The Duppy Share blends three year-old 100% pot still Jamaican and five year-old Barbados rums. The two are then mixed in Holland before bottling in Southwest London.
Launched into high-end London department store Selfridges this month, the rum is backed by George Frost and former Innocent Drinks executive Jessica Swinfen, who together run The Westbourne Drinks Company.
Swinfen tells BeverageDaily.com: “Young people aren’t drinking much rum, so we felt there was a great opportunity for a young, contemporary rum brand for an audience aged 25-40.”
Last April Tesco hailed the UK’s rum revival after success in the 1960s – the Cuba Libre cocktail craze underpinned its success then, nowadays the Mojito has sent sales soaring. The retailer said golden rum – it describes Sailor Jerry as a golden spiced variety – is driving growth as a versatile cocktail mixer.
Swinfen says the 40% ABV rum, now on sale for £37.99 in Selfridges for 700ml, works well served simply or mixed in cocktails, and is pitched at trend-setting early adopters who enjoy popup events and food markets.
“I think it’s always easier to launch a product if you are the target consumer for it – then it’s completely intuitive for you, in terms of the brand you create, how you market it and talk to people,” Swinfen says.
“I think that’s what George and I have created. A rum that’s for us.”
‘We didn’t want a super-premium brand’
Describing The Duppy Share as a very accessible rum – aging in American oak bourbon barrels gives it a subtle oaky, caramel flavour – Swinfen insists it’s pointless creating a pretty brand and bottle then filling it with poor quality liquid, as clearly, you won’t drive repeat sales.
“Product quality was really important to us, but we didn’t want a super-premium, highly exclusive brand that most people would never be able to afford or see as being for them,” she says.
"I know the growth rates in super premium run are really impressive – but these are niche markets to some extent in terms of volume. Growth is really impressive there but generally off a lower base,” Swinfen adds.
Both she and Frost wanted to create a genuinely new, artisanal product that would open rum up to a younger audience – premiumising it but making it more accessible, especially to people trying it for the first time.
Sailor Jerry, Kraken, Hendricks Gin…
“In spiced rum, Kraken and Sailor Jerry have done a really good job of bringing people into the category. We’re trying to do that now in golden rum pure, where sales are flatter, and there hasn’t been the same innovation,” Swinfen says.
“Hendricks Gin is another really innovative brand that we look to, that like the others has a really interesting brand world around the product, in terms of communicating and talking to consumers,” she adds.
The Duppy Share plan for 2014 is to gain listings over London and then nationwide, focusing on high-end on premise accounts in London – Caribbean and rum bars, cocktail bars and speakeasy-inspired bars in East London – what Swinfen describes as, “halo bars that help you create a brand, which want new products first”.
Provided this goes well, Swinfen says the brand plans to start a conversation with larger UK retailers, but she insists that The Duppy Share will play a long-term game in regard to distribution.
“There’s no point going into Tesco and then popping back to The Savoy and saying ‘will you take us now? You’ve done it in the wrong order!” she says.
Pursuing London listings in 50 ‘halo accounts’
Asked what would constitute a successful 2014, Swinfen says: “Success for us this year would be to have 50 halo accounts stocking us in London, loving us and joining our journey. It’s incredibly hard work to build a brand, but it’s also a great opportunity to have lots of fun.”
“It’s the time when you’ve got the most freedom and create a genuine partnership with stockists, consumers and have a tight-knit family who advocate for you,” she adds.
The Duppy Share’s individuality extends to an eye-catching bottle shape and label design, and Swinfen says the bottle shape raised initial complications.
Caribbean energy without the cliché
“I don’t think any sane person would choose that bottle, and we initially had problems filling it. But there’s something apothecary-like about it. George and I both pounced on this one independently, it looks so unusual,” Swinfen says.
Having chosen their bottle, The Duppy Share used London’s B&B Studios to design the label, which is inspired by 1930s/40s travel posters advertising the Caribbean.
Swinfen says the label seeks to “capture the energy of the Caribbean without cliché. It’s nostalgic and cool, but not something that’s super cool now, but then in a year you’ll look at it and cringe!”
“I think Innocent was one of the first brands to build blank space into modern packaging, rather than packing something onto every bit of available space. That minimalism is really powerful, especially since bars and supermarkets are such busy environments in themselves,” she adds.