Interview with Steve Chernoff of Rhum Clement

By Paul Joseph

Many of the world’s famous luxury brands come with fascinating back-stories, but few could match the history of Caribbean rum makers Rhum Clement.

The brand was founded in 1887 by Homère Clément, the Mayor of Le Françoise, a town on the island of Martinique, and it was his determination to encourage the use of sugar cane – a key ingredient of Rhum Clement – that saved the island from financial ruin.

It is a remarkable legacy, and one that Steve Chernoff, brand representative of Rhum Clement, was keen to emphasise when sat down with him at the recent Miami Boat Show. You can see the full video interview with Mr Chernoff above.

Shari Liu: Can you start by giving us a brief history of Rhum Clement?
Steve Chernoff: Rhum Clement was founded  by Homère Clément who is pretty well known as one of the founders of Rhum Agricole [a type of rum distilled in one of the French West Indies islands]. In the 1800s Homère was the Mayor of Le Françoise, which was the major town of Martinique, and he actually saved Martinique financially by pushing the use of sugar cane being grown, and pressed fresh sugar cane juice for the purpose of making high quality rum. Before that it had been used for sugar production, and the sugar economy had collapsed as they figured out in Europe how to make sugar from beats and other resources. So he really saved the economy there and also founded the idea of making this fine product from fresh pressed sugar cane juice.

SL: What are the main markets for Rhum Clement?
SC: Well we’re working with you to get into a lot of new markets! France and Martinique are the top markets. Once you get past that, the US, Italy and Spain are also very strong markets. In the US, historically New York and California have really led the way in this category. We’ve seen great growth here in Miami, as well as Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and all different parts of the country at this point.

SL: Do you think people are becoming more sophisticated in their appreciation of fine liqueurs?
SC: I think they are and I think it goes along with changes in everyone’s lifestyle. I think we’re all more conscious about what we all put into our bodies – most of the time! – and we’re learning a little about portion control but at the same time we’re looking for quality things in what we eat and what we drink and in other experiences. And although we’re not certified organic, we are made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice. Our aged rums are aged in barrels so we are 100% natural in our products.

SL: It sounds perfect for yachting and for the beach, sand and sea?
SC: It is. It’s three ingredients – you just need some sugar, some sugar cane syrup, your beautiful bottle of Rhum Clement, and a little bit of lime. And the Rhum Agricole rums, in particular Rhum Clement, that drink really gives us the opportunity to showcase the unique flavours within the Rhum Clement products.

By Paul Joseph