Resolving Caribbean arguments with Ten To One

Mark Farrell, CEO and founder of Ten to One Rum on Gray Street, Port of Spain on Friday. - Anisto Alves
Mark Farrell, CEO and founder of Ten to One Rum on Gray Street, Port of Spain on Friday. - Anisto Alves

Marc Farrell aims to settle arguments, among Caribbean people, with one bottle of blended rum at a time.

Ten To One brings together contrasting flavours of rum from each of the islands to create a unique blend while giving each island its much needed recognition.

Some of the other islands he has incorporated in his white and dark rums are Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Barbados.

Created in 2019, he said his inspiration was, “An internal point of frustration as a consumer. I am from Trinidad, the Caribbean, I have lived abroad for a long time and I would be the one walking into bar in New York, Miami or London and seeing my friends who were tequila or scotch drinkers have their taste elevate over time and the options for them were broadening. But as someone who has always been a rum drinker and had a passion for it, I was not afforded that same sort of breadth and opportunity.”

Farrell said he took that into consideration and thought why wasn’t there a similar renaissance for rum? Why were people not exposed to a sort of elevation in taste and an array of options?

“It is really an opportunity to re-imagine the rum category, show people a different side of rum, bring a different level of inspiration and elevation, and also show them a different side to our culture. I think a big part of the frustration I had with rum is the narrative. Anyone from Trinidad, from the Caribbean or you know someone from the Caribbean, you understand that it is much more dynamic, sort of like a rich cultural mosaic that we get credit for,” the newly turned 40-year-old said.

As for the rum itself, he said, all the islands’ rums have very unique characteristics and bringing those together in a single blend and with the help of his friends –then focus groups– he was able to decipher what worked well together.

“You would think you need a roomful of classically trained sommeliers to distinguish notes, but even in their own layman’s language, people will do a pretty good job of telling you what they like and do not like.”

Farrell said for Ten to One’s dark rum came from testing two blends with 35 people –blend ten and 11– and though they were not able to pinpoint what was distinguishing the blends, they knew what they liked. He said they expressed their keenness for both, but 11 had a note that was just striking.

“When I listened to what they were saying, it turned out what was in blend 11 was a bit of Jamaican pot-still rum and so we took that, combined it with ten and created 12 which can be seen on the bottle.”

Right now, the product is not locally made and this is because it was introduced in New York, Farrell explained. This is because when a company is introducing a product to the market, it is ideal to have production close to the power market.

“We launched in New York in 2019 which was our first and biggest market and still is today.”

As for moving production in Trinidad, Farrell said it may localise, but the aim is to introduce it into this market first. He plans to do so by making Ten to One’s way in restaurants, bars and groceries. He said once people try it at those establishments and develop a palate for it, they will be drawn to the liquor and grocery stores to buy it.

“Rum is literally of the Caribbean, of its soil and people, and it can be super elevated, dynamic and versatile in its own right. I am bringing that same message here at home and trying to expand, get people to look at it in a different light and consider it that way.”

He said he plans to do so by keeping his liquid-to-lips concept in mind at all times, so the product’s quality does not drop and people can have something they love in their glasses at all times.

Ten To One is in about 20 markets in the US today –New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and others–, Europe, West Africa, Latin America and now the Caribbean. TT is just the start to his expansion among the islands.

Farrell said he will “never ever” expand from rum and venture into beers, tequila or vodka, but he said his Ten To One website gives people a list of signature and re-imagined cocktails for people to ease themselves into the Ten To One flavour. His favourite is the Ten to One Fashioned across the Ten To One portfolio.

Before getting into the rum business, Farrell has always been privy to the entrepreneurial side of life as he said it comes from within. But grew and festered thanks to the mentors and advocates he had at his disposal from the first breath he took.

“I worked for a guy called Howard Schultz, founder and former CEO of Starbucks. He was the guy who hired me, brought me there, showed a lot of belief in me and gave me a lot of responsibility… perhaps before I was even ready for some of it. But having a chance to work alongside a guy like that, where you see up close, what it looks like and takes to build an extraordinary brand and business have made its way into the Ten To One DNA.”

He served as vice president at Starbucks.

Farrell’s first degree is in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology then another in public policy from the University of Cambridge before branching off into business. He then studied management consulting, venture capital among others at the Harvard Business School.

He offered some advice to those with an entrepreneurial spirit, “There are tons of ups and downs, most people, including myself, get more things wrong than right, but you have to learn to take those things in stride.”


"Resolving Caribbean arguments with Ten To One"

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