Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – 12-25-17

At least twelve people have died and double that have been hospitalized from alcohol poisoning after consuming bootleg Clairin. The first deaths occurred on the week of December 15th, with a second wave occurring among those attending the funerals for the first to die from drinking the methanol laced clairin.

Officials have not made any arrests are still investigating the source of the fake clairin. All the deaths and illnesses attributed to the fake clairin occurred near the Haitian border.

Clairin is an indigenous Haitian liquor dating back to the early 1800’s. It is a clear liquor considered the ancestral rum of Haiti made by distilling wild, natural organic sugarcane. Black slaves learned the process of distillation from the French. After the revolution that made Haiti the first Black Republic, the residents used the left-over cognac stills to create clairin. Considered a “raw” rum, this natural alcoholic beverage became a staple of Haitian life.

Now becoming popularized in the consumer economies of the United States, Canada, and Europe, Clairin could be a star of the Haitian export economy just as tequila is for Mexico. Authentic Clairin is still produced in small batches throughout the island by individuals and families, now however, large export companies are looking for mass production to meet the growing demand of the consumer economies.

The uncomplicated process of distilling clairin from wild sugar cane made it a relatively inexpensive treat for the residents of the Caribbean island nation, sharing it only across the border with their neighbors in the Dominican Republic. With all the attributes that alcohol consumers seek, natural, organic, and hints of various flavors from the distillation process, clairin is set to become the star of bars around the world.

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Homemade clairin is still made cheaply in homes throughout the island and distributed locally at a very inexpensive price in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Exported clairin is already fetching prices as high as $40 per liter in the United States as exporters slap on fancy labels to this indigenous beverage.

The incident of methanol laced clairin shows that alcohol counterfeiters will stoop to any level for a profit. Squeezing a few extra dollars out of each bottle by combining methanol with sugar syrup cuts down the time of distillation allowing the counterfeit clairin producers to make a quick profit while putting lives at risk.

Just as this popular island distillation begins to make its name around the world, there are already liquor counterfeiters ready to pounce, producing and distributing fake clairin. The tragedies of deaths and illness from fake clairin in the Dominican Republic should be a warning to the Haitian government. It must protect the integrity of this soon to be national export star. Clairin could be to Haiti what Champagne is to France, Tequila to Mexico, and Scotch to Scotland. The Haitian government must be ready to protect this export from unscrupulous liquor gangs with vigilance.

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