Rum connoisseur interview of the week:
Co-Founder Rhum Fest Paris, Rhum Fest Marseille, Old-Fashioned Week, and Rumporter magazine. Ambassador, speaker, and lover of Rhum/Rum.
1) Who is Cyrille HUGON?
I am the co-founder of both Rhum Fest Paris and Marseille AND Rumporter magazine. I started my rum career as the marketing man of Dugas, which is probably the most important rum importer in France.
In 2000 we had the idea of developing the rum we offered, which was quasi-nonexistent here. France has the chance of having a huge network of cellar-masters in up to 4000 independent shops (or as part of chains like Nicolas) that sell wine & spirits, who are very curious by nature and always looking for novelties. This allowed us to import 40 different brands of rums that represent a wide variety of origins in only 10 years. By 2011, having been investigating new brands at Ian Burrell’s Rum Fest every year (for 5 years), and having always enjoyed it, I realized that I really knew a lot of people in the rum business. So, I said to myself why not launch my own festival. The first one occurred in 2012 and the Rumporter magazine quickly followed.
2) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
3) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
Something I am really proud of I just can’t tell but Rumporter magazine is our biggest pride these days. We had no money when we started only a shared passion with Alexandre and Anne my associates and we now are gathering many other passionate people on the team and are opening Spanish and English sections that allow us (I checked yesterday) to reach readers from 171 countries!! 171, can you imagine that? If you think about the history of discoveries in the world, it is more than Angostura bitters; in only 3 years. I love this magazine.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
Everything that I said above.
5) Favorite Rum Drink?
As Ian Burell would say, “the next one”.
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
I have been answering this same question for 5 years now. I think it will continue on as it is now: booming, improving, constantly changing, innovating and opening new routes. I love the reappearance of rum production in the US as it existed in the 18th century before Whisky took over; I love to see distilleries appearing in Thailand; I am impassioned by the evolution of Mauritius rum; I am astonished by the Renaissance of Martinique and Guadeloupe rums in islands where almost everything disappeared in 50 years (hundreds of distillery closed there between 1960 and now, the sugar cane was largely replaced by bananas in vast areas and now they are talking about replacing banana fields with sugarcane now!); Australia is jumping into the rum game as well; you have new rum countries appearing like Cihuatan from El Salvador. What will become of Cachaça? Will Havana Club finally make it to the American market? Will Cuba pay its debts with rum? etc, etc, etc . . .. It is a whole world, never ending, and always changing; Love it.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.
Ian of course for the inspiration through his festival and his humility. Rum is fun he says and he proves. The guy is opened not willing to keep things for himself as many people do believe they have invented the world.
Stephen Martin is probably one of the most cultivated bartenders that exist’s, he is a gold mine whose cocktails are each a perfect match of the intended history and taste. He is not renowned enough outside of France I think. I happen to know lots of fascinating bartenders but Stephen is just the top of the top; though he is not politically correct.
Alexandre Vingtier, the editor in chief and co-Founder of Rumporter, is data farm. His knowledge is hard to challenge whether it is whisky, rum, tequila, cognac or whatever, oh, and he is only 30 years old. That is impressive and challenging, you have to do your homework when you deal with a guy like that.
Anne Gisselbrecht our associate at Rumporter is the soul supplement of the magazine what makes us different from all other business or just tasting orientated magazines: she loves photos, art, literature and history and she brings all of this to the magazine giving it the ‘je ne sais quoi’ or ‘X-factor’ that makes the difference. She is constantly pushing hard towards perfection. Never rest!
8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 months?
Rum porter is going to grow in 2017 with more editions in French. Developing the Spanish and English sections. For the Spanish language, we have found our team with Elvira Aldaz and Emiliano Fernandez-Peña. For the English development, I am working on Peter Holland to try to convince him to be the man.
RhumFest: we are going to hold 2 rhum Festivals in France in 2017: Paris (April) and Marseille (November)
Old FashionedWeek: I am working on this global event with Michael Landart, who is a famous French bartender known for his passion for sugar cane spirits. We launched it in France in 2015, it became European in 2016, but in 2017 we plan to launch it globally targeting Americas and Asia on top of parts of Europe we still have to conquer (Germany at last). Once again it is incredible what passion can achieve. We work with ambassadors in the most important countries with guys like Peter Holland for the UK, Pablo Mosquera for Spain and Marco Graziano in Italy, they are opening doors easily as the rum mafia / the fun mafia. Currently, I am chasing new ambassadors (we have Asia and Latin America, but still need North America) and discussing with global sponsors. I will make sure we make it happen, as money is not our goal nor our engine, it is st the fuel to feed the adventures!
9) Any final thoughts?
Happy new year.