the spirit of haiti
To celebrate the typical character of Clairin traditionnel and to ensure its sustainable preservation for future generations, The Spirit of Haiti producers all agree on respecting the following production methods during 5 key steps of the production process.
The sugarcane varieties used to produce Clairin Traditionnel are pre-hybrid or heritage cane. The grower-producers carefully cultivate their land following their sustainable and (uncertified) organic methods.
Clairin truly begins in the field. The diversity of sugar cane varieties found in Haiti is incredible: there are literally hundreds! The name of a given variety can vary from one village to another, making it difficult to confirm exactly how many exist.
Cane is often grown in polyculture, together with mango and banana trees and other local vegetation. This biodiversity maintains incredibly rich soil where a true sense of terroir is fostered.
Harvesting is typically done only by hand, and canes are then transported to the distillery, often by draft animals like mules or on ox carts.
Hand harvested by skillful workers using machetes, the cane fields are cultivated with great attention to sustainable practices – the producers are able to harvest typically for 6 to 8 seasons from the same stalk of cane (compared with industrialized cutting methods which removes the rootstalk as well as the cane).
Sugarcane comes mostly from the distillery’s own field, reducing the distance and time from harvest to press typically to less than one hour. Transportation using mules or bull carts proves to be an efficient method in the mountainous terrain of Haiti.
Clairin Traditionnel is produced using fresh sugar cane juice, sugar cane syrup or a combination of both.
Upon arrival at the distillery, the sugar cane is immediately pressed using a small mill powered by diesel. In some areas it is still common to see cane pressed by a turnstile powered by bulls.
The fresh juice can either be used immediately or gently boiled on a “sirop de batterie” (a concentrate of cooked sugar cane juice obtained by evaporation) heated by direct fire into a light cane syrup, depending on the tradition of the village and producer.
Fermentation is conducted naturally, only through the action of wild ambient yeast and often without dilution.
Fermentation is an almost magical process – where the terroir of the fields, distillery and village are transformed into flavors. The sugar cane juice or syrup is transformed into a fermented liquid using the ambient, wild yeast present in the distillery and on the cane stalks. Fermentation can take place in a wide variety of containers, from vats of local wood, stainless steel or food grade plastic drums.
This style of fermentation is long and slow – often lasting up to 120 hours – creating incredible layers of nuance, aromatic and flavor complexity found in Clairin Traditionnel and varying widely distillery to distillery and village to village.
Distillation to produce Clairin traditionnel is discontinuous and takes place in a small copper pot still.
The fermented liquid is distilled on a discontinuous alembic still consisting of a chauffe-vin (preheater for the wash), copper pot and external plates – typically heated by direct fire.
The boiler of the alembic is often fueled by dried cane fiber (called bagasse) creating a closed loop, sustainable system. Wash flows out of the chauffe-vin and into the pot still. The vapors enter the external plates and exit the column typically between 45 – 60% abv. Clairin Traditionnel is distilled just once and locally consumed at still strength without the dilution of water.