Rum connoisseur interview of the week:
Rum Master from Worthy Park.
1) Who is Gordon Clarke
I am a Jamaican, born from a Jamaican Family. Although Educated in Ontario, Canada and Florida, USA including Boarding School, Undergraduate University, and a Masters Program, I returned to Jamaica to live, get married and eventually settle into the Family Business. I married my teenage sweetheart and have been married for 26 years and I have 3 children ranging from 19-21 years old all at University in Canada.
Most of my early experience was in Production and Administration. This was a mixture of 3 years with an electrical and mechanical contractor, 5 years in the Family’s Sugar Business, and 3 years at Wray and Nephew’s Blending and Bottling facility and finally in the last 12 years in building and managing the new Worthy Park Distillery. However, the last 8 years, Marketing has become an area that I had to become familiar with to advance the Rum Business.
I have been a Shareholder and Director of Worthy Park Estate Ltd for over 20 years. Also Production Manager-Sugar Factory 1993-1998, and Distillery Manager from 2004-2015, and now Co-Managing Director.
2) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
Rum was always the drink of choice for me and all my friends in our younger days. And certainly, Jamaican Rum was the most popular. I really gravitated to a career in rum because it was a natural form of diversification for the families sugar business and after a short stint at Wray and Nephew, I became convinced that my Family could do well in Rum just as we are the Best at Sugar Production in the Caribbean.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
My Great Grandfather purchased Worthy Park in 1918. Sugar has been up and down and although Worthy Park has likely been the only profitable Sugar producer in Jamaica for the past 40 years, but the Rum industry has the potential to surpass and secure the future of our Family Company. We are just 2 years away from our 100 year ownership anniversary and the plantation (patented as “Worthy Park” in 1670) is just 4 years away from our 350 year anniversary. This is a great motivator. There is a book on the History of Worthy Park which is titled, A JAMAICAN PLANTATION – HISTORY OF WORTHY PARK 1670-1970. It is available on Amazon.
5) Favorite Drink + Recipe
Gold Rum is my drink of choice, and I enjoy it neat or more often with just a splash of Soda Water.
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
The Rum Industry is growing, and the acceptance and respect for rum is also growing. Rum is no longer a “second class citizen”. As a result of this new popularity, there are many small rum brands cropping up and some of them are crossing some boundaries as far as false claims of age, content, and origin. I see that there is a push for Rum Standards in various territories to become aligned since these standards are different for different markets. Jamaica and the Caribbean is very clear and specific with their standards and in Jamaica, we take pride in our full compliance with these standards. Over the next five years, I expect to see more scrutiny of Brands and this is a good thing. The international reputation for Rum is important and we need to do what is necessary to ensure the “quality image” of rum so we secure our classification as a premium spirit.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.
I can’t say that I have specific mentors from the Rum Industry but I do have a core group of friends who are very helpful with advice of all types. I also am a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and I enjoy the readings of Robert Kiyosaki, plus other books on positive thinking such as the “Secret” aka the “Law of Attraction”
8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 month?
The next step is to introduce a “Worthy Park Estate” brand of Premium Gold Rum probably 8+ years and along with the Rum-Bar Brands, establish distribution in the US. Our international sales doubled last year but we have been spending a lot of time in a distributor selection process for the US market which needs to be settled soon. Otherwise, we expect to more than double our sales to other international markets.
9) Any final thoughts?
Worthy Park has so much aligned to be a Great Rum Company. We have the cane fields, the sugar factory, the distillery all at the same location. “Field to glass” as they say. We also have the History and Heritage which cannot be reproduced or fabricated (346 years and well documented). And finally we have the origin, being JAMAICA, world famous for many things, including Rum so I feel grateful to have this foundation behind me to build truly great Jamaican Rum Brands.