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Two Haitian Clairins

Clairin is Haiti’s spirit. Unaged rum made from locally grown sugarcane juice, often spontaneously fermented, and distilled on small, cobbled together stills. In Haitian creole, these stills are called guildive, a corruption of the early colonial slang for rum, “kill devil.” Clairin is often looked down on by the upper classes as a rough, peasant’s drink. But, interestingly, outside its home country, Clairin has all the makings of a trendy spirit: hyper local ingredients, artisanal scale, and unique fermentation. Of course, it can be difficult to acquire and export these spirits so most are still just enjoyed locally. Here are two clairins from two different bottlers.

First up, Clairin Le Rocher, distilled by Bethel Romelus in Pignon. This one is not sugar cane juice but syrup, so juice that's been boiled down to remove much of the water. Sugar cane syrup will be brown and viscous but still has all of its sugar so is not molasses.

Nose: Clarified coconut fat pina colada. Lime, plantain, peach pie, and mushy blueberries mixed in yogurt. Underneath there is a bit of rubber and petrichor.

Palate: Creamy lime cocktail, anise, coconut meat, beautiful mouthfeel. Dried blueberries, more herbs like anise, thyme, and rosemary, along with lots of honey. Apple and rich solvents show up before a long, honey and herb finish.

Next, Clairin Milot distilled by Patrick St. Surin in Carrefour Des Pères. Patrick uses different local varieties including Medialande, Pete Coca, and Zariete. As a distiller who uses local cane in rum making, this is fascinating to me! He also leaves his cane as juice but does mix in a little syrup sometimes. This is double pot distilled and bottled at proof.

Nose: Rubber, diesel, and other big solvents. Fresh melon, tarragon, and lemon pledge.

Palate: Not nearly as solvent heavy! Sweet pastry notes, frosting, lemon tarts, basil, lavender cake, and a punch of chili on a sweet and spicy finish.


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