Start-Up Stories – Rockstar Spirits
The spirits industry is continuing to evolve and grow. First it was gin, now rum is having its chance to shine. An awesome start-up at the forefront of this is Rockstar Spirits. Here’s what their founder, Thomas Hurst, had to say about all things rum and start-up life…
So, what’s Rockstar Spirits all about?
Rockstar Spirits mission statement is to bring commercial scale and success to the “Craft Spirits” market. I chose the term Rockstar based on its more modern use as describing something or someone as the being really good in their field. For example “John is an amazing accountant he’s a total Rockstar.” So the intention is just to make Really Good/Rockstar Spirits.
We have started with spiced rums as I believe there is a gap in this category to level up the quality available but without compromising the fun element of spiced rum so wanted to explore this and bring some innovation to the category. Over time I would like to expand into other categories as well so watch this space.
You’ve got lots of experience in the drinks industry, where did you work? Did it influence you to start your own business?
I’ve worked in corporate drinks industry for nearly twenty years which has given me a great network of contacts and structure for the brand building side of things.
“The inspiration to start my own business was from a lot of the younger generation that I have met along the way in other creative areas such as music, fashion, barbering, photography who are creating their own businesses enabling to earn a living whilst retaining creative control and
“Being able to create something new that you are 100% passionate about has got to be the key to happiness and fulfillment.”
This was quite a revelation as I had previously been focused purely on building career and earning a high salary but was ultimately missing the creative element that is really important for me. Special mentions to Lovesick London, Just Hype, Joshua Kane Bespoke, Haris Nukem, The Hunna, Bloc2Bloc entertainment, Lukas Barbers, Crepe City who were all behind the original inspiration to create a start up and who we will hopefully work with and support on an ongoing basis.
How do you differentiate your products from the big names? Why should people choose Rockstar Spirits?
With our spiced rums the key point of difference is the rum we use as the starting point for the drink. The tradition of spiced rum was to take the cheaper spirits and add spicing and flavours to make them more palatable. My goal was to start with a really top notch spirit and then build the flavours on top of an already great platform. My favourite sipping rums all come from Diamond Distillers in Guyana. So we source a fantastic spirit from Guyana as the staring point and then bring back to the North West to add in the Manchester Sunsheeeeiiiine flavours.
Pineapple Grenade is an Overproof Rum at 65% abv and the goal was to create an Overproof spirit that was actually enjoyable to drink rather than just being a strong spirit.
The key flavours of pineapple and salted caramel stand up well against the strength of the alcohol and the quality of the rum means that it is still smooth despite the strength. There are also lots of subtle background notes that only become apparent when mixed to make it a really versatile cocktail spirit.
Two Swallows is a more modest 38% abv and the goal was to create the perfect spiced rum to mix with coke. I did a lot of research into the ingredients that are used in colas and used this to underpin the spicing notes below our hero flavours of candied citrus and salted caramel. I believe there is no better spirit than ours to create the perfect Cuba Libre. As a result we are actually working in partnership with Coca Cola themselves on creating perfect serves for their new Signature range of colas. Two Swallows and the Smoky edition is unbelievably good combination and Pineapple Grenade and Herbal is also incredible.
How important is branding when launching a new product?
“The look of the product is just as important as the taste when building a brand.”
In order to create an original brand then it’s important to use hand drawn original artwork. There was only one person that I wanted to create the designs and that was Daren Newman from Me and My Pen. Daren has created many of the iconic logos in the Manchester bar scene such as the Botanist, Crazy Pedros, Cane and Grain so great to have him on board now as our Creative Director at Rockstar Spirits.
Where do you find inspiration for new products?
The inspiration of products is always different but usually involves drinking in bars and either a new taste you try or conversations about flavours we wish were available. Our next release was inspired by drunk conversation with Liam Green from Hype clothing about what flavours he would like to see in an Overproof so watch this space to find out.
Where do you see the Rum market going in the next 2 years?
“Over the next two years I would expect to see the rum category follow a similar trend to gin with an explosion of new flavours and styles.”
The majority of growth will centre around the spiced and flavoured sector as it’s not too big a leap from a fruit flavoured gin to a fruit flavoured rum for a consumer. As the range of flavours in rum expands we will need expanded mixers to go with them just like tonic expanded alongside gin so great to see Coke leading the way in this area too.
What 3 words would you use to describe Rockstar Spirits?
Three words to describe Rockstar – Quality, Authentic, Fun
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to start their own FMCG business, what would it be?
My advice to anyone starting a business would be just start. It’s definitely harder and more scary than you would have ever have thought but the pay off is more rewarding and exciting than you could have ever have imagined also. Just do it, make mistakes on the way, as long as you learn from them then its all useful experience. Just get started and keep doing it is the best advice, time is ticking what’s the worst that can happen you have get a 9-5 job again and you’ll have some great stories to tell at the bar.
Where can people find your amazing spirits?
We have lots of bars and retail easiest place to purchase is Amazon Prime but if you like getting in store you can find in Booths supermarkets, Fenwicks. Selfridges, Whisky Exchange and selected Wine Racks and Bargain Boozes. We are in Revolucion De Cuba bars across the UK and almost all drinks wholesalers are stocking now so if you ask your local landlord to get a bottle should be available by their normal supplier.
What does the next 12 months hold for Rockstar Spirits?
Over the next year we will be releasing at least two more spiced rums and working on lots of new listings to make the products as easily available to consumers as possible.
Rockstar Spirits are absolutely smashing it, we can’t wait to see where they’ll be in 2 years time! If you can’t wait to try some of their quality spirits you can grab some here.