wray & Nephew sides with Spirits Pool in rum GI dispute
Jamaica’s largest rum maker J.Wray...
Jamaica’s largest rum maker J.Wray & Nephew Limited, JWN, has sided with the wider Spirits Pool Association in the unfolding legal rum fight against large bulk seller National Rums of Jamaica.
The parties will face off on September 27 in front of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, JIPO, the oversight agency for trademarks and GIs, or geographical indications.
The limits of what constitutes Jamaica rum can impact market share going forward within a sector where some players such as JWN sell premium aged rums, while others sell less expensive bulk rum used for blending or white labelling.
“JWN and the other industry players are in favour of strengthening the geographic indication, in order for the registration to be accepted in Europe of the protections to be fully realised,” said JWN in response to Financial Gleaner queries.
In 2016, rum makers, under the guidance of the JIPO, established specific criteria for what qualifies as Jamaican rum under a GI that speaks to origin, manufacturing techniques, climate and soil, and so on. Its geared at shielding the Jamaican rum sector from imitation. In addition to a rum GI, there is also one for ‘Jamaica Jerk’.
The Spirits Pool has wanted in recent years to upgrade the rum GI to include new and more stringent criteria. However, National Rums is said to have objected to the additional criteria.
The JIPO hearing set for next Wednesday will discuss whether the source of water needs to be filtered by limestone, whether the ageing process needs to be done in Jamaica, and whether sugar can be added, sources indicate.
JWN, however, remained tight-lipped on the specifics of the legal fight, as did National Rums. The Spirits Pool also opted to hold its comments until after the hearing next week.
The large members of the Spirits Pool Association include JWN, National Rums, Hampden and Worthy Park. Each of these entities markets their products under recognised brands: JWN under Appleton and Wray & Nephew, Hampden under Hampden Estates, Worthy Park under Worthy Park and Rum-Bar, and National Rums under the Monymusk label.
The GI speaks to the core of the rum business and the uniqueness of the product. For instance, local industry players have said that rum ages three times faster in the Caribbean than in Europe, partially due to the heat evaporation in the region.
It’s been said that a rum aged for four years in Jamaica equates to a 12-year aged rum in Europe. And since older rums fetch higher prices than younger rums, it has been argued that ageing local rums outside the island could create confusion.
JWN, which has operated for over 200 years, holds one of the largest stocks of aged rum reserves in the world. Its portfolio includes high-quality rums like Appleton Estate, some of which have been aged beyond 50 years. The company, which last year racked up €159.1 million ($25 billion) in sales, says its rums reflect its exclusive geography, production techniques, craftsmanship, and cultural heritage.