Bahari Rum Founders Cyril Villemain & Maximilien Photiou

Published by The Rumlab ago about the Bahari company

Bahari Rum Founders Cyril Villemain & Maximilien Photiou  article cover image

TRL: Who are Cyril Villemain & Maximilien Photiou?

We are the co-founders and directors of Bahari Rum. Two friends were in love with excellent wine and spirits. Both French citizens, from Burgundy – a region famous for its very strong wine culture – love to enjoy a pleasant drink. Cyril decided in 2017 to buy a copper pot still, to make his own rum in his garden for his friends. This decision was taken after discovering the sugar cane fields while traveling on the Kenyan coast.

After a few months, Maximilien, in the alcohol business, thought this could be a proper business.

We worked on a recipe and launched Bahari Rum in 2022. We have both traveled across Africa for many years and have lived in Kenya for over 8 years. This is where we met and became friends.

We share a common passion for high-end spirits and, with the inspiration of the wonderful Swahili culture. We put our blood and sweat into this project to craft the first premium rum from Kenya, called Bahari Rum.

TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

Our friendship and love for the coastal Swahili Culture of Kenya was our trigger to create Bahari Rum. Throughout our years in Africa, rum has always been part of our lives.

Bahari means ocean in Swahili, and the rum represents adventure and a taste for travel and discoveries. Bahari’s unique identity comes from sugar cane, lulled by the ocean trade winds and distilled in Kenya. It is steeped in the rich history of the Indian Ocean’s eastern waters.

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

Bahari rum has the flavor of some spices, transported by the dhows across the ocean, especially the beautiful notes of Bourbon vanilla.

In the nose, Bahari’s aromas of wood recall the tropical woods used in the crafting of dhows. The delicate scent of slowly cooked bananas is a predominant note of Bahari Rum.

Our rum is a delicate mix of Kenyan molasses and old rum aged in American casks. This unique blend gives a full-bodied and well-balanced rum.

TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made to the rum industry?

We want people from Kenya, and East Africa, to be proud of the first premium rum coming from this amazing land, reflecting its various cultures and rich history.

TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about besides rum? Why?

Being cigar amateurs, we are naturally pairing our favorite smoke with high-end spirits and Bahari Rum is one of those perfect pairs.

TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

Bahari means the ocean in Swahili. We enjoy spending our time on a small and secluded island on the north coast of Kenya called Lamu, sipping a perfectly mixed Bahari cocktail while cruising on a traditional Dhow and enjoying the sunset.

TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe

For us, nothing replaces legendary classics!

A Piña Colada will be our all-time favorite for preparing a cocktail with Bahari, facing the sea. But we have also created our own cocktail: the “Dhoruba”, meaning “storm” in Kiswahili.

The tangy taste of ginger ale, made with a spice once shipped from India in dhows, offers a fine contrast to Bahari’s roundness.

A dash of juice from limes grown in Kenya, and a pinch of brown sugar will perfect this beautiful sundowner cocktail.

TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?

We believe that rum is the new gin.

Consumers are now looking for new origins and stories and the quality expectation is growing to premium and ultra-premium rums.

Consumer education is the key in order to raise the knowledge and pride in this growing category.

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

Our goal is a zero-carbon footprint.

In order to achieve this crucial target, we will partner with a Kenyan NGO to plant trees in Kenya.

Our product is inspired by the ocean. It is also essential for us to be involved in protecting turtles in Watamu (North coast of Kenya) as we believe that protecting our oceans and our environment is key for the well-being of future generations.

TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?

We want to put East Africa on the map in the rum industry. By promoting different areas of the coast.

Bahari is deeply rooted in this ancient land, rich in history and the crisscrossing of cultures. Those living on the African shores of the Indian Ocean have always been connected with each other by the vast waters of the ocean, the great “Bahari”.

We have started with Kenya and Mauritius, but we will look into more territories such as Tanzania, Mozambique, and other countries on the Indian Ocean.

TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?

The bartender is key to the consumer’s education process. He is often the first person you interact with when choosing a drink. He is a trusted person and has a familiar face in your favorite bar, someone you follow recommendations from. He is the one who can make you fall in love with a new product.

Training and competitions are essential for us in order to raise the general knowledge of our rum and keep on innovating in our mixology strategy.

TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/bahari.rumFacebook : https://www.facebook.com/BahariRumWebsite : https://www.bahari-rum.com/