Interview with Steve Chernoff of Rhum Clement

By Paul Joseph

In 1887, a man named Homère Clément acquired the Habitation estate on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Little did he know that 125 years later, it would have grown into one of the word’s most famous and highly regarded rum brands.

The estate itself has even played host to distinguished events, including in March 1991 when President François Mitterrand and President George Bush held a summit meeting there, whilst in 1996 the house received a Historic Monument classification.

At last week’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, say down with Steve Chernoff of Rhum Clement, to discuss the brand’s history and enduring success, its ambitions for the future, and how the rum market has changed over the years.

“Homère Clément had spent quite a lot of time in France,” Mr Shernoff began. “He knew about cognac and Armagnac, and he came up with the concept of agricole rum, which is what Rhum Clement is.

“The concept behind agricole rum is that instead of producing the rum out of molasses, which is what many rums are produced from, Rhum Clement is actually produced by distilled fermented fresh sugar cane juice.

“And that’s what makes it so special, because by making the product out of the fresh sugar cane juice, you get much more flavour.”

Are Rhum Clement planning to be at any other boat show and are there any other ways they are looking to target superyacht owners?

“Well we have to look at very specific opportunities that are out there,” he said, “and we have identified that people in the yachting and the boating community are clearly the perfect customers for us.

“Many of them are aware of the product from their travels, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to get to them and show them the product and get them as new customers. We have the best rum and we just need to find the right opportunities to show them the product and then we know that we’ll have them as customers.”

Finally, we asked Mr Chernoff if he thought the tastes and the profile of rum consumers has changed over the years.

“I think like most spirit products, people are becoming more sophisticated and they’re looking for new products,” he said. “When I started in the industry many years ago, people would look for a product and that was their destination.

“I think that with alcohol beverages in general it’s more of a journey for people now. They’re not looking for the scotch or rum that they’re going to drink for the rest of their life. They’re looking for a number of different products.

"They’re looking to always find new things, and for a product about which to say ‘I like this, I’m going to drink it on this particular occasion, and I’m also going to enjoy these other things as well’. That’s why we make many different rums for many different occasions.”

By Paul Joseph