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, Velier owner, 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 player in the Rum world, contributing to the revolutionary introduction of rum into the collectors’ market and its positioning on an equal footing with the finest single malt whiskies.
“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 whisky, launched rumauctioneer.com – 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.