Rum Connoisseur interview of the week:
Liquor store owner, festival organizer, advocate, connoisseur,
and lover of wonderful rum!
1) Who is Richard Blesgraaf?
Born in Haarlem, the Netherlands on the 27th of March 1966 and yes, a real Aries! Married to my love, Esther Blesgraaf since 1995, had two beautiful daughters with her, Lisa (1j8) & Demi (15). Worked for many years in sales and that’s the only thing I can do. I love it.
I played lead soprano trumpet in a Drum & Bugle Corps, I enjoy reading, traveling, and exploring the world. And I love to cook and BBQ.
Since 2005 we have owned and run our own liquor and wine store Slijterij & Wijnhuis Zeewijck.
2) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
I love the Caribbean way of life and love cocktails especially when they are made with rum. Many years ago when I was 16 years old I started with making cocktails at home for friends and parties. Don’t laugh but Pina Colada is still my favorite cocktail. RUM for me means more than a great spirit. RUM means happiness, diversity, sun, taste, easy living, laughter, enjoy life, friends, beach, BBQ etc.
Back in 2005 my wife Esther and I started our own shop specialized in whisky, rum, and more spirits. We wanted to be different than most other spirit and wine stores. It was a big step for us after 20 years of having a job as a salesman/account manager. The last 4 years as a national account manager selling high-quality spirits and champagne. I had a really great time, and I loved my job, but being an entrepreneur is the best thing I ever did. To be where I want, do what I believe in and dare to be different.
3) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
I think that we accomplished that we developed the rum interest and sales here in the Netherlands through our Whisky & Rum Festival, Facebook, tasting, masterclasses and website/shop, trying to be an ambassador for rum (without being a snob). More and more importers are adding more rum brands at their assortment. Sales are going up, the interest of (former) whisky drinkers are growing, and the awareness that there is more than the whisky market (exploded prices). I think there’s more diversity in rum than in whisky. There are a lot of similarities regarding distilling rum and single malt whisky, more than most of the liquid gold drinkers know. There is a lot to discover for the lovers of liquid gold!
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
We like to keep on selling laughter, joy, and happiness. Everyone starts to smile if you tell them that you run a liquor & wine store if they ask what kind of work you do. It gives a lot of positive vibes!
5) Favorite Drink + Recipe
Besides the well-known Pina Colada,
The FALERNUM MAI TAI:
– 45ml La Mauny Rhum Agricole Blanc
– 20ml Mandarine liqueur
– 20ml Bonpland Suave Falernum or 20ml Monin Falernum syrup
– 20ml Monin Rantcho
– 40ml Pineapple juice
Garnish with orange slices, pineapple, or lime slices and a mint leaf
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
The rum industry will grow more and more. Mostly the single casks, single estate, barrel proof rums with a lot of character. The movement of ‘honest’ rum will grow, no additives, no or nearly added sugar and YES, transparency about rum producing will be common, ‘The Rum Regulations Guide 2020’ will be presented, similar to ‘The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009’.
7) Share some of your mentors and how they have influenced you.
These guys inspired me over the last 12 years….. Jan Beek, a very inspiring guy. He taught me so much about worldwide quality made spirits. Not marketing talk, he just taught me the right things and best of all–he became a friend.
Recently (only 1 year ago), Richard Seale (I have never met him–yet), but what he says, he stands for. No matter what. He inspires me to go for the real pure made rum.
Finally, my grandpa, Nico Blesgraaf; he was a liquor and wine store manager for more than 40 years. I loved all those glittering bottles when I helped him in the shop as a 12 years old. He would even make his own eggnog and herb liqueurs.
8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 month?
-Visit the Caribbean to see and experience rum distilleries together with my wife.
-Meet Richard Seale ;-), if possible! Looking forward to talking about the rum market, while sipping a newly launched rum that was finished in a former Sauternes cask or Islay whisky cask with him.
-Finish our South-Africa vacation tour with my two daughters which we had to interrupt because a very good friend died unexpectedly of cancer too soon. (This will be a once in a lifetime tour with the four of us because my wife Esther also suffers from cancer).
– Live as we never lived before……
9) Any final thoughts?
‘It’s all about celebrating life’… So let’s enjoy life!
10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?
We’ve got a website/shop www.zeewijck.nl,
and our festival website www.whiskyenrumaanzee.nl
or facebook www.facebook.com/Slijterij-Wijnhuis-Zeewijck-208811525815419/