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The Most Interesting People in Rum

Who are the most interesting people in the rum industry? It’s not an easy question to answer, of course. At Rum Journal, our chief mission is to raise the level of conversation about rum to the way people around the world treat fine wine or other spirits. And so to answer this question, we focused on one primary definition of interesting: that is, who are the people who are helping to showcase the beauty, romance and wonder of rum — and doing their part to raise the global interest level in the Caribbean’s signature spirit? These are our picks for the inaugural Most Interesting People in Rum list.

Lorena Vasquez

Vasquez is the master blender of the now world-famous Ron Zacapa, a rum which has done as much as any to help raise the profile and esteem of rum around the world. Indeed, when many mention top-shelf rum, Zacapa is the first they name — and Vasquez’s blending talent is a big reason for that.

Ed Hamilton

We call him the Caribbean’s Rum Minister. That’s because of the overwhelming success of his Ministry of Rum website, which was the first great website about rum (and remains so). Traveling the Caribbean (with a special emphasis on the rhums agricoles of the French Caribbean), Hamilton remains an inspiration, embodying the spirit of adventure that’s inside of every glass of rum.

Facundo L Bacardi

Yes, Bacardi is the world’s largest rum brand, and it recently celebrated its 152nd birthday. But Facundo L Bacardi, the great-great grandson of Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, has quietly been doing some rather innovative things with the rum giant as the Chairman of the Board of Bacardi Limited, most notably spearheading the Facundo collection, a spectacular set of limited edition rums, one of which took home Rum Journal’s Rum of the Year for 2013. And it’s just the beginning.

Joy Spence

Appleton is another rum brand that has managed to develop a worldwide following, and Jamaica’s Joy Spence is the master blender behind the Jamaican brand’s success. And following the 2012 purchase of the company by Italian spirits giant Campari, Spence’s influence will likely continue to grow.

Enrique Iglesias

Yes, Enrique Iglesias. You may not be aware of it, but the Spanish singer is now a major player in the rum world, thanks to his investment stake in the Dominican Republic’s Ron Atlantico. If you see celebrities doing Atlantico shots in Page Six, it’s in large part due to the work of Iglesias and the Atlantico team (and the Atlantico hats he frequently wears onstage).

Robert Burr

If the rum industry has an ambassador, it might be Rob Burr, who runs the wildly popular Miami Rum Festival and is among the more influential rum critics in the world. Burr’s passion for rum knows no bounds, and if he has his way, rum will soon have a major boom.

Allen Smith

Smith is the blender behind the world-famous Mount Gay Rum, which itself has been undergoing a bit of a shift thanks to the recent debut of Mount Gay Black Barrel. The new variety is something of a new path for the centuries-old brand, and Smith’s expert blending is going a long way toward taking the “rum that invented rum” to the next level.

Kentish Shillingford

On a beautiful old estate in Dominica, Kentish Shillingford is working to turn the Shillingford Estate, one of the region’s older distilleries, into a modern company and a rum tourism destination. He’s managed to retain the charm of one of the unique visiting experiences anywhere in the region.

Claudine Neisson-Vernant

Her business card says “rum grower,” but it’s a bit of an understatement. Claudine Neisson-Vernant is the matriarch of the Neisson rum family, helming Martinique’s premier boutique distillery, which has been quietly developing a following in the United States. She’s also the current president of the AOC, the official appellation of origin for Martinican rum.

Ian Burrell

When it comes to rum in the United Kingdom, Ian Burrell takes the cake. He’s known as a “Global Rum Ambassador,” and the London resident is on a one-man mission to spread the gospel of rum around the world. (He also owns Cottons Camden, one of the best rum bars anywhere).

Ben Jones

Rhum Agricole remains a bit of a mystery in the United States, but Ben Jones is trying to change that — and succeeding. A fourth-generation member of the Clement rum family, Jones has spearheaded the brand’s entry into the US (along with fellow Martinique spirit Rhum JM and, more recently, Guadeloupe’s Rhum Damoiseau).

Kendie Williams

Kendie Williams is the master mixologist at the Four Seasons Resort on the island of Nevis, and is quickly developing a reputation as one of the finest in the Caribbean, including a victory at the Angostura Mixmaster competition two consecutive years. She’s also heading up the mixology at the recently-debuted 101 Rums bar at the resort, perhaps the most exciting rum bar launch in the Caribbean this year.

Bailey Pryor

Pryor’s entry into the world of rum began with the production of a documentary about the life of prohibition-era rum runner Bill McCoy. It ended with a foray into the world of rum production. Now, Pryor’s Real McCoy Rum is a boutique rum brand produced in Barbados.

Bahama Bob Leonard

Key West, Fla. has a long history with rum (thanks in part due to Ernest Hemingway’s long residency). And holding the torch is Bahama Bob Leonard, who runs the Rum Bar at the Rum Bar in Key West, one of Rum Journal’s World’s Best Rum Bars for 2014.

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