The next time you sit down to a rum cocktail and taste the flavors of the Caribbean, it very well may be a concoction made from rhum agricole. This type of rum has become THE rum product for the company SPIRIBAM, which specializes in the tasty Caribbean spirit. The company’s managing director, Benjamin Jones, sat down to tell Totalprestige Magazine more about SPIRIBAM and its amazing portfolio of rums.
Making rum is in Jones’ DNA, as the SPIRIBAM director comes from a long line of rum producers in the Caribbean. He has a taste for world-class rums, and his company are working to make the rums of the islands more well-known around the world. Whether the spirit comes from St. Lucia, Martinique or Guadeloupe, SPIRIBAM has enabled more people to try amazingly unique rums.
So, the next time you sit down for a daiquiri, mojito, pina colada or a simple rum and Coke, be sure it is a tasty product from Jones and SPIRIBAM.
Tell us about SPIRIBAM and which rum brands are in the company’s portfolio?
SPIRIBAM is the North American subsidiary of the makers of Martinique’s Rhum Clément & Rhum J.M, St. Lucia’s Chairman’s Reserve Rum, Bounty Rum, Admiral Rodney Rum, and the importer of Guadeloupe’s Rhum Damoiseau. With this distinguished portfolio of world-class rums, centered on heritage, legacy, innovation, and creativity, we are naturally passionate about rum and take great pride and value as America’s fine rum specialists.
As a rum expert, can you please explain what exactly is “rhum agricole”?
Rhum Agricole is natural rum produced from freshly pressed sugarcane juice, rather than molasses, which is a more commonly known style. Because Rhum Agricole was born in Martinique and is produced all over the French Caribbean, Rhum Agricole is understood to be the “French-style” of rum. Rum crafted directly from cane juice has a distinctive dry and earthy flavor. It is not sweet as many people expect when they first taste it. Because of the rigorous standards of quality and the natural terroir-driven flavor profile, the character and flavors of Rhum Agricole are unique and unmistakable in regards to other styles of rum.
You are the great-nephew of Homère Clément, the founder of the famous Rhum Clément? Where does your passion for rum come from? Also, can you tell us how your career began and what some of the highlights have been?
I admit that visiting Martinique and the family rum plantation had an effect on the passion I have for Rhum Agricole. However, it was more about the culture, my roots, and family heritage early on and less about the rum itself. The rum part is fun and the product is excellent! The fact that I had family that was a part of the development of Rhum Agricole gives me great pride and more than enough energy to take the torch and run with it. Because I had worked behind bars of some fine dining restaurants, spent some time working in production with a small craft micro-brewery, and had a stint creating, marketing, and importing Italian wine brands into the USA; these early fortuitous experiences were the perfect canvas to let my enthusiasm run wild. But great passion needs balance. It is a great privilege to have leadership and support from my colleagues and our great team. We have made progress with great patience, and the learning process is certainly connected to our development. There have been many highlights along the way, but to see Rhum Agricole become its own category of rum, recognizable next to other fine spirits, has been an accomplishment I am happy to be a part of.
What is the most recent addition to your portfolio of world-class rums?
With the acquisition of Saint Lucia Distillers, we have a whole new toybox to play with. Saint Lucian rums have their own DNA. I have always admired Chairman’s Reserve since I first tasted it when it first came to the United States over 10 years ago. With Martinique being so close to Saint Lucia, it is really exciting to create a close partnership amongst rum distilleries that share passion and expertise back and forth, while at the same time, they make really cool and very different rums. Chairman’s Reserve was re-launched in 2017 in the United States and around the world. I really love how this brand came to be, and how it showcases depth and complexities of blending rums from the variety of distilling apparatuses Saint Lucia Distillers has. The brand has been positioned as an iconic representative of Saint Lucian rum mastery, and is easily accessible to rum purists and cocktail aficionados alike.
What do you have your sights set on next?
We are always creating new ideas and programs to help educate and allow people to discover our rums. Rhum Clement is our first rum we started with in the United States and the brand is still in its infancy. We are finding new fans and enthusiasts with exclusive cask collection releases and promoting the Ti Punch, the national cocktail of Martinique, via the Ti Punch Cup cocktail competitions around the world. Rhum J.M has its own unique soul, steeped within its natural artisanal make-up and its foundations based on the pure terroir of the place. Rhum J.M. is one of the select partners of Old Fashioned Week around the world in November, and I hope this will become a great opportunity to recruit new admirers of Rhum J.M. We are also excited to share more of the great rums of Saint Lucia with the rest of the world. Next year, we will see Bounty land in the United States. This is without a doubt the most popular rum in Saint Lucia, since it was first launched in 1972, and it bears the tagline: “The Spirit of Saint Lucia”. Many Americans travel to Saint Lucia every year and become familiar with the brand. We are happy to answer their call and bring the rum to their local area, so they can enjoy Bounty at their leisure.
Scheduled for later in 2018, we will re-launch Admiral Rodney in the United States with a new positioning of the brand. The Admiral Rodney rum brand is one of the most revered and appreciated rums in the world by purists and rum connoisseurs alike. I think the rum-loving community is really going to be overjoyed with what we are planning to do, and the brand’s identity will invite new fanatics to this brand.
Working with the wonderful people, the variety and high-qualities of rum from these islands, and their respective cultures, we have been inspired to engage further into a concept coined as “spirit tourism”. We have ideas to produce professional business exhibitions, food and rum events, seminars, and professional cultural excursions to bring more attention to the unique cultures of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Lucia, which will attract more adventurous travelers who would appreciate the craftsmanship behind various rums, fine food and heritage experiences, combined with the typical features and benefits that would attract one to the Caribbean naturally. So, that’s a bit about what I have my sights set on next.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
I have a fantastic team. We brainstorm well together. Everyone wants to do their best and is motivated to share, educate and be the very best ambassadors of our rums and of the islands we represent. The most challenging part of my work is to select and to focus on the truly best ideas from the great ideas. All of our brands and all we are doing behind them is of great importance, so guarding priorities can be a challenge. We are eager to share our treasures, and create experiences and opportunities for everyone to discover our rums the best way possible.
What has been your most rewarding professional experience?
I truly hope my most rewarding professional experience is in front of me. But to see our brands and our company carve out space in an ultra-competitive and overcrowded spirit market is an ongoing experience that continues to motivate me.
How do you find inspiration?
I am inspired by the progress we make every day. I feel this progress is what would have been hoped for by the founders and their heirs behind each of the brands we are developing. Their legacies develop with us and their original visions and intentions are becoming something real. And then to witness the great reactions of people, the “aha” moment”, when they first experience Rhum Agricole or Saint Lucian rum is priceless, and this motivates me every day.
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
Absolutely! The founder of the craft brewery I worked for had an impeccable attention for detail. He understood the cornerstones of what it was to be a trusted purveyor to his trade partners and to consumers. My supervisor today is also a great supporting influence. I don’t know if I have ever said this to him directly, but I feel as if we have a magical partnership between people who dream with their heads in the clouds and people with their feet on the ground. It has created the progress we have made together over the years.
How is a day in your life?
There truly is no routine day in my life. I try to get out as much as possible and to be accessible to my team, our trade partners, creating new opportunities to engage our markets, and socializing with the fanatics of our brand.
What makes you smile?
Achieving a certain balance always generates a smile out of me. Creating moments when we can make it happen and enjoy it with others can make me smile without even knowing that I am smiling.
What scares you?
I like to challenge myself every day, but I check myself against failure. I can’t be afraid to make mistakes, because I wish to continue to experience new things and be better. However, I am scared, as anyone could be, to fail for those around me that I care for the most.
What is your greatest achievement?
I have to say my family makes me very proud. I was an only child growing up and was very independent. I am fortunate to have a strong wife who is well-grounded and gives me necessary balance. Together, we have two amazing kids who are happy and healthy, and are enjoying a fantastic childhood. This is my proudest achievement.
What is your secret talent?
I am not super modest about my talents, so to find a secret one is a challenge. Those who know me well enough, know that I can cook like a two or three-star chef. It gives me great pleasure, and I always enjoy recreating or putting my own twist to a dish that has been served to me from a well-respected restaurant.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Ben Franklin was a genius in many ways. He is known most for his leadership in science, literature, politics, invention, and at the same time, possessed great people skills and leadership. He had principals and worked to change the things he deemed important. He changed the world. Ernest Hemingway is a man I respect the hell out of. He was smart, the bon vivant of his century, left his mark on society, and seemed to have fun along the way. I never can come to understand the way he left this world, but I admire the art he left this world and the way he lived his life.
I really enjoy being outside and enjoying the world. I like to stay at least fit enough to kick a soccer ball around, run in a pickup hoops game, enjoy the ocean, get up and down a mountain on a bike or on skies, and it is always the most fun when my kids are doing it too.
What are you never without?
I hate to say I am addicted to my phone. That is probably a typical answer. I am way too connected, but for now it has to work for me.
Can you tell me two of your favorite quotes?
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” — Henry David Thoreau
“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” — Billie Jean King
How do you define success?
Optimism is a quality more associated with success and happiness than any other. Being able to dream and then accomplishing the dream, makes it all worth it. That satisfaction is how I define success.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.
Is there anything else you would d like to add?
Yes, if anyone out there enjoys rum, wants to learn more about rum, and loves the Caribbean way of life, read my blog at www.thesugarcanepress.com and learn more about our brands www.spiribam.com, Instagram is SPIRIBAM, and follow me on twitter @benmelinjones.
To learn more about the fantastic Caribbean rums Benjamin Jones spoke about in our interview, please go to www.spiribam.com for more.