Laronde-West: Take pride in locally-produced rum
Sunday, February 12, 2012
2011 Angostura Global Cocktail challenge winner Andy Griffiths in action.
As T&T gears up to celebrate its 50th year of Independence (August 31), Angostura’s manager–corporate communications Giselle Laronde-West feels T&T can take immense pride in its locally-produced rums. Interviewed recently at Angostura House, Laventille, Laronde-West, who also has the distinction of copping the prestigious Miss World 1986 title in London, England, said: “For Carnival, mixologists are converging on T&T for the Angostura Cocktail Challenge. The event spans a week, from February 15 to 23, at Trotters, Maraval Road. “As T&T approaches its 50th anniversary, it is doing well. We (Angostura) are a Trinidad company. We make every effort to help people understand it is a product which has been created in T&T; it is indigenous.” Laronde-West added: “It is made in Trinidad. These are our products. Over the years, it is an easily recognisable product that is made in T&T. Wherever we go, we market it. We want people to remember it is made in T&T. We want to enshrine pride and inculcate a sense of nationalism.” Seizing the opportunity, Laronde-West said the Angostura Global Cocktail challenge was a great opportunity to educate people on where these products (bitters and rum) originated. The rums are synonymous with T&T like icons Anya Ayoung-Chee, Brian Charles Lara and Tobago’s Dwight Yorke. She said: “The effort of the global cocktail challenge is to educate people on where they are made. It is made in my country. There is a sense of pride when you hear them comment on it.” Wherever Laronde-West marketed the products, she said there was a profound sense of pride and patriotism that surfaced. She said: “It makes makes me proud to hear people say how proud they are of the products made in my country. There is an overwhelming sense of pride when you get tremendous kudos for your rums.” It’s not surprising rum would figure prominently since it has been part of the Caribbean’s epicentre and has profoundly influenced the social, economic, political and religious development of the islands.
‘Trinidad is rum’
As the countdown to Carnival intensifies, Laronde-West said the visitors would get a first-hand experience of Trini multiculturalism—be it soca, pan, calypso and playing mas in Bliss. Among those visiting will be 2011 winner Australia’s Andy Griffiths. In the freestyle segment, he had created The Scarlet Ibis, after T&T’s national bird. She said: “It gives them that opportunity to experience the greatest show on earth. We are bringing people here to see what we’re about. They get to understand the culture…sample roti, doubles, bake and shark, and feel the excitement of T&T. They are getting everything. They are coming at a time when it is pulsating. They will even see masqueraders drinking strong rums.” Apart from enjoying the sites of the Magnificent Seven including Stollmeyer’s Castle, international guests would get a chance to tour Angostura’s facilities. “They get a chance to see where it is made; The fact Angostura has been around for almost 200 years. They get to speak to the people who make the rums. When they return to their respective countries, they would be able to understand our culture. When we sell our bitters and rum products, they would have a better understanding of where our products are coming from.” Laronde-West predicts uninhibited exposure to “babel, sun and Trini rums,” would augur well “for us in terms of selling the rum.” “And, of course, it would create some sales…and some profits.” But Laronde-West volunteered: “It’s great the people of T&T appreciate our rums. No matter what palate they have, we are able to provide a rum. That’s the pride we feel in our rums. “I think at the end of the day, Trinidad is rum. Rum is Trinidad.”
Distributors to share best practices
Buoyed by the interest, Laronde-West said there were distributors, distillers, rum enthusiasts and other stakeholders who were “even willing to pay their way.” She said: “We are happy to be able to bring them here. We have distributors who have heard about our products. They are paying their way. We have about 80 other people coming for the Distributors’ Conference. We have about 16 members of the media coming from different houses.” Among those who have expressed a keen interest in tete-a-tetes with master distiller John Georges are United States’ Tony Abu Ghanin and New Zealand’s Jacob Briars. She added: “It’s an opportunity for distributors to share their best practices in what they do… in promoting and selling Angostura. It is an opportunity to reach out… to network. They understand the culture and they appreciate where the products are made. It would give them a sense of connection and authenticity when they are speaking about it. We have bitters in Greece.” Rum appraisals are also on the itinerary. Rum has all the complexities of wine. Between swigs, they would determine whether the rum is robust, mellow, light and dark, new and aged, sweet and dry. They would determine if it has a trace of oak from its cask, the caramelisation and the hints of cherry and vanilla. During Angostura House tour, they would learn that the House of Angostura has been making fine spirits since 1824 and boasts almost 200 years experience of fermenting, distilling, ageing and blending. Rum paintings decorate its walls. A rum museum lures visitors. They might learn “rum” is possibly derived from a truncated version of rumbullion or rumbustion, British slang for tumult or uproar. Prior to the finalists being selected, Laronde-West said: “There is an interest for the Carnival and in our global cocktail challenge. In every region, they would have had competitions and they would have chosen a winner. “We have had hundreds competing. So think about the people who know about Angostura rums. Think how many people know it is ‘Made In T&T’.”
Alex Thomas comments: Senior manager–sales and marketing for the Americas Alex Thomas expressed similar sentiments—visitors would get a taste of local culture. He said: “People are coming to Trinidad. Many of them are not really sure where Trinidad and Tobago is. They are going to get a taste of Trinidad and Tobago culture. They will be coming for Carnival. They will be getting to take part in the competition as well. We have a local from Kapok.”