Trudiann Branker talks Master Blender release, 1703 and Allen Smith

Mount Gay Rum’s first female master blender Trudiann Branker says she wanted to showcase traditional Barbadian rum production with her new Pot Still release.

Branker was in London for the launch of Mount Gay’s The Master Blender Collection: Pot Still at RumFest UK in October and joined Drinks International to discuss the thinking behind the release.

“It’s my first release under Mount Gay. It’s not a blend but a full pot still rum from 2009, a bit like a vintage. I wanted to highlight the true way of making Barbadian pot still rum and give it a real identity within the wider rum industry, which is very important to me.”

Branker took over as master blender on 1 April this year from Allen Smith, who previously held the role for more than 25 years.

“I came in as the quality control manager and the more time I spent with Allen the more I got interested in blending and the influence of barrel finishing,” added Branker.

"One of the things he taught me was the balance between science and taste. The science is obviously important but ultimately people are going to judge the rum on its aroma and taste, so balance between the two is important.

“Launching the latest member of The Master Blender Collection has been an opportunity for me to celebrate rum-making. I makes me proud to be associated with such a historic brand and I’m excited to start building on my own style going forward.”

Although The Master Blender Collection: Pot Still was the focus for Branker in London, she also put her own mark on the latest Mount Gay 1703 release.

Branker added: “So 1703 is the only rum which allows me to put my own twist on it because it’s a yearly release. For me what’s important is showcasing the more mature rums in the blend and let them shine.

“I had a very open relationship working with Allen. Instead of him telling me how things were done, he would ask me to do it and then discuss how it went, which has allowed me to retain my own personality in production. The journey I had with Allen was more about recognising the DNA of Mount Gay rum rather than his style of rum making. 

“The pressure for me going forward is that Mount Gay has been around for more than 300 years and although it’s a proud moment for me taking over, there’s a lot of legacy and heritage which I need to uphold.”