The precious merchandise of Monsieurs Solignac and Cabarrus

Posted Jan 13, 2015

It was a warm afternoon in early June, and the threat was imminent. The colony was vulnerable to enemy invasion, both by sea and by land. The year was 1758.

A pair of store-owners, Monsieurs Solignac and Cabarrus, were in a panic. All merchants and inhabitants were ordered to remove all of their brandies, tafia (rum) and pitch – as well as any other combustibles – so they would be better sheltered from the effects of the enemies’ bombs.

They would be permitted to tie up their casks in nearby ponds or in the harbour, leaving them to float helplessly near the shore until after the attack. Anyone who refused would be subjected to corporal punishment.

The amount of alcohol in their storehouses would surely devastate the village if they were to be ignited. But the tafia, especially, was very precious to Solignac and Cabarrus. They couldn’t risk losing it.

Those casks contained rum distilled from molasses and sugarcane juice in the West Indies. It was a lucrative trading item at the time, but there was a bigger problem: it also didn’t belong to them.

As traders in the city, Solignac and Cabarrus were commissioners for private citizens. They were worried the tafia might be spoiled – or worse yet, lost entirely – if they were forced to float the casks. They knew they couldn’t let that happen.

Working quickly, the store-owners hatched a plan. They requested royal notaries at Louisbourg, Île Royale (modern-day Cape Breton Island), to rush to their storehouses on Rue Toulouse. They told them to write out a careful description of the quantities of tafia, wine, and other valuable merchandise, and make sure it included the names of each item’s proper owner. That way, if the siege took place, Solignac and Cabarrus would know exactly what was lost or spoiled.

The description from the notaries proceeded as follows:

“In their said storehouse were found: First, twenty-eight boucauds and forty-six barriques of tafia, the lot full and well ulled, belonging to the parties with interests in the ship Le Peril from Martinique.

Monsieur Solignac and Cabarrus knew it was worth protecting, and that’s how we feel today about our Fortress Rum. Sitting in barrels deep inside the Fortress of Louisbourg, it waits … patiently … for the day it will make magic.