Robert Gordon: Crafting a Journey in Jamaican Rum

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Robert Gordon: Crafting a Journey in Jamaican Rum

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Dr Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, November 12, 2020

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Today marks the final issue of our Celebrating Men in Wines & Spirits series. Over the past five weeks, we were ushered back in time to where the journey of these men began, the moulding of their careers, and hopes for the future. Today, senior blender in the rum world Robert Gordon is in the spotlight.

The beginning

Gordon is a proud son of Clarendon and attended both preparatory and high schools in the parish. Gordon would then matriculate to The University of the West Indies, (Mona) where he would pursue a degree in Biochemistry. After obtaining his degree, he returned to Clarendon and joined Clarendon Distillers Limited (CDL) in 2002 as the gas chromatography technician reporting to then Quality Control Manager Desmond Williams. After spending approximately two-and-a-half years under his tutelage, Gordon developed sensory evaluation skills and was given the responsibility for the analysis of rums. Gordon's talents in sensory evaluation were further honed and showcased. At the time, CDL's managers realised that he had a natural talent but was limited in his role at the lab and decided to transfer him into the production department as a production supervisor. The ensuing nine years would see Gordon in this position reporting directly to then Production Manager Aeon Brown. As production supervisor, Gordon was responsible for the production of very premium quality rums. As a result of his experience and knowledge in quality standards, he was able to effectively manage the role. After the retirement of CDL's quality control manager, the leadership team of CDL, led by Neil Glasgow, decided that Gordon was the best candidate to assume the role. Gordon was then promoted to the position of quality controller responsible for the rum stores, product quality for all rums produced at CDL, and coordination of shipments.

What happened next

In 2016, then Master Blender Derrick Dunn retired. Dunn was a dynamo in his own right as he is credited for many of the CDL's rum formulations.

“In the new leadership dispensation, headed by Winston Harrison, the team decided to expand my role to include blending” Gordon indicated. He was promoted to the role of quality assurance manager and senior blender. “My new role now included my maintaining the blends originally formulated by Dunn and I also had the opportunity to create a few new blends of my own, such as the Monymusk Plantation Platinum Rum and the new ITP-15 single estate and vintage The transition was easy for me as a result of my background in quality and sensory evaluation of rums.”

Present and future

“I absolutely love what I do; I love the feeling of creating a blend, taking this liquid from start to finish and seeing persons enjoy my final product. I get a great sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, in that I crafted something that provided many persons with a beautiful experience in the form of rum, an experience that can be enjoyed anywhere in the world,” Gordon said as he beamed with pride.

As he looks to the future, his aspirations do not end with quality. Gordon believes in continuous progress, growing daily, perfecting his craft, and possibly even obtaining a more senior role in the organisation. Currently, Gordon is pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Management with the University of Leicester, UK, which is slated for completion in 2022.

Gordon beamed with pride as he described the dependability and excellence of his team of five. “They follow my lead; even when the tasks seem daunting, they do not give up, they continue to work hard and deliver,” Gordon shared. Further, Gordon expressed, “I see a number of persons that possess the ability to excel and move to the next level. They possess excellent abilities in their areas, they are quick learners, and work well unsupervised. I am a believer in developing and challenging my team, as you never know what opportunities may arise; it is all about development and succession planning.”

When it comes to family, Gordon describes himself as a most eligible bachelor; however, his journey and successes are continuously supported by his family and 22-year-old son, who he jokingly describes as 'beating him to marriage', but he remains proud of him and his decision.

“As I consider my journey here at CDL, I am never more excited as I am now about the future of the company and the fantastic rums that we continue to produce and ship to the world. Our rums reflect the excellence, pride and joy of the work of our people right across the value chain from cane farming, production and blending. My team and I are proud to be given this mandate of showcasing our Jamaican rum producing excellence with the world,” he ended.

We are also elated and proud. Cheers to you and the team, Robert!

Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. For November, we welcome the chilled atmosphere associated with Eiswein or Icewine. After all, if we were in wine country, we would be looking forward to welcoming winter.

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek them relentlessly. Please share with me your wine, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at debbiansm@gmail.com, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Dr Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited


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