Cozumel Rum Founder & CEO David Henning (Interview)

Published by The Rumlab ago about the Cozumel company

Cozumel Rum Founder & CEO David Henning (Interview) article cover image

By Jose Hoffmann

1. Who is David Hennig?

David Hennig is a natural-born entrepreneur and founder of the Cozumel Rum Company™.  After shutting down a microbial control start-up a year before the covid-19 pandemic hit- David took his sailboat, the Edith Marie, south to the Caribbean to clear his mind.  He found himself on the shores of beautiful Cozumel Island, literally.  His sailboat sitting not so gracefully on a rocky reef just steps from downtown San Miguel…

While ‘stranded in paradise’ making repairs to his boat, David visited a museum and noticed an obscure plaque dedicated to the past production of sugarcane and rum on the island which ended around 1919.  The old photos and relics turned David’s thoughts to his late grandfather, J. C. Byrd, who introduced David to distilling spirits and adventurous stories of bootlegging at an early age.  Both had really loved a good whiskey.  So, David set out, in his bold and sometimes unintentionally brash way, to answer his one question- Why Not Cozumel Rum?  Along the journey his love for the Caribbean and knowledge of distilling spirits made it an easy choice to start the Cozumel Rum Company.  He put on his backpack and blazed a trail across Mexico to make things happen, because that is who David Hennig is.

2. What does the rum mean for you?

To me, Cozumel Rum means relaxing in the warmth of the Caribbean sun, rejoicing in its vibrant aqua blue waters, and celebrating on its white beaches. 

3. Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective

- Honest and natural. We do not use additives. This means no added sugar, caramel coloring, or vanilla to imitate the aging process.

- Finished with Distinction. Our rum is aged in American oak and finished with ‘Mayan’ Chiapas oak. This imparts distinct regional nuances building depth and complexity of flavor.

- Artisanal: Artisan is often a buzz word used by marketers but in the case of Cozumel Rum, it is the simple truth. Cozumel Rum is produced, packaged, and labeled by the hands of passionate artisans.

4. What is the most important contribution you have made in the rum industry?

I want to say it has to be our Mayan Spiced Rum.  We have really put forth an effort to honor the authentic Pre-Mesoamerican flavors used by the Maya for thousands of years.  To me it is like taking a drink through history.

5. Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

The ability to rise with the sun and passionately pursue a dream without feeling as though I worked a single day.  The gift of a thousand Caribbean sunsets.  The chance to put smiles on so many faces.

6. What´s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?

Easy question, food for sure…  I have always loved cooking.  Especially for friends and family on a Sunday afternoon.  That is living to me- Food and Drink, Family and Friends- a chance to bring smiles and enjoyment to a crowded table.

7. What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

When I am snowed in, landlocked, or anytime I desire the gentle ocean breeze on my face but cannot be there in person, I sip Cozumel Rum and it takes me there…  It is like the warmth of a Caribbean hug.

8. Favorite drink + Recipe

Mayan Eclipse

Ingredients:

- 3 ounces Cozumel Rum Company’s Aged Mayan Rum (12 year)

- Ginger Ale

- Lime wedge (not required)

Preparation:

- Pour the rum over ice in lowball glass and top off with ginger ale.

- Garnish with a lime wedge.

9. Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?

Rum has an intriguing history and is gaining notice around the world.   Remarkably similar to so many gourmet cuisines with their humble beginnings that are now being served in the world’s finest restaurants.  In life, the more we know about something the more we can appreciate the heritage from which the subject matter derived from.

10. Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?

Do not just ‘drink it’.  You will miss the whole experience. Go slow… close your eyes and breath out through your nose at the end.  Taste it, Savor it.  It can be a beautiful journey.

11. How can the rum contribute to improve the crisis in some countries?

Our distillery is in Tapachula Chiapas.  Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico with few employment opportunities, low incomes, and stagnant economic growth.  The Cozumel Rum Company is now part of this community, and we hope to be part of the solution.

12. Is the commitment to sustainable development the key of success for the permanence of the rum industry in the world? Why?

Yes.  When industry externalizes their environmental cost through non sustainable practices, it disrupts the natural systems that are necessary to continuously provide the natural resources and ecosystems that the world depends on to maintain life.

13. What are your next goals in the rum industry?

To reduce and eliminate consumer packaging waste.  I find myself thinking about it often.  Especially when I take my garbage can out to the curbside for pickup or go out on a beach cleanup.  There has to be a better way.

14. Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?

The bartender, through their technical and social skill, can enlighten people to try something they have never tried before allowing more of us to realize there is much to experience in this world other than what we have been previously accustomed to.

15. What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?

Always do what is right.  Have no fear.  Go for it, try it, never give up.  Do not be scared to make mistakes (just don’t make them twice).  Failure is progress.

16. How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?

I highly recommend coming to the island of Cozumel and visiting us in paradise.  We can visit, drink awesome rum, and eat some great food together.  But you can also visit our web page at cozumelrum.com and check us out on Facebook @cozumelrumcompany or @cozumelrumspirits and Instagram @cozumelrumcompany or @cozumelrumspirits.