HOW IT'S MADE
MASTER BLENDER 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.
CEO 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.
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. Under her advisory, the company has grown tremendously.
Don’t be surprised if you find Production Manager 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.
A few months after Distillery Manager 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.