Rum & Sustainability – Raphael Grisoni: “Barbados is an island where fresh water is scarce and precious.”

Raphael Grisoni, originally from Marseille, is the Managing Director of Mount Gay in Barbados. A fact which is often overlooked is that, although the Rémy Cointreau Group bought the Mount Gay brand in 1989, it only took over the distillery in 2014. Since then, Raphael has been driving the reformation of both Mount Gay’s product range and its production. It is a huge undertaking, and exciting to say the least.

 

Rumporter: Raphael, can you summarize in a few points what Mount Gay has put, and is putting in place, both upstream (agriculture) and downstream (waste treatment)?

Raphael Grisoni:  Sustainable development at Mount Gay is based around the distillery’s three main traditional axes: renewable energy autonomy (our solar panels produce more than 500 MWh and a wind turbine system is under review), water conservation (see below) and effluent treatment. However, we want to go further and concentrate more particularly on agriculture and biodiversity.

Rumporter: Like many other Caribbean distilleries, you import molasses, have you put in place “sustainable development” specifications to monitor your imports? If yes, what?

RG: We have our own sugar cane fields and Barbados is fortunate enough to have a mill left. For sugar cane grown on our estate, we always make sure to use the mill last to ensure that the resulting molasses do indeed come from our plantations. For molasses bought outside of Barbados, we prefer certified “ProTerra” suppliers, which are guaranteed to be environmentally friendly, and not to contain any GMOs.

“All this work is undertaken in collaboration with Dr Emmanule Bourguignon.”

We’re gearing up to become 100% “ProTerra” in 2021/22. We have begun upstream work on the soil quality of our plantations in Barbados (Mount Gay and Oxford), with a reduction in chemical fertilizers through the use of organic fertilizers, soil enrichment through the application of our vinasses (agricultural waste from distillation), which we also make available to other farmers who therefore reduce the quantity of fertilizer that they purchase.

Mount Gay cane field
Sugar Cane in Barbados. Courtesy Mount Gay

We are currently selecting new varieties of sugar cane according to soil quality, which we grow in greenhouses after a hot water treatment to avoid diseases. All this work is carried out by our Agricultural Manager, Jackie Broome, in collaboration with Dr Emmanuel Bourguignon, a recognized soil specialist.

Rumporter: We’ve heard about some work on biodiversity and preservation (or even soil enrichment); without spilling any secrets, can you give us an idea of what’s involved?

RG:  We’ve been working on biodiversity for a few years already. The particularity of Mount Gay is that we involve all the staff in this approach, as well as the neighbouring area (Mount Gay Village), the plantations and the island’s agricultural high school students, with whom we have a close cooperation.

We plant trees on the plantation and at the distillery every year, such as mahogany, but also fruit trees to add more flowers for our growing park of beehives (12 to date). So the staff at Mount Gay have also been trained to monitor the health of bees and to harvest the honey… We also grow fruits and vegetables (watermelons, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.) that we sell to our staff at cost.

Barbados is an island where fresh water is scarce and precious. Although we are lucky to have our own well that supplies water to the distillery, we use it sparingly. All the water that we use is recycled as quickly as possible, and we collect rainwater through ponds that can hold up to 13 million litres.

 

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