A rum deal for women: Are you a supertaster?

4 mins readFeb 24, 2020

Chris Rock laughed about it; Natalie Portman included it in her outfit, and news and blog outlets are still talking about the absence of female movie directors at 2020 Oscars. How and why are there were no female directors nominated for Oscars 2020? Doesn’t look like an answer is coming down the pipe anytime soon.

Contrast this with the alcohol industry and we’re excited to mention two expos dedicated solely to women this March. The annual Women of the Vine & Spirits Global Symposium 2020 taking place in the Napa Valley, California is sold out for the sixth straight year. Wonder Women of Wine (WWOW) in Austin, Texas has a packed schedule, with a laser focus on strategies for closing the gap in leadership. We think it’s fair to say the drinks business is outdoing showbusiness in equality and diversity.

Traditionally stats show that 50% of hospitality industry professionals are women, yet women occupy only 23% of the leadership positions. This stat has been radically and quietly changing with big alcohol brands, where women hold power positions in the C-Suite and are becoming owners in the craft space too. Looking locally, we’d like to call your attention to Caribbean rum as the spirit that embodies such changes.

Master Blending rum – where the best man for the job, might just be a woman?

Let’s kick this off by shouting out to the fact that women actually have better palates than men. Only a small percentage of the population can be called ‘supertasters’ but the ratio of women to men is much higher. Are you a “Supertaster”? Find out here or here.

Our very own Jo Austin recalls a time when Joy Spence was in Cayman, “She could pick out the grapefruit bitters we had used in Appleton Estate rum punch. From across the room at a rum tasting at our Fine Wines store!”.

Trudiann Branker, Mount Gay’s first female master blender. (Photo: Mount Gay Rum)

Mount Gay Rum is the latest of the big Caribbean (Barbados) rum distilleries to onboard a female Master Blender. Training for three years with Allen Smith who held the position at Mount Gay for over 25 years, creating blends like XO and 1703, Trudiann Branker succeeds him bringing a passionate curiosity for rum. Ms. Branker joins an elite group of first-generation female rum Master Blenders. Lorena Vasquez of Ron Zacapa, beloved for her alchemist’s approach and trailblazer Joy Spence from Appleton Estate, both have been pushing the rum agenda forward for years. Branker took over last year so now is the time to sample the fruits of her labour. We’re watching with interest as her new perspective and skills blend with the traditions of Mount Gay. She’s been vocal about her stance on innovation, such as installing new aging methods, while holding fast to Mount Gay convention.

“When I first came to work here, it was an honour to be part of something that is 300-plus years [old]. To know that you’re going to add to that lineage or legacy, and now as master blender, it is even more impressive when you think about it. It’s an honour. It really is,” said Branker.

Everyone at Mount Gay is whole-hearted about maintaining the integrity of its DNA and Branker is no exception. However, like Joy Spence in Jamaica, she understands that a woman needs to carve out her own path. Already, she’s showing us interesting new expressions that build on the Mount Gay heritage. Her first is a limited-edition rum called Pot Still, only 4,920 bottles will be sold for $170 each.

“Pot still is how we made rum over 300 years ago,” Branker says. “As a new master blender, I wanted my first expression to be a tribute to how we made rum.”

The Rumnaissance fuelled by women

Isn’t it interesting to note how the conversation around rum is changing just as women like Branker have taken over its production? Internationally renowned venues and mixologists are highlighting rum. We are seeing more premium iterations of it coming to market (A bottle of Goslings Auld Trophy for US$10,000 anyone?). Partners tell us that consumers are looking for sophisticated cocktails and sipping occasions for rum. Here at hip Cayman Islands bars, people are ditching the frozen and overly sweet tiki-type rum drinks and simply asking for rum substitutions in classic cocktails. Try a rum and tonic or an Old Fashioned with rum and you’ll see why.

We predict rum will always snap back to its simple Caribbean roots because it’s a real authentic drink. The new rumrunners are women who don’t feed fashion fads. Women in rum promote the best flavour profile and this versatile beverage does the rest. Sip it or mix it confidently with local flavours like coconut water and hibiscus (known in the Cayman Islands as sorrel) and you can’t go wrong.

A close up shot of Natalie Portman’s cape, embroidered with the names of female film directors who were not nominated for Oscars. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Try a Mount Gay Movie night

We wanted to get a bit clever and join the rum rebirth plus address the Oscars controversy in one go. Create a special new occasion for you and your friends with a Mount Gay movie night. Choose your film from the Natalie Portman cape selection below and serve with Trudiann Brankers Mount Gay Rum.

Hustlers from Lorene Scafaria; The Farewell from Lulu Wang; Little Women by Greta Gerwig; A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood by Marielle Heller; or Queen & Slim by Melina Matsoukas.