Rum Export Consultant: Philip Gillier

Published by The Rumlab ago

Rum Export Consultant: Philip Gillier article cover image

I am a spirits business professional who has built a specialization in rum-related business models, working in the international development of authentic rum producers and promoting category education towards both professionals and end-consumers.

My primary activity comprises working as an externalized Export Director for independent & family-owned rum producers and brands. The portfolio of brands I currently represent are Ron Carupano from Venezuela, Paranubes Rum from Oaxaca, and Magnifica cachaça de alambique from Brazil. All brands and origins are very complementary and showcase a different segment of the rum market, allowing me to accompany European distribution partners with a relevant and meaningful rum strategy on their domestic market.

My role comprises helping independent producers establish a logistical, commercial, and marketing strategy to tackle the European markets, sharing the keys to a successful market introduction flexibly.

I also offer consulting services on more global rum-related projects that may involve sourcing, funding, packaging, market strategy, etc.

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

The most relevant memory I have about rum is discovering Reunion Island’s rhum through one of my best friends I was studying with, back in 2011. I was a student and my friend always packed a bunch of “rhum arrangé” when traveling back from the island. Rum was a way for me to learn about my friend’s island culture, and understand the role rum has within.

This first meaning of rum was enhanced when I could travel across different rum-producing countries throughout my life. Today I understand the common History that the different rum-producing countries have, and I now see rum as a meaningful and efficient way to promote the economy, the culture, and the heritage of places that can now take advantage of the rum exports for their very own development interests.

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

In my perspective, the first essential characteristic is that rum must come from a sugarcane-producing region. There is no such thing as raw material being shipped across the world to be distilled and aged in the Northern Hemisphere in order to create a liquid that belongs to the people who have suffered from its creation in the first place which leads to the second main characteristic of rum: it belongs to the locals. Whether it be cultural, or in terms of the production facility, reputation, brand, or project–I think it should always involve the local producing population and integrate their direct interest.

The last characteristic I like about rum is its cultural aspect, whether the rum truly exists as a category or brand within its home market. I have much respect for producers and brands who have credibility in their local market before engaging in exports.

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

My most important contribution is probably the time and energy invested in sharing authentic rums with professionals and consumers over the last 8 years working in the industry. Whether it be at trade/consumer fairs, masterclasses, or just when speaking about what I do with friends and strangers, I always share my love for the spirit with all my heart.

People may also recognize my work for developing some beautiful rum origins in Europe, starting with Martinique and Saint Lucia rums while I was working for Spiribam (2015-2019).

Since 2020, I have been acting as an outsourced European Export Director for independent rum producers, supporting their European operations on a flexible basis whether it be for their logistics, commercial and marketing strategies.

One of my first partners is Venezuela’s first rum operation (dating from 1762), Ron Carupano, which has been growing steadily over the last two years. Ron Carupano remains a family-owned and independent business, and the heart that its local team puts into the brand is humbling. The country has been facing real political and economic issues over the last 20 years, but Ron Carupano is engaged in promoting a sustainable export business along with social, environmental, and cultural actions, holding onto the faith that they are taking part in the making of a better future for their country.

I am also trying to create a better space for some unknown or overlooked categories, such as Mexico’s aguardiente de caña and Brazil’s cachaça de alambique.

Paranubes is a community-led rum operation from Oaxaca, showcasing an exceptional tradition and unique way of producing rum in a very remote place, giving an endangered multi-thousand years old community and culture (Mazatec) a second life. Developing the export sales of Paranubes directly affects the community’s population and revenue, allowing to fuel the local economy on a sustainable financial basis: more work and better income allow for people to stay in the community instead of escaping to the city searching for a better income.

And I am taking part in the mission Magnifica de Faria ignited 40 years ago, highlighting the quality and differences of pot still cachaça in Brazil. Throughout the years, Magnifica was a key factor in creating a new appellation of origin (cachaça de alambique) in 2022. The work that has been done locally by the Faria family and the reputation the brand has gained within its home has been key driver for a better classification of the Brazilian sugarcane spirit production, allowing for better export opportunities for all cachaça de alambique producers in Brazil.

TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

The rum industry has given me a blessed career, working with good people and making loyal friends along the way. It has offered me the chance to visit magical places and experience the most memorable working trips. Rum has given me the chance to make my passion a profession and to work based on some essential values in my life: authenticity, friendship, and trust.

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

My other passion is to cook, alone and with people. I find a lot of peace when cooking alone. It’s a way for me to meditate while listening to music when I’m home after long days of rum hustling or computer work. I also love to host dinners and share a drink when cooking with family and friends. The other thing about cooking that I love is that it enables me to experiment with rum recipes in food–mostly in sauces, deglazing, and marinades.

TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

My favorite place for drinking rum is in its home, with the people who make it. This is a real chance I have for working in the industry and being able to experience these moments of exchange. Tasting aguardiente with José Luis in the cloud forest of Oaxaca while sharing some homemade chilaquiles with his family; deep diving into the Carupano aging cellar with Carmen Lopez de Bastidas and drinking rum out of the barrel; getting lost in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro and have Joao Luiz de Faria making us a Rusty Nail variation with cachaça at home…

Chances are that on this same day, I would drink rum in a warm place in the evening wearing a tropical shirt and my favorite cigar. That’s definitely my favorite place for drinking rum!

Besides, I love to drink rum with a bartender that would have something he/she likes to share or a friend that just came back from a holiday with stories and pictures. I also love to open my home bar to anybody who is curious to taste my rum selection – whether it be an aficionado or not – and reminisce about the stories and memories the rum has created.

TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe

This is too difficult of a question! I love different drinks depending on the time, location, and crowd… but if I have to choose… I would say what I have been enjoying particularly lately is a rum negroni. I love the fact that it can use a very wide range of rums and would still taste great. My recipe is super classic using a rough 1/3 of rum, 1/3 sweet vermouth and 1/3 Italian, bitter aperitivo, stirred and garnished with a lemon and/or orange zest. Just use what you have in the bar or at home – I find it hard to mess up that cocktail.

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

It’s a matter of giving consumers a better understanding of how rich the rum category is, and giving them the tools to identify what makes an authentic rum that’s worth supporting, beyond the marketing criteria. G&S Export’s mission is to “Share Authentic Spirits”, going beyond the product itself, rum education is about acknowledging the uniqueness of this category within the spirits industry.

TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?

The first thing to do is to get your head into an aroma map, or if you are really starting from scratch, get yourself one of these aroma boxes in order to identify some basic descriptions and gain some tasting techniques & reflexes.

After that, it’s about taking notes, tasting rums again and again, and staying as humble as possible when going down the rum road. If rum is not to your taste one day, try it again the year after. Enjoy the ones you prefer in the meantime and keep on exploring! The palate develops with time and experience, and so does our taste for rums.

TRL: How can rum contribute to improving the crisis in some countries?

The international rum market is growing, it is developing export revenues in rum-producing countries. It will create more value, and work and open up investment opportunities.

Rum also contributes to developing tourism: a bottle of rum is a postcard promoting a destination for internationals eager to learn more about a country’s culture. We see more and more distilleries investing in tourist centers and a distillery of the aging cellar is truly becoming a destination’s point of interest.

Rum producers directly fuel the local hospitality businesses through product training and interactions with international hospitality professionals who can share their skills and knowledge with the local bar and restaurant professionals. These actions take part in making it a better hospitality scene and this might attract more tourism and local wealth spending.

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

Of course, sustainable development implies economic, social, and environmental topics.

The permanence of the rum industry, given the characteristics detailed above, implies the protection of rum-producing regions through geographical indications and transparency on what is in the bottle. It will give the rum a sustainable future as a category while it keeps on gaining credibility within the world of fine spirits. This covers the economic and social/cultural topics in a nutshell.

Regarding the environmental sustainability topic, this is a matter of civilization and it goes beyond the rum question. All activities–including the rum industry–need to commit to a more environmentally friendly model. There is a vast space for amelioration and innovation in this area of the business that will allow for the permanence of the rum industry.


Rum gives a chance for rum-producing countries to invest in a sustainable economic, social, and environmental model based on a very specific production skill. The competitive advantage rum-producing countries have must be protected within the world trade system in order to fuel developing regions with sustainable growth–answering economical, social, and environmental sustainability questions.

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

I recently had the honor of sharing a day with Carmen Lopez de Bastidas, Ron Carupano’s Master Blender who’s been within the company for 33 years and one of the first ladies, Maestra Ronera, in the rum industry. It’s such a blessing to share a common passion with the more experienced generations. It’s very humbling and there is so much to speak about.

Following this experience, I would love to share a drink with Joy Spence, who I’ve never had the chance to meet yet. I would ask her about the evolution she has seen within the Appleton company over the years, what was different back when she started in the business, how she considers the evolution of the rum business today, and what other rums she likes besides her own…

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

My next goal is to further develop rum-related business models, one of which involves blockchain, alternative assets, and NFTs. For those who would like to learn more, I’m happy to take some time and share more insights about it at any time.

My long-term aim is to create tools that will help authentic rum producers to protect their production strategically. I am currently investing time and effort in a project involving tokenization of inventories that will help the authentication of origin, age, and valuation of rum barrels within a producer’s inventory through the blockchain.

TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.

I would love to invest in a rum-led gastronomy venue in Lyon, France, and keep up with an educational direction. I don’t think I will leave the rum industry soon… but I would like to share my experience with students in the future–engaging in rum business-related topics such as business models and sustainability.

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

Bartenders, of course, have an educational role towards end consumers, and I believe that they have a great added value for product development and innovation within a rum producer’s portfolio.

Bartenders are also the first community that has a voice to support authentic rum producers, and their voice can define the direction the category may take in the future. This is the very reason bartenders should not only be considered as product & hospitality people, but they should also be educated about the big picture of the rum business.

TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?

I recommend the young generations to travel and share the rum culture with the locals. This is the only proper way to understand the category in its heart. As mentioned in the previous question, I also believe the new rum generations should have a bigger picture of what the business is about, and not only stand on a product and marketing inspiration basis. That will enable them to create new sustainable bridges for the business, mixing it with their very own background and personality.

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