The word rum usually conjures up images of sunnier climes such as those in Jamaica and the Bahamas, what it probably doesn’t do, is invoke images of the grey skies of Glasgow, but for two schoolfriends from the city, the word now means something much closer to home.
Entrepreneurs Zander Macgregor and Allan Nairn are set to buck the current trend across the country of distilling gin and whisky and follow in the footsteps of Dark Matter Distillers in Aberdeenshire by launching a new Scottish spiced rum.
“When we asked around people asked us what we were playing at, trying to make rum when gin is so popular right now.”
It’s a point that Macgregor takes in good humour, he explained: “We did look at gin and I think if you get into gin just now, you’re guaranteed to sell bottles, I suppose there is an element of risk involved with distilling rum but being big fans or rum ourselves, we were curious to see if it would be possible to get a spiced rum distilled in Scotland.”
Macgregor came up with the idea following some time travelling in Mongolia, and having returned to no commitments, decided to enlist business partner and schoolfriend Nairn, before beginning to investigate the feasibility of launching their own distillery.
However, having looked at the numbers, Macgregor found that it just “wasn’t viable”, instead the pair began talking to other distillers around the country.
“We emailed loads of distilleries all over Scotland, and eventually we found Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire, and Tony [Reeman-Clark] and his team were just really helpful, they have a good wee set-up which really suited us.”
Reeman-Clark allowed Macgregor and Nairn not only access to Strathearn’s stills and their facilities but also to his own, and young Head Distiller Liam Pennycook’s vast experience.
Macgregor added: “Although Allan and I have a keen interest in distilling and brewing we didn’t have any experience of distilling before we started making Wester Rum. We had a clear idea of what type of spiced rum we wanted to create and spent months learning the theory and techniques of rum distilling.”
Pennycook, who has previously created unique products such as Scotland’s first gin aged in pear-wood barrels and German spirit Beirbrand, has made rums, both golden and spiced, for Strathearn and was able to point the fledgeling distillers in the right direction.
Macgregor said: “Strathearn have been a great help in establishing the Wester Spirit Co. It has been fantastic to work with Liam.”
Once they’d found their production site the next step was to source the molasses, something that is not in ready abundance in Scotland.
Macgregor said: “We buy the molasses from a company down south who source them from traceable sources around the world.”
The pair then used a focus group of friends to help pick the spices, pointing out that getting the balance right between the rum and their chosen spices – which include nutmeg, ginger and star anise – was essential for their recipe.
The result is a surprisingly rich yet smooth and well-balanced spiced rum that the new brand will release in batches of 500 with the first run – currently being distilled in Strathearn’s potstills – already on presale at www.westerspirit.com.
Macgregor believes that the rum’s quality will speak for itself, but also the fact that it is made in Scotland will help to win Scottish rum fans over, he added: “There’s been a great rise of rum bars in Glasgow and that’s helped raise the profile. If people want to buy local rather than having a bottle travel all the way across the Atlantic, then our rum is the answer.”