Interview with Micheal Delevante – A legend behind Wray & Nephews & McGuinness Distillers
A legend behind Wray & Nephews & McGuinness Distillers
1) Who is Michael Delevante?
Michael was born and educated in Jamaica. He attended university in Hoboken, New Jersey and joined the firm of Wray & Nephew in 1963 as Supervisor of distilleries and later Manager of their wine and liqueur operation. He left Jamaica in 1977 to join McGuinness Distillers in Toronto but his association with W&N (Appleton Rums) continued since McGuinness was appointed contract bottler of Appleton rums in the same year.
During his tenure in McGuinness he was a member of The Technical Committee of the Association of Canadian Distillers, probably one of the most rewarding experiences, both socially and technically, in his working life.
His position in McGuinness was Technical Director when Corby Distillers purchased and closed the company in 1990. He then returned to Jamaica and assumed the position of Production Manager of Wray and Nephew. This lasted for 2 years when he decided, for personal reasons, to return to Canada and start his own consulting business.
His principal client was Wray and Nephew with responsibility for running their Canadian Operation as President and their contract bottling operations in Mexico, New Zealand, the USA, England and Canada. His role as the Appleton rum ambassador earned him the title of the “Rum Doctor”.
His working career was never dull in the two companies. McGuinness Distillers was, over the 13 years owned by Standard Brands, Nabisco Brands, Reynolds-Nabisco, IDV and finally Corby Distillers.
Wray and Nephew was acquired by the holding company of Angostura in Trinidad and finally by Campari in 2013. His tenure with Campari ended in 2015 when Wray and Nephew Canada ceased to be a legal entity in Canada. During his 21 years as a consultant he was involved in projects in India, Trinidad, Belize, El Salvador, Israel, the USA, Mexico, St. Lucia, New Zealand and Australia.
Michael’s passion is his family, especially Barbara who has been very patient over many years in listening to his frustrations with various aspects of his job. He is fascinated by the antics of his four grandsons and hopes that at least one of them will take an interest in his rather large collection of technical material related to the distilling industry. His other interest is writing, this is his third publication, designing houses, (some were actually constructed including his own home when he lived in Jamaica) and photography. His athleticism is confined to golf, which has also been one of his major frustrations.
I have worked in the spirits industry for 53 years, the first 13 years at Wray & Nephew in Jamaica, then 13 years in Toronto at the 4th largest distillery in Canada, which no longer exists, then 2 years back at W&N then 25 years in consulting, mostly for W&N.
3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
I was offered a job at Appleton Distillery after graduation in 1963 and was fascinated by the distilling industry and of course rum even though Appleton also produced vodka and gin.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
In 1977 I joined McGuiness distillers in Toronto which at the time was co-packing Appleton as well as manufacturing gin, vodka, Canadian whisky and liqueurs. It was sold in 1990 when I was the Technical Director.
5) Favorite Rum Drink + Recipe?
I do not have a favorite drink but I do develop products and my favorite is a citrus liqueur with a rum base. If I do have a favorite it would be a white rum and coke.
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
The rum industry has grown because of the acceptance of rum as a sophisticated product with a versatile appeal and it still is the only spirit which comes in 3 colors and a myriad of tastes. Spiced rums almost dominate but this may be due to the general public not really liking the taste of alcohol hence the success of vodka, flavored spirits (spiced rums) and cocktails.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you.
I have had many mentors, some have passed. John Chambers taught me about distillation and introduced me to the science of continuous distillation. Emerson Mascoll was my boss in Canada, he gave me the opportunity to try new things at McGuinness, he was also a great manager. Bernard Latibeaudire was my first boss in Jamaica, he also gave me the opportunity to do my own thing and he was instrumental in appoint me as President of the Wray & Nephew operation in Canada. There are about 37 more mentors listed in my book.
8) What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?
9) Any last words?
I am not ready for last words, that sounds too final.
I do not have a website, I am not on social media and I am happy to be relatively anonymous.