Profile: Mikaël Silvestre

29 October, 2012

Rum aperitif

“Rum was always there. It was not focused on, but it is part of the heritage. I used to go to the distillery with a jerry can and fill it up. My father would seal it with wax and bring it back to France. We used to have it as an aperitif with friends and family,” he says “Twelve years ago we felt like going to another island.  We went to St Barth and fell in love with it. It is only 25 square miles. The kids love it and four years ago we bought some land and we are having a house built. 

“Most rum is European (owned and/or made for traditional European/colonial market) and sold in supermarkets. I think it would be good to have a super-premium rum from the French West Indies. I think we can produce a better quality,” Silvestre says.

The island is so small that water is limited, so the 8,000 or so inhabitants have to rely on desalinated sea water. It means the Silvestres’ R.St Barth rum is made in nearby Guadeloupe, which is know for its rhum agricole (rum made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses, the by-product of sugar refining).

Talking point

Saint Barth, or St Barts in English, is six hours behind Europe so in the late afternoon, around 17.00-18.00, Silvestre is “on the phone talking to people”. Severine has dealt with the marketing and logistics while Silvestre has dealt with the sexy stuff: the blend and the packaging design.

He chose three rums: R.St Barth Blanc which, as the name suggests, is a white rum, 50% abv, made from 100% organic cane sugar. It is expected to retail for Ä70 (US$86, £55) Ambré (Ä160, US$196, £126) and Hors d’âge (Ä700, US$860, £555). The latter two rums are aged in 200 and 600-litre oak barrels, Ambré for four years and Hors d’Age is aged for 12 years.

Silvestre sees Blanc as a great rum base for cocktails, while Ambré and Hors d’Age are for sipping and savouring. “For me the rum has to be good. It has to be sold to people who like it. Many will place the first order for a new drink but then they do not like it and don’t come back,” he says,

To give a steer on his taste in rum, Silvestre says: “I like to feel the flavour of the cane. I like the aromas.” 

What other rums does he like? “Diplomático (the Venezuelan copper pot still rum) and Appleton (from J Wray & Nephew in Jamaica – see last month’s profile on Appleton’s master blender, Joy Spence).

Moving home

Silvestre’s home at the time of the interview was Bremen in north west Germany, but the footballer is out of contract as centre-half with the Werder Bremen club so he is looking for a move. The German town is quite small so Silvestre is hoping for a move back to a big city club in the twilight of his career.

With distribution for his rum already established in France, Sweden, New York, Massachusetts and Boston, it should be in Florida and Dubai soon, along with premium retailers in London such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

All things being well, Silvestre hopes to build his own distillery, but his first priority is to sort out his immediate future and find a new football club – that will probably mean moving his family again. 

But in terms of his medium to long-term goal, Silvestre sees R.St Barth as creeping up his league table and his tactics may well change from defensive, more to attack.

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