Vince, Giles and Dich are the distillery dream team. Each one of them is oh-so passionate about the delicious rum they are creating down at Fort Cumberland on Portsea Island… But each one of them also is expert in a different area. Vince is the crazy creative who’s travelled the world tasting spirits in his time working for the Royal Navy where he met Giles. Giles is the business, realistic brain of the two. Dich is a master of sales, having worked for the General Wine Company before giving up his stable job to join a startup that centred around one of his great loves: rum. So, why is their rum different to the liked of supermarket own rum? We are about to find out.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:28 Meeting Dich and Vince, setting the scene in Fort Cumberland, Portsea Island
- 00:03:07 “There has been a fort here since the 1600s, this particular fort was started in 1747 as a result of the paranoia of the Jacobite rebellion.” [Vince]
00:05:18 The casements – what were they used for?
- 00:05:46 “This particular area of the fort would have been used for storage of dangerous stuff plus a little bit of accommodation for troops.” [Vince]
00:06:53 Why was it important to the team to be in a historic building?
- 00:07:30 “There are a plethora of historic buildings in the Portsmouth area and indeed on Portsea island and therefore that was our red line. If we could not find a historic England to set up in, then we weren’t going to go ahead with the project.” [Vince]
00:08:12 How the rums are named and influence of the history surrounding their production
00:09:20 Sophie the pot still and spiced rum
- 00:09:39 “Very distinctly different to any other spiced rum you would have had on the market because of two reasons, principally… Firstly because it’s an unaged rum and it’s distilled…” [Vince]
00:10:45 The growth of the craft gin market – is this happening to rum too?
- 00:12:43 “The great thing is to have a provenance and be making rum, as I’m sure Vince will come on to later, from scratch in a very different way gives us a fantastic USP and it’s something we can be so easily passionate about.” [Dich]
- 00:13:03 How many Rum distilleries are there in the UK?
- 00:14:07 “Great! The more people making rum, the better. Because if we can have a rum-aissance the same way we’ve had a gin-aissance then all of us will do very well out of that. My only concern is that it’s easy to make a rubbish rum…” [Vince]
00:14:42 What inspired Vince, Dich and Giles to get into Rum?
- 00:15:34 “What the Royal Navy allowed me to do of course was travel around the world and I would sample spirits, and indeed rum, around the world and get an understanding.” [Vince]
- 00:17:40 “We [Vince and Giles] set up the rum club. And, it was never going to make us any money, but what it did do is really get us into the rum industry in the UK.” [Vince]
00:18:35 The culture that surrounds Rum and its history
- 00:20:04 “You get that sense of wellbeing when you go to a Caribbean island. A lot of that comes from – they just relax. And rum is a big part of that, it is a drink of choice when they are relaxing.” [Vince]
00:22:08 When Vince was travelling around, what was his role in Geest? What is Geest?
00:23:08 Do distilleries differ island to island? What are the nuances around?
- 00:24:27 “You can make rum with sugar cane syrup, you can make rum with sugar can juice (that’s French West-Indian) … Syrup tends to be more Spanish, so northern/south America/central America sort of location… you can make rum from molasses which is more English.” [Vince]
00:25:45 What is it about Portsmouth Distillery Rum that is different?
- 00:26:55 “So think of Bacardi, think of Captain Morgans… I don’t know anyone that habitually drinks either of those two white rums neat. Because they’re not that pleasant, you have to put sticky stuff into them to enjoy them… I didn’t want to produce that, I wanted to produce a rum that could be taken neat.” [Vince]
- 00:29:45 “Can’t make an agricole in the UK at the moment because people don’t understand it enough and wouldn’t buy it… It’s hard enough selling an artisan white rum that tastes great!” [Vince]
00:32:53 The stages of making Rum and why it takes so much longer than Gin
- 00:33:25 “We actually ferment our rum for two weeks and that’s deliberate. We aren’t trying to speed up the process, we aren’t trying to hammer it in four days… When I tell producers that, they tend to go ‘What? Really? Why so long?’” [Vince]
- 00:35:05 “We are certainly the first UK distillery in history to be ageing rum in barrel, which in two and a half years’ time we will have our 1812 three-year-old rum which is very exciting… We are very impatient here at Portsmouth Distillery Company!” [Dich]
00:35:37 The challenges around educating people on the history and provenance of rum
- 00:36:37 “Because just standing there trying to sell a bottle of white rum at £32 retail price – people just can’t get that. But when they try it they understand the difference.” [Dich]
00:36:53 Where does Portsmouth Distillery want their rum stocked?
00:38:45 How to appeal to millennials and the changing habits around drinking alcohol
- 00:40:59 “The point, and the difficulty for Dich, is getting people over the threshold if you like to try it in the first place. Because generally speaking, if we get someone to try it, they’ll generally buy it because it’s really good.”
00:42:27 Sophie Wu the 500 litre pot still!
00:47:08 Aged rum – does it go through the same process and what was the inspiration for it?
- 00:48:00 “And literally picking up those flavours then from the old barrels?” [Mark] “That’s right, yeah, and a bit of colour from the charring on the inside of the barrel.” [Vince]
00:51:05 Is the fort a good place for ageing rum? If the group hadn’t found Fort Cumberland, was there anywhere else they considered?
- 00:51:10 “When we arrived to have a look at it, I was just astounded at the beauty of the place.” [Vince]
00:52:19 Chatting about Giles and the importance of roles in the business
- 00:53:18 “We served together on two ships, we had a very similar career paths within air defence in the RN and subsequently by accident, left in 2012. Both of us. It was at that point we came together in the business sense.” [Vince]
- 00:55:33 “In the course of doing all that we met Dich whilst doing our rum shack in the Portsmouth seafood festival… And he professed a real love of rum and a thought of maybe a distillery.” [Vince]
00:58:31 What was Dich’s background and why did he chose to go from a secure job to helping out with a start up?
01:00:32 How is the industry recognising Portsmouth Distillery?
- 01:01:12 “I think there’s still a lot of scepticism around it – a lot of “well, they’ll never be able to make rum like everybody else”. I’m not saying anyone’s said that about us, but I get a sense when we do rum fests etc… There’s a whole heap of talk about rums that are established.” [Vince]
01:04:38 What’s next for Portsmouth Distillery?
- 01:04:47 “Rum is our thing. The spirits that we have on our shelves right now are here to keep the lights on to age the rum, bottom line.” [Vince]
01:07:43 Has export come up yet, or is distribution UK only?
01:08:37 If you’d like to purchase some Portsmouth Distillery products or learn more, where shall you go?
01:10:24 Marks final thoughts & sign off
If you’d like to learn more about Portsmouth Distillery, the spirits it produces and the team behind it all… Check out their social media or listen to the full episode here.