The Global Picture
Known as the “nose” among her colleagues, Karine’s education and background in perfumery has been an asset to her role as master blender for Rhum J.M. She focuses on Rhum J.M’s aged products, where she has experimented with different French and American oaks, various char levels, and a range of timelines to create some of Rhum J.M’s iconic and award-winning blends. She believes in capturing the natural beauty of Martinique in the character of every rum, with continuous innovation as the driver to success.
Originally from southwest France, Karine first used her chemistry degree from the University of Montpellier to design the well-known aroma essence kit “Le Nez Du Whisky,” applying her specialization in perfumes and flavors to the spirits world. Shortly thereafter, she was introduced to the world of rum, and she began to consider a move to Martinique—she was up for an adventure to the place she believes produces the best rum. After serving as the Quality Manager for the Distillerie du Simon and HSE Rums for two years, Karine began at Rhum J.M as rum quality manager and protege to then cellar master, Nazaire Canatous. Before his retirement, she spent years extracting his philosophy and codifying his methodology to take over the role of Master Blender in 2018.
Karine also serves on the AOC jury for the appellation of Martinique and actively provides tasting training for employees of the Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana; she previously served on the board of CODERUM.
When she isn’t mixing distillates, she takes advantage of the Martinique lifestyle, boating to neighboring islands, making dinner with friends and family, and dancing salsa.
Rhum drink(s) of choice: Ti Punch with Rhum J.M Volcanique
A native of France, Emmanuel first came to Martinique with his now wife, and he quickly fell in love with her home island—and rhum agricole. An invaluable member of the Rhum J.M team for the past 25 years, Emmanuel now holds the illustrious title of General Manager, where he has delicately balanced increasing the production of top quality rum while maintaining the health and beauty of the property and instilling several sustainability focused processes.
Emmaunuell began at Rhum J.M at a time when the company was in flux, seeing it as an opportunity to rehabilitate an outdated distillery under new ownership. His foresight, determination, and operational skills have led the brand to becoming one of the top boutique rum producers in the world. He has weathered challenges during growth to double production as well as the inevitable ebbs and flows of the spirits market with a targeted vision for success that hasn’t wavered since day one. He simply lives and breathes all-things Rhum J.M—so much so that it’s the only rum he’ll pour in a cup to drink.
He so believes in the idea of Rhum J.M that he ensures the integrity of the brand is at the forefront of every decision he has made for the direction of the company. That includes the past decade’s work as part of the Edden Project, an ongoing sustainability initiative that combines environmental, corporate social responsibility, and research and development undertakings to set Rhum J.M up for a healthy and successful future.
When Célia Sainville first learned of the Clement family’s history in her native Martinique, she was touched. As a professional pursuing a career in communications, Célia found the family-focused story of the Rhum Clement brand to be unique. After completing a degree in marketing in Paris as well as an internship with hospitality company Accor, she jokes she was a “Clément baby,” joining the company at the young age of 23 in 2005.
As manager of Habitation Clement, Célia oversees how more than 250,000 visitors experience all-things Rhum Clement each year, from the pathway they walk along for a distillery tour to education programs stemming from research on the family’s estate. She has contributed immensely to the development and programming at Foundation Clement, which she helped launch in 2016: a modern art gallery dedicated to the works of Caribbean artists. She has collaborated with the company’s historian to pull together photographs, historical details, and information on the rum history in the Caribbean for the onsite museum and comprehensive audio guide.
Additionally, Célia oversees all special events on the property, including school trips for local children, nonprofit galas, and private social gatherings. A lover of a “big party,” her favorite event was the launch of Foundation Clement, which brought together more than 3,000 people to celebrate. Outside of Rhum Clement, she still likes to host a gathering of friends and family, alongside her husband and two children, as well as spend time at the beach and go scuba diving.
Rhum drink(s) of choice: Rhum Clement white rum with ginger ale or Ti Punch
Julian Thimon is the type of man dedicated to his craft. So when he took on a two month project at Rhum Clement in November of 2001, he sparked an interest in rhum agricole—and never left the cellar. He found the cellar to be a quiet and tranquil place, one where he could continuously learn, invent, and accomplish. Before stepping into the distinguished role of Cellar Master in 2020, he apprenticed with heralded veteran of the cellar, Robert Peronet, for almost two decades.
Julian is simply committed to making the best rum. He has a strong sense of honor to uphold the legacy of Homère Clément, deliver on the confidence instilled in him to create outstanding white rums and aged rums, and lead a passionate team. He describes the process of aging rums as “magic,” noting its root in chemistry but also the artistry of such a task. It’s one where he finds the most inspiration, as experimentation drives innovation in the distillery’s aged and non-AOC products.
Determined to be a master of rum, Julian spends his free time tasting rums with friends and using their feedback as an informal focus group for his work in the cellar. He jokes that even if he goes to a Champagne party, he’ll be drinking rum. And when he isn’t living and breathing Rhum Clement, Julian escapes with water sports including windsurfing and sailing as well as taking long runs through the parks of Martinique.
St. Lucia Distillers
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Margaret Monplaisir has spent her career inspiring Saint Lucians to believe in their local rum. After summer stints working at a beach resort on her native Saint Lucia, Margaret was recruited by the Barnard family as they began building what is now Saint Lucia Distillers under the helm of founder Laurie Barnard. She started out managing the family’s distribution company, where she oversaw the sales and distribution of bulk rum, but also gained an understanding of how to market rum to their target customers. In 1990, she took over all sales and marketing for Saint Lucia Distillers as the company began developing the brands they are now known for today, including Chairman’s Reserve and Admiral Rodney.
Groomed by Laurie Barnard to be a leader within the company, Margaret cites him as a mentor and guide that’s been integral to her success. She worked hand-in-hand with Laurie throughout the years, internalizing his vision for Saint Lucian rum and understanding its impact on a global scale. She believes the core value has always been in the production of a quality product and the creativity it takes to do that.
When Laurie passed away in 2012, Margaret was the team’s obvious choice as a successor to lead the next chapter of Saint Lucia Distillers. Her experience collaborating with Laurie as he envisioned the company’s rum brands has proved invaluable as she has navigated the company in the past decade as managing director, then chief executive officer.
Deny Duplessis is still humbled when he sees a bottle of the Chairman’s 2009 Vintage with its award-winning note on the label. The rum, his first project as master blender, won a 2021 International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) gold medal. It remains his favorite blend he’s ever made.
With the company for 12 years, Deny came up through the quality control department to rise to the position of master blender in 2018. A native of Saint Lucia, Deny is extremely honored to be developing the country’s premier product, rum. A former high school science teacher, he made a career change when he realized he wanted more experimentation in science rather than a classroom setting. With an interest in the island’s brewery and distillery operations, he resigned from his teaching job when he saw an opening for a lab technician at Saint Lucia Distillers.
Along with stints in the lab and in the quality assurance facility, Deny began shadowing former master blender Evanius Harris, forming a close bond of shared secrets about rum production. For Deny, it is about intimately understanding how to approach a blend, given variables from customer data, sales teams, marketing trends, and raw materials. He combines those learnings with his post-graduate work in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in his rum-making style today. He finds the most motivation in positive customer feedback, knowing he was responsible for their appreciation and enjoyment of a rum. What’s in the glass keeps driving him.
Deny calls the beach his “second office,” and you’ll find him there most weekends, snorkeling, joggling along the coastline, or jumping into a pickup game of cricket.
Rum drink(s) of choice: Rum Negroni or Admiral Rodney Royal Oak with lime
Don’t be surprised if you find Lennox Wilson reading a scientific study, even in his downtime. A self-proclaimed lifetime student, Lennox is Saint Lucia Distiller’s go-to man for any sort of question, especially those about the science of rum.
As the company’s production manager, he ensures that they have pride in every single bottle that rolls off the production line. He has spent his entire career in the beverage business, taking on a wide range of roles from operations to production and quality assurance. Recruited out of the University of the West End at Moana in his home country of Jamaica, Lennox first worked with the National Rums of Jamaica as a chemist and production manager running distillation and fermentation systems for more than a decade. He then took his background in biochemistry, microbiology, and applied chemistry to stints as a consultant for a distillery in Louisiana and a brewery in Jamaica.
One day while driving his son to school, he received a mysterious phone call asking him about a distillery in Saint Lucia. Though he had never been to the island, he quickly found himself on a flight south and falling in love with Saint Lucia—and the team at Saint Lucia Distillers.
Thirteen years later, he is still enthralled by the place he calls home and his role as production manager. He built the distillery’s quality assurance facility, a component of operations he deems critical to the customer experience. Beyond the distillery, or time spent reading, he finds himself enjoying the relaxed pace of life on the island, days at the beach, and, of course, a glass of rum.
Rum drink(s) of choice: Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks over ice
A few months after Ian John began his role as a lab technician at Saint Lucia Distillers, the then master blender took a vacation and Ian was given a big task: blending rum.
Ian had come to the distillery, his first full-time job, with the goal of joining the blending department, so the opportunity felt immense. He stayed late for days with his formula sheet, instructions, and blending equipment. When he did his first taste test with Laurie Barnard, Laurie exclaimed, “Young man, I think you have a career in rum.”
For the next two decades, Ian has been a key contributor to the Saint Lucia Distillers brands, including the blending team at Bounty, where he concocted his first blend. He has overseen the production of new blends, aged rum products, and the optimization of filtration and production processes. Using his thesis from his studies at Heriot-Watt University, he designed and implemented the Caribbean’s first chill filtration unit with Laurie Barnard. Ian has presented on the innovative process at conferences and summits, including for the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association. It’s now a standard practice across the Caribbean among quality rum producers.
His foresight on improvements to the distillation systems led to his roles overseeing the distillery, where he has modernized the way they ferment and distill to make the distillery more efficient. While they have increased production volumes for existing products, his work has allowed for more research and development for new products, including experimentation with still types and barrel aging.
When he isn’t at the distillery, he likes finding a quiet, isolated spot to fish, planting peppers and flowers in his garden, and grilling for hours at a barbecue for his family.
Rum drink(s) of choice: Admiral Rodney with coconut water or spiced mango juice with a splash of rum