Trois Capitaines the story continues
Le deuxieme Capitaine
Fast forward to 1920, and my second rummy ancestor, this time a sea captain of a three masted schooner, was dealing with a historical problem of his own.
Hence the murky details of his life.
Throughout history some things never change. The mucky mucks “above the salt” were making life difficult for working people.
For Captain de La Ronde, as we’ll choose to call him, sailing down to the Caribbean for molasses was the easy part. Although the ocean was no tame mistress, at least they had a steady relationship.
In some secret hidden harbour, maybe on the Straight of Canso, or maybe not, de La Ronde rolled his barrels of molasses down the gang plank, and, transformed their contents into rum using a Caribbean two-stage thumper still, where the second trip through the steam imparted more flavour than Kölb’s simpler process.
Boston was a smuggler’s dream and de La Ronde became an avid recycler of molasses barrels now filled with black gold. Did he sell rum to JFK’s father? Perhaps. Any way you look at it, the link between Nova Scotia and Boston is indisputable and remains ever strong today.
A Dreamer Meets His Destiny
My earliest memories are of shafts of sunlight cutting through a dimly lit barn, where I whiled away many an afternoon with my "Uncle" Bob, soaking up his knowledge of beer and moonshine. My early lessons were (of course) making New England style root beers, infused with traditional sarsaparilla and ginger.
My career as a distiller hit a turning point when at the age of 12 I was press ganged by my imagination onto a Tall Ship that transported me from Toronto Harbour to the Caribbean and beyond.
One taste of the ocean and I was hooked.
By 18, I had my captain’s papers. A free man, on a big planet.
However far I went, I never really left that barn.
I was ever contemplating the alchemy of distillation and dreaming of the still I would one day build.
As I travelled the world, I would visit pubs, wineries and distilleries, sampling, tasting, questioning and soaking up precious knowledge as I went. Back home in Halifax, I would meet Granite Brewery’s Kevin Keefe, whose belief was that one should master his craft. He taught me focus. I was urged to do one thing. Really, really well.
In the 1980s at the start of the micro brewery industry in Nova Scotia, I took a landlubber turn at managing and advising brewing centres.
While I was constantly approached to set up micro pubs and wineries, my love of the sea called and led me to France whereI tasted everything in sight. I was captain of classic racing yachts and was charged with procuring the finest wines and spirits. The high point for me was being introduced to one of the oldest families in Armagnac, who have been producing Armagnac brandy for three hundred years. Knowing my interest and seeing my strong workers hands, they invited me to labour with them through harvest, fermention and distillation. Legislation dictates that a third of their production must go to the AOC for the region's blended production that is sold throughout the world. What is left is presold for the next twenty years. A great working model methinks! I have been privileged to taste a 50 year old vintage which literally blew my mind - it was so uniquely complex.
And here I am in Canada several years later,.
Finally with a distillery of my own.
In the intervening years, it has been my dream to create something that shall stand the test of time, like that 50 year old Armagnac.
I am proud to say that Our Shield Maiden, produced with local grain and honey, and barreled using the Solera Method is the taste of true Nova Scotia terroir. I look forward to bringing it back to France.