Kerissa Briggs will never forget the feeling of seeing online comments from people around the world who were excited to know that there was an all-female distillers team at the Renegade Rum Distillery in Grenada.
“It was such a good feeling,” Briggs tells ESSENCE. “It’s very rare you see women in Grenada and probably the Caribbean on a whole in these kinds of positions,” she adds, recalling comments like ‘way to go,’ ‘proud of you ladies’ and ‘thank you’ on social media on International Women’s Day.
Briggs says the distillation process to make rum is a combination of science and art. “Even from the beginning when pictures were posted on our site, people were excited to see us in our steel toe boots and our hard hats and photos featuring us operating machinery and taking a sample, doing certain tasks that you know they probably are used to a guy doing,” she says.
The 28-year-old made history as part of the first all-female distillers team in Grenada, something she says she couldn’t imagine when she started working at the company in 2019.
The company says recruiting an all-women’s distillers team was what it initially set out to do. However, its efforts to recruit the best and brightest local talent in Grenada have paid off.
“We didn’t set out to recruit women, they just happened to be the best candidates, so they got it by merit,” Renegade Rum Publicity Director Jane Nurse says. “Secondly, I think it’s a reflection on the Caribbean that women, when given the chance and opportunity, tend to do really well for themselves. I think women generally are extremely conscientious, hardworking, and detail-oriented, which you need in this kind of job.”
Camille Charles says she also didn’t envision how much she would excel when she left the education field to pursue a career in the spirits manufacturing industry. The former teacher certainly didn’t think that she would make history alongside Briggs and colleagues Quency J and Karla Harford.
“Getting into Renegade rum for me was something that was never planned. One day I was just at home and I sat down and I said, why not try,” Charles tells ESSENCE. “I used to be a Chemistry teacher and I decided that I wanted to get into manufacturing and for me, Renegade was one of the best opportunities that came my way.”
“We did something here that no other company had really decided to do before. When you enter a manufacturing company, most of those in charge, you will see those positions being held by males. And to see that we took that step further to create something different, a lot of people were impressed and intrigued,” says Harford.
They say they want other women to know that there are many opportunities in the trillion-dollar global alcohol industry despite the fact that it has historically been a male-dominated industry.
Charles has worked her way up to lead distiller, Briggs now works as a quality control supervisor, and Harford is the warehouse manager at the distillery. They hope that their presence and success in the industry encourage more women to pursue careers in this field.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them and it’s also a good opportunity for me to remember to give more as a person and have a positive impact on other women like myself who are trying to grow, thrive and make it in this industry,” says Charles.
“We’re like a sisterhood. We have each other’s backs covered when it comes to making rum.”