Cyrille Hugon: How long have you been working for J.M?
Emmanuel Becheau : I began my professional career at Héritiers Crassous de Médeuil in July 1997 where I worked as the Commercial Director until 2002 (when the company was taken over by GBH, the Groupe Brenard Hayot). Following the takeover, I was quickly put in charge of aging. So from 2002 to 2012, I worked as the Director of Production for Héritiers H. Clément whilst maintaining a weekly presence at the Fonds-Préville site, working on the production and aging of the rhums. Since 2012, I have worked solely at the Fonds-Préville distillery, overseeing the rhums produced and aged there.
CH: J.M is often presented as a special case in the world of rum. How can you explain this particularity? Is there a predominant cause?
EB : J.M is often seen as an enigma, a special case. If I responded to your question, the myth would collapse like a house of cards… Do I really want that? It is true that J.M enjoys an a special relationship with our consumers, a relationship that has been carefully cultivated over centuries. This binding link is also a natural link, with nothing artificial about it. Every day, new visitors give us the pleasure of coming to discover our site, our distillery and our products. Seeing them leave the site, I have the feeling that we have achieved our goal of offering a place and products of the highest quality. I complete this work each day with the support of my small team, six collaborators whose whole career has taken place on our site and whose passion is of the highest level every day. I’m not really replying to your question, I know, but nothing would be possible without a bit of passion.
CH: J.M is also presented as one of, if not the, most well-preserved and authentic of the distilleries in Martinique. A few years ago, the takeover by the Groupe Hayot caused some fear amongst the distillery’s fans. What was that about?
EB : I don’t understand this concern. Do you think it would be possible to move a site like that elsewhere in Martinique? No, there’s no way. The Fonds-Préville distillery is the oldest site that is still active in Martinique. In 1790, this site produced rhum. Certainly not rhum of the quality we produce today, but it produced rhum all the same. This site has survived two centuries. Let’s not forget that at the beginning of the 20th century, the island housed three hundred distilleries and that today only seven remain. So do you think we would sign up to having it destroyed? No, that’s not in the cards, but rather we will continue to develop the site to ensure a high level of quality in all areas.
CH: Now that rhum agricole finds itself in the limelight, especially in the USA, what future do you envisage for J.M?
EB : Our development will move on to export. Today the market in mainland France is limited to the rhums of their overseas territories and we export 100% of this. Our possibilities for development of this market are therefore limited, even if you think that aged rhums will gradually supplant white rums. In terms of export, it’s a real obstacle course. Let’s not forget that rhum agricole represents 2% of global rum production and that J.M only represents 2% of rhum agricole production. We therefore don’t really exist on Planet Rum. We just occupy a small niche and we are quite rightly trying to enjoy this little space…humbly. Development is being constructed one day at a time.
CH: Do you intend to follow the same path as HSE by multiplying expressions for example?
EB : It’s funny; we only talk about rhums by their initials: HSE and J.M. That was my neat little way of avoiding the subject of those HSE troublemakers! Research and innovation are elements that are extremely present in Martinique. The examples from the last six years speak for themselves. So I’m going to keep my little secrets to myself and keep you in suspense for a little while longer. What is certain is that the rivalry between us is a great way of giving everyone a boost…
CH: And to finish off, can you sum up J.M in 5 words?
EB :Passion, authenticity, quality, uniqueness and timelessness.