When Delphine Nathalie Gardère was announced as the new CEO of Rhum Barbancourt in June, she became the fifth generation of her family, and the second woman, to steer the ship of the iconic Haitian distillery. It’s a role she was born for: Her middle name, Nathalie, is in homage to Nathalie Gardère , the first woman to lead the company, running the business for 15 years in the early 20th century.
“Every generation brings their touch, with their own history and own experience,” Gardère says. “My grandfather, a jurist and entrepreneur, brought the business from the back of the family house to the equivalent of the Great Plains of Haiti, which was a revolution. My father, an engineer, increased the production capacities.”
After almost three decades at the helm, her father Thierry passed away in 2017. Now it’s Delphine's chance to offer her own unique touch, with a background in business and luxury goods. “I’m very humbled by the history and legacy of our family business, and I'm bringing what I have learned throughout the years, as well as my heritage, to the table,” she says.
Barbancourt is the oldest company in Haiti, and remains beloved in its home, a point of pride for its quality and global stature. “Our motto is ‘Haitian since 1862’,” Gardère says. It’s also a major employer, with 500 employees and a network of 3,000 farmers who provide the crucial ingredient Barbancourt uses in its rum: Haitian sugarcane. Barbancourt is what’s called a rhum agricole , made from fresh pressed sugarcane juice rather than processed molasses. This offers a lighter, grassier profile, as well as a true sense of the place from which it originates.
When people pick up a bottle of Rhum Barbancourt, Gardère hopes to do more than share the rum itself, though. She also wants to share an important piece of Haitian culture and history.
“Haiti is the first Black independent nation in the world, with influences from the French and Spanish, and creole is our language, which is a melting pot of different influences,” Gardère says. “We have an interesting culinary culture and our art has been renowned for its complexity, bringing together African, Indigenous, and European influences. Haiti is at the core of the Barbancourt DNA. Our logo has a lot of Haitian symbolism—for example, the woman is meant to represent the goddess of agriculture."
As the female head of a company, Gardère also knows there’s still more work to do in regards to workplace equality and leveling the playing field. “I like this quote from Delphine Ernotte : ‘As a woman, if you get angry, you look hysterical; conversely, if you are too nice, you are called weak or mother-like. The truth is that no one likes women of power’,” she says.
That’s why one of her focal points in the years ahead will be empowering women and fostering an environment of inclusivity. “My plan is to give more space to women within the company. Haiti is a matriarchal society, but its business world is mainly led by men. I would like to change that..”
Gardère, 37, shared some of her favorite things with Penta.
The perfect meal at home is... Haitian Djon-Djon rice.
A childhood memory I treasure is... naps on the beach.
The best book I've read in the last year is... The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald .
A passion of mine that few people know about is... ski holidays.
When travel opens up more freely, the first place I'm going is... Machu Picchu, on a girls’ trip!
The thing that gets me up in the morning is... my morning workout.
A person who inspired me to do what I do is... an ex-L'Oreal marketing manager who inspired me to go to business school. I was lucky to have had experience in the luxury goods industry where there are loads of powerful women who are inspirational.
If I could have a drink with anybody, anywhere, it would be... with Veuve Clicquot, also known as Madame Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin , and Nathalie Gardère, the first female leader of Barbancourt in the 1920s.
The one thing in my kitchen or on my bar that I can’t live without is... Coke Zero!
The one thing I’m doing more of to help me get through this difficult time is... spending more time with my family.