TWO Scottish entrepreneurs are aiming to bring whisky’s prestige to the world of rum with the launch of a bespoke online blending service.
Drew Nicolson and Andy Davidson, the founders of Hamilton-based WhiskyBlender, have teamed up with a Dutch rum company to target lovers of sugarcane spirit. The 50-50 joint venture, RumBlender, will operate along the same lines as its whisky counterpart by allowing users to mix their own unique blend.
“The challenge is to get people to think of rum as a sipping product, rather than a mixing product,” Davidson said. “It is all about changing perceptions and getting people to buy into that.”
Billed as the world’s “first and only” online rum blending lab, users can choose from seven West Indian liquors. None are revealed by name, but all come with tasting notes which give an indication of the combination of flavours going into the mix.
A virtual bottle changes hue to match the medley of white, golden or dark rums. Each blend is then bottled in a decanter with a handwritten label, including the date on which it was bottled.
This will be done at the WhiskyBlender operation in Hamilton, which has been creating and shipping drams for customers around the world for the past four years.
Launched in September 2011, WhiskyBlender generated revenues of £80,000 in its latest financial year. The cost per bottle ranges from £35 to £90, with a similar prices for rums.
Davidson, who works full-time with whisky glass maker Glencairn Crystal, is in charge of sourcing packaging while creative director Nicolson looks after online operations.
Their product has proven popular in the gift market, with sales strongest in the run-up to Christmas and Father’s Day.
Glasgow’s Bon Accord, voted Scottish Malt Whisky Bar of the Year for 2015, sells its own dram which is made on WhiskyBlender. The site’s biggest overseas market is the United States, with exports as a whole dominating sales. The business has been building up slowly, Davidson said, though the hope is to get RumBlender established more quickly.
“We really want to bang the drum for this one because we have got an outside partner,” he said. “We are definitely keen to try and get the volumes up, but the challenge is we are looking at a premium market – whisky lovers are willing to pay those kinds of prices, but there are not as many willing to do the same for rum.”