Plantation Rum, a matter of the women!

President and CEO, quality controller or marketing and communication director: at Plantation Rum, women have been able to impose themselves in key positions. Thanks to their talent, their passion and their commitment, they have easily found their place in a world still too often described as male dominated.

Martha Miller – Jamaica, Executive Director of NRJ (National Rum of Jamaica)

How did you get to work in the rum industry? How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Martha Miller: About seven years ago, I received a phone call that changed my life. An exciting opportunity to contribute my knowledge and passion for the rum industry came up and I had to take it. I have always been open to new challenges having amassed experience across various industries like telecommunications or even insurance and I hoped I could apply what I’ve learnt to rum. This was a leap of faith towards an industry that I adore and the reason why I am here today.

Not only my personal and professional experiences have intertwined to make me the person I am today but I have learned lessons as a mother having to nurture, provide and lead my children. Similar lessons, you can definitely apply when you produce rum!

Could you explain to us your main missions and objectives of your company? Your objective for the rum category as a whole?

MM: The main objective and mission of National Rums of Jamaica Limited (NRJ) before anything else is to produce delicious rum anchored in our rum’s heritage. A position that will bring us to be recognised as the leading exporter of premium, super premium and luxurious range of rums from Jamaica. Currently, we are the leading exporters, however, my hope today is for NRJ and the Monymusk Plantation rums brand to be a household name within Jamaica and the rest of the world.

Those past few years, we experienced the revolution of whisky and single malts. Today, whiskies are seen as premium products and I would like to see the same development across the rum category as more and more super-premium and quite frankly exquisite rums are produced and shared with the rest of the world.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in our industry? How have you addressed them?

MM: The alcohol beverage industry and by extension the rum industry is seen as ‘a man’s world’. Women are often the supporting cast members and lead in areas of administration and marketing, and to a lesser extent finance.

To be appointed to the executive team and ultimately the head of a rum organization is a huge milestone for me, but also for my gender, and for that I am always grateful. I had to overcome challenges by developing my skillset and consequently my confidence for a better understanding of the rum category, so that when I offer an opinion, it comes from an informed place.

Plus, my involvement continues with institution such as the Jamaica’s spirits pool association, which gives me the opportunity to share and learn from the diverse talents and best practises of the other distilleries. I get the opportunity to develop professional relationships while they also get the opportunity to get to know me.

In the end, my hope is to see other women ascending into the highest offices within the industry, sharing their talents and skills but also creating a so-needed balance in our industry.

How did you see the changes in the Rum industry past years unfolding? What has you most excited about the future?

MM: In the past, when you thought of Jamaican rum, one main brand dominated the space. Today, we are seeing the elevation of other brands, and quite frankly, excellent brands. The world can now experience the luxury revered as niche or boutique.
These brands offer insight into the mystique of how other producers since the 17th century have been producing rums here in Jamaica causing intrigue and eye-opening experiences as the Jamaican rum category develops.

The showcasing of versatility from Jamaican rum, plus the contributions of the different distilleries from the north and south of the island is certainly for everyone quite an exciting time!

As the future progresses, I look forward to the consistent development and growth of the Monymusk Plantation and Long Pond rum brands, as well as any other singular expression that is released from those two mythical distilleries, I have the privilege to work with Long Pond and Clarendon. Premium Jamaica rums that will get their fair share of the deserved recognition.

Past the pandemic, I am also looking forward to welcoming and hosting more persons to our distilleries so that they get the opportunity to experience Jamaican rum to its fullest, expand their rum knowledge and see the extensive work and craftsmanship that goes into creating our wonderful rums.

Teri Alleyne – Barbados – Quality Controller – West Indies Rum Distillery

How did you get to work in the rum industry? How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Teri Alleyne:Funny enough, I started my career in a very similar industry – the beer brewing industry – in 2012 as a brewer, and I loved it. I can still remember the reactions of shock and awe I got each time someone asked “what do you do?” and I replied “I’m a brewer!”

As you can imagine, it wasn’t a common job for women, but instead of being offended, I actually enjoyed those reactions, and many times took the opportunity to tell people about the industry and beer brewing, as they would be so excited.

I took interest in the rum industry and initially just saw it as a new exciting frontier. Stepping into the rum industry was a very similar experience, but this time I was in for the shock and awe, as I kept peeling back the layers and layers of complexity with rum. I fell in love with rum even more, and each day I have the pleasure of learning more about it.

My life experience is one I wouldn’t change for the world. I was always passionate about a variety of different and seemingly conflicting activities – sports, the arts, learning new languages – and they have all taught me valuable qualities as a leader, that I get the chance to apply daily in my role. My role as team captain in different teams taught me grace, patience, fortitude and most of all empathy for others.

Could you explain to us your main missions and objectives of your company? Your objective for the rum category as a whole?

TA: We want the world to experience Stades and Plantation rum’s offerings while also truly experiencing the full diversity, history and artistry of Barbados rum. This goes for our distillery and Barbados rum as a whole. I’ve always found it amazing that so much beauty comes from this small island Barbados and rum is no different.

On the world stage, rum always had the potential to rise to the ranks of any other revered spirit, and based on the enthusiasm I’m seeing more and more for it, I would say that rum has done just that and is definitely a spirit force to be reckoned with. I would love for this enthusiasm and growth to continue.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in our industry? How have you addressed them?

TA: People often don’t think that women can do certain jobs. For example, they don’t expect to see women working in production areas such as the fermentation area, warehouse, climbing ladder and tanks, operating forklifts, lifting heavy bags and more, but in my career, I’ve done it all and enjoyed each experience.

Thanks to this role, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to demonstrate many of my abilities, with equal opportunity provided to men and women here. My lab team is composed of majority women, and they see me lead by example while doing a fantastic job.

How did you see the changes in the Rum industry past years unfolding? What has you most excited about the future?

TA: Rum enthusiasts and experts alike are becoming more educated and open-minded with their views on what rum truly is and what it can be. Breaking stereotypes and embracing rum as a whole.

We are seeing more equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds and I’m of course excited to see more women in the rum world and more diversity on all fronts.

Angélique Jullienne – France – Marketing and Communication Director – Maison Ferrand

How did you get to work in the rum industry? How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Angélique Jullienne: First, I am from Normandy, a French region, which has nothing to do with Rum. So, career-wise I naturally moved towards Cider and Calvados which originated from the region. Work then, led me to move to Paris to discover the spirits industry and its cocktail culture about ten years ago.

Once there, it was love at first sip. Rum conquered my heart. From cocktails bars, retailers, brand owners to distilleries, I have seen and worked at all. Those experiences shaped me and gave me a profound understanding of the ramifications in the rum industry.

This is where it led me today being the Marketing and Communication Director for Maison Ferrand, owner of Plantation Rum, Citadelle Gin, Ferrand Cognac and West Indies Rum Distillery, the main rum distillery in Barbados. Maison Ferrand and I shared similar values and passion and it became an evidence that both the company and the people involved in were kindred spirits.

I consider myself lucky to work for a company driven by the same ambition to grow the great rum category and showcase its diversity and strong heritage.

Could you explain to us your main missions and objectives of your company? Your objective for the rum category as a whole?

AJ: First and foremost, our main mission is to make delicious rums! That being said, our ethos at Ferrand, and my marketing team is to research, learn and educate about rum. We truly have a passion for knowledge and are driven by it. We love to dig deep into the technical heritage of rum to make beautiful distillate.

Our love for research is clearly fulfilled with rum, as it has a rich history, when it comes to its method of production just to use an example. More than being a great source of inspiration, with Plantation Rum, we have the possibility of demonstrating the richness of its culture and the terroir diversity making rum lovers go on a journey like they never before.

Our mission is to celebrate rum’s diversity through the recognition of the various terroirs’ inputs and beauty. My favourite part being when we meet with, the makers such as our team in Barbados, Jamaica or our partners in Fiji to have a better deep dive into the culture.

I see marketing as a vehicle to share these stories, these cultures, the history of rum with the world to reveal its old best-kept secrets just waiting to be discovered again.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in our industry? How have you addressed them?

AJ: Luckily enough, throughout my career, I had the chance to work with people that believed in me, with no regards to my gender.

Today, I am glad to be working for a company that consider cultural and gender diversity as a fundamental strength. 50% of our board members are women and leadership qualities are strongly encouraged no matter who you are. At Ferrand and West Indies Rum Distillery, this is your actions and values that matter which I believe should be the case for anything we do, business or private life included.

Finally, It is truly satisfying to see talented women rise to leadership position such as Martha Miller, CEO of NRJ or Teri Alleyne as quality controller.

How did you see the changes in the Rum industry past years unfolding? What has you most excited about the future?

AJ: Well, the category has grown for sure. When I started 10 years ago, there were definitely less “rum connoisseurs” and brands.

Those past few years have seen new market’s entrants, either from independent bottlers or local brand exporting under their own name making the market exciting!
A shift in the consumers was also noted, as they are now particularly aware and more educated about the category which can explain the boom in premiumisation.

Rum sits now at the big leagues’ table of Whisky and Cognac which gives now interesting debates with people in and out of our industry about it. This is proof of a real interest for the category and it shows that distillers and brands have been doing a huge work to elevate the category these last years.

Towards the same spirit, it is important for the future to promote more honesty and transparency strengthening the confidence consumers have given the industry.
The consumer must have access to all the information he needs in order to make an honest choice in what he is drinking. Age statement should be transparent when mentioned and provenance should be too.

Thus, doing so with Plantation Rum Rum by offering information on labels.
By being one of the first brand to actually give all the technical information on our labels, for transparency and education, we made a clear point how important it is to us. Plus, whenever people have questions and willing to know more, we happily answer them which we are also doing with another of our brand: Stades Rum.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg on actions and lessons to learn about rum. The beauty of it is that we haven’t discovered yet all what rum has to offer. The distiller’s vault dating back from 1893 that we have at the West Indies Rum Distillery still has a lot of treasures to reveal to the world, which I am certain promise a bright past/future for the rum industry!

 

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