Rum Connoisseur interview of the week: BRANDON LIEB Co-Founder Atlantico Rum, rum educator and an enthusiastic lover of rum!

Rum Connoisseur interview of the week:

Aleco Azqueta & Brandon Lieb

Co-Founder Atlantico Rum, rum educator and an enthusiastic lover of rum!

1) Who is Brandon Lieb?

I am the co-founder of Atlantico Rum which in an award winning the line of rums made in the Dominican Republic. Prior to starting Atlantico, I managed various spirits brands including Grey Goose Vodka, Cazadores Tequila, Disaronno Amaretto, and Bacardi Rum so I have been in this crazy/fun industry for a while.  I also happen to be a proud cheesehead (from Green Bay, WI), terrible surfer and a lover of the beautiful game (soccer). I currently live in Los Angeles where I spend the majority of time visiting the city’s great cocktail bars, speaking about the rum category and chasing after my 1-year-old son.

2) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

My first trip to the Dominican Republic. There I was able to see first-hand the important role that both sugarcane and rum play for the community. On that trip, I met with cane growers, rum producers, and locals who all shared their passion (and more than a few cocktails) for the category with me. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I came away from that trip with a far greater appreciation for the category and the people behind it.

3) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.

Launching and growing Atlantico. My business partner, Aleco Azqueta, and I started the company in 2008 with the sole purpose of trying to bring more people into the rum category. We felt that rum was under appreciated. Our view is that that there are so many wonderful and different styles and brands of rum but the variety can be intimidating to someone who is relatively unfamiliar with the category. Our goal has always been to create delicious rums that are welcoming/appealing to both rum connoisseurs and newbies to the category.

4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?

There are several reasons why I want to continue in the industry including the fact that rum still hasn’t gotten the respect that it deserves. However, if I were to pick one reason above all else, it is the cast of characters in this industry. I have worked in different businesses and across different categories in spirits and I can say without hesitation that rum attracts the most colorful group of people around. Life is too short to not have fun…and it’s really hard not to have fun with the people that make up the rum industry.

5) Favorite Drink + Recipe

That is a difficult one to answer as it always changes.
My go to drink is Atlantico Gran Reserva neat but I also think well-made daiquiri is about as good as it gets. That said, I am a really big fan of very simple cocktails that anyone can make at home. Right now I am drinking an Atlantico Reserva with pineapple juice and a dash of bitters. Simple and delicious.

6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

Honestly, I am a bit concerned about the industry right now. I see a lot of disagreement from within the category and I don’t know if it is all positive. I am heavily in favor of healthy debate and I do think there needs to be far more transparency in the category but I also think that we should be focusing our efforts on growing the category. If rum as a whole does well, we will all benefit (just look at Bourbon). That said, I am far more optimistic about the long term as more and more people are gaining a greater appreciation for rum.

7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.

Without a doubt, Fernando Santibanez who is the former master distiller for Cazadores tequila and one of the nicest guys around.  When I was brand new to the industry Fernando took me under his wing and taught me all about what goes into producing fine spirits.  While tequila is certainly different from rum, a lot of the same principles apply and the knowledge he passed on to me is something I will never forget.

I also draw inspiration from people who take chances and chase their dreams.  For example. when we first started Atlantico I spent many nights visiting with Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi who were bartenders at local Miami spots at the time.  Back then they talked to me about their dream of opening their own bars and a consulting company.  To see them achieve so much success with the Broken Shaker venues and Bar Lab is incredibly inspiring.

8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 month?

  1.  Introduce our new packaging which coincides with the release of our new production.  We have spent the past several years working at developing rums that are truly farm to bottle.  We are now sourcing our sugarcane from local farmers who are using a specific strain of sugarcane developed by my partner’s family, who are sugar producers in the Dominican Republic.  We know exactly where, when, how the cane was grown and harvested which is pretty unique in rum.  We are also using a different distillery, aging and blending facility which we are really excited about.
  2. Strengthen our involvement MIR Charities The La Romana community of the DR is the home of Atlantico and has been very good to us.  We want to continue to support the community through MIR who does amazing things for people of La Romana.
  3. Release a limited edition of Atlantico.  Aleco and I have been having a lot of fun experimenting and I think we have come across something that we want to share.  It will be in very limited quantities but will hopefully be available by the end of the year.  Stay tuned!
  4. Go to a new country.  Although not rum related, I make sure that I see at least two new countries every year.  I went to Denmark for the first time in May which was great…but I need 1 more before 2017 comes to a close.

9) Any final thoughts?

We have so many interesting and fun things happening with Atlantico:  new production, new packaging, and potentially a new limited release all in the next 6 months.  We are thrilled with the results and can’t wait to share them with everyone.  Thank you for your time and keep spreading the Rum love!

10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?
Insta:  AtlanticoRum

Author: Jose Hoffmann

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