"My objective these days is always say yes to anything that scares me"
We talk to founder of Rockstar Spirits Tom Hurst and ask how the brand came to fruition and how his recent experience was on BBC's Dragons Den.
You have been in the drinks industry for 20+ years what made you take that leap of faith and start Rockstar Spirits?
I love the brand building journey and had been part of this with loads of big brands and big companies launching products from inception but I had always dreamed of doing something for myself. I love sales and business but also really enjoy the creative side of developing the flavours, the artwork and the story so to combine the two is really fulfilling. When I was a kid being an entrepreneur was not an option. In careers advice at school you just had to get a good job and work for 40 odd years and get a pension and retire.
Roughly 2015/16 I met a few people who were all doing their own thing with total control of their journey and these really formed the initial inspiration to make the leap. There were four main influencers for this - the awesome Danny Mee from Lovesick London, Haris Nukem the genius photographer, The Hunna band lads and last but not Joshua Kane the rockstar tailor. All super talented with mad work ethic and total control of their output which was exactly what I wanted to replicate in my own lane of spirits.
The art of Rum making has essentially stayed the same over the centuries I presume? But how do you think it has evolved to cater to today’s pallet?
The history of spiced rum was always really about taking the raw spirit from your local distillery that wasn’t great to drink as not yet aged and adding spices and fruit to make something enjoyable and all the different villages would have had their own secret recipes. Following the revolution in other areas such as craft beer and gin of using high quality ingredients and interesting flavour combinations I wanted to replicate something similar in the rum category. So we work with the best distilleries in the world to procure the initial spirit so the starting point is phenomenal and use huge amount of ingredients typically up to 20 to add additional flavours back in the UK as well as playing with high abv content and recently introduced ageing in bourbon cask which I’ve not seen before in spiced rum.
Can you see Rum competing against Gin and Vodka anytime soon?
Rum growth is outstripping Gin which is still huge but Gin growth is flattening so potential for rum to catch up over the next few years. Vodka globally probably too big but they have been influenced by gin with lots of new flavoured vodkas on the way from the big guys to take back share from gin so a lot of crossover between categories on the way.
Would you ever venture into different spirits other than Rum?
We have plans for all categories over the coming years with the first being a Whisky which is slated for later this year. It’s a malt whisky aged in Bourbon cask so using the incredible liquid from the UK but adding a younger appeal with the use of the Bourbon infused flavours.
We can’t let you go without mentioning your experience on Dragons Den, How was it? Have you started working with Tejla & Touker yet?
My objective these days is always say yes to anything that scares me so that’s why I decided to do Dragons Den. As an entrepreneur you don’t get an annual appraisal so it’s like the most extreme annual review you could ever get in front of the nation on BBC1.
It was a big challenge but I find it’s the only way to learn and grow.
I’m naturally an introvert so always nervous presenting but have learnt to control it over the years as it’s been my job for so long. It’s always a great feeling afterwards when you’ve faced your fears and overcome them. Plus it’s always interesting to see behind the scenes and all the work that goes in to TV shows and if it’s a real lift?
All the due diligence has been submitted and approved so just waiting on a formal offer to land from the lads.
Where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?
We launch in Australia and France this year so would like to have a true international brand in five years time and then exit the business to start a drinks brand investment incubator to help others launch their own brands. Im
aiming for the Dr Dre of Booze overseeing a pipeline of other drinks producers behind the scenes achieve their dreams too.
Here at The Hobo Journal we love to travel hence the name, where is the best place you have visited and why?
My wife and I lived in Koh Samui in Thailand for a year which was as epic as it sounds and the most beautiful airport you can ever imagine. Best place for me would be Bali though we flew out on the same plane as GB Olympics team on their way to Sydney in 2000 so no one was drinking except us but we still drank the plane dry of G&Ts and the rest of the trip just got better from there. Both would be top of the list of places to go back to and should be on anyone’s bucket lists.