It’s a pretty long road from starting out your career on the back of a degree in stage management to running your own UK blended rum business, but Philip Everett-Lyons could not be happier in not only making the case for the British rum sector with his own Hattiers rum brand, but also running a business that is based on achieving ambitious sustainable and environmental standards. So much so that it is one of the few drinks companies to achieve B Corp status and hopes to encourage others to follow suit. He shares his story with Richard Siddle.
Hattiers is looking to set new standards for the UK rum sector, based on quality, but also its sustainability and environmental credentials, explains founder Philip Everett-Lyons.
Tell us about your career and background before drinks industry and how did you get into making rum?
Following my degree in stage management, I worked as head of the props Department on shows such as Dr Who and Channel 4’s Skins soon after university. I was so lucky. From then on I’ve always been a measured risk taker and moved on and undertook a number of varied roles including working with a leading digital publisher, running a private healthcare business, before the biggest challenge of them all – starting a family.
Rum production came somewhat out of the blue. I initially discussed it with friends in a local pub in Devon – as all good plans are – and my family and then decided to embark on a new adventure – Hattiers.
Sailing and yacht racing is a passion of mine and rum comes with the territory – if you do well in a race you drink rum and if you lose, you drink rum – so it was a natural fit for us.
As a family, we embarked on 18 months of research and development to truly understand the sector and what our contribution would be. We decided to go ahead and join the rum revolution with Hattiers, whilst ensuring we maintained social and ethical standards. We are a premium rum blender producing the best rum possible whilst being plastic-free from day one, a member of 1% for the planet and now we’ve achieved B Corp status.
You act as a rum blender – how does that work?
We source a wide range of premium aged rums that we want to work with in a blend. We look for single estate aged rum, which has been tropically aged. We then import the component parts in, blend and marry with Dartmoor water here in Devon.
How do you determine which rums you want to work with?
Each blend has different needs and purposes. In our core range of three we aimed to have accessible rums that appeal to both those coming to rum for the first time and connoisseurs alike. For that reason all our rums are able to be drank neat, with a mixer or in a classic cocktail.
Take Eminence, our blended aged white rum. The oldest rum in the blend is 8 years old, which in tropical maturation terms, is arguably equivalent to a spirit twice its age from Europe. We then carbon filter the majority of the colour out of the spirt to end up with a complex white rum. We are certainly not the first to take this approach, but we are using some very old rums to do it.
The result is a rum that bar teams and consumers alike will happily use in high end cocktails without the barrier of ‘wasting’ fine spirit. My view has always been, used aged spirits in cocktails for the best taste!
What criteria do you look for when selecting a rum – what do you want to achieve?
There is a long list of criteria we look for when selecting the rum and distilleries. For example with Resolute, our Navy Strength Blended Aged Rum, we wanted to take a different tack from our original release Egremont. I started with a high ester rum from Jamaica as the base, lead rum in the expression. I ended up using three different Jamaican distilleries, then blending with our Barbados element to add in a soft fruitiness and tie it into the rest of the range.
The end result of all our blends, is to blend rums to the same rules of the Scottish Whisky Association, in that you want it as pure and unadulterated as possible. There truly is no need to resort to historic rum habits of adding sugars, caramel colouring, or anything else for that matter. The rum always tastes better in its raw form.
Are there better rums to work with as a blender rather than having a finished product?
This is completely subjective. My preference is to select a base or lead rum as the starting point of my blends, and this will continue with future Hattiers releases. I look for the style of still, the marks, type of cask and years aged when working on a new release.
You are using local Devon water in the process – is Devon a factor in all this?
The important and often overlooked detail as an independent blender is the water source. I cannot understate this enough, I went through 13 different sources of water before finding the water we use in our blends.
We typically blend at 62% – 70% ABV, then marry with our local Devon water to bring each blend down to bottling strength. The water we use is soft, pure and crisp water from Dartmoor and it adds to the blend giving it our signature flavour and an elegant, creamy, long finish. It is drawn from a well in the nearby village of Beesands and is treated only with UV and filtration and we never use reverse osmosis on the water as we don’t need to. We have the granite of Dartmoor to thank for that.
The only other process we undertake is in the final stages of our new blended aged white rum called Eminence. For this, we pass the rum through a carbon filter to remove most of the colour from ageing. The flavours remain so you can sip our white blends neat.
Tell us about your range and what you blend/make?
We have three rums in the core range: Eminence; Egremont; and Resolute.
Eminence is our Blended Aged White Rum bottled at 42% ABV and designed specifically for high end classic rum cocktails. As mentioned before, we pass our blend through a carbon filter to remove the majority of the colour.
Egremont is our Premium Reserve, Blended Aged Rum, bottled at 40% ABV. Blended to be both sipped and used in a more robust cocktail, such as an old fashioned. We take an 8 year old Barbados rum as the base of this blend, giving a soft fruit and cream nose.
Resolute is our Navy Strength Blended Aged Rum, bottled at 54.5% ABV and for the hardy rum fans if sipping neat. The toasted brown sugar and charred oak aromas are followed by warm banana flavours making it dark and mature.
Where are you selling the rums – which channels and how you distribute them?
We sell widely from specialists such as Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt, Spirits Kiosk and Fortnum & Mason to Amazon, and independents across the UK. In terms of routes to market we work with Speciality Drinks, Enotria & Coe, St. Austell, Tolchards plus a number of regional spirits wholesalers.
You have earned B Corp status – what does B Corp actually mean and why is it so important for you to have this accreditation?
B Corporation is an organisation that aims to transform the business and the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet by setting standards, policies for businesses, and certifies companies—known as B Corps—who are leading the way. To date, the global community includes over 3,500 B Corps in 74 countries and 150 industries.
The landscape of business is changing, and in this time of sustained environmental and social crisis, no business can afford to ignore the effects of its products and operations. From day one we’ve always stood for a wider purpose and could not be prouder that Hattiers Rum joins the cohort of likeminded businesses, taking the ‘quadruple bottom line’ approach of, People, Planet, Profit and Purpose.
As a brand, we pride ourselves on quality and sustainability and these are at the forefront of everything we do. We applied for B Corp certification two years ago and went through extremely thorough checks to ensure we are doing everything we can for the environment and our team.
What difference has it made to the brand?
Since achieving this, we have included the B Corp Certified logo on our range, on our website and social media. We are now lobbying for our peers in the industry to take a good look at their processes and to create sustainability and environmental targets, and consider B Corp certification. B Corp has challenged us to change the way that we do business for the better.
The B Corp certification is recognition of the highest standards applied to our company and gives us the ideal framework to pursue our commitment of net carbon zero by the end of 2021. Not only this, but we are planting our own broadleaf native woodland – Hattiers Wood, to further offset our environmental impact for decades to come. For me this is the defining moment for us as a business, and we are proud to join a growing group of companies around the world that use business as a force for good.
What are your future plans for the business?
We are concentrating on the distribution of our recently launched core range, but of course, there is more work going on in the background. We want to maintain the pace of innovation in rum and are in the process of selecting our casks for a series of four blends that we will bottle and release throughout 2021 – The Hattiers Nonesuch series. All will be revealed in good time.
How have you coped with Covid? Have you had to adapt at all?
Naturally as all drinks, hospitality and events businesses we have taken a hit, but by no means am I complaining as some have had it much worse. Throughout this year, we moved the focus of the business from the on-trade to the off-trade for the time being, with the aim to be front of the line to support the full opening of the on-trade as soon as it’s viable to do so. We are optimists here, and always looking to the future and being agile is the best thing we can do during tough times.
What future do you see for the rum sector in the UK?
We are very interested in the future of British rum and regularly speak with fellow producers about the benefits of future-proofing the sector. The rum industry is a collective of producers from distilleries, spicers to independent blenders. We believe that there is absolutely room for all and that either adopting an international definition of rum classification or developing a British standard on labelling would be the obvious next step.
As other rum-producing nations seek to adopt their own guidelines, now would be a great time to mirror the Scottish Whisky Association and bring some accountability and compliance to our trade. For this to happen, the industry would need to tread carefully to unite all sub-sectors of British rum. When the time comes for a formation of a British Rum Association, we would very much like Hattiers to be involved and help to craft the future of British rum.
- If you would like to find out more about Hattiers then go to its website here.