The Magnum Series, a meeting of masters

15 aprile 2022

Introducing a new Velier project combining the art of distillation with the art of photography.

The basic idea is as simple as it is brilliant: the greatest masters of rum meet the greatest masters of photography for a project that will bring out the exceptional talent of both.

The story began when Luca Gargano, president of Velier, rum discoverer, traveler and photographer, theorized a rum classification that now bears his name and that revolutionized the approach to rum. The Gargano Classification places the focus not just on distillation but also on tropical ageing, thus ensuring greater transparency for consumers. In this regard, a key role was played by the first cask strength bottlings in history like Damoiseau 1980 60.3% and the co-bottlings with distilleries the caliber of Foursquare, Worthy Park, Hampden and Neisson. His tireless work and continuous research and exploration led Luca's Velier to become the global go-to player in the world of rum, his bottlings contributing to the revolutionary introduction of rum into the collectors’ market and its positioning on an equal footing with the finest single malt whiskeys.

“We can identify a real shift in the perception of rum in August 2019," says Luca. “After holding a rum-only auction in May, Whisky Auctioneer, the world's best-known platform for buying and selling whiskey, launched – the first online auction website exclusively dedicated to rum. The November 2020 auction made it clear how Velier's co-bottlings brought rum on a par with single malts - out of the first 100 lots, 73 were Velier rum.”

“I wanted to create valuable bottlings that could be auctioned like the greatest single malts or works of art,” continues Luca. “Four great rums produced by four great Master Distillers, selected by me, with an extra touch. I got the idea of adding artistic labels as I am also a photography enthusiast, and I thought that impactful images could complement my rums in a perfect and elegant way. When it came to the ‘how’ and the ‘who’, I immediately thought of the world's best photography agency, which also allowed me to make a pun between their name and magnum bottles.”

Magnum Photos is a legendary agency representing the world's most talented photographers. Like Velier, Magnum was founded in 1947 by prominent figures like Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. The name of the agency partly derives from the fact that during their periodical meetings at the MOMA's restaurant in New York the founders had a habit of drinking bottles of French wine; the other reason was that a Latin name clearly conveyed strength and greatness.

What makes Magnum unique is that every picture taken by each of the agency’s sixty current member professionals remains the property of the photographer and not of the magazine where it's published. This allows the photographers to freely choose their own subjects and themes, giving their production a more personal style completely free from constraints. Its photographers' independence and fresh look on the world is what enabled Magnum to make a name for itself in the world of photography. The 2021 release is meant as the first of a series, with future releases comprising different rums selected from other distilleries with photographs from other Magnum artists on the labels. The rums selected for this release are from three of the oldest distilleries in Jamaica, Martinique and Barbados - namely Hampden since 1753, Saint James since 1889, Mount Gay since 1703, and Foursquare, the most award-winning distillery in Barbados.

Four unpublished photographs by Elliott Erwitt, a true master in the art of photography, have been selected for this release. Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan, then moved to the United States in 1939. His interest in photography developed very early on and was fueled by frequent trips to France and Italy. In 1953, Erwitt joined the Magnum agency, holding the office of president for three years and working as a freelancer for some of the most iconic magazines of the golden age of illustrated periodicals like Collier's, Look, LIFE, Holiday and many others. His elegant black and white shots are unmistakable and carry a touch of satirical humor combined with a great sense of humanity so dear to Magnum's authentic spirit.

The result of this meeting of masters is an all-around work of art both in content and label.

FOURSQUARE 2005 – The Foursquare distillery, Barbados, has become a legend over the last few years for the quality of its products and the prestige of its limited editions. The co-bottlings produced with Velier have become the most sought-after among collectors and have recently opened up to unprecedented experiments. This 100% pot still pure single blended rum is one of the longest-aged ever produced by Foursquare and is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Distilled in 2005, it was bottled in 2021 after 16 years of tropical aging. Elegant and well-balanced.

The photograph on the label is from 1970 and depicts the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.

mountgay12.jpgMOUNT GAY 2007 – A historical and cultural landmark in Barbados, the Mount Gay distillery is evolving towards producing discontinuous still rum only, influencing the global industry and increasingly drawing from the island's ancient rum tradition.

This 100% pot still pure single rum is part of the stock bought by Frank Ward and still distilled by his family before sale. After a triple distillation in double retort pot stills in 2007, it was aged in a tropical climate in American white oak casks for 14 years. Well-rounded and complex.

The photograph on the label is from 1999 and depicts the Californian seaside resort of Pacific Palisades.

HAMPDEN HLCF Hampden Estate is an iconic distillery in the Trelawny area in northern Jamaica, where rum is still produced using ancient techniques, ingredients that are unique to the Caribbean, wild fermentation – the best expression of the land – and distillation in characteristic double retort pot stills. For this reason, Hampden Estate is increasingly the heart of Jamaican rum tradition and identity. This 100% pot still pure single rum has been aged in ex-bourbon casks. Distilled in 2016, it was bottled in 2021 after 5 years of tropical aging. The nose is rich, with exotic notes that evolve over time into camphor and medicinal fragrances. Exuberant and rich in esters.
The photograph on the label is from 1954 and portrays Coney Island, New York.

SAINT JAMES 2006 – Saint James Distillery is the leading historical agricultural rum brand in Martinique for size and name as well as for its iconic square bottle, designed for the American market at a time when rum was still only traded locally. After 257 years of history, this Martiniquan AOC is Saint James's first independent bottling and an absolute first. Distilled in creole column stills, it consists of a blend of 2004 and 2006 rums. Great character and balance.

The photograph on the label is from 2005 and depicts a scene from the wedding of a friend of Erwitt's in Rome. The woman shown in silhouette is the bride.