Gubba Rum President Steve Gubb (Interview)

Published by The Rumlab ago about the Gubba company

Gubba Rum President Steve Gubb (Interview) article cover image

1. Who is Steve Gubb?

Like everyone else, I am the product of my parents, my family, and my life experiences. I was born and raised in Worcester, MA. My father was a salesman on the road and a World War 2 combat veteran with the 84th Infantry Division in Europe. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until she went back to work as a secretary for a small business. I grew up in the 50’s and ’60s, very turbulent times. People who know me well would say I got my extrovert personality from my father and a lot of stoic determination from my mother. She was tough, and no matter what, when something bad happened, always told me, “You’ll be fine in the morning”, and it seems she was always right!

I have had several careers in my life (sometimes it went well, sometimes not so well), from working in a liquor store, then moving on to become a CPA, next, to working in real estate as a property manager, controller, and developer. Insurance sales, Auto sales, condo sales, and then I got lucky and finally found something that I love doing. In February of 2011, I discovered a passion for rum while on vacation with my wife in St. Maarten.

2. What does the rum mean for you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

Gubba Rum means everything to me! As I‘ve said, I’ve had ups and downs in my business career, and with Gubba Rum, failure is just not an option. I have to see it through and, hopefully, ultimately create a successful brand that consumers enjoy drinking and ask for by name. I am not much of a drinker and was not a dedicated rum enthusiast. My wife and I were on vacation in St. Maarten (SXM to flight code lovers), having dinner at a very romantic restaurant on the French side. After the meal, our hosts gave us several bottles of a local rum-based liqueur in different flavors (coconut, coffee, vanilla, guavaberry, and others) to sample. They were delicious and came in eye-catching, hand-painted bottles. We loved them and brought several homes with us.

When we got back, I suggested that I try to make a deal with the owners to import that rum liqueur into the USA. Well, a trip to SXM never being a bad thing, I went back and made the deal with the family that made the rum. That was how we got started! However, since they made their drink in their backyard in a thatched hut in the dirt, it would never have been approved by the FDA here. I was referred to a distillery in Colorado, and the distiller there was willing to work with me to create rum, based on the SXM product, that would work in this country. That was the beginning!

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

It was never my idea to try to make a “classic” rum. Who am I anyway? I’m just a guy trying to make a product that is popular with the drinking public! I thought I had to make it somehow different, and unique. The distiller and I decided that the rum we make should be infusions, to set it apart. The three characteristics that make Gubba Rum unique are that each is an infusion (real coconut, real vanilla), each is made with certified organic ingredients, and each is, as we say here in Boston, Wicked Smooth! When people sample it, they love it!

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

I wish I could say that there is an important contribution that I’ve made to the rum industry, but that would be a very arrogant presumption on my part. I am the owner of the smallest rum business anywhere, I’m sure. Maybe someday I’ll be able to say I contributed, but that day is very far off right now!

5. Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

I have been very fortunate to meet some great people who I am happy and very proud to call my friends. I would never have had the opportunity to meet such wonderful people were I not trying to build a brand, and doing the promotional events I do to gain more and more brand exposure. I wish I had more time to learn more. There is so much about the actual making of rum that I still need to and hope to learn. I am very much still at the beginning of that journey!

I love to travel, I love the events I participate in for a promotion, and most of all I love meeting new people all the time to introduce them to Gubba Rum! I love the challenge of introducing something new to people who have never heard of the brand, and that is almost everyone! I love educating people on the unique spirit that is Gubba Rum.

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

When I was younger, I was very passionate about the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins. I used to wait with a few friends outside the old Sears Roebuck building in Worcester, MA at 5 AM, in very cold early January temperatures (-5 degrees?) in the hope of buying standing room tickets to a couple of Bruins hockey games. The Red Sox were everything back then, and it was so great to go to Fenway Park. As I’ve gotten older, my interest in sports has changed a great deal, just as sports have changed. Now my passion is my family, especially my 2 adult sons, my granddaughter, the 2-year-old daughter of my oldest son, and his wonderful wife. My granddaughter is just everything!

7. What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

I do love being in a tropical climate and enjoying rum and rum cocktails at night, under the stars! To me, rum was just made for that setting. St. Maarten, St. Thomas, southern Florida, plenty of rum bars, and of course plenty of Tiki bars are wonderful places to unwind and enjoy cocktails and good friends. As the saying of the Miami Rum Festival claims, “Rum is Fun!” I find these settings to be the most fun, by far. Without a doubt, one of the best things that have happened to me is to meet a group of people, rum aficionados, who call themselves the Rum Buddies! We typically meet at events in Florida to sample whatever brands of rum each of us bring to our evening get-togethers! Incredible people, delicious rums from all over the world, and a lot of fun! Several New Orleans bars are great places to enjoy rum cocktails! The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is one outstanding place for that very thing, not to mention the exciting entertainment of the incomparable Lena Prima and her Band! In cold weather, I love being in front of a fire, sipping on my own Gubba Gold rum. It is particularly relaxing!

8. Favorite drink + Recipe

I love the “Black Magic” cocktail as served at the Mai Kai Tiki bar, the Molokai Lounge! It has a taste combination that I find to be delicious (I do wish I could convince them to offer it with Gubba Gold, just my dream!). I sure hope the Mai Kai will be open once again very soon! Let’s all raise a glass to that day! A VERY close second would be my Espresso Chocolate Martini (Boston accent!), made with Gubba Gold Rum. I love it, and it is always a huge hit when I serve it at rum festivals and tasting events!

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

I have done several hundred tastings since Gubba Rum came to market in late 2013. I was shocked at just how little knowledge people had about the spirits they were drinking. So many people tell me about the bad experiences they had when they were young and were just drinking to get drunk. Too often, they were drinking rum, and inferior rum, such that when I offer a taste of Gubba Rum, they are afraid to even sample it. If they are willing to talk with me, I can usually then talk through their previous experience with inferior rum and convince them to try it. Once they try Gubba Rum, they smile and acknowledge the error of their youth! Of course, part of the problem they had was that they likely drank half the bottle, and then spent the night throwing up. Not a good introduction to the world of rum!

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

I have to be the first to admit that I don’t have a great palate. For example, when I was at the distillery during the distillation of my rum, it was almost impossible for me to distinguish the alcohol heads and tails from the spirit hearts. I learned quickly that I just do not have that sophisticated a palate, and would make a rather bad distiller. No doubt the best thing for anyone to do is to have a handy plate of mild bread and cheese nearby, and a tall glass of water as well. No spicy foods! Make sure you don’t eat or drink anything that will affect the taste of the rum you are about to sample! Go to a distillery, take a tour where they give you a tasting lesson, and then give it a try! 

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

Rum is not going to solve the Covid crisis, of course. However, the largest spirit companies, the rum companies among them, can and are making concerted efforts to help people in the hospitality industry to the best of their ability. The largest and most financially successful companies have by now set up programs to support the many workers who have suffered such negative impacts as reduced wages, loss of employment, food and housing insecurity. It has gone in waves, and is still, or once again, causing devastating effects. We should all salute the companies doing the most to help everyone in our industry who is doing what they can to work through this very difficult time.  I am currently working with a close friend in New Orleans on just such an event to raise money for those people in the hospitality industry, and NOLA area first responders. We will be announcing the details of our event by the end of February!

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

If we use up the resources that we so badly need for our products, the rum industry, like all others, will ultimately reach a crisis point. The efforts to create more and more sustainable farming methods go right to the heart of that matter. At Gubba Rum, that is one of two main reasons that we use certified organic ingredients in producing our rum! We take no shortcuts when selecting our raw ingredients, from the quality of the water we use to the vanilla, coconut, sugar, and yeast we select. Even the water we use is pure Rocky mountain water!

13. Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?

As I said earlier, I’ve met some fantastic people in the rum world! Here are a few people I’ve met and sipped some rum with, and a few I’d love to spend time with again and again! Among the most knowledgeable people in the rum world who I’d love to spend more time with: Robert & Robin Burr of the Miami Rum Festival: Two of the most knowledgeable rum enthusiasts, plus they have an incredible rum collection of over 2,000 bottles! Ed Hamilton – a gentleman with so much knowledge to share about Everything Rum! Wayne Curtis – His Book “And a Bottle of Rum, A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” is just that, and it is a story told with great humor! A great read! Bahama Bob Leonard, The Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn, Key West, FL – Blogger & Rum maker.

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

My goals are very straightforward! Keep working toward the commercial success of Gubba Gold Rum and Gubba Silver Rum. Once that is accomplished, the next step is to acquire our distillery and begin distilling aged rum. These things may not sound difficult, but these are, for a small batch rum supplier, enormous next steps!

15. Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.

Not being all that young anymore, once I leave the rum industry, my working career will be at an end. I will either retire, or they will carry me out in a box!

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

Bartenders are crucial to any spirits company! Bartenders have a lot of power, in that they are the influencers who can do so much to create the success of a brand. Bartenders actively creating cocktails with my spirit and recommending them to their customers are the best brand ambassadors! Demonstrating the quality and versatility of Gubba Rum to the many people who enjoy a particular mixologist’s libations is the best way to create a loyal following, both at bars and liquor stores, for any brand.

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

If rum is your passion, then by all means follow your passion. If at all possible, don’t spend your life working at something you are not happy with, getting into the rum world may seem very difficult with many roadblocks, but I say pursue your dreams, whatever it takes. Work hard at your passion, and success will come to you. Being happy, it is the most important thing. I wish you all the luck in the world and all success!

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

Find out more about Gubba Rum on the following platforms!

Website: www.gubbarum.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gubbarum

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gubbarum/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gubba.rum