Interview with Takamaka Rum’s Bernard d’Offay

Sated sat down with Bernard d’Offay, co-owner of Takamaka Rum, to find out what makes this rum from the Seychelles different to anything else we’ve tried. 

How did you come to start Takamaka?

My brother, myself and my dad started Takamaka Rum in 2002. Both my parents are from the Seychelles but my brother and I grew up in South Africa. We wanted to move back for the lifestyle, beaches and everything else that the island wanted to offer, so in 2002 we relocated with $6,000 and set up Takamaka Rum.

We set about making our signature Spiced Rum, which was a homage to our grandfather and the way in which they traditionally used to make rum on the island. It’s all about using local spices such as cinnamon and vanilla, along with caramel and papaya to flavour the spirit and spice things up a bit.

Since then, we have expanded to meet demand and now produce a white rum, a three-year old, an eight-year old, a coconut rum, and a whole range of other products.

What makes you different?

We’re the antithesis of the big brands out there. My brother and I oversee the entire production process. We do the blending ourselves and even used to bottle by hand. Our cousin, Dave is the Head Distiller and we three really take care of all aspects of the business. There are about 30 people working for us and we produce around 40,000 nine litre cases a year.

Tell us about the sugar cane on the Seychelles

Our sugar cane is red in colour and thinner than commercial sugar cane varieties. The concentration of sugar is a lot higher, which means we end up with a better distillate and therefore a better spirit.

As we don’t have a lot of flat land on the Seychelles, there aren’t any large crops of sugar cane. So, what we’ve done at the distillery is we formed a sort of loose cooperative. We work with many farmers around the island – guys with land ranging from half an acre to 20 acres. We advise them on best growing practises and buy all their crop.

Are your rums made solely from this?

We make no secret of the fact that, like many distilleries, we blend our local “vesou” distillate with molasses-based rums from all over the Caribbean and Indian Ocean as the Seychelles can’t produce enough resources for the demand. However, we do a lot of ageing on the island, using four different barrels: French oak, new American oak, old Bourbon and Sherry. The magic happens in the blending process where we marry together select molasses rums with our plantation distilled and aged rums made from local sugar cane juice. This makes us quite unique.

How would you suggest serving our rums?

Our white rum is very versatile. We add in a bit of high ester pot still that gives it a creamy mouthfeel but over everything else it’s a very balanced rum. It’s great whether you want to drink it with a twist of lime and some sugar syrup like we do in the Seychelles, or with a coke or juice, or in a Mojito.

Our other rums are equally versatile and can be drunk on their own or as part of a cocktail. The 8-year old and Extra Noir work perfectly in a Rum Sour.

Jamie Jones, (Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year, read our interview with him here) recently created a range of cocktails for Oblix at The Shard using Takamaka. We were so happy to have the winner of World Class working so closely with our rums and be made some amazing cocktails (read our review of the event here).

Where are you sold and stocked?

We only started exporting three-years ago and are in Dubai Duty Free and UAE, as well as Europe and UK. The strategy with UAE was to get into the best bars with bartenders who cared about what they bought and who were looking for a point of difference.

We are distributed through Highball Brands in the UK and you’ll be able to find us in bars such as Oblix, Eve Bar, The Mandrake Hotel, Nine Lives, Opium and Cottons. we’re also the pouring white rum at Zuma.

What are your plans for expansion?

We have big aspirations but don’t want to become a mainstream pouring brand. Our plan is to be somewhere in the middle – affordable and accessible for customers, viable for trade to stock us, but not competing against the big boys. We have an interesting story and provenance and I think we can offer something exciting and different.