[:it]Caribbean Company: interview with Francesco Pirineo between rum, tequila and gin[:]


Francesco, this is a very special year for you, do you want to tell us why?

Gladly: this year I celebrate twenty years of my career! I started in November 2000 as a waiter in a bar, then over time I became a barman and in the meantime I also got a degree in psychology while I was at it (laughs ed.).


Then, everything changed.

Eight years ago I was contacted by Bacardi Martini to be an ambassador. It was and still is one of the most important beverage companies in the world, in three years of working with them I learned a lot and I only left when I felt that my journey in that particular reality had come to an end. Shortly afterwards I started working for Compagnia dei Caribbean and right now, in September, I have been collaborating with this company for five years. I started as an ambassador for the family brands and subsequently for the Maison Ferrand and Tequila Ocho groups, which I still follow today. Since January 2020 I also became Advocacy Manager, a role that involves the management of internal and external ambassadors, trade marketing and training. I can say that I have never had so much fun!


You mentioned it, so now tell us a little about Tequila Ocho.

It is a brand that joined Compagnia dei Caribbean a year and a half ago. It was born in the La Altena distillery, in Los Altos in Mexico, from the collaboration between Carlos Camarena and Thomas Estes. He is respectively the representative of the fourth generation of distillers among the most loved and respected in Mexico, and one of the greatest tequila connoisseurs in the world. Thomas has spread the culture of good food and good Mexican drinking in his Café Pacifico (restaurants and cocktail bars). He has become such an expert on tequila that he was named Tequila Ambassador to Europe. Ocho was born 12 years ago, precisely on August 8, 2008, a 100% artisanal production of pure agave, with the extraordinary characteristic of being a single estate tequila.


What does it mean?

That the agave used to produce it comes from different ranchos, that is, fields, at different altitudes and with different microclimates. It means that each vintage of Ocho tequila is able to offer different organoleptic characteristics while maintaining the same identity. The difference in terroir thus becomes a fundamental component in the production of tequila which, remember, only comes from blue agave. The vintage and name of the rancho are indicated on each bottle of Tequila Ocho. And considering that agave plants need 8 years to reach complete maturation, if today I drink the 2019 tequila I know that until 2028 I won't be able to drink the same one, or at least one coming from the same terroir.


Is that why it's called Ocho?

In reality, the main reason is another: in the search for the perfect tequila, Camarena and Estes distilled for a long time, creating a series of samples, called "samples", which would then be tasted blind by both to decide the best. It happened that, one in one room and one in another, the two experts, without knowing what the other would have chosen, both chose sample number 8. When two great tequila men immediately agree on the sample, no there is no doubt: this is an extraordinary product.

The number 8 is however recurring in the world of this tequila: for example, 8 days pass from the moment the agave is harvested to the moment the Tequila Blanco is bottled; then, as we said before, 8 years are needed for the agave to be ripe; all this without forgetting that it takes approximately 8 kg of agave to make 1 liter of tequila 8 and that Tequila Ocho Reposado rests in American oak barrels for 8 weeks and 8 days.


Can you also tell us a little about Maison Ferrand?

Of course: they have been producing cognac for 10 generations, for a total of around 400 years. In 1989 Alexandre Gabriel acquired the maison with the intention of giving new life to a historic company, keeping the ancient artisanal production methods unchanged but with an eye to the future. Having always been producers of cognac, they had and still have incredible skills in the distillation and aging of the spirits themselves. One day they decided to make their knowledge available to two other extraordinary spirits: rum and gin. Thus, Citadelle Gin was born in 1996, while Plantation Rum saw the light for the first time in 1999.


Let's talk about Plantation.

The Plantation brand originally began as a breeder. Gabriel, who is not only the owner but also the master distiller of Maison Ferrand, toured the rum production areas, selected them from the distilleries and then put his personal touch on them with aging. It is no coincidence that all Plantation rums are double aged: they first age on site in ex-bourbon barrels and then are transferred to ex-cognac barrels and age the second time in Europe, so that they can refine not only in different materials but in completely different climates . In 2017, Plantation became a real label, because Gabriel acquired the West Indies Rum Distillery, one of the three distilleries in Barbados, the historic cradle of rum, and the two legendary Jamaican distilleries Long Pond and Clarendon. There he began producing his own rum, taking care of it from cultivation to distillation and, of course, aging.


What are Plantation's references?

Let's start with the "mixing ranges", i.e. products designed for bartenders and intended for mixing. We have Plantation 3 Stars, a white rum born from a very "simple" idea of Gabriel's: producing the best rum in the world for making Daiquiri. Then we have Stiggins Fancy Pineapple, a rum that was supposed to be a limited edition and which instead, after winning two incredible awards (Taste of the Cocktail in New Orleans and Best European Spirits at Bar Convent Berlin) has entered permanent production. Then we have super limited series.


What can you tell us about Citadelle Gin instead?

It is a totally French gin, Gabriel's idea: it is produced in Cognac and in the same stills as cognac, which according to regulations can only be produced from October to March. Gabriel, who has always thought outside the box, one day decided to use the stills also during the rest of the year, but making gin instead of cognac. The still is the 25 hectolitre French Charentais copper still, the distillation takes place over an open flame, and the gin that comes out contains the beauty of 19 botanicals. Furthermore, last year, outside the Château de Bonbonnet, the headquarters of Maison Ferrand, juniper was planted for the first time. Thus, from next year there will be an extra piece of France in Citadelle Gin.


Can you tell us about the references?

Certain. Let's start with Original, which as I mentioned before contains 19 botanicals and is a fresh, complex and very spicy gin, perfect for mixing.

Original Reserve, on the other hand, ages for about a year in 6 different barrels made with 5 woods: acacia, mulberry, cherry, chestnut, French oak. Subsequently, the gin rests for a month in the patented wood egg watt, an egg-shaped wooden container that favors the process of assembling the gins aged in the different barrels. Furthermore, compared to the Original it features three more botanicals: yuzu, cornflower and genepy.

Finally, we have Olt Tom No Mistake, which involves the addition of sugar inside like all Old Toms. What is used for this gin, however, is not white but toasted and aged, and gives the gin an unmistakable aroma as well as a darker color than usual.[:]

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