Next up in the #rumfamily series is an interview with Ross Bradley, Managing Director of Spirit of Glasgow ltd.
We had the pleasure of meeting Ross during the London Rum week last October at a couple of events. Ross was also showcasing Sugar House Rum at the boutique Rumfest on the Friday. A relative new comer to the Rum community but one who clearly has a passion for what he does and produces a tasty spirit!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to where you are now as a distiller?
Erm… I’ll spare you the boring bits but I could start by saying I’m very new to the Rum scene compared to many but I’ve found myself jumping in both feet first ever since my trip to Barbados in 2018 on what was dubbed the “Rum geeks Barbados takeover”. I think it was this experience out there, seeing the history of Rum, that has pushed me to try and learn as much as I can and use that knowledge and advice given to make as decent and genuine product/brand as I can.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of that journey?
That’s an easy one, to keep my mouth shut… Unfortunately in business some people will always try and get one up on you and me being quite the trusting guy, I’ve had quite a few copycats or IP infringements and I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years so far…
Please could you describe a typical day in your working life?
As this isn’t my full time job to date (I’m a truck mechanic/grease-monkey whichever you prefer) a day in the distillery consists of some time for admin in the morning, then the afternoon could either be distilling, starting a new or monitoring a current fermentation but if there’s not much to be done at the distillery I’ll be out in the wild meeting with people in the on-trade or other customers. It can be quite tricky finding a balance between all aspects of the business at times.
What are you most proud of out of all of your Rum achievements so far?
For the brand I guess it would be winning a few awards from the IWSC and the Spirits Business for our Sugar House Rums but for personal achievements I still enjoy seeing people’s (some of which have been big players in the Rum world) reactions and their feedback when they try the Rums for the first time since Scottish Rum isn’t as widely known as other corners of the world.
What is the hardest thing about producing Rum at the moment?
I personally think that the lack of knowledge and enforcement in the trade is holding us back in many ways and also misleading the public. Currently there are no requirements to have new products and labels checked prior to their release so you now have a case of spiced Rums not being labelled as such, products using imported Rum but labelled as Scottish/English/British (which has a negative effect on what we domestic producers are trying to achieve) and many Rums being sweetened without disclosing this on the label giving a false impression that that’s how the Rum naturally is.
What is the best thing about producing Rum at the moment?
I think there is a decent community of producers both at home and abroad that want to help each other where we can and do right by the category. This also filters down to the public and the social media forums where we get feedback and are encouraged to keep doing a good job. As the saying goes, Rum Family is the best Family!!
What are your thoughts on GI for Rum producing countries?
I think this is definitely a must for Rum producing countries that are known for a certain style and have heritage to protect whether that be Jamaica, Barbados, Martinique or Haiti. There are other countries that produce Rum where there is not as big a need for a GI such as many South American countries or even here in the UK where a GI to protect this heritage is not as important and we aren’t know for a specific style of Rum.
There seems to be endless possibilities from ageing in different woods, blending and releasing expressions at different ABVs. Are there things you know would not work and are there things you want to try?
That’s quite a tricky question as there will always be a market for the weird and wonderful as long as you’re transparent about what you’re doing. There are a few oak alternatives out there that have turned out to yield decent products such as J Gow with their chestnut aged Fading Light or Matugga with their acacia aged Mavuno Rum. One type of cask that I think can be hit or miss is maturing in ex-peated whisky casks as this tends to only work with Rums that can shine through passed the peat such as punchy Jamaican Rums or some Agricoles.
The different ABVs aspect of the question I guess is dependant on the individual Rum in question. Back in March we had the pleasure to visit the guys at Main Rum Co and we were given the opportunity to try a very old Jamaican Rum which was at a high abv (70+%), when we added a few drops of water it tasted like a completely different Rum. So it was this kind of testing made me realise how important it is to help you decide ABVs and how you want the final product to taste.
Which Rums do you enjoy drinking at the moment?
Currently I’ve been quite enjoying a few Agricoles from Madeira but I found myself picking up a bottle of The Duppy Share as it’s a great go to.
Should I really be touting my own rums here!!)
Are there any new projects you can tell us about and what should we look out for from your distillery in the near future?
Yes, there are a few in the pipeline but I can’t give too much away! We have a few aged casks now we’re looking to release soon, a new Rum which we featured at London Rumfest that received an excellent response and there’s also a few of us Scottish Rum Distillers banding together to launch a new initiative to help bring awareness about authentic Scottish Rum.
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