An Interview with RumCask

An Interview with RumCask Rum Interview by the fat rum pirate ArticleAn Interview with RumCask. I will keep the introduction for this one fairly brief as the three lads that make up the RumCask team Indy, Jaz and Chet have really put the effort in when it has come to this interview!

I’ve been friendly with the RumCask lads since the Manchester Rum Festival in 2017 where I met Indy. I had briefly met them previously at London Rumfest but discussions had been in larger groups rather than speaking to them on a more personal level.

Since then I have had regular discussions and dealing with all three of the lads. As you will read they have been very busy over the last few years. Not only with their RumCask blog and events but also setting up their own rum distribution company here in the UK – Skylark Spirits. Although a relatively new player to the UK scene the company have a really interesting and exciting portfolio and are working with some pretty big players already!

Anyway I’ll hand you over to the guys now.

1. Firstly please give a brief introduction on yourself and your role in the rum world.

At our core we are just three rum fanatics. Three childhood friends who all ending up finding rum and started a journey together.

The three of us are Jaz Singh, Chetan Ladwa and myself (Indy Anand). Our journey from fanatics to being ‘in’ the rum world started with a trip to St Maarten where we bumped into the aptly named International Rum Council in 2015. People in the rum world including Shawn Martin, Nick Feris, Carl Grooms, Mike Streeter and Dave Russell. It was an eye opening trip where we ended up asking, what is the best thing you guys have ever done?

We were flown to Martinique to sample their rums and spread the word of Agricole.”

We were stunned and quickly said we wanted their job! They replied wisely to go back to the UK and immerse yourself in the rum world. Go to the rum bars, speak to the people and see what happens. Put thoughts on paper and let it happen. A couple of bored months later at work, and we did exactly that. We started RumCask.

An enjoyable and educational 9 months on we realised we are awful at writing (as you can tell!). We had people asking us to showcase rum to them in person and we pivoted the blog from writing reviews and articles into rum events. Over the next 12 months we hosted a variety of events from masterclasses to cocktail evenings. As ever the support from the rum community was fantastic and we were lucky enough to work with some great brands and individuals

2. Obviously COVID-19 has been devastating to the hospitality industry, we cannot avoid this fact it has had a huge impact on us all. How damaging has it been to your business/role and what have you done to try and minimise this?

Unfortunately, due to the young age of our business and the fact that we have yet to pay anybody from it, we fell through the cracks for help from the Government. As a result we had a business with outgoings and had to do anything we could to keep our heads above water. A lot of our business is on-trade but thankfully we had a strong off-trade presence as well which is where we have focused for now.

It’s frustrating to be in that position but it’s where we are and we do what we can. Glass-half full however – we are early along enough in our enterprise that we were able to change tact quickly and innovate. We’ve also not had to suffer the heartache of shutting down our doors, letting people go or furloughing anybody.

To that end it’s been quite positive for our events business in RumCask however. We have been agile enough to pivot straight into online events and the support we have seen for them has been humbling.

We have approached a variety of brands and suppliers to work with which has been tough as most have been furloughed and have no budget left to support. We managed to create the World’s First European Online Rum Festival as well. We were left in awe at the uptake of the tickets for that (even if we did have to create over 3000 bespoke drams)

Has RumCask covered the drop from Skylark Spirits? No. But it’s kept us busy and we are still working hard to hopefully be in a solid position when the on-trade industry returns.

We created a BOGOF initiative for bar tenders on Black Tears and we sent out loads of industry packs/samples for people in hospitality. We always have rum and love to give!

3. What first attracted you to the Rum World? What were your first experiences with rum?

Jaz – If it wasn’t for Diplomatica Reserva Exclusiva, I probably wouldn’t have gone through the Rum journey! Nowadays I still sip it as a one off during the night but soon come back to the true Jamaica funk bombs like US Rum Fire, S.B.S. Jamaica 2018 (DOK) or William George Rum!

Indy – Back in my first year at University I was introduced to Captain Morgan and Coke and my life would never be the same. I wanted to find other Rum to drink as I knew whisky was a massive category and started my search. I hope that search will never end as I discover more in the category.

Chet – Indy quite honestly! He bought me a ticket to my first ever RumFest in London back in 2011 and after that I was hooked. The pilgrimage to the Excel was pretty epic but I’m still not sure how we got back…

4. How do you think the Rum World has changed over the past 5 years? Where do you see the Rum World in another 5 years? Where would you like to be in 5 years?

5 years ago rum was beginning to become more appreciated. This was due to some bigger global rum brands appearing and dominating the ‘premium’ market. This brought a lot of people to the category in the same way Fireball brought a lot of people to whisky. The days of Bacardi (iconic and historic as it is!) being the only rum known, were slowly waning.

These days the general market pays more attention to what they eat and drink. As a result, some of the more niche brands are getting more focus which is only a good thing. As people pay more attention and do more research they can find flavour profiles they enjoy, and then source other rums from the most diverse spirit category on the planet.

In 5 years we hope to see a move away from the over-reliance on mainstream brands and get back to what is a well-made, tasty spirit. There will always be a demand for high volume, multi-column rums particularly for the speed rails in the bars but the question is. Can these also be high quality, well made and ethically produced rums too? We’d hope so, we’d like to help make that change.

5. What is your stance on additives in rum? Would you like to see more Universal Regulation?

We believe it’s never our place to tell somebody how to make their rum. If you want to age in oak barrels for 7 years, if you want have 2 week fermentation times, if you want to age in unique areas, if you want to add spices, if you want to add sugar go for it.

We stand for the end consumer and what we need is transparency. There should be a universal regulation on certain issues absolutely. The problem we have is what transparency is actually needed?

6. Speaking of rules and regulations what is your opinion on the current issues over the Barbados/Jamaica rum GI proposals?

Our opinion is the same as the question above. Transparency is key. Give the consumer the information. But also – that information needs to be in a digestible format. One sticking point is adding sugar into rum. Using terms such as “Dosage” isn’t being transparent. The majority of people on the UK high street have no idea what that means. I understand the product isn’t created purely for the UK market but there are easier ways to give that information.

There is some recent talk about the value of continental ageing and tropical ageing. We think this is overkill. If we are talking about ageing locations there are so many other factors that influence aging equally which need to be taken into consideration as well if you are saying that continental/tropical ageing matters. How old was the barrel? Was it wet/dry? How many times has it been used? What was it used for before? What is the barrel made from? Its fine saying a rum is X years tropically aged, but if the barrel was 50 years old before starting that ageing process it will give a totally different profile than a virgin oak cask for example. To us, that would be more important than continental/tropical ageing.

7. How do you view your role within the Rum World? What do you hope to “bring” to the rum community? Do you reach out beyond your day job in rum?

An interesting question really as we have two branches to what we do.

We aim to elevate the rum category with RumCask. This is mainly spreading rum education to people in face to face (online) events. The more people we can speak to face to face and explain the details of rum the better! When we attend rum festivals we try to get short interviews with people in the rum world as well. This started a few years back and they are all on the RumCask website.

We also collaborate with a variety of the rum world across the globe once a year to give the top 3 rums of the year from different opinions. Always an interesting mix showcasing what the rum world is busy with! But mainly this is spreading rum and education to the general public.

We have also recently been invited onto the Zavvy platform to have Live Streams with people in the rum world. We have done two episodes with them featuring Andrew Nicholls (founder of William George rum – discussing “Colour means nothing in rum”) and Sly Augustin (founder of Trailer Happiness, London), and will continue fortnightly with new and hopefully interesting topics and guests!

From the Skylark Spirits side we focus on importing, distribution and exporting fine quality sugar cane based spirits with a focus on supporting our retail partners to step away from widely available mainstream rums. 

Always hunting for white space and emerging trends from across the globe, we have quickly amassed a global world class portfolio 

8. Do you actively use Social Media to reach out with other Rum Drinkers and Enthusiasts? If so where might we find you?

We’re massive users and proponents of social media. It has been the most effective way to connect with consumers and the global rum community. From imagery and video interviews to launching events and promotions, we cannot overemphasise how vital a tool it has been.

Here are links to our RumCask Facebook page, Twitter Account and Instagram Feed. Here is also a link to the main RumCask website, which will give details of all our upcoming events.

If you want to learn more about our Portfolio with Skylark Spirits then we have an Instagram Feed, Twitter Account and Facebook page for that as well. As well as a more conventional website.

S.B.S - The 1423 Single Barrel Selection Mauritius 2008 Rum Review by the fat rum pirate8. Which rum producers are your current favourites?

Always a tough question. Current evolves daily. We will stick with our top 3 releases of 2019 for the moment as they still ring true for today.

Jaz – Back in April 2019, RumCask were able to visit Europe’s biggest rhum festival in Paris and were amazed at the high quality of artisanal rhum!  Definitely one of the most enjoyable events of the last 3 years!  As you may be aware, I tend to give my vote to the r(h)um that has most impressed me this year.

As we all know that the usual suspects of Velier, Foursquare & Worthy Park tend to churn out ‘bangers’ each year!  So, I have chosen my winner from a list of the most impressive rums I have tasted this year with the omission of the above three rum companies as I’m sure the rest of the panel will include them. So my shortlist is:

Cape Verde’s Vulcao
Australia’s Great River Ord OP 56.4%
St. Benevolence from Haiti
Montanya Aniversaria
SBS Jamaica (Hampden’s DOK finished in a Port cask)
SBS Mauritius (Grays finished in a Port Cask)

Whilst these rums have blown my mind, my 2019 RoTY goes to Pere Labat 59% – an unaged Agricole rhum.  An amazing fruity but dry taste profile that will really resonate with UK high proof molasses drinkers – not overly green!  An extremely delicious rhum made on Marie Galante, Guadeloupe which has a truly sweet terroir.  Plus it was retailing in the UK at GBP 32, which is a true bargain!  Get it while you can!

Chet – Saturday 13th April, Parc Floral, Paris. The perfect setting for Jaz’s birthday (he does have amazing luck on the days his celebrations fall on!).

Sadly for Jaz – that day will only be remembered for one thing – well two things. First was the crazy Uber driver who went the wrong way with us down a dual carriageway (5 star rating hmmm?). Second was Rhum Savanna Herr 57.

Although this rhum officially came to market in 2017 it was new to me and the rest of the group (that counts right?). Drawn to the lovely, shiny purple and gold label (big kid me) this drop from Savannah put the biggest smile on my face instantly. On the nose was almost a farmyard smell. Cut grass and cow pat! The first sip however was pure delight. Reminded me of a Fruit Salad sweet growing up. Fruity and sharp and oh-so-wonderful.

The flavour and profile keeps changing as it passes over your tongue and you really savour it. More fruits, some ripe, some sharp and a lovely warm coating spreads throughout your mouth.

As singlecaskrum.com describes it: “…compost heap, foul fruits and old coffee dregs. Wow!” Appealing right?

A beautiful rhum that stole the show for me in 2019.

Indy – This rhum agricole was brought to my attention by Stephen Martin the global brand ambassador of Rhum Saint James back in August at the German Rum Festival. A very fun event with a lot of unique releases. However this stuck out to me for two reasons. The main reason is the flavour profile. Incredibly fruity and floral with notes of the sugar cane, this was really very special. At 60% ABV I was actually stunned. I remember dragging a few people round to the stand and getting them to try it. A delicious rhum agricole that has become a main-stay in my house.

The second reason I chose this release is because of how it was made. Saint James are based in Martinique and they have a strict regulation on how products are made under the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) stamp. This product does not have that AOC stamp because they used a pot still and distilled through it twice. Both of these are not allowed under those Martinique AOC regulations.

It’s an amazing release that goes against what is allowed under Martinique AOC regulations but my oh my is it ever tasty!

Interesting how all three are cane juice rums though…

9. Which rum producers/brands do you think are currently flying under the radar? Name 3 rums people may not have tried but really should give a go

Sticking to availability in the UK I guess we think there are a few countries that are massively under represented in the rum world. We would note those being mainly Belize, Madeira, Fiji, Mauritius and Australia amongst others. If you get the chance to try rum from these places, please do. It’s amazing to see the diversity created by rum producers across the globe.

For actually brands we believe certain brands such as William George, Saint Benevolence, Tamosi, Wagemut, Ron Artesano, Damoiseau Arranges and Holmes Cay are just a few brands which people need to spend some more time with.

10. Finally, what is your idea of the perfect rum and/or rum drink/cocktail?

Answer for this?

We love cocktails and we especially love rum cocktails. The category is just soooo wide! We’re very lucky in our role that we get to meet many incredible bar tenders, cocktail guys, girls and gurus who are not only awesome at what they do but love to share their knowledge and actually take their time to educate the consumer.

During the lockdown thanks to Sergio Murath and Alex Sandu we’ve been learning a lot about additional ingredients from Cocchi Storico vermouth and Cynar to Crème de Peche and Absinthe! The perfect rum cocktail is something we’re all on a mission to find but ultimately it’s about balance, blend of flavours, understanding ice and dilution and putting a smile on the face of the person drinking the cocktail!

So there we have it, although they have said they aren’t writers they seem to have done pretty well to me!

Thanks again for this lads and best of luck in all you are doing going forward.

An Interview with RumCask Rum Interview by the fat rum pirate Article

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