You might have previously seen the news on our barrel exchange with Boplaas. From the onset, we were always keen to collaborate with the distillers of craft spirits.
There are two reasons we believe in collaborations. We’ve seen a lot of innovations around gin, but rum is hard to be innovative with because it is difficult to produce. With gin, you can play around with one botanical and end up with a different product every time. With rum, it is not that simple. Rum is a lot more intricate and there is a lot more chemistry involved which makes coming up with new flavours quite hard and time-consuming so for us to finalise a product it takes at least six months due to the time it spends in barrels and prep required, etc.
By collaborating with other players within the alcohol industry, we can come up with quite interesting and new products in a relatively short period and at the same time, we can then celebrate other interesting South African products. That is basically the second reason we collaborate. It is a win-win situation.
We win by managing to come up with a unique product as far as rum is concerned in a relatively short period.
The company we are collaborating with is winning for the same reasons. The consumer wins because they get to purchase and play around with interesting products without having to wait for five or ten years for the rum to be matured.
As far as competitors are concerned – I think if all the small producers look at each other as competition, the industry is not going to go anywhere. The pie is certainly large enough for everyone. The more we work together, the more we build a following around South African products instead of internationally sourced products. The Winelands are a perfect example – there are countless wine producers and they all seem to be doing well because they work together and not because they work against each other.
Our biggest frustration is that we are a rum distillery in the middle of nowhere with no other producers around us. We would celebrate the second industry that is, for instance, 20 km from us because then we can direct people to them and they can direct people to us. In doing so we are offering consumers the opportunity to visit two spots instead of one which makes visiting the entire area a lot more attractive.
Collaboration in my mind is a must for small producers like us.
We are all newcomers. We are all entering a market that has been dominated by big companies. If we can work together, we make our market bigger. It is easier to collaborate with craft distilleries because they are basically artists in their craft, with what they create. From a competition point-of-view – we just want to compete with bigger companies and not with each other. That is all about educating the consumer about the products.
How do we decide who we collaborate with? We all know Whistler is on the forefront of rum distillation in South Africa and Boplaas are definitely on the forefront of whiskey distillation in South Africa, so we don’t think anyone can compete with a collaboration between us. We are both artists. We both have a lot of passion for the spirits that we create. For that reason, the barrel swap just makes absolute sense, especially as far as the ageing of the spirits is concerned.
I love the collaboration with the guys from Whistler because they know what they are doing, and they love what they are doing.
That is the most important part and that is why we all went into this business in the first place. We have a love for the products and the spirits that we are creating. By collaborating there is a lot of room for growth in the craft spirits category in South Africa, especially on the aged spirits side.
Trevor and Daniel
Trevor Bruns is a co-founder at Whistler African Style Rum.
Daniel Nel is the Distiller at Boplaas.
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