In recent times it has been great to see a significant rise in brands with purpose who combine great liquids with a positive environmental or social effect.
When did you decide to get into the world of Rum?
I've been into the category for over 15 years, building up my own drinks cabinet and when I started discovering classic rums from the Caribbean and Latin America I really got hooked and so these are the style of rums I've built Lost Years around.
The idea for Lost Years was hatched on a family holiday in Jamaica in 2019. I'd been out visiting the Hampden Estate and Appleton distilleries one day and my wife and children had stayed at the resort, where they heard all about the local sea turtle nesting beaches and how endangered these ancient creatures are. That night we got talking and the idea to combine these two passions was hatched – why not create a rum brand that is devoted to saving sea turtles? Having sold my former business, I was looking for something new and the idea just grew and grew.
The entire brand and product range has been built around that simple idea of great rum doing good. The name ‘Lost Years’ is a direct reference to the early years of a sea turtle’s life when they disappear into the ocean never to return for up to a decade.
Every bottle sold supports sea turtle conservation projects in the Caribbean, we’re 100% plastic-free and we offset our carbon emissions by planting seagrass in the region. The liquid in the bottle is exceptional too – sourced from some of the most revered distilleries in the Caribbean.
As a newcomer to the industry what have been the biggest hurdles?
With no prior experience in the drinks trade, it has just been one hell of a learning curve! We have only been live for seven months now and just learning the language has been a big thing for me.
I’ve focused a lot on my own personal development. I attended Rum University in the United States, visited numerous distilleries, took a distilling course to learn the process of producing the liquids and am currently learning all about the drinks trade and how to grow a fledgling brand.
It’s very different to running a communication agency, which is what I did for the last 15 years!
And how has the launch gone so far?
We are off to a great start! The brand has landed really well and we’re already building up a great fan base amongst sustainable drinkers. Based on website sales alone, we’ve already raised enough money to save up to 15,000 baby sea turtles and we’re only just getting going. People love our rums as much as the cause though– we’ve picked up some coveted awards and numerous five star reviews, and the feedback from rum connoisseurs has been very positive.
I’m particularly proud of our Navy Strength rum – an amazing unaged white rum from Jamaica and Barbados – which picked up a Master medal at the Rum Masters 2021 competition, one of only 12 handed out globally. White rum is massively under-appreciated, so I’m delighted to have ours listed amongst the best rums in the world.
A big thing for us is to get liquor on lips and help educate guests on the category and we talk a lot about unadulterated rum. We don't use sugars or flavourings or caramel to adjust the product – it’s just pure rum - and for many people this is a new discovery.
Because of lockdown we’ve focused heavily on e-commerce so far, but we can't wait to start engaging with the bar community and our customers at events like Cocktails in the City. This summer is a big milestone for us and an important stage in our journey.
If someone was looking to launch a brand is there any advice you would share from your own experience?
I think you need to be really clear about what you are offering and remain true to that.
First, focus on creating a quality product that people will want to come back for time and time again. We could have easily cut corners and boosted our profits, but it’s not about that for me – obviously we need to make money to stay in business, but it’s vital that the product has integrity – great liquid, packaged in the right way, delivered in the right way. As a brand devoted to saving sea turtles, we had to be 100% plastic free – and that drove numerous decisions about the materials and packaging we use.
Like any business, we leave a carbon footprint and so it was important for us to offset this from day one – so we do that by planting and protecting seagrass which is an incredibly effective absorber of carbon by the way :)
Do what you do with integrity.
Favourite Rum Cocktail?
For me personally, I really like the classics. You can’t beat a good rum old-fashioned and our Arribada rum makes a great one! I like to give it a twist with Angostura orange bitters, I find it adds another layer of complexity and combines brilliantly with the woody notes of our cask aged rum.
I also love a Daiquiri.
For anyone who loves a great Daiquiri, you will be able to order or make your own courtesy of Lost Years Rum partnership with cocktail bar and masterclass providers TT Liquor at Cocktails in the City in June. Choose from fresh passion fruit and ginger ale, fresh strawberry and basil, or fresh pineapple and coconut cream.