Talking Rum with Wester Spirit Co.
Can rum become as big as whisky one day in Scotland? Zander Macgregor of Wester Spirit Co. certainly thinks so. Dram Talk speaks with one of the co-founders of Wester Spirit Co on their brand, rum and the Scottish spirit industry.
Scotland is renowned for its ability to produce high quality alcoholic spirits. From our rich historical roots with whisky which date back to 1494. To our ability to master the gin industry and produce three of the worlds most favoured gins, Gordons, Hendricks, and Tanqueray. It’s fair to say we know what we’re doing when it comes to producing alcohol. There are many craft alcoholic beverages on the market in Scotland, but one that is capturing the attention of many is Wester Spirit who produce craft spiced rum.
Located in Glasgow, Wester Spirit Co was founded by Zander Macgregor and Allan Nairn. They opened their distillery in November 2018. This was a historical moment for Glasgow and Scotland, as it was Glasgow’s first rum distillery in 300 years. The opening of the distillery allowed the production of Wester Spirit Co to go from producing 250 bottles per month to 6000 bottles. I was fortunate to be able to speak with Zander Macgregor about Wester Spirit Co, Rum in Scotland and the Scottish spirit industry.
Dram Talk:I think the best way to start asking you about Wester Spirit Co is to first ask, why did you and Allan both decide you wanted to create Wester Spirit Co?
Zander:We are both big rum fans and found when going out there wasn’t the same opportunity to drink a quality craft rum compared the many options with craft beers, whisky and gin. We found that our friends shared our opinions. Rum drinkers are no different from other consumers in the way that they are looking for a drink of higher quality with a real story behind it. This sparked the idea for starting Wester Spirit Co.
Dram Talk:It’s the first rum distillery in Glasgow in over 300 years, why do you think no one else has done what you guys have done in Glasgow?
Zander:Rum takes much longer to make than gin. We produce everything from scratch in the our distillery and when you compare this cost of starting a gin distillery and the cost of producing gin rum is significantly more expensive in money and time. We believe it is well worth it though!
Dram Talk:Why did you choose rum over other spirits such as gin which is seeing a recent boom in Scotland?
Zander:Rum is very interesting spirit and we have the freedom to experiment with it. A big part of the distillery is focused on innovation and experimentation and rum is the perfect spirit to be able to do that. Whisky is heavily regulated and there are also limitations with what you can do with gin.
Dram Talk:Wester Spirit Co has been very successful and has been featured in many media outlets across Scotland hailing your rum as one to try. Did you both expect the rum to be this successful?
Zander:We didn’t know what to expect when we launched a year and half ago. We have a very strict commitment to quality and took the approach of constantly testing what we do and analyzing whether it was working to its full potential and if not changing it for the better. This has worked well for us and we are seeing interest in Scottish Rum as a whole growing each month.
Dram Talk:What makes Wester Spirit different from other rums in your opinion?
Zander:We use the finest molasses and a slow fermentation to produce our wash. Once this has been pot distilled to retain as much flavor in the rum as possible we add in natural spices, citrus zests, fresh ginger and vanilla. Using fresh natural ingredients is a big focus for us and ensures our spiced rum is full of flavor.
Dram Talk:With people like yourselves setting up distilleries in Glasgow for the first time in 300 years and other companies such as Matugga Distillers creating the first rum distillery ever in central Scotland. Do you see Rum ever becoming as big as Gin or Whisky in Scotland?
Zander:Scottish rum has serious potential. Glasgow has a rich history with rum production with a number of rum distilleries operating in the city in the past. Scotland is known for its distilling talent and it could become known for its rum as much as its whisky.
Dram Talk:What has been the most enjoyable aspect about creating a drinks company? And what has been the most challenging aspect?
Zander:It was been very rewarding seeing the distillery come together over the last 6 months and welcoming our customers in to show them how we make our rum. We are still only a team of two so no day is the same and the I enjoy the variety.
We started Wester Spirit Co. on a shoestring budget and at times this was frustrating as we had to be careful with our money and potentially slowed progress at times. Although this has probably stopped us from wasting money at times too.
Dram Talk:Do you have plans to create different variations of Wester Spirit Co in the future? i.e. ageing the rum more or creating a white rum?
Zander:We have a number of plans in the pipeline for expanding our rum range and potentially some other spirits a little further down the line.
Dram Talk:Do you plan to collaborate with any other Scottish brands?
Zander:We collaborated with Drygate brewing company last year with a Spiced Scotch Ale that was based on our spiced rum. Our aim is for collaboration and innovation to be a large part of the Wester Spirit Co. and always looking to collaborate with other brands. We have a few plans for collaborations later in the year.
Dram Talk:Is the plan to push the business as far as it can go? To say perhaps, international level one day? or are you wanting this to remain a somewhat more local operation to Glasgow?
Zander:Our goal is to have the brand firmly rooted in Glasgow but grow to international level over the next couple of years. We have already begun exporting to Germany and Denmark and hoping to grow the profile of the brand in Europe when we have more resources.
Dram Talk:What is the best way to enjoy Wester Spirit Co?
Zander:We created Wester so it could be enjoyed by itself over ice or mixed with your favorite mixer. It adds a lot of flavor to a drink. It is great with ginger beer because there is a lot of fresh ginger in the rum. It is also amazing in a rum old fashioned.
Dram Talk:What advice would you give to anyone trying to create a spirit business in Scotland?
Zander:The food and drink industry in Scotland is very supportive and we have found that people are always willing to share knowledge. I would encourage anyone starting out to not be afraid to approach people and ask them questions if you don’t know something or looking for advice.