Jim Ashley and his business partner Patrick Maris are bringing rum to the north-east and Highlands with their new product launch.
A north-east oil and gas worker has teamed up with his friend to bring a new Scottish rum to the market.
Outlaw Rum, which launched last month, is a business idea Jim and Patrick first discussed back at the beginning of 2017. Fast forward three years, the duo have now launched their first product, albeit during a global pandemic.
Based near Huntly and the popular Speyside whisky region, the business has been functioning operationally since February this year when it received its first batch of rum to be aged.
Sourcing the base spirit from Trinidad where Jim worked overseas for a few years, it is sent over to Scotland where it is matured in former whisky casks. Once matured, it is then transported to Glasgow to be bottled, with the rum then returned to Huntly from where it is shipped out to buyers and distributed for wholesale.
Jim said: “I’ve been working in the oil industry since 2000 and my family and I were abroad in Trinidad with a British company and came back to the UK. There were no rums that I thought were really palatable at all in the UK in comparison to Trinidad, and knowing rum is as highly prized as single malt whisky in the Caribbean, I wanted to do something about it.
“Our next-door neighbours where we live are Balvenie and Glenfiddich up in Dufftown. I was just joking around with a friend (Patrick), who still works in Trinidad, one night about making my own rum. The oil industry isn’t the career it once was, and I laid out what I wanted to do. He called me back six hours later and said he wanted to get involved and that was that. Six weeks later we had our first samples and it took us a few months to figure out what we wanted it to be like.”
Getting it right
Working with a distillery in Trinidad, the business has been a labour of love for the duo who released their first batch last month after a long wait of working their way through a strenuous amount of paperwork which had to be filled out in advance of any rum being matured at the premises in Scotland.
“We gave the distillery the task to create a rum that could go up against some of the finest whiskies, and they did that,” said Jim.
“We told them what we wanted from our flagship rum, and then decided that we’d mature it in casks, too. It took around a year to get all the certifications for HMRC. I did all of that while working and we got certification through in October last year. It is very regulated so I needed all of this in place before the distillery could even start mixing the rum.
“We got the rum in February and our first expression got bottled last month. We’ve also done a first special release. We wanted to show how good rum is and we’ve produced a rum that has a long finish and is comparable to a single malt.”
Maturing the rum in former Scotch whisky casks, the duo have used a range of different casks from distilleries across the country to get a variety of flavours into their products.
From the lighter, sweeter notes of Speyside to the more peated flavours associated with Islay, there’s a real diversity to the offering, with more rums lined up to be released in the future.
“The rum is cask-aged before we even get it. In general, premium rum is always aged if it is a sipping rum. The team in Trinidad age the spirit like distilleries in Scotland do. It is being matured in 33 degree heat and 100% humidity, so it really does sweat in the cask and brings on the reaction much faster,” said Jim.
“When we get the rum in Scotland we keep them in the whisky casks we have sourced until we are happy with them. It is bespoke maturation when we get the rum here in Scotland. We’ll have some age statement rum in the future, and I believe the US market prefers that.
“Our flagship is a mix of Speyside cask, Highland cask and bourbon cask, so it is really about what all of the casks together can do.
“Our special release is a single Islay release. The American market want us to do a bespoke bourbon release. In the meantime, we’ve got our first order going to Singapore this week. We have samples in South Africa so we’ll hear from them soon, and there’s options to go international via other business’ too.”
Initially working on a small batch release of 2,000 bottles, Jim says he is now opening the brand up to the consumer market having initially just pitched it to the wholesale market to ensure fans of the brand can enjoy it in the comforts of their own homes.
He added: “We’re running them as small batch releases for the moment, being a new start, the alcohol duty is crippling. I originally envisioned it just being for wholesale, but after seeking advice I was advised that we should be looking at selling to the public direct, too.
“As well as selling direct soon, we’ve teamed up with the likes of Whisky Hammer, Aberdeen Whisky Shop, Inverurie Whisky Shop and those sorts of places so people can get their hands on it. We will have around 2,000 bottles available for the public to purchase. A lot of people who enjoy a dram of whisky have tried it and have said it is very smooth and Aberdeen Whisky Shop has been selling out of it each time we deliver.
“There will be a focus on the premium market and there will be select places you can buy or drink it. We have places in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow that we’re speaking with, so we’re hoping to make moves next year.
“The foreign market is also something we want to look at – particularly hotels, restaurants and bars. We’re aiming for the top bars in the world. The biggest market for rum is Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and then France so we will be looking to those big markets fairly soon.”
Giving back to the community
With community a real focus of the brand’s journey, Jim says they want to shine a light on sports and activities which are popular in rural areas as, with the brand being based in a rural town, it is important for them to connect and support others.
He said: “We want to get involved in the local community and we also want to get involved in motor racing sports and rugby, too. Patrick and I are avid rugby fans and players and I also coach kids rugby. I’d like to get into supporting local athletes and organising tournaments. I’d also like to set up a trust fund for local athletes as there’s so much here like mixed martial arts, powerlifting, cross country skiing, downhill mountain biking – there’s all these sports that no one really looks after.
“People around the rural community are into one or another of these sports, so I think that would be a good place to start.
“We’re not looking to leave the area at all, we’re based in Huntly and we’ll look to build our own premises up here at some point and go back to the roots of keeping it manual. We’re going to try everything possible to bring that hands-on feel to the brand.”