sugar cane juice, sugar cane syrup
Alcohol by volume:
Quoting Wikipedia: 'Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, with corruption, political instability, poor infrastructure (...) cited as the main causes'. Dry description doesn't move us, isn't it? Therefore, a few examples.
'One of the poorest countries': 60% of Haitians live below the poverty line ($ 1.90 / day) and 24% are extremely poor. You can taste the poverty quite literally; here's the mud cookie recipe. 'Corruption': Quite recently, the Michel Martelly (singer, then president) administration embezzled billions of dollars allocated to rebuild the country; no one was charged. 'Political instability': Over the past two hundred years, more than thirty coups have been carried out. And it's not the same as riots, such as in February 2020, when the police clashed with the military. 'Poor infrastructure': Hurricanes, floods, mudslides and earthquakes systematically take their toll in Haiti. The number of victims is multiplied mainly by shortages in infrastructure, supply and risk management. And if that wasn't enough, some NGOs have problems with transparency, others with morality.
Depressing, I know, but it's only the narrow range of reality. After all, you can write about rum differently and there is nothing wrong with that. The bottler itself - La Maison & Velier - turned economic and technological backwardness into a unique distinguishing feature and created a protocol to preserve real authentic and artisanal Clairin. Haitian kleren is on many levels a genuinely spontaneous product (more on in the 'procedure' section). It's produced in a cottage industry to meet the strict needs of the local community. Being out of the sight and control of the authorities, it poses certain risks, but also activates creativity.
It was used to say that Haitians are 55% catholics, 30% protestants, but 100% voodoo. Clairin performs a sacred function in voodoo rituals. Alcohol causes serious problems for public health in Haiti but not the religion is to blame. Clairin (Haitan Creole: kleren) is the simplest remedy to survive in a hopeless world.
Haiti's distillery landscape seems to have stopped in 1804; in the year of the French colonizers exile and the proclamation of independence. The raw material is traditionally grown in the wild or in polyculture with corn, cassava, banana or mango; and organically, without any pesticides. The sugarcane is cut by hand and then transported to mills on the backs of oxen or donkeys; the milling takes place on the next day at the latest. The undiluted juice is left - from three days to a week - in open tanks and the tropical climate does the rest - fermentation starts automatically. Just in case, the Haitians have learned to control the pH using citrus juices. Then the wine goes to the pot fed by flames. The distillate at ~50% abv is filled undiluted and unfiltered directly into the bottle.
Having learned how the kleren is made, let's move smoothly to the hero of today's episode - the Clairin Communal. As the name suggests, the blend is the fruit of a collaboration between four municipalities: Barradères, St Michel de l'Attalaye, Cavaillon and Pignon. It's easier to navigate through Haitian microdistilleries using their names, often called after their hosts. Therefore briefly and sequentially. Commune of Barradères: Faubert Casimir uses Hawaii white and red varieties; often enriched with herbs. Commune of St Michel de l'Attalaye: Chelo distillery headed by Michel Sajous with the Crystalline variety. Cavaillon Commune: Madame Meuze variety and Arawak distillery, run by Fritz Vaval. Pignon Commune: Le Rocher distillery and Romulus Bethel at the helm, using sugar cane syrup as a base. It's worth emphasizing that spontaneous fermentation brings mixed results. Consequently, each batch may vary (considerably).