Interview of The Week
1. Who is Donnie Wheeler ?
I’ve been behind the wood for over 2 decades, working in everything from dive joints to award winning cocktail bars.
I’ve had been preaching the gospel of good rum as an independent for a few years with a focus on Tiki, when in 2014 I was approached by the representatives for Havana Club in Canada saying they had a new position that they’d like me to apply for.
Well the rest is history and now I go coast to coast educating bar folk, the public and anyone else who’ll let me buy them a Daiquiri or two.
2. Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry.
Well I’ve been lucky enough to take close to a large amount of bar folk from across the country to Cuba the last few years.
3. What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
As for an exact date? Couldn’t tell you. I’d say somewhere in the last 10 years. I had an appreciation for the category, but it would’ve been the intense history that made me fall in love.
4. What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
As an educator it’s the misconceptions in the category that keep me fired up. Rum is in a resurgence and on the verge of a revolution.
5. Favourite Drink + Recipe
Tough Call, but my nickname Donnie Daiquiri has been well earned.
Classic Hemingway Daiquiri
60 ml (2 oz.) Havana Club 3 year
22.5 (3/4 oz.) fresh grapefruit juice.
15 ml (1/2 oz.) fresh lime juice.
7.5 ml (1/4 oz.) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
7.5 ml (1/4 oz.) simple syrup 1:1.
I like mine tart so I often omit the simple.
Shake or throw over ice. Strain into Coupe
Repeat as necessary.
6. Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
It is a great time for rum. Education opportunities are greater than ever before and the luxury boom for rum is here and getting more and more intense.
7. What do you think needs to happen to grow the premium category of rum?
Transparency and focus on quality will hopefully be the next trend in rum.
8. Which rum would you recommend a person that:
a. Sipping a premium rum for the 1st time : In the rest of the World Havana Club 7, in the US I quite like Plantation Original Dark.
b. Likes Scotch Whisky Smith and Cross
c. Likes Bourbon Pusser’s
d. Likes Gin or Vodka Havana Club Blanco/ 3 year
e. Likes Cognac Havana Club 15
9. Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you.
Well I’ve been following or have heard speak Jeff Beach Bum Berry, Martin Cate and Ian Burrell the last few years and love their passion and dedication. Otherwise its Rockey Yeh out of Seattle that I see as a role model. Although I think I keep my shirt on a lot more than he does.
10.What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 month?
Well our global bartender competition the Havana Club Grand Prix is happening in May and the next few months I’ll be scouring the country for the right rum person to represent Canada, so that’s a lot of fun and hard work.
A few more trips to Havana and Cuba are in the works, I learn something about the brand and culture every time I go. And from a global activation point of view there are some fun things in the works. (Wink wink)
11.Any last words?
Treat the rum category better, hold it and brands to the same level of respect and scrutiny we do for other premium spirt categories.
12.How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?
@havanaclubdon on most social media platforms. IG and Facebook mostly.