Ooh-Wee Baby! Caribbean Smooth Rum Liqueur Launched For USVI Drinkers
ATLANTA — Nigel Walwyn was visiting his father on St. Croix when he went to the backyard to pick some passion fruit to make a drink, just like he had all through his childhood.
But this time, he decided on a little twist, making an adult beverage instead. A little of this and a little of that, and that’s how his company, Caribbean Smooth, and Ou-Oui, a rum liqueur, was born — about a decade ago.
Walwyn played with different combinations over the years to tweak what became known among friends and family as “Nigel’s Punch.” When he convinced his cousin in charge of the VIP tent at the St. Kitts music festival to make three gallons of his special punch available to the guests, it was gone in less than an hour and people were asking for more.
“I saw my cousin last month and they are still talking about it to this day. So that was kind of like the lightbulb going off,” he said.
Meanwhile, Walwyn had spent more than 25 years as an award-winning television news executive for affiliates of CNN and ABC, but his punch was still a hobby. A lawyer friend took him aside at a party and asked when he was going to get serious about making money with his drink and “another lightbulb went off. I left my career, pretty much retired myself from the television news industry, and in 2014, I went from news to booze.”
It took three and a half years from conception to the market. The alcohol industry is highly regulated, so the first order of business was meeting all of the federal requirements. Next was the daunting task of raising the considerable amount of capital it takes to start production. Despite the challenges, Walwyn took the leap of faith and was determined to see it through.
Having worked in a corporate setting throughout his career, Walwyn also needed to acquaint himself with the basics of business. With the help of courses available on the Small Business Administration website, he educated himself in business theory.
At the same time, Walwyn worked with flavorists to come up with the right formulas that would meet federal standards — and his own. He turned to a company called Caribbean Distillers, which worked with Cruzan Rum to formulate its flavored line. They have a distillery in Puerto Rico, where Caribbean Smooth gets most of its blend of multiple rums, and one in Florida where Ou-Oui is manufactured and warehoused.
The big difference between Ou-Oui and most flavored rums is that Walwyn insisted on using real fruit, which caused its own set of challenges.
“It’s one of the reasons that drove me to put something like this on the market, because I wasn’t satisfied with what I was getting,” he said. “For just about any flavored rum, they use mostly artificial flavor, and not all flavored rums taste natural. You can’t duplicate nature, but I am using nature as part of the process and insisted on using real fruits in our product.”
Walwyn and his flavorist team put some real thought into the process. The 40 proof rum acts as a natural preservative, and though you may think the black bottle is part of the overall marketing, it actually helps block out UV rays that degrade the fruit. Only the bottom of the bottle is clear, so consumers can flip the bottle and see the real fruit settled at the bottom.
Walwyn calls Ou-Oui a rum liqueur “because of the process of how we put it together. It starts with a proprietary formulation of the rums and then a specific formulation for everything else, such as the fruit, the spices, and the natural flavor, and blend those together. I emphasize that this is not just a rum and juice drink that you just throw together. We had to break it down, reverse engineer it, make some changes to get it to a point where it’s government approved and it’s still delicious.”
Operating out of his home, Walwyn launched Ou-Oui in the Atlanta area in 2017, offering passion fruit and pineapple guava flavors. A second state will be added to the distribution list in a couple of weeks, but Walwyn wanted to bring it back home to the Virgin Islands first.
Three weeks ago, he launched Ou-Oui on St. Croix at the Taste of St. Croix and during Carnival Food Fair on St. Thomas last week. West Indies Company will distribute in the Virgin Islands. It is now available at both Plaza Extra stores on St. Croix, Plaza Extra and Caribana on St. Thomas and Dolphin Market on St. John. Look for more locations coming soon.
“The reaction of the people of the Virgin Islands to this has been beyond amazing,” said Walwyn. “It makes me feel good because, number one, I’m bringing them something they can relate to, and two, they know what passion fruit really tastes like. ‘Ou-Oui’ translates to ‘Oh yeah!’”
–Virgin Islands Daily News