After my most recent research about the Caroni distillery I found out about this and just have to warn you:
Caroni is most certainly incredibly toxic and even small drams can cause severe damage to your stomach, kidneys and colon!
La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad
While I was trying to find out how the characteristic notes of tar, burnt rubber and petrol get into our beloved Caronis, I was contacting professional master distillers and even geologists and chemists to shed light upon this mystery. While the master distillers called for bad distillation techniques, the geologists were pretty sure that the sugar cane was taking on substances from bitumen lake La Brea, which could still be found in their molasses. The chemists in turn came up with some wonkish nonsense about esterification and potentially new, yet undiscovered aldehyde groupings which I didn’t really understand. Since these explanations weren’t very conclusive, I decided to contact former employees, which turned out to be rather difficult. After numerous inquiries and endeavours, I eventually managed to talk to a Trinidadian who lived close to the former Caroni Distillery in St. Augustine and who knew someone who has worked at Caroni in the past. It took a few more weeks until a Skype-meeting has been set up with Wendell Clay, who, as he told me, was responsible for setting up the fermentations at Caroni. What he told me was shocking. Since this is really urgent, I am not posting the full transcript but much rather give you the most important points.
Wendell told me that they were burning old tyres in one of their buildings, which created an awful smell. Once the rubber has liquified, it has been added to their wash. What is more, they regularly collected bitumen from the Pitch Lake which has been added from time to time as well, most prominently to the rums which we got to know as Heavy Type rums. I couldn’t believe this but Wendell told me that this really is true. I decided to browse through my PC’s folders and found the following picture:
The building where the tyres were burnt, including left behind tyres.
I became suspicious. “That cannot be healthy” I thought so I decided to consult a few medical practitioners. When I told them what was going on they all thought I was joking but since I insisted on getting an answer they all warned me how dangerous this would be. Especially the stomach and kidneys should be severely affected. Finally one of them became curious and asked me to provide him with a sample for a lab test. I thought the Velier Caroni 1974 should be the most suitable and I reluctantly handed over my last two bottles. That was a tough decision but with hindsight I am of course very happy that I did. What we learned was worse than I could ever have imagined: Even very small doses might already severely affect not only the functioning of your stomach and kidneys, but also of your colon! With large doses it is even worth!
As a result I have already sold large parts of my collection this week. However, I apparently was not the first person to learn about this and I was shocked about the plummeting prices for the lost distillery’s rums! Single casks and old bottlings from the 1980s sold for a fraction of their prices just a month ago. It was incredibly difficult to find buyers at all and even the hard-core collectors were trying to sell off their Caronis. What hurt the most was the 65€ I received for the 1996 single cask for Kirsch, which I have bought for about 640€ just a few months ago. But it doesn’t help. So if you have any Caronis sitting at your place, dispose them as quickly as possible before they can cause severe damage to anyone who is not aware of this and wants to take a dram! More importantly, spread the message!
Of course this post was simply an April’s Fool Jokle but I tried to address something more meaningful which I think many people do not understand: Not just Caroni but alcohol in general is toxic and should only be consumed in small quantities! And indeed can it cause damage to your kidneys. While the joke was naturally exaggerated and some of you didn’t think it was funny then you clearly have a point: drinking alcohol is more serious than many people believe. Just think again next time what you are adding to your body when having a dram and drink responsibly!
Happy Easter from Single Cask Rum!