A World of Discovery
If you’re new to rum and want a helping hand, or perhaps you want to be challenged (in a nice way) and try things that you wouldn’t perhaps normally try. It could be that a subscription service might be what you’re looking for! Regular suggestions – an option to ‘opt out’ if you’re dead set against the next one (or perhaps you’ve already got it) – and lots more support besides.
We took a moment to ask our friends (the founders) Vince Noyce and Giles Collighan of The Rum Club about the setup and what their hopes are for the venture.
TheFloatingRumShack: Why Rum? And why Start Rum Club Now?
Vince Noyce: I have always been a fan of rum, but I guess more in a cocktail scenario, for example, my parents lived in Trinidad in the 80s and one of their employees made the most fantastic rum punch. The rum in it was VAT19, so not great, but the whole package was sublime. More recently, after leaving the Royal Navy five years ago I have been working for a shipping company in the Caribbean and so have had the chance to really explore rum more extensively, with a lot of local help. So after 3 years I had myself a healthy collection and started to really build a foundation knowledge in fine sipping rums. It was after coming ashore and reaching the bottom of a bottle of Westerhall Vintage that I started to explore whether it would be possible to replenish said rum in the UK without going to Grenada. This proved very difficult and I seized upon the idea of turning the whole conundrum on its head and with Giles we set up The Rum Club – to enable our members to build a high quality and varied collection of fine sipping rums with no effort on their part.
TFRS: I imagine “Seems expensive” is a line you might hear from time to time. What’s the value proposition?
VN: Actually, we don’t hear this very often at all. People who genuinely want to learn about, enjoy and collect rum are more than happy to pay our very modest joining fee which is for a lifetime membership. The initial package includes a bottle of Westerhall Vintage (now rebranded No.10), a personalised membership card and a set of bespoke Rum Club cuff-links. Once you’re a member there are no more subscription fees, our rums are competitively priced and if there is a specific bi-monthly rum you don’t want, you are entirely free to opt out as and when you wish.
TFRS: So, the voyage of discovery is a key element? You think it’s important to get people out of their comfort zone?
VN: The voyage is very important, and underpins what we are trying to do in The Rum Club. What we ask our members to do is to follow us as we take them on the voyage of discovery. The feedback so far from our members is first class; we carefully curate the collection to try and demonstrate as wide a range as we can be it by age or by cost. Of course, we have to be careful not to stray too far outside of our members comfort zone too often – their continued enjoyment is most important to us.
TFRS: There are hundreds of rums to choose from. I imagine your biggest problem is choosing them. We both know there are some amazing rums out there for a great price and that spending a bit more really works. But we also know some are frankly overpriced. What’s your strategy?
VN: It is indeed difficult to know exactly which rums to choose next - what we have tried to do thus far is establish a pattern of contrast to try and set the boundaries of what is available. For example, our membership rum, Westerhall Vintage, was chosen because it is the consummate pot still West Indian Molasses rum, right in the middle of the price range we aspire to operate in (£25 - £45). It sets our stall out, so to speak, and gives our members a benchmark of what they can expect. The next rum on the list was Captain Bligh XO from St Vincent’s Sunset distillery. This was chosen to illustrate the point that just because the rum is quite a bit cheaper and that the packaging is a little plain (no wax stoppered top etc) does not mean that what is inside is not a fine sipping rum and worthy of a place on our list. Our strategy going forward will be to continue to operate within the financial parameters we have set, but occasionally offering additional one off more expensive rums for our members who perhaps have a little more to spend or wish to try the higher end of the market. We’re also lucky to have the shop facility on our website which allows us to offer a broader offering outside of our fine sipping rums. For example, we will also be adding some white rums to the shop as the summer approaches and offering some spiced rums as additional later in the year.
TFRS: Does the feedback from the members tend to influence things?
VN: We are glad you asked this question because feedback is immensely important to us at The Rum Club. We listen very carefully to our members and do our best to cater for individual’s needs, whilst offering the best experience to all. Every once in a while some of our members, especially those totally new to rum, will have been bitten by the bug and start to try rums as they find them. This is exactly what we want them to do, so that more and more people become interested in rum. This, in turn, may steer us to look in certain areas and may result in us offering a rum which wasn’t yet on the list. As we said before, it is a journey we are all on together.
TFRS: How ‘global’ is your membership Can we assume you ship outside of the UK?
VN: As you know we have only been going since December 2015 and whilst we have been predominantly concentrating on the UK but we have just added the facility to post out to Europe. To date, we have sent out to Germany, Austria and Belgium and our website now covers how people in the EU can join the Club. We’re also looking at options to offer our service even further afield.
TFRS: It’s an unfair question I know, but what’s your favourite rum so far? And why?
VN: Not unfair, but certainly one we are always asked, as I am sure you are Pete? For me (Vince) this is a very difficult one to answer because I have so many, and it really depends on mood, situation, company and occasion. For example, if it’s hot and sunny then I don’t think you can beat a T’punch with Bologne white rum from Guadeloupe. When I am relaxing with my Father then I find it hard to pass by my bottle of Eldorado 12, because it has just the right amount of bite, it is smooth and not too sweet, this in my favourite glass (which I think is also important) with lots of ice – lovely. I could go on and on!
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