Valdemar Hanschell, a sea captain from St. Thomas in what was then the Danish Virgin Islands, settled on the island of Barbados and in 1884 he established a chandlery business supplying ships with ropes, sails and provisions. By the early 20th century he had also diversified into the local liquor market, launching Cockspur rum, named after the island’s traditional sign of the rooster. The golden rum soon became the best selling rum on the island.
By 1921, Hanschell’s grandson was running the business with his grandfather and father as directors. They took on a partner, G.A.L. Larson and after the deaths of the two elder Hanschells in 1925 and in 1928, the company’s name was changed to Hanschell Larson. Another change in company name and structure came in 1971 when Hanschell Larson merged operations with a larger English ships chandlers business called James H. Innis, to form Hanschell Innis Ltd. Just two years later, the present owners, Goddard Enterprises enter the Cockspur story after acquiring Hanschell Innis Ltd on 1st July 1973.
Goddard Enterprises is a major conglomerate in the Caribbean and Latin America with subsidiary companies in over twenty countries and over 3,000 employees. Incredibly, this now huge company also grew from humble beginnings when in 1989, Joseph Nathaniel Goddard, a Barbadian born on the island to a poor white family opened a small family shop in Bridgetown Barbados. He quickly built a food and drink based retailing empire. His father, Mr Joseph Josiah Goddard, had been employed as a rum blender, so it was natural that he should also offer customers his own blends in his shops.
Successive generations of Goddards continued to grow and diversify the business encompassing activities including retail supermarkets, ship chandlery, rum blending, airline catering, not to mention completely unrelated activities such as cement production. Well before acquiring Cockspur, Goddard Enterprises had already established their own Gold Braid rum brand and acquired the J&R rum after the takeover of Johnson & Redman. More importantly, the company had invested in the West India Rum Refinery (now called the West Indies Rum Distillery) in 1965, eventually acquiring 88% of the distillery, which incidentally was already contract distilling Cockspur.
Of the five rum distillers on Barbados, West Indies Rum Distillery is by far the largest, not only making and bottling Cockspur, but also supplying bulk rum to other brands in both Europe and America. The distillery was established in 1893 by the Stades brothers - primarily to export rum to their homeland of Germany. They were proud “pioneers in scientific rum making”, coming a close second to the claim of being the first to use continuous stills in the Caribbean. (Bacardi claim their stills were imported from Paris and installed in Cuba in 1889.) The installation of the Stades brothers’ stills in 1893 is documented in ‘The Sugar Cane’, published on 1st December that year by Jas. Galt & Co. of Manchester, England, a fragile originally copy of which can be seen at the distillery. Further evidence of the stills installation comes in the form of a drawing from the Barbados government archives - depicting changes to the still made in 1904. Incredibly this vintage still is still in use to this day, now as a rectifier on top of Pot still #62.
The West Indies Rum Distillery sits on the beach, just a 100 or so meters above the high water line. Over the years it has expanded in all directions, its storage tanks and warehouses clearly visible against the beach to aircraft landing at nearby Bridgetown Airport and the cruise liners that dock just along the coast. This fabulous location and the family atmosphere that prevails at the distillery may have something to do with the company’s high staff retention. Of the sixty odd people who work at the distillery, over 30 years service is commonplace. Mr Harris, the Master Distiller, has worked there since 1979 and is an integral part of the fabric of the place; he even lives in the company’s beachfront house a few hundred meters from the distillery. Handy, as the distillery operates 24 hours a day and he is always on call should his expertise be needed.
Since acquiring Cockspur in 1973, Goddard Enterprises has built the brand both domestically and internationally. Within a decade of acquiring the brand, Cockspur could be found in every bar and rum shack, its standing amongst Barbadians built by sponsorship of sports events such as horse racing, sailing regattas and in particular cricket – the sport taken most seriously in the Caribbean.
In Barbados, Cockspur is known as ‘the cricketer’s rum’ and it is also the official spirit of English Test Match cricket grounds with Cockspur’s popular ‘rum shack’ present at each test match ground. Cockspur also sponsors the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Twenty 20 club tournament and sponsors the infamous ‘Barmy Army’ of loyal England cricket supporters.