Debbian Spence-Minott opens The Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

Friday, August 24, 2018

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Debbian Spence-Minott, an alumna of the US Sommelier Association and former senior manager, J Wray & Nephew (JWN) Academy & Appleton Estate Rum Experience, has branched out on her own, after 12 years, to open The Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines at the Trade Centre, Red Hills Road in Kingston.

The affable and industrious Spence-Minott, who successfully juggled marketing, promotion and training, joined J Wray & Nephew in 2006. She recalled the early days:

“I remember joining JWN on July 3, 2006 and during my orientation with the then MD David McConnell, I asked of him: Who are we as a company? His response was 'Debbian, we are not box movers; we are brand builders!' That core value has stuck with me until now – building solid relationships and partnerships so that we can reap the rewards later on.”

Spence-Minott was assigned to Imported Brands which soon after transitioned to the International portfolio, where she was mentored and trained by several international brand principals. It was Pascal Bony, however, of Mot-Hennessy who would take her under his wing and make it his point of duty to teach her the business of Mot-Hennessy. His lesson: know your brands, and genuinely connect with the people. His lessons did not fall on deaf ears and in three years the sales of Hennessy moved from 1,200 cases per year to 5,000 cases. Indeed, by year five, Spence-Minott recalls, “We were at the 8,500 cases mark.”

If Bony taught her about brands, chairman Jimmy Lawrence imparted the value of teamwork and building a strong team.

The company was then acquired by Campari, led by Ugo Fiorenzo who immediately took notice of Spence-Minott and her exemplary work during a special visit from no less than Maurice Hennessy himself, and the repackaging of the VS bottle in commemoration of Jamaica's 50th independence.

Fiorenzo then presented her with the opportunity to work on the Campari portfolio. “I led the team spearheading the marketing efforts for the Campari portfolio. In the first year, Campari grew from 12,000 cases to 20,000, by year two, 34,000. The brand has not looked back since as the new brand team continue to blaze the trail with this brand. Even Skyy Vodka did an about-turn (800 cases to 3,500 cases) in its first two years,” Spence-Minott said.

Before leaving for a new post in the US, Fiorenzo shifted her responsibilities to the JWN Academy and Appleton Estate Rum Tour (now JSAERE). Her final master class came courtesy of (then new) MD Jean Philippe Beyer.

For the opening of JSAERE “there could be no surprises, nothing out of place. JP taught me a new lesson regarding attention to details. I had to make several walking trips (with Chris Bailey) to ensure all was in place,” Spence-Minott shared.

“Working in marketing in the adult beverage industry, is like an English prison sentence, where morning and night are counted,” Spence-Minott sad. “My 12 years are really 24! Some days are even 24 hours long, and we show up having done the work behind the scenes and still allow our respective brands and ourselves to look fab.

“As I approach my new journey, I look towards it with a sense of pride, knowing that my mission at JWN/Campari Jamaica has been accomplished. The work does not end. I will continue through research and the doctoral journey to be the marketing voice of the adult beverage industry, highlighting effective marketing and sustainability strategies. I will continue to train and uplift our bartending and mixology communities. I will chart new courses and create new success stories for brands wishing to grow in this market.

“All of my experiences, travels, and exposure have led me to this place and all my successes are interwoven with the first lesson I learned: building brands, knowing your brands and genuinely connecting with people.”


Debbbian Spence-Minott is a guest presenter at this weekend's Jamaica Observer-supported Cortia Bingham-helmed We Inspire, and on Sunday, August 26, she will be at the VIP brunch to be hosted at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, to present on the topic: “The Truth About Building Your Personal Brand.”

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