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Origins Although he first hatched the idea of making rum more than five years ago, Mr. O’Connell, who has owned Soggy Dollar since 2004, didn’t get it off the ground until last year. First of all, not just any rum would do. “The Caribbean is the rum capital of the world,” he said. “We [at Soggy Dollar] use more rum than anyone else in the area. It just seemed like Soggy Dollar equaled rum. And we didn’t want just any rum. We wanted a premium rum.” The base is a blend of rums from Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic. Soggy Dollar then adds it own spice mixes for both its dark and spiced versions. The flavours include caramel, vanilla, coconut, orange, pineapple, nutmeg and VI-inspired spices. The rums are then aged in oak casks and bottled and shipped from the UK. The attention to detail has paid off: the product won gold in the 2019 Global Spirit Masters Awards. Although other spirits — including the longstanding Callwood Rum and newly launched BVI Gin — are bottled on Tortola, Mr. O’Connell said that spirits in the VI are always “going to be limited by our size. “I think the challenge for us was that we could not produce the quantity that we needed to do on Jost Van Dyke,” he explained. An even greater challenge was Hurricane Irma, which flattened most of White Bay in 2017. As Mr. O’Connell and his staff struggled to rebuild the bar nearly from scratch, the slowdown in business offered the chance to finally concentrate on the launch of their new product. “The rum was always a fun thing to work on even when times were tough,” he said. “It helped us get through.”

“We use more rum than anyone else in the area. It just seemed like Soggy Dollar equaled rum. And we didn’t want just any rum. We wanted a premium rum.”

Island woes Mr. O’Connell, who lives in Great Harbour, admitted that it’s been tough running a worldwide beverage business from a tiny island of around 300 inhabitants. “There are so many logistics to the spirits business,” he lamented. In fact, Mr. O’Connell’s son had to move to the US temporarily in order to deal with the red tape there. “Trying to deal with the US and get approval is almost impossible long distance,” he said. Most sales still originate on the business’s website. So far, they’ve been able to get their product in bars throughout South Florida, as well as in all 30 locations of the Turtle Bay Caribbean Bar and Grill, a UK restaurant chain. Initially, getting the product in front of decisionmakers and tempting them to make the switch was also an uphill battle. However, Soggy Dollar is already ahead of the game in brand

recognition. “I think the really exciting part is people love the Soggy Dollar story,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Now that we’re getting in front of people in the US… they are willing to take it on.” Caribbean spirits For promotion, Soggy Dollar has been criss-crossing the ocean alongside partners at the BVI Tourist Board and The Moorings, promoting rum at boat shows in sailing capitals like Palm Beach, Florida and Southampton in the UK. This year, the brand sponsored the Hitmakers and Rum Chasers concert series, which finished in St. John in April, with songwriters including Jon

Nite and J.T. Harding, who penned country hits for artists like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban. The rum will continue to expand, said its founder, with the UK distributor soon moving into France, Germany and Spain. “We’re thinking international,” he added. The new rum is timed right to catch the wave of craft-distilled spirits both here and elsewhere in the Caribbean, which in some cases are replacing the old standbys, he said. “In the Caribbean, dark rum has been forever,” he said, “but now you’re seeing all kinds of dark rums and aged rums, and winning over some bourbon and whiskey drinkers. It’s a whole different story.”

Profile for Business BVI

Business BVI July 2019  

The theme for the July 2019 edition is ‘A View Beyond the Horizon’, which is intended to reflect where the territory is post 2017, while at...

Business BVI July 2019  

The theme for the July 2019 edition is ‘A View Beyond the Horizon’, which is intended to reflect where the territory is post 2017, while at...

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