The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) hosted its 2021 Brand Battle Championship on September 14. The event concluded a summer-long tournament which provided a unique stage for 46 brands across eight wine and spirits categories. Each brand owner shared their product and story with a panel of judges made up of leading distributors, industry experts, and consumers. Nine category winners were selected to compete in the championship.
Campesino Rum was named the 2021 Brand Battle Champion. Created by Hatton Smith II, who is just 27 years old, Campesino is a unique brand focused on changing preexisting thoughts about rum by using real ingredients, promoting brand transparency, and focusing on sustainability.
WSWA’s Brand Battle organizers connected with Smith, a Birmingham, Alabama native, to learn more about Campesino and his victory.
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WSWA: Congratulations on winning WSWA’s Brand Battle! How does it feel?
Hatton Smith II: It feels great! It feels like a lot of things I’ve thought about are finally starting to come into place. It takes something like WSWA’s Brand Battle to give a brand like mine a chance. Campesino Rum has a purpose and it’s what I laid out for the judges during the competition.
Winning the rum category and now the championship will hopefully lead to the next step of national distribution and becoming a household brand.
Tell us about your brand, how you got into the spirits industry, and how you developed your business model?
Campesino started after I used to run an off-the-grid, illegal rum still in Panama. [When I] wanted to turn it into a real business, I moved back to the U.S. and started Campesino. I founded the company in Birmingham, Alabama but it just launched in Tennessee.
We produce a multi-origin, barrel-aged, blended rum that is free of all additives. What I learned in Panama was the importance of creating products with integrity. I took everything I learned, and it became part of my entrepreneurial DNA. When I moved back to the U.S., I started looking at what existed in this market. I realized that none of these other brands were about integrity or transparency.
What are your plans for sustainability practices and social initiatives?
As far as sustainability goes, the first thing we’ve done is with our glass bottle. The top is always attached to the bottle, and the reason for this is that Alabama doesn’t actually have a way to recycle glass. I wanted to create a bottle that can be reused versus recycled.
I am currently working on a new social initiative. I used to be a hiking guide in Panama before I started distilling rum. The valley was a jaguar habitat. Right now, we’re in conversation with a local jaguar refuge and conservation group out of Panama, trying to establish how our partnership is going to work. I have a great love for the outdoors and for animals in the natural environment (particularly big cats).
What does winning Brand Battle mean for you and your future plans?
There is an opportunity for Campesino to lead a ‘rum revolution’ if we do the right things. I am so thankful for Brand Battle and WSWA because it has given me a platform in front of distributors. Winning the 2021 Brand Battle is another testament to the fact that the hard work we are doing is paying off.
WSWA is grateful for all who attended and participated in the 2021 Brand battle. WSWA looks forward to the 2022 Brand Battle. Visit WSWA.org to learn more.
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