A Scottish oil and gas worker who hails from Aberdeen has launched his own rum brand which is made in the local area.
Starting his business, Cabezon Beverage, during a global pandemic, David Smith says the idea for the rum brand first came around at the tail end of 2019 and was incorporated in December that year.
Launched in October 2020 when the first products were bottled, David had been working away, perfecting his rum recipe and branding before unleashing the product to the masses.
Originally from Aberdeen, the oil and gas professional who works ad hoc was inspired by his time living in Barcelona, Spain, from 2010 to 2015, to make his own rum after falling even more in love with the drink which is very popular in the European country.
Now residing in Edinburgh after a short stint in the north-east in 2015, David has been recently joined by his friend, Fraser Graham from Kintore, Aberdeenshire, to embark on the next steps of the company’s rum journey.
David said: “Launching during a pandemic wasn’t ideal, but we’re more than pleased with how we’ve been able to keep going.
“Fraser and I have been friends for around 15 years. We lost touch a bit as I had moved away from Aberdeen to live in Spain for a few years. My time in Spain is really where the name for our first product, Ron Cabezon, came from – it was a friend who used it as a nickname for me as Cabezon means pig/big headed and aligned to my determination and stubbornness.
“It was my baby to begin with but I had a chat with Fraser about it when he expressed an interest in what I was doing and now he’s been involved in the business for the past six or seven months.
“I’ve always been a rum enthusiast and have enjoyed nice rums. In Spain, there’s a bit of a South American influence and there’s a lot of different rums there. In Scotland, you’d think whisky would be the instinctive spirit you’d go for, but I noticed rum was making a comeback off the back of gin being big, and rum seemed a logical choice as it was also a pleasure of mine.”
Working together to bring their botanical rum, Ron Cabezon, to the market, David, 36 and Fraser, 35, work with local Aboyne-based distillers Lost Loch Spirits to distil their rum to give it its smooth finish. It is at this point in the creation of their rum in which they add multiple local influences into the recipe to put their own spin on Caribbean rum.
The duo purchase rum from overseas, transport it to the distillery, add in their botanicals and distil it to get their final product.
David added: “We have a partnership with Lost Loch Spirits at Deeside Activity Park and also have ties with a rum producer. We buy the Caribbean rum from Guyana and the Dominican Republic which is then split into two individual batches and it is aged there for five years. We then bring it over to the distillery in Aberdeenshire. We add our botanicals, distil it and produce the rum we have. It is half made over there and then we put our own twist on it here.
“We use sultanas in the rum and let it sit for three weeks with those. We also add cubeb which was, and may still be, used to flavour tobacco. It is in the black pepper family and has a real smokiness to it.
“There’s a farm where we get some local honey from in Aboyne, so we use that too and there’s a nice nod to local influences. We also use Deeside water too. The rum goes really well with Coca-Cola mixers.
Bottling 400 products per run, the 70cl rum sits at 41% ABV and takes around nine weeks to produce from start to finish, not including the maturation period in the Caribbean.
“On a still run we make around 400 bottles. We’re only doing one still run at a time and just replenishing the stock as required. The process takes around nine weeks from start to finish,” said David.
“There’s the maceration process with the sultanas, still run it, blend it back, add the water and then leave it to sit for a period of time for the flavours to settle down. There’s a lot to be done within those nine weeks. We’re looking to up the production to two still rums and generate around 800 bottles per run in that case.”
With botanical rum still regarded as a “new” category in the drinks world, David and Fraser are looking forward to bringing a different rum from the north-east to the on-trade market when it reopens next week.
The brand also received a silver medal at the London Spirit Competition recently.
“Botanical rum itself isn’t really recognised as a spirit yet as it is such a new category within rum,” said David.
“As more and more people produce the style it will become more recognised. It is almost seen as a spiced rum at the moment, but we actually add in the botanicals and spices before we distil it. Whereas a spiced rum is a rum which is then left to sit with the botanicals and spices in it, and then bottled, there’s no second distillation.
“By putting it through the distillation process again we get a really smooth product which has more flavour notes. It takes away that real sweetness, too.”
Fraser added: “We’re really looking forward to the on-trade coming back into business. Our distributors have been primarily dealing with the off-trade just now due to hospitality being closed. Once we can get in front of that whole sector we’ll hopefully see things moving in a new direction as well.
“We’ll be focusing on local venues initially in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area and David will be pushing it in Edinburgh. We’ve been dealing with Huffmans in Perthshire for our distribution, so we’re hoping they’ll be able to help us get in the central belt and that central part of Scotland.
“We have just agreed terms with Gordon & MacPhail. They have a huge reach so we’re hoping that increases coverage, although they mainly focus on the off-trade. The dream is for it to be everywhere and be available nationwide.”
Ron Cabezon is available online and can be found locally at the Aberdeen Whisky Shop and Inverurie Whisky Shop.