Haiti is not a large nation. Taking up only a third of the island of Hispaniola, the country is about the size of New Jersey. But packed into that small area are 500 distilleries, dotting the valleys, tucked into the jungles, perched in the mountains, and hugging the coast. A single Haitian brand, Rhum Barbancourt, has become internationally recognized, but its popular double-distilled, aged rums don’t give an accurate representation of how Haitians in hundreds of villages regularly consume the spirit of the island. Generations of rural distillers, producing spirits on homemade stills, have developed distinct rhums totally unlike sugar cane spirits from elsewhere in the Caribbean. And for the first time this rhum, called clairin, is available outside of Haiti.
Three varieties of clairin—Sajous, Vaval and Casimir—have made their way to the U.S. Each type is named for that spirit’s particular distiller: Michel Sajous, Fritz Vaval and Faubert Casimir. For years these three men have distilled clairin for their neighbors, who fill gallon jugs at the local market. But now, their spirits are filling glasses around the globe thanks to Daniele Biondi and Luca Gargano of Italian spirits importer Velier (which partnered with the French Maison du Whiskey in 2017 to form La Maison & Velier).