Chris Funk is the Florida/Puerto Rico Regional Manager for SPIRIBAM
As part of our month long celebration of Chairman’s Reserve St. Lucia Rum and their upcoming FRS Master’s Selection bottling, we wanted the Florida Rum Society to meet Chris and have a chance to learn more about him…
Chris is originally from Panamá- his father is American and his parents met in the 70’s there- and have been living in Miami since 2000. After closing a start-up business in 2009, he returned to bartending and hospitality but made it a career instead of a side-gig, working and opening some notable restaurants and bars including: Gigi, The Corner, The James Royal Palm Hotel and the Fountainebleau Hotel; that was UNITL he was captivated by the opportunity to work for rum brands he had enjoyed for years.
FRS: Tell us about your personal rum journey.
Chris: Rum is definitely part of the culture in Central America, however like most rum producing areas, unaged and local rum tends to be what is drunk. When I was opening the bars at the James Royal Palm I fell in love with a rum bar which I made my home for the time I was working there. We had pretty much every rum that was available to purchase and was the first time I was exposed to the real high end possibilities of rum as a world class spirit. I met my boss, Benjamin Jones, when he gave a staff training there, and well before my employment with Spiribam, I incorporated fine rums and Rhum Agricole in the programs and menus I developed.
FRS: What brought you to join the SPIRIBAM team?
Chris Well, someone else they had approached told me they were hiring and I reached out. I actually interviewed with Ben and Kiowa at the Royal Palm where I had met Ben something like 8-9 years prior. At the end of the interview Ben commented that ‘Funk is the perfect name for someone selling rum!’ I worked for SPIRIBAM part-time for a year before taking on the regional manager role.
FRS: SPIRIBAM is best known for both their Rhum Agricole expressions for Martinique as well as the predominantly molasses rums coming from St. Lucia… Do you have a clear favorite when it is time to sit down and sip at the end of the day?
Chris: You mean, to pick my favorite child?! *GASP* We used to be ‘The House of Agricole’ until we acquired Saint Lucia Distillers and rebranded globally as SPIRIBAM. I think each distillery has something unique to offer, and like our tag line says ‘fine rum specialists’ we are interested in bringing fine rum products to as many people as we can. As far as what I reach for in my home bar, I must admit that I have two “go-to” bottles for a sip while I walk my dog or kick back in my living room. The Chairman’s Reserve Original and Rhum J.M gold. The chairman’s is such an approachable, pleasantly spicy and mildly funky rum, and the Rhum J.M gold is at 50%, so its good for a grassy kick!
FRS: Of the different bottlings currently coming out of St. Lucia are you able to share one that you really speaks to you currently?
Chris: I’m very excited with the newest offering of Chairman’s Reserve Legacy, which celebrates our late master blender, Laurie Bernard. There is a touch of aged pot-still agricultural rum, and a complex, meaty texture that honestly drinks like a spirit that costs way much more. I think it shows that a high quality spirit does not always have to break the bank to impress.
FRS: Is there anything upcoming that you are truly excited about (even if you can only give us hints)?
Chris: For any-one who has traveled to Saint Lucia and tried Nuts & Rum, it will be coming to the US with the Brand Marigot Bay. Nuts & Rum is a peanut rum cream liqueur which sounds strange, but that’s probably why it stands out to me so much, I thought it would not be good (rum, dairy, peanuts?) but it is absolutely delicious!
FRS: Give us your favorite rum cocktail recipe.
Chris: On a hot boat or pool day, Chairman’s Reserve Spiced and Fresh coconut water over crushed ice! Simple and so refreshing!
FRS: When travel starts to be welcomed back to the world is there anywhere that you just cannot wait to pack your bags and head off to?
Chris: To visit my grandparents in Panamá, I was supposed to travel in the Summer of 2020, but we all know how that turned out. I’d also love to go back to the west coast of Puerto Rico to go surf and kick back, its so lovely there.
FRS: When not sipping rum what do you enjoy doing down in South Florida?
Chris: I’m raising an Airedale Terrier pup named Bodhi, and I try to surf as much as I can!
FRS: Rumor has it for a previous FRS Virtual Happy Hour you dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate the rhums coming from French territories… Any plans for a costume for the upcoming on at the end of March?
Chris: Oh my… uh… I hadn’t planned on it but seeing how I set the bar high for myself… uh… I gotta get on that!
FRS: What excites you the most about the upcoming Chairman’s Reserve FRS Master Selection bottles finally making their way to Florida in the coming weeks?
Chris: Honestly, I’m so excited to share these things with ya’ll and to have been involved with the group almost from the start. Seeing how its grown and all the activities and lively chatter, its great! Whiskey groups (no offense to any in particular) tend to be populated with saltier and less fun people. The rum lovers are truly a fun and light-hearted group and I’m so happy we’ve been able to connect people with a shared interest that is so damn tasty.
Join the FRS and Chris on an upcoming Virtual Happy Hour (Register)
Shop Chairman’s Reserve Rums in the FRS Shop