Throughout 2020, rum webinars have become a part of my weekly routine. It’s been fascinating to connect with and learn about distilleries from all over the world through Zavvy and discover folks who’re pushing the rum industry to new heights. It’s even better discovering a country I didn’t know much about and that country happened to be Suriname in South America.
Cocktail Wonk’s Matt Pietrek hosted a webinar with the Suriname Alcoholic Beverages (SAB) company, shining a light on the intriguing world of Surinamese rum and how the country has transformed in recent years.
A rich sugarcane history
The webinar featured SAB’s supply chain manager Karen Wong Fong Sang, master blender Rieke Wirjabesari and CEO Steven Ma Ajong introducing the culture of Suriname. The country has been heavily influenced by Caribbean and Dutch culture, with Suriname existing as a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands up until 1957.
Rum has played an important part in the story of Suriname since the 16th century and SAB traces its roots back to the Marienburg Sugar Estate, which was founded in 1882 in the district of Commewijne. In 1966, three shareholders of the Marienburg Estate founded SAB, with their primary products being Marienburg and Black Cat rum.
The 1980s were a turbulent time for Suriname and SAB because of a heated political climate. In 1982, the brand introduced Borgoe rum to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marienburg Sugar Estate, only for the estate to be shut down in 1988.
This pattern of highs and lows continued with one of the more recent setbacks happening with the 2017 closure of the distillery. But hope remains, as SAB are focused on building a new fermentation and distillation plant by 2022.
An insider’s view into rum production
It was interesting to learn about how SAB produce their rum and the machinery involved in the process. The brand has three column stills, a John Dore pot still and there’s a strong focus on using clean water throughout the rum production.
Rieke went into detail about the SAB line, consisting of three Borgoe reserves at 15-years, 12-years and 8-years all bottled at 40%. There’s also the Borgoe gold line which features vintage, extra and gold. Other products include the rocket-fuel like Marienburg rum that’s bottled at 94% ABV and is traditionally consumed in a shot and then water is drank after!
Rieke, Steven and Karen were generous with their time and it was clear that they were proud to introduce Surinamese rum to a wider audience. Suriname has come a long way from the political in-fighting of the 1980s and is ready to open up to the world again in 2020 and beyond.
Another great webinar that I watched in 2020 was a virtual tour of the Kuleana Rum Distillery in Hawaii. Founder Steve Jefferson has led an adventurous life and you can read more about his story here.