Patrick St. Surin is making Clairin the most traditional way possible: harvesting their own sugarcane or using sugarcane syrup made in-house or nearby, native yeast fermentations, and distilling in small, alembic stills, the style of which have been in use since the 1500s. In essence, these spirits express the raw, natural beauty of Haïti — terroir, if you will — in the most visceral way.
St. Surin lives in Carrefour Des Pères, a small commune about a thirty-minute drive outside of Cap-Haïtien. Here the plateau that forms much of the middle of the island gives way to plains that reach the Caribbean Sea to the north. He farms just over ten hectares of sugarcane, and has been distilling since 2012.
The fields surrounding the distillery are pieced together with the aforementioned ten hectares worth of sugarcane planted with local cane varieties like Medialande, Pete Coca, Zariete grown by Patrick. In addition to this, there are a few hectares farmed by neighbors who allow him to harvest the cane in exchange for allowing their cattle and goat to graze freely around the property. Once the cane is harvested — the months considered to produce the highest quality sugarcane are February-March and July-August — it is carted back to the distillery by donkey and immediately crushed.
The juice is then poured manually into large open-top fermenters called pièces where a small addition of sugarcane syrup is added in the local tradition. Fermentations occur naturally, usually taking 10-15 days to complete. From here, the fermented cane juice is loaded into a small pot still and is distilled twice, rested, and then bottled by hand at full proof. The result is one of the purest expressions of sugarcane that we have ever tasted.