Six of the best CEOs in the rum industry were given awards by The Ultimate Awards

Published by The Rumlab ago

Six of the best CEOs in the rum industry were given awards by The Ultimate Awards article cover image

The abbreviation for “Chief Executive Officer” (CEO) is “Chief Operating Officer,” but in the rum sector, those three letters don’t seem to do justice to the responsibilities of the post. They have an eye for business and know everything there is to know about the company. They oversee all procedures, solve problems, make suggestions, put plans into action, protect the local ecosystem, and look out for the well-being of the community, all while expanding the distillate’s market reach.It was a joint effort by The Ultimate Awards and The Rum Lab to recognize the contributions of rum industry CEOs. Each CEO in 2022 was honored as The Ultimate and The Most Admirable CEO. Six individuals at the helm of enterprises in the rum industry are shaking things up by challenging established norms and making bold business moves that have us excited for what’s to come.

The CEOs on this list have been hand-selected by the editors of The Rum Lab for their exceptional performance. The six recipients were selected solely on the basis of their meritorious contributions to society in 2022. At the Miami Rum Congress, held at the Hilton Cabana on Miami Beach from February 10th to 12th, 2023, the entire group will be presented with a diploma in acknowledgment of their efforts, The Ultimate Awards, and The Rum Lab. Friday is the scheduled day for the event’s ceremony.

Each of the CEOs we’ve discussed here is unique and has amazed us in their own special way. We’ll chat about some who grew up in the rum industry and those who seem to have stumbled into the business by chance but whose wit and expertise prove that nothing happens by accident. There are people who just required an introduction to rum from other nations to have the compulsion to reproduce that experience in their own country, and there are those who lost everything and began over in an industry that protected them and that now they cannot set aside.

Some people were told they were really insane for their ideas. People were suspicious of those who occupied “reserved” areas. Now, many years later, they’re serving as industry spokespeople, winning accolades, and securing partnerships with large alcohol producers.

These CEOs have earned our respect as a result of their tireless efforts.

Martha Miller – was the rum industry’s first female chief executive officer. The rum magic portals were a-twitter when they heard that Martha Miller had been chosen CEO of National Rums of Jamaica. Miller broke ground by being the first woman to hold this position in the Jamaican rum sector.Miller took it with the same modesty and drive that have been the hallmarks of her career. It was these traits that led her to get a job as an internal auditor for an insurance company after getting a degree in computer science from the University of the West Indies.

Miller took on the task with aplomb, and her intellect and professionalism led to high-level roles in a variety of fields, including consulting, business analysis, business management, advertising, finance, and organizational management. After reviewing her credentials, National Rums of Jamaica hired Martha in 2013 to serve as the head of finance, and in 2018, she announced that Martha would be taking over as CEO.

Miller is responsible for overseeing the operations of National Rums of Jamaica, a corporation owned in part by the government of Jamaica. The firm comprises five divisions and two distilleries. As a result, she is constantly challenged to find creative solutions to issues that may arise with the company’s chemists, technical operators, and other human resources.

In less than a year after walking through the firm’s front door, this CEO launched Long Pond, the first brand of the famed Long Pond Distillery, which is part of the company she currently heads.

It was a triumph not just for her as CEO, but for the entire firm, which had watched the distillery burn down in 2018 just to rise again, stronger than ever, and able to offer the world a unique taste of Jamaica.

Miller, realizing the significance and responsibility that the rum industry has with the local communities of Trelawny and Manchester, where the two distilleries are located, announced in May 2022 with Minister Pearl Charles the intention to expand sugar cane crops that are part of the production and, consequently, increase the number of workers in the industry.

In addition, the Monymusk Plantation Rums brand, which is also part of National Rums of Jamaica, earned three honors at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) Awards in March 2022: silver medals for its White Overproof Rum and its Special Gold Rum and bronze for its Classic Gold Rum.She is just getting started on her path as CEO of National Rums of Jamaica, a position befitting a hard worker who will ensure the company’s continued success.

Jose Álvarez – refers to himself as a farmer, despite the fact that he has not always farmed in the same way.His landscaping company supported him nicely for 35 years, but in 2008, when the economy of Puerto Rico, his home and the place where he has always been rooted, tanked, he was forced to cut back.

Even though Álvarez’s company was on the ground, he took a panoramic view of his surroundings and realized that his farm, from which he sourced materials for his landscaping projects, was large enough and well situated to launch one of Puerto Rico’s most famous exports: rum. But José’s rum would be unique: it would come from farms.


After scouring the Caribbean for the necessary equipment, ideas, and advice, Álvarez founded San Juan Artisan Distillers to produce Ron Pepón, his first brand of rum, which he aged for two to three years in American white oak barrels.

This was not the last time José would have to show his business savvy and initiative. Even though Hurricane Maria wiped out the cane fields he had worked so hard to cultivate in 2017, he was not deterred from his mission. He made TresClavos Rum, an all-natural cane rum that quickly became the company’s best seller, after seeing three nails lying around among the crops.

This CEO’s biggest accomplishment in 2022 was, in his own words, “the joy of being able to establish and sustain a project that until recently was a dream,” and he attributes it to his ability to always innovate, his perseverance, and his drive to keep working.

However, that wasn’t the only success the firm had that year. Its distillery, which offers guided tours of its cellars, Casa Pepón, and sugarcane fields, has become a popular agritourism attraction in the region, contributing to a 100 percent growth in sales year over year. The tour concludes with a sampling of nine distinct rums.

San Juan Artisan Distillers had a year of education in 2022 as well. Their artisan rums, which are currently available in Miami, were marketed at eight major international events in which the company took part.

Alvarez, a CEO who is not frightened to stumble since he always gets up fast, washes his knees, and walks with greater power, underlines, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

In October 2022, it was revealed that Brown-Forman, a U.S. company whose portfolio includes brands including Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia, and Herradura, was purchasing the José Rafael Ballesteros Ron Diplomático brand and all of its assets in Spain, making headlines throughout the world.

Jose R. Ballesteros – According to a press release issued by Brown-Forman, Inc., the CEO of Destilerias Unidas (the company that produces Diplomático and is better known as DUSA), José Rafael Ballesteros, made it possible for Brown-Forman to enter the premium and super premium rum categories through strategic business decisions.

José Rafael, who was raised in the field of distilling and manufacturing spirits, took over the family firm and turned it around. Since the early 1990s, they’ve been making cocuy, and in 2002, they purchased Licoreras Unidas (LUSA) and several of its brands, including the renowned Ron Diplomático, to his great delight.

Brown-Forman made a brilliant decision by letting DUSA keep producing the legendary rum, Ron Diplomático, which has gained widespread renown and is now exported to more than 100 countries. This complicated process works best in the Andes of Venezuela, so it makes sense that this is where it takes place.

As an industry leader, Ron Diplomático was also an early adopter of environmentally responsible practices in their distillation process, helping to create the modern concept of “super-premium” rum. The state of Lara, at the foot of the Andes, is a suitable site from which to harvest sugar cane and other raw materials for use in the distillery. It has been shown that the company has cut its use of water, plastic, cardboard, and glass for making rum by a total of 75%.

Energy for production is self-supplied to the tune of 80%, cutting down on dependence on fossil fuels. Additionally, all of the liquid waste is recycled.

Only a CEO with a 2022 calendar year full of successes could earn this kind of respect.

Karen Hoskin – has been concerned about environmental protection since she was a youngster, so when she founded her own rum distillery, Montanya Distillers, she made sure that every step of production was eco-friendly.

In addition to Montanya Distillers’ dedication to the environment, the company stands out for having a female CEO, Karen, in an otherwise male-dominated business.

Karen’s first rum drink was in Goa, India, when she turned 21 and began this adventure. She loved the taste and thought about ways to use it in her life, but it wasn’t until she went to Belize 20 years later that Hoskin decided to make her own version of the Caribbean rum experience.

All the odds were in her favor. Karen had spent her career as a graphic designer creating identities for clients; now she had to create one for herself.

Karen launched Montanya Distillers in 2008 after learning how to distill, and her rum quickly began winning accolades. Karen, as CEO, is intimately familiar with all aspects of the business and oversees distribution to 44 states and 7 countries.

Hoskin is an expert in the fields of distillation, mixology, and the hospitality industry, and she also works as a spokesman.

The year 2022 was fraught with difficulties for the business, as that was the year a new distillery was built, doubling output capacity. Poland and Italy also joined the list of countries where rum became widely available. Karen says, “This is the most difficult business environment I’ve seen in 15 years.” However, Montanya Distillers was able to keep its B Corp accreditation by showing that it is honest and can be trusted.

This CEO’s efforts demonstrate not just that high-quality rum can be made in the United States, but also that women can achieve top positions in male-dominated fields. She does a fantastic job.

Alexandre Gabriel – It’s clear that his work comes straight from the heart. Alexander’s grandpa instilled in him a lifelong respect for the land and a strong work ethic when he was a little lad. On the family farm, Gabriel learned to graft trees, milk cows, and cultivate grapes from him, skills he later applied in business school.

Gabriel’s college assignment called for him to consult with local farmers and manufacturers about expanding their operations. And so, in 1989, he found his way to Maison Ferrand, one of France’s oldest cognac companies, which, although producing fine cognac, lacked the economic acumen to properly market and sell it. When Alexandre met the company’s owner, Mr. Ferrand, he offered to help Mr. Ferrand get the drink to more people.

The then-student CEO is now running the firm, which has branched out into the rum market under the Plantation Rum brand, so the past seems like ancient history. Not only does Maison Ferrand hold a third of National Rums of Jamaica, but it also owns the West Indies Rum Distillery.

For his efforts in this new field, Alexandre was named Master Rum Blender of the Year at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards and Distiller of the Year by the American Distilling Institute in 2012.

Gabriel is known as a hard worker who puts in 110% effort into whatever he does and has a keen eye for aesthetics.

For him as CEO, 2022 was a pivotal year. In April, he opened his first sugar mill, the Harper Sugar Cane Mill, which would supply Maison Distillery with the raw material it needs to create rum from Barbados cane juice. The sugar cane crop will be studied and protected as part of the agreement with the West Indies Rum Distillery.

The Rockley Still, one of the oldest rum pots in the world, was brought back to life thanks to the efforts of skilled coppersmiths. The West Indies Rum Distillery acquired this pot, which was made by James Shears and Sons (1785-1981), in 1936 to display as an artifact of their company’s history. In 2021, Gabriel decided to send it to Cognac, France, where it would undergo restoration thanks to the inspiration of a friend. There, a team of specialists spent the better part of a year and a half developing a strategy to rebuild it from the ground up.

Finally, Alexandre highlights his efforts in 2022 to advance and help the Barbadian economy as one of his biggest successes. To acquire coconuts for use in rum manufacturing, he teamed forces with the West Indies Rum Distillery, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Cardi), and the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Barbados.

It is advancements like these that have made Maison Ferrand a household name, and as CEO, Alexandre Gabriel is someone to keep an eye on. Fibers may be moved by anything done from the heart, even after a few rums have been consumed.

Steve Jefferson – is an inquisitive visionary with a strong work ethic. After successfully cultivating his own sugar cane in a region where others said it was impossible, Steve Jefferson is no stranger to working with his hands dirty.

To achieve this goal, he had to undergo mental retraining and open his eyes to new information about rum, its production methods, distillation techniques, and, most crucially, agricultural methods of production.

The problem was that most people in Hawaii believed Steve Jefferson was insane when he first mentioned his plans to distill his own rum there. The rum business had left the island years ago. However, Steve was confident that he could make his Martinique-inspired notion a reality. Alternately, become liquid.

The climate, latitude, and volcanic underpinnings of Martinique were all comparable to those of his own Hawaii. If they were able to disperse quality rum, then there was no reason he couldn’t do the same in Hawaii.

Even though he had some setbacks, Jefferson was able to start Kuleana Rum Works. This year, the company is celebrating ten years of success in the rum market.

Steve, a writer by trade and the proprietor of two construction firms, picked up knowledge of agricultural rum here and there. Five years after he started reading, talking to people, and taking classes to learn about the subject, he set up a sugar cane farm in Hawaii with a distillery, a barrel room, and a restaurant where they served their own rum.

By now, he is a seasoned pro at distilling rum from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

Kuleana Rum is a premium rum made from 40 different types of sugar cane with no added flavors or colors. To do this, they use both a special agricultural rum aged in cognac barrels and the fresh juice of sugar cane cultivated in Kohala, Hawaii.

Steve Jefferson had a banner year in 2022, proving himself a visionary capable of doing the seemingly impossible. At the New York World Spirits Competition, his Hokulei rum, which he aged for two years, took home two gold medals. It also won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their agricultural rum.

Wine Enthusiast magazine recognized Kuleana Ron as the third greatest rum of 2022, and it was also named one of the Top 100 Spirits of 2022. Finally, Imbibe Magazine recognized the brand by including it in its annual Imbibe 75 list, which honors those who “imbibe” in the pursuit of better beverages.Steve’s success as the owner and CEO of the rum industry is proof that a mind that is open and inquiring can achieve anything.