Master Blender Trudiann Branker Talks All Things Mount Gay Rum

How did your educational background at Howard University, Siebel Institute and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and years of experience in the spirits industry prepare you for your role at Mount Gay Rum?

My undergraduate education at Howard University, where I hold dual degrees in Biology and Chemistry, are the basis for the path towards my role as Master Blender here at Mount Gay. Once I graduated, I spent time both at Siebel Institute and theInstitute of Brewing and Distilling, both of which prepared me practically for finding roles within the beer and spirits industry. I originally began working with a brewer in Barbados. I started here in 2011 as Quality Assurance Manager and former Master Blender Allen Smith took me under his wing. Although my education prepared me brilliantly, working with our rums so closely with Allen truly prepared me to step into the role of Master Blender in 2019.

With Mount Gay Rum being the world’s oldest rum distillery, how did it feel once you became the first Woman Master Blend in 2019 for the iconic brand?

I’m proud to be the first female Master Blender in Barbados and at Mount Gay, the world’s oldest running rum distillery. Although this doesn’t define my role! I feel that I discuss rum in the same way any other master blender, male or female, would discuss the category. The spirits industry sways heavily in the direction of men and what is great now is that there are many amazing women in rum. Joining the ranks of other women in leading the rum industry has been great, and I can only hope it fuels younger female generations to study the art and science of distillation and blending.

Most people are enamored with the labels and packaging that Mount Gay Rum arrives in, but could you talk about the actual fermentation, distillation and ageing process that takes place with each blend of rum?

Certainly! Each one of our core expressions have the same fermentation and distillation process. Our fermentation lasts a minimum of 72 hours, and it is done in both a closed environment using proprietary yeast and in open air vats benefitting from naturally occurring yeasts in the air. Blending and aging is what makes each unique.

  • Mount Gay Eclipse is a blend of rums distilled in traditional copper pot and column stills, then matured for 2 years solely in American whiskey casks.
  • Our Black Barrel is crafted from a blend of intense and aromatic rums, distilled in traditional copper pot and column stills, and matured between 3–7 years in American whiskey casks and then finished for 6 months in deeply charred Bourbon casks.
  • XO is the first XO in the rum category and is a small-batch blend of carefully selected mature rums. It is distilled in traditional copper pot and column stills and matured between 5–17 years in American whiskey, bourbon and cognac casks.
  • 1703 Master Select, a unique blend of Mount Gay’s oldest reserves, is an annual limited release which includes rums, aged minimum 10 years, distilled in traditional copper pot and column stills.

Talk about the process behind you creating the Andean Oak Cask Rum and other upcoming ventures regarding Mount Gay Rum.

Having read through a lot of literature on Andean Oak, I didn’t find anything about rum being aged in these casks so I found that particularly interesting. On a more scientific level, and what really piqued my interest was that Colombian Oak is really different from American Oak. The Cis-whisky-lactone quantities are much lower, and these molecules are the ones responsible for the Coco-Vanilla notes usually found in American Oak. ‘Andean Oak Cask’ is the fourth in our Master Blender Collection and marks the continuation of our original and inventive series.

This new expression is an opportunity for innovation. I turned to non-traditional casks to explore another layer of aromatic complexity. For this release, I used Andean Oak Casks, which are not traditionally used to age Mount Gay rums, to create a single batch of rums distilled twice in a traditional copper pot still, aged for 14 years in ex-Bourbon casks and finished for 11 months in virgin Andean Oak Casks.

The result is a delicate, yet opulent blend with layers of spice, nutmeg, vanilla, ripe pear and toasted coconut on the palate. Dominantly vanilla on the nose, Mount Gay ‘Andean Oak Cask’ offers a spiciness on the palate that perfectly complements the fruity notes of the aged pot still rum. This expression is the fourth of its collection and we look forward to creating more in the future.

To learn more about Mount Gay Rum, CLICK HERE.




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Andre J. Ellington

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