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Why make Rum in Britain?

I am British. My mother is English, my father is Scottish, and I am passionately British.

Britain is an inescapably loaded word that needs all sorts of apologies for its past sins. However, Britain is also the home of countess, wonderful, cultural icons that should be recognised as positively British.

When I think Britain I think; Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Stormzy, Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst, Banksy, Chris Eubank, Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan… The list is endless and the there isn’t a corner of the planet that their creative influence hasn’t reached.

This is the Britishness that I am proud to be associated with, and it is one of quality, creativity, eccentricity, honesty and inclusivity. 

But Rum is “Tropical”?

Firstly I need to start by saying that I am a huge fan of Rum and that didn’t happen over night or from tasting Rum created from new, British distilleries. Rums from Guyana, Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Belize and Jamaica have always intrigued and delighted me. There are a whole host of distilleries all around the world with a rich heritage of Rum making dating back centuries.

The facts are: “Rum must be made from sugar cane”, but it doesn’t need to be made in a sugar cane producing country or island. Even some of the most well known Rum distilling countries are importing molasses as they can’t grow the sheer volume of sugar cane demanded for their successful Rum brands today. What was historically farm land may now be a golf course or a holiday resort, so even if there were a history of sugar cane farming in that area, plenty of the Rums we love use imported molasses. It is just how the modern World works.

Rum can be made anywhere!

But Rum is tropical and Britain famously isn’t. Right? It is easy to hear the word rum and picture a Caribbean beach, cocktails and tropical plants, but would you still think “tropical” if I said, the high mountains of Guatemala? The volcanic plains of Nicaragua? What about Boston? During the 18th century there were 179 distilleries in New England and that over 6 million gallons of molasses was imported. Please don’t misunderstand this, Rum has undeniably tropical routes, but Rum is also so much more than the location of which the sugar cane has been grown. 

Looking forwards

At DropWorks we look forwards not backwards. (However, it is worth noting Britain actually has a history of rum production in the late 18th Century.) Molasses were imported and lots of Rum was made. I spoke with Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller about this, when doing my research, and it was actually the very subject of Anistatia’s master’s dissertation! So if you want to know more, just ask her! Or me and I will do my best to recall a fraction of her imparted knowledge).

So let’s look forwards. DropWorks was born from our love for Rum, and loving how we can play around with it from a drinks perspective! Rum is the single most diverse Spirit there is. Fact. There are Rums that taste like Vodka, Whisky, Brandy, Tequila and now the spiced and flavoured Rum category is rivalling many modern Gin expressions for whacky flavours.

Rum is a fascinating category and I am endlessly exploring and learning more about the depth of Rum’s flavours that are out there. But I am all too often drinking a Rum that is “interesting” and not “enjoyable”. I want to make delicious Rum available for everyone, without having to add loads of sugar.

DropWorks’s official company name is The Modern Rum Co. We are a company of people that are passionate about deconstructing what Rum really is and then reconstructing it in the best way we know how. We are getting rid of the lazy marketing shorthand, all the preconceived ideas of a “premium” Rum distillery and approaching it with fresh eyes.

Spice Drop from DropWorks is redefining the category.

Iconic Britishness

When you deconstruct what makes a high quality Rum, our approach is very simple: the finest raw materials, fermented in a controlled (and sometimes deliberately otherwise) environment, using new and exciting strains of yeast and our own nurtured bacterial cultures, distilled on the highest specification stills, made to our bespoke designs, that are operated by our genius head distiller, before being matured in a vast array of different casks from all over the planet, and blended to a consistent, perfect, deliciousness. 

That is the approach of our British icons. Westwood deconstructed fashion, Bowie deconstructed music, and Nolan deconstructed film. They did it because they loved it. They studied it, lived it, and reconstructed it to create their ultimate expression of it.

So why not take this approach to our true love, and make Rum in Britain… ah, the famous British weather… A lot has been said about the difference between ‘tropical’ ageing and ‘continental’ ageing, but there are massive positives of ageing in a continental climate, whatever that means?! The relatively consistent, mellow temperatures are preferable for longer maturations, just ask any Scotch drinker. Yet housing barrels in our production facility means we can see 30 degree temperature swings daily, allowing for rapid barrel interaction.

Just a selection of the hundreds of barrels at the DropWorks distillery ready to age Rum.

Also Modern Britain is a leading light in sustainability practices. DropWorks is relatively local for people in the U.K. and mainland Europe. Eating and drinking local produce is one of the best things we can do to reduce our own carbon footprint. Shipping liquid all across the globe is having a vastly, negative impact on carbon emissions, especially when its is bottled in weighty glass to start with. Every new company has an undeniable responsibility towards sustainability and we have an extensive list of sustainable practices that I will save for another blog!

We are free to follow our own path and this allows us to tap into some of the scientific, creative and artistic knowledge that Britain is famed for. It is right here on our doorstep, and building a distillery in the heart of Britain is proving full of opportunities to make fun, exciting and quality Rum.

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