Renegade Rum and Waterford Distillery lead the way in the new era of traceability and in this episode I interview Mark Reynier CEO.
Mark was the founder and CEO of Bruichladdich distillery. If you’re into Whisky, you will know about Bruichladdich single malt. Fantastic Whiskys! And they sold the business for £58 million to Remy Cointreau in July 2012.
Mark has been in the drinks industry his whole working life. It will be 40 years next year; he will have spent 20 years in Whisky and 20 years in the wine industry.
He joined his family’s wine shipping firm in 1980, they bottled old wines and distributed them. He went into wholesale restaurant sales before creating his own retail wine business in 1995; after a short stint with a West Country Brewer Eldridge Pope. It was here that he first experienced single malt Whiskys used for blending in bulk the “Brewers Ken” blended whisky.
Bruichladdich was the only single malt stocked at one of his shops “La Reserve” in Knightsbridge and the Bruichladdich distillery was purchased in 2000 and developed until 2012 when it was acquired by Remy Cointreau along with a creation of theirs called The Botanist Gin.
Since then, Renegade Rum has been created. It’s a distillery project, which is due to come online in August 2019 and that’s actually on the island of Grenada.
- 1 Waterford Distillery Terroir Project in Ireland
- 2 Renegade Rum and Waterford Distillery have Terroir at the Heart like at Bruichladdich
Renegade Rum and Waterford Distillery are both going to disrupt the spirits industry!
Waterford Distillery was created in Ireland in 2016. And that actually is going to be the first Irish single malt Whisky which will be released in 2020.
Mark shares so much value in this episode. I think you’re gonna like it!
If you want to learn about the drinks industry and a bit about the history of Grenada and the history of wine and spirits this is for you.
We talked about his passion, which is bringing terroir to spirits!
Terroir is the ground that the ingredients are grown on and what flavours that impart upon the actual drink itself.
So, let’s get into the show…
Well Hi there Mark!
Mark Reynier 3:01
Morning, morning, morning 🙂
Nathaniel Schooler 3:03
We haven’t actually met in person, but I’ve followed your antics one might say for almost 20 years.
I watched the Bruichladdich distillery go from being defunct; to having this amazing sort of flashy new packaging and and all these amazing kind of press releases and I’m super interested to hear about the Renegade Rum Distillery that you’re involved with and the new Waterford Distillery as well.
Mark Reynier 3:33
They all flow out of the same the same concept as you said; it was December the 19th 2000 that we brought Bruichladdich. A day I remember extremely well, it was it was a very tight deadline and it was all or nothing and it very nearly didn’t happen at all and then to crown it all my son was born the same day so it’s a day that’s firmly emblazoned on my memory in my mind.
But this year 2019. It’s a dividing line to me, it’s exactly half my career. Half has been in wine and gather half in spirits. So there’s quite a pertinent sort of landmark for me.
What I’ve been doing with spirits is applying very much a wine trade philosophy to what I saw a rather stayed industry.
Which we say you know, in the wine trade we always call the spirits side the “dark side.”
It was everything the wine trade isn’t. It’s a very consolidated extremely rich industry. Whereas the wine trade is a fragmented. A lot of small producers; hands on, a lot of passionate people, completely unsophisticated in comparison to the spirits industry.
So when I went from wine to the spirits, I really felt that I was going to the dark side, I was making a deliberate move into something which for much of my life I despised.
Nathaniel Schooler 5:18
What I find quite interesting as you’re you’re bringing the approach from wine into spirits. I mean for people that don’t understand about wine, you and I both know that I don’t know who said it originally but:-
“Good wine is made in the vineyard!”
Mark Reynier 5:31
Nathaniel Schooler 5:32
So that and that goes all the way down into the soil, from the nutrients that come up through the soil. They call it in France terroir, don’t they.
And what I find fascinating is you’re actually bringing that into the spirits that you guys are in the process of making.
Have you actually completed the building of the Renegade Distillery yet in Grenada?
Mark Reynier 5:55
That’s that’s in the process of happening. We’re at foundation level at the moment. We’re just coming out of the ground and we should be operational in the summer. So that’s where we are with that.
That’s using sugar cane to make Rum.
Waterford Distillery Terroir Project in Ireland
In Ireland, we’ve got what was the Guinness brewery built in 2004, very, very modern. And we converted into a distillery in 2015, and have been distilling terroir to derived spirits there. Whiskey since then, and that follows on from the Bruichladdich story which started in 2000.
But when I was in my wine career, I was around when a great sort of phase of change was occurring. The post war wine trade in France. We all remember these wine lakes, massive over production. It was all very communistic, you know, into these large scale cooperatives. It was all about volume and yield.
Huge amounts of fertilizer, whacked down, the whole thing.
The whole idea of terroir which defined a lot of these vineyard areas, particularly Burgundy was was just chucked out the window in this search for volume. It also follows a series of pretty difficult vintages. You know, the wineries at the Châteaus of Bordeaux they’re all losing money hand over fist. They had no money to reinvest.
The knowledge, the scientific knowledge just wasn’t there. And it was the Australian Californian wine universities that actually understood the technology needed. The machinery, the science, it was a sort of third generation of Frenchman who came back from these wineries and sort of reclaimed their family inheritances.
The estates that had been rented out in those sad years of the 50s and 60s and these were the guys that rediscovered terroir and it’s always been there and in fundamentally reduce the yields improved the winemaking quality. And of course, the knowledge to be able to deal with the issues that that meant really, now, you don’t really get bad vintages any more in France, they can deal with them.
Modern machinery and knowledge from California and Australia transformed “old world!” winemaking.
They’ve got machineries, they got technologies, reverse osmosis, all sorts of things. Which means that the economic viability is nothing like it was in those difficult postwar years; where the lack of investment just really was dire. And so the 90s or certainly the late 80s and 90s was an era where there was a great excitement and there was the understanding of working with wood, barrels in the forest of Troncais, Vogue, Limousin.
Barrel makers were starting to come up with much better quality woods and wineries were learning how to use those words to influence the quality of their wines. And fundamentally was a question. I’m not using two flavoursome a wood. Unless the wine could actually handle it. That was one of the very interesting factors that I learned. Very big influence on me. Equally the organic wine movement, and fundamentally the biodynamic wine movement. And that was something that I really found very interesting indeed.
Soil improvement programs are in vogue
It’s intriguing to see now a lot of the agricultural bodies in Ireland and Scotland and England all now promoting very much a soil improvement program. And of course, that’s fundamentally what Biodynamics are about.
I was there when these were happening young wine makers were taking over, reclaiming family estates and starting to apply a lot greater attention to detail. It wasn’t, you know old Jean Pierre sitting around the back of his winery, this is now scientific.
It was a lot more inspired and I just happened to be that the right time so getting that coming from a wine family. My grandfather was quite important, my father and I had been exposed to wine since in a very, very early age. It’s in my blood, I suppose you could say.
It then struck me as the single malt Whisky boom started around about 84/85. That’s really when I got involved with that through a retail wine business I had in London. That was a sort of the changeover as you started to see these stocks of old Whisky first and then Rum, suddenly becoming available Whiskys came from an era of the 60s.
Pre industrial distillation eras, it was interesting to get involved in on a retail basis. And then from a retail basis into a wholesale production basis. And independent bottling concept where you buy barrels of Whisky and bottle it yourself.
So that was a sort of trade change over era round about sort of 84/ 85 /86 where I got involved in Whisky and you couldn’t help but wonder surely:-
Surely to God, we can do this better.
There must be a better way of doing this. And that’s when I got into this idea of wanting to distil my own Whisky that it just seemed that there was an opportunity there that was just being massively underestimated, and that’s when the whole Bruichladdich story came along.
Nathaniel Schooler 11:56
I sort of watched Bruichladdich and found it very interesting.
I know you know my Godfather John and he was telling me about the sign that kept going missing. I just find that story hilarious. You know “Clachan a Choin” that are the words that are on the back of the bottle.
Mark Reynier 12:15
How I can apply a tongue in cheek motto that we used in the early days. It was basically how on earth you explain that this is the
that what we’re offering is the :-
and that’s where we came up with it.
We had to translate dogs bollocks into Gaelic and we had a flag of it and we used to fly it from the distillery and then every now then it would go missing.
It had been out for about four years I think it was and then suddenly somebody may join the dots and realise what it meant and I think some old deary took exception and nicked it. So just like made me laugh it was there for four years and nobody noticed it.
Nathaniel Schooler 13:03
it did make me smile. I must admit.
I saw you guys have webcams. 24 hours a day, you had webcams at Bruichladdich, before people even started using webcams.
Mark Reynier 13:14
And there’s a method to it as the reason was. Bruichladdich when we bought it in 2000. It was a shutdown, closed defunct distillery. Rust everywhere, weeds growing out of the gutters. You know, it was a very, very sad, place. But inside it was all this wonderful Victorian engineering. It was built in 1881 by three brothers, the Harvey brothers, and remember, you know, that the Hebrides was coming out of this awful Potato Famine era. emigration cross to America, overpopulation. It was a really down period the island was bankrupt, had been bankrupt to be bought by the Morrison family.
The distillery Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain were both built the same year 1881 and modern distilleries. Up to then the distilleries in the Hebrides had been farms and mills and they were they were very small scale and they’ve evolved from those earlier enterprises into distilleries and you go and see any of the ones, Ardbeg, these places and you can see the origins of these pillars Laphroaig particularly, the size of the stills, these little small dinky stills that, the maximum size you can fit into a into a baier and those still shapes are still used today.
When Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain were built. They will build as deliberately for the first time on the island as distilleries. And the catalyst for that was the steamboats, the puffers that suddenly appeared and connected these remote islands to Glasgow. and of course to fuel and barley. And so it made sense for for the first time to actually build a state of the art distillery. And I think the credit to the design was that this state of the art design was is just as effective today as it was, you know, 130 or so years ago.
Nathaniel Schooler 15:40
That’s very interesting. So what what made you decide to pick Grenada as your other distillery outside of the UK?
Mark Reynier 15:51
Well it’s the same principles and really going from Islay where we have the chance to make a difference. So to actually do it my way. I’m not I’m not saying this is how everybody should be doing these things.
It’s what I think Whisky should be made like, it’s how I think Irish Whiskey should be made. And of course Rum is one of them, you know this is how I think Rum should be made.
Now the same evolution from wine to Whisky also occurred with Rum. At the same time, we were buying barrels of Rum from distilleries that no longer existed.
The Caribbean, particularly a lot of distilleries, free from the colonial era were suffering from a lack of investment, a lack of care and attention; over staffed, poorly run and they were falling like fly as efficiency just got worse and worse and worse.
This coincided with the collapse of sugar pricing; sugar refining it seems to me that a lot of these distilleries that had gone that the disappeared it was all fun bottling up their Rums that you realised you know, it wasn’t a terribly good business model because the very nature of the fact was they shut down there was going to be me much Rum around and this was the case after seven or eight years bottling up these Rums under a little label we created called Renegade Rum.
Quality of the Rums available and the pricing went up and the quality went down and the availability collapsed. So again it came to us or Bruichladdich type moment. But if this was going to carry on we’re going to have to try and find our own distillery, our own supply. And so a 10 year journey started where I tried to find like Bruichladdich an old distillery that I could buy.
With stocks that we could then market and bottle, but it quickly became apparent that one there were no stocks out there. And secondly, the quality of the distilleries was was lamentable. I scoured the Pacific, Fiji, Reunion, Mauritius, the Caribbean, Cuba, Jamaica to do sure and you know what you found where we’re distilleries that were really know frankly you know I’d seen better days would be an understatement.
So if this was going to work we’re going to have to build our own distillery that there wasn’t anything worth buying. They were environmentally compromised, there were ancient they were beyond redemption in my view, some people would say they are “traditional” I think sometimes that could be a euphemism for beyond the pale anyhow.
So we started building our own distillery which which is using a lot of the technologies that we learned in Ireland, obviously from Bruichladdich as well, and putting in place a very smart, self contained stand-alone distillery, which is environmentally, you’re really with it.
In fact, we started the whole design with:-
What are we going to do with the waste stream?
And we started from there and we’ve worked back so we’ve designed a distillery unlike any other. We’ve not tried to follow other Rum distilleries do. In fact, we’ve deliberately prevented that. We don’t want to be influenced by anything that’s gone before. So we’ve deliberately really deconstructed it and started again. So this is a sugar refinery trying to make Rum which is how most of them started.
This is starting out from the premises :-
“How can you make a profound Rum?”
“How can you make a Rum? This is as complex as a single malt Whisky?”
And that’s the philosophical proposition that I’m setting out to answer.
Nathaniel Schooler 20:12
I had to do a look at the investor document, John gave me the investor document, because I was talking to him about Rum. And then I went and I read that and I had a look and learnt a lot about Rum from that and doing doing a bit of research as well. And what I find fascinating is that you’re actually in control of the whole process.
So you are from what I understand you’re going to be in control of growing the sugar cane as well and actually the variety of sugar cane that’s going to marry with the barrels that you’re going to age the Rum.
Mark Reynier 20:53
Looking at it from a wine point of view. So it’s very simple philosophy that 90% of Rum is made from molasses now, molasses the crap that’s left over after sugar is made. It’s one of the reasons why Rum never really been taken seriously it’s always been frivolous; it’s always been a bit of a easy come easy go sort of drink and that stems from you know how it was made. You know it was made as a freebie, it was made by local sugar refiners at the end of the day when you had all this gloop leftover from sugar making, you know, add some also to it and cook it up and you’ve got Rum.
It’s like Grappa, nobody takes Grappa seriously. No, you take Grappa as seriously as you take Cognac. One is a primary raw ingredient and the other one is a by-product.
One is made from the stems and pips and left overs after the wine has been made. It’s one of those a winter consumed spirit, you know that country folk have, it’s a bonus, it’s a gift and that’s very much what Rum has always been it’s been a bonus an add on. Very cheap to produce and so therefore it’s always been a bit frivolous in my view.
It readily lends itself to that marketing of the pirates and sun, sea and sex and it’s not ever been really taken seriously and the only people that have tried to take it seriously other French thing Martinique and Guadalupe where they distil not molasses but the sugar cane.
They use sugar cane as the primary raw ingredients, this was forced on them into the by Admiral Lord Nelson when he barricaded the island when they couldn’t get the sugar away back to France and so they ended up distilling it so so I suppose the Brits once again probably to blame but you know for that happy coincidence.
Renegade Rum Distillery is a pioneering venture from cane field to bottle!
I am very happy to take it a step further which is, you know, to deliberately stand out with. On the basis we’re going to use sugar cane, and therefore you’re using the plant as the primary raw ingredient. It therefore follows that where that plant grows, how it grows, is going to determine the quality of sugar juice you get from it all. Cane juice, and therefore fermentation, distillation. It should come through in the spirit once it’s distilled. And so that is the premise of this project that we are using sugar cane only.
And we have been over the last three years propagating sugar cane in a variety of different Terroirs around the island from the north to the south, all down the east coast. At varying different altitudes, from sea level to 1000 feet and we are seeing the cane responds; grows differently on these different volcanic soils, alluvial soils.
It’s basic farming that we’ve been doing the last three years and now we’re building the distillery. Having proven to ourselves that we can grow enough cane so that it can supply the distillery. It’s a bit back to front we’ve had to grow the cane first and then build the distillery.
Nathaniel Schooler 24:16
From what I gather you’re going to be harvesting one fermentation amount of sugar cane. So it’s not going to have a chance to sit out there in the sun and get damaged or even sit overnight.
Mark Reynier 24:32
Yeah, so when you start going down this line, when you really accept the fact that you know, we’re going to use sugar cane rather than generic molasses. molasses has been so successful because, you know, it’s like diesel you can you can just order it wherever you are in the world and distil away so people do.
So rum distillation. Of course Rum is produced all over the world. There are very, very few rules and regulations which of course the drinks industry loves because you know the fewer the rules is the most of shenanigans that they get up to. Well I’m throwing that all back and saying that I’m going back to an agricultural concept exactly as I did with Bruichladdich, the same as with Waterford in Ireland.
Drinks industry. 90% of it is all about marketing and about spinning a yarn, telling a story, why you should drink this and put hair on your chest, blah, blah, blah and very very little is about the production.
The production is about producing a standardised of the homogenised, cheapest unit of alcohol possible. Then you know the story the yarn is fun at the other end. And I took this back to basics right back to the barley that if you’re going to talk about Whisky, if you’re going to talk about Rum or Irish Whiskey, it’s about the barley or the cane that went into it. And so I am putting all the efforts into the origin and that is my marketing, that is my story. I’m just turning the whole thing back to front and taking it back to the ground.
We did this with barley on Islay, persuading farmers who hadn’t grown barley since the first world war; to grow barley again. To show that different fields will produce a spirit that is different and you know when you’ve got it right when we used to invite some of the farmers down to the distillery and you give them a sample of the new spirit produced from their field and you see these big gruff farmers smelling, nosing the spirit and before long they are trying to discuss or argue with their neighbours about why their spirit is different to their own.
You get the farmers saying:-
“We planted our barley on the same day we harvested it. You know how come yours is different to mine?”
One of them saying:-
“Well, you know, you know I’m a bit closer; you know I’ve got more sand where we are and you’ve got a bit more clay where you are”
You get these farmers rationalising why this spirit that they produce is different from the neighbours. And that, to me is the great excitement of doing this.
If you can begin to lay down a spirit for 10-20-30-40 years for God’s sake let’s start with something a little bit more interesting than just some homogenised standardised thing. Where you know, the barley comes from a euro market, though it says Scotch Whisky on it, but it’s probably from, you know, Ukraine or you know, sort of Central Europe or it’s got nothing Scotch about it and that as a wine person, I found that Really, really disturbing.
Renegade Rum and Waterford Distillery have Terroir at the Heart like at Bruichladdich
So that’s why I wanted to make sure that, you know, if it was Scotch, it should have Scottish barley and it’s Islay it should have Islay Barley and that was the driving force behind the Terroir project. But then, when you when you see farmers on a local basis, comparing and contrasting their own field and seeing how that energised them. That they could see a result from their work, and therefore, there was an involvement which I found very inspiring.
And we took that to Ireland with the same concept, the same idea, and there we’ve got 40 different farms growing barley for us. Each one we can harvest and distil separately. We’ve got complete data control over every single aspect of it. So we really can drill down into the detail and I can demonstrate I can prove that this barley produces that flavour. And we can demonstrate it to everybody.
As you can imagine, there’s great suspicion from within the industry about what we’re doing because they don’t really want it to be true because it’s like a Pandora’s box opens up a lot of questions, which they would rather weren’t asked.
Nathaniel Schooler 29:23
Yeah, I’m nodding away. Here is something that should have happened a long time ago. Because the amount of junk…if you drink half of these drinks, the mass marketed liquors. They’re flavoured coloured, preservatives, awful things that just not good for you.
Mark Reynier 29:44
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. I mean, the other way the reason they are so big is because they have to dumb it down.
What I’m saying is somebody who enjoys a good wine or spirit is you don’t have to have it dumbed down. It doesn’t have to be, so I fully understand you know why they get up to the tricks they do. I just don’t agree with them and I don’t think you have to do it.
There is an alternative way and I think as a consumer, we’ve been led down the garden path you know I remember in the 80s you know London Bitter and Watney’s and all that dumbed beer that standardised, homogenised beer that sort of know was just blurr, and then we’ve got the Camra and you got the micro breweries that grew up and changed the horizon thank God.
Nathaniel Schooler 30:36
Mark Reynier 30:37
I can remember a seminal moment for me was being at the launch of a of a Canadian bear that has arrived in the UK it was in a wine bar in Soho the launch party and a guy came up to me.
You know what one of the production people said :-
“What what do you think of this?”
And one of the marketing guys. Yeah I think of nodded and sort of smile :-
“Well done, Jolly good.”
No No I’m going to tell him. I’m going to tell him! I said
“I can’t taste anything”
and he just smiled at me and I said:-
“You didn’t hear me! I just, I just said :- “I can’t taste anything”
And he nodded and he said :-
“Isn’t that good?”
I said :-
“So what do you mean?”
“If you can’t taste anything; you drink more and if you drink the more; we sell more and if we sell more; we make more money and so that’s the whole point”
And I just thought oh :-
Ye Gods and that’s when you realise that the whole thing you know how fucked up the whole thing is.
You know this this dumbing it down, chill filtering it, middle of the road, it’s like drinking Radio Two to you know it’s why? Surely, Surely. There must be more flavoursome more individuality.
We can’t just have this conformity and thank God I wasn’t the only one because you have this Camra movement which has done wonders for the horizon, the beer horizon but who was doing this and what are we going to do about you know Whisky?
That’s when it has been one of the driving forces for me is is about know this kick back to the gate homogeneity and standardisation and all the commercial processes that are employed and that coincides with you know the organic and biodynamic movement of going back to the farming how it is made.
If you pay attention and you look closely how you can harness those variables to make something interesting, honest, different, intriguing and then of course if you then put them together you can make something very, very complex.
And that is my raison d’etre in this industry and at Renegade Rum and Waterford Distillery we are going back to the Terroir.
Nathaniel Schooler 33:05
But underneath all of that, it’s, it’s deeper than that isn’t it?
Mark Reynier 33:11
How much deeper do you want?
Nathaniel Schooler 33:13
It’s deeper than that, in terms of like ethics it’s it’s going into that community and saying look:-
We want you to grow something we’re going to pay you a reasonable amount of money to do it. You’re giving someone passion back for what they’re doing.
Mark Reynier 33:33
That is a by-product. I’m not some holistic sort of thing that we’re doing here. You know, this is a business, you know, seriously, commercially.
There are tremendous spin offs and I think that is what is overlooked in business, in my view the ancillary benefits that come from a certain viewpoint or a certain sort of an avenue that one goes down.
So if you go to Islay and you go to growing barley on Islay and when you get farmers coming up to you almost in tears know thanking you for making them grow barley again, because it reminds them of how farming used to be. Instead of this solitary one man and a tractor; there is a community spirit rekindled that when it comes to harvest time and and getting some of these crop before the rain comes and borrowing and sharing machinery.
That’s obviously very satisfied and so they’re good to know what do you see farmers as buying new tractors and you think, well, that’s, down to me. You know, it’s very satisfying when you see the satisfaction of a farmer when he sees his name on a bottle.
That he grew the barley in that bottle. You know, it’s it’s a very satisfying thing. It’s not rocket science. It’s human instinct. Surely.
On Grenada. This island which I discovered in a serendipitous way through my FD John Adams and a university friend of his who happened to have a house there. You know, after 10 years looking for somewhere to put my project, I stumbled across Grenada. The only trouble was, there was no sugar cane.
The island used to be extremely productive. But following a sort of Marxist coup in the 70s the Marxist shut down agriculture on the premise that it was colonial and capitalist and therefore had to go; so literally just shut it down; put 50% of the islands workforce out of work. Forced everything else to be imported from from neighbouring islands, and therefore the cost of living to increase, you know, a complete, you know, balls up.
Yeah, but when I turned up in 2015, there was no cane growing on the island.
First thing is, well, you know.
“What are we going to do?”
“Can we grow cane again?”
Now of course the estates 125 estates, that were extremely prolific and profitable had been broken up and divvied up into small units and given away to islanders but of course very few of them knew what to do with them or had the knowledge or the equipment to do anything with them.
And so they just reverted back to jungle, bush. So when I travelled around this island, all I saw was bush, bush, bush bush everywhere.
And in fact funnily enough there is an old film from 1957 called “Island in the Sun” You can see it on YouTube. And you know if you watch the film, which is James Mason and Joan Collins. It is actually a very good film in its own right. But if you actually look at the scenery, you can see what the islands used to look like.
And it was a hive of activity and that had all gone for a political reason. So so my idea was to go to the farmers and say:-
“Look, you’ve got five acres and three acres of ground. I will give you the cane I will show you what to do.
I will pay you a guaranteed rate more than you ever ever had before. All you have to do is tend it, look after it and will show you what to do.”
And for three years, I’ve been trying to persuade farmers to do that. And not one single farmer rose to the challenge. Not one!
So over that period, we ended up having to do it ourselves. And so in that Grenada project, starting with this great idea of empowering farmers to grow cane. It’s turned into the fact that we are now farmers growing came so we’ve basically least the rump parts of the estates, those hundred and twenty estates states, the eight or so that still remains and employee farmers to do it for us.
But that wasn’t the principal, the principal was originally to get farmers to do it themselves. But there was a great suspicion about the project there was as a great suspicion about me about what we were trying to do. And so consequently, no one was prepared to actually bite the bullet. So even with the best laid plans, it doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would.
Nathaniel Schooler 38:54
Yeah, it’s a great Island. I went there when I was 15 and I remember meeting a gentleman there, I was drinking some rum at the time, probably shouldn’t have been. But I met this gentleman and he said, I remember him saying to me. I’m going to try and copy what he said to me in in the Grenadian accent, he said :-
“It was much better when the British were here!”
And I think that probably because he was probably in his 60s or 70s, so he would remember I would imagine you’re talking about the coup that happened after they kicked the English out right?
Mark Reynier 39:33
Well, yes, it’s actually a very interesting sociopolitical issue. You know, you’ve got the post war 1946 45-46 and the estate owners, the alert ones realised that, you know, the writing was on the wall. The Brits couldn’t maintain these colonies. In fact, you know, Churchill had to actually part of the thing of getting American assistance in the war, you had to admit that you know, often after the war people would be self determined governments that they would they would have their own independence.
Basically the point of principle was that colonialism was not to carry on. So a lot of the early postwar estate owners sold up and left and then that was followed by obviously the writing on the wall independence is coming you know the maintenance of these islands was no longer possible.
Bankrupt UK couldn’t couldn’t afford it and so you know the inevitable fly towards independence was going to happen and once independence did happen, then a lot more of these estate were broken up or sold off for housing for land to the landless and then with a Marxist coup in place then then compulsory purchase, confiscation and a command economy. trying to control everything.
Of course that just didn’t work and you know, all the best ground had been used for housing or the flat land wouldn’t be used for building housing estates. So you know, the Ministry of Agriculture in Grenada is now is really a repository of all the post Marxist educated civil servants; so you know, this whole industry of agriculture for political reasons was shut down.
And it has proven very difficult to get it going again. So when we came along, we basically just did our own thing. Entirely did our own sugar cane growing project with our own machinery, our own tractors, having to show these guys how to use tractors and I hadn’t seen tractors. Tractors are basically just mechanised horses as far as they were concerned.
So we really had to start from the beginning. Showing local farmers what and how you can prepare the ground; the latest thinking in growing cane; agricultural ideas, minimal use of fertilisers, insecticides.
In fact we just we just bought a drone, which allows us to administer very quickly insecticides and pesticides because cane is susceptible to because of that climate that very hot climate humid climate it’s very susceptible to disease and you need to be able to deal with it very quickly.
If you don’t want to have to deal with an outbreak. Using a drone we’re able to pinpoint the outbreaks of any infection as quickly as they occur and therefore deal with them very quickly and therefore use minimal amounts of chemicals which of course it has to be a good thing.
Nathaniel Schooler 43:02
Wow. That’s very clever. So before it’s spread, you’ve sort of nuked it.
Mark Reynier 43:09
Exactly. Yes. And you know, we’re also growing some cane on our house farm which will be bio-dynamically grown and also organically grown. But cane, because of its susceptibility, because of those climates it’s quite a tricky thing to grow you have a lot of attention to it and so will grow some organically but not all of it we can’t we can’t risk all of it being organic.
Nathaniel Schooler 43:37
Well thank you that’s been really educational. I really appreciate it.
Mark Reynier 43:43
Nathaniel Schooler 43:46
So where where do people find you if they if they want to go and take a look at what you’re up to Mark?
Mark Reynier 43:52
Oh, well then RenegadeRum.com We’re just launching that website now as it happens, there will be web cameras there too.
In Bruichladdich did we did those webcams because you wanted to show people that this was a Victorian distillery, it would be like just saying it, you know, it’s Victorian.
Now in Grenada. One of the, the happy coincidences is that a lot of the sugar estates and the administration of those states and the construction of those mills and distilleries in the 17th and 18th and 19th century was all by Scott’s. So they’re in the undergrowth, all these these remnants of these old mills and water wheels and stuff. All in a sand cast in Glasgow that our workforce at Renegade Rum, there will Scottish origin. They’ve all got Scottish names. McSweeney MacTavish, very strong Scottish connection which is quite amusing, it amuses me anyhow.
Well, the guy that built Bruichladdich distillery built one of the watermills over there in Grenada so there’s a lot of sort of connections to you know, the west coast of Scotland. So I feel it’s almost like a genastic thing we’re on. We’re on a sort of a on a roll.
Nathaniel Schooler 45:24
Mark Reynier 45:25
Waterford Distillery there we’ve got again more web cameras, so you can see what’s going on. A very modern super modern state of the art distillery couldn’t be more different to Bruichladdich, but it’s using technology that allows us to put in place a terroir project the likes of which has never been seen before. So, it’s quite impressive. That’s WaterfordDistillery.ie
Nathaniel Schooler 45:54
That’s lovely. Well, I’ll drop these links at the bottom of the show notes and everything.
And yeah, I really appreciate your time. I can’t wait to see how how these distilleries sort of grow over the next few years, you know. Yeah, if it is anything like Bruichladdich it will be fantastic.
Mark Reynier 46:13
You know. Well, yeah. touch wood. They all share the same ethos. They all come from the same place, Bruichladdich, we took on an industry that was focused around blended Whisky rather than single malt and we were there promoting the idea of barley and single malt quality Whisky.
Irish Whiskey. Well, it has been in the doldrums for years. It’s been a monopoly in the power of Pernod Ricard for at least 40 years. That is a very exciting wild west era where things are changing very fast and it’s a very exciting place to be and of course, the best quality barley in the world which is why I am there.
Take it to Rum well it’s the same companies it’s the same Diageo the same Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, the same big guys with the same marketing philosophies which are all to do with marketing and very little to do with production. And so once again we’re challenging them, there is a different way of doing it, there is a different way of looking at it and yes small companies can survive and can grow and can be influential and if you do it right and that’s what we’re trying to do!
Nathaniel Schooler 47:36
Fantastic that’s great I’ve really lovely to lovely to watch this you know I’m fascinated I love to watch businesses grow, especially in the drinks industry because it’s a fun industry to be in you know, really is
Mark Reynier 47:51
Well yes and no, it’s it promotes itself I mean, I think to a lot of people outside it looks like it terribly good, fun industry to be in know everybody’s terribly jolly and it’s all lovely things you talk about.
But I think, you know, I think what people forget is it’s an industry, the clues in the name, it’s an industry. It’s a very powerful industry. And it’s a very consolidated one.
In Whisky term, 60% of Whisky is controlled by two companies! In Rum it’s even worse; in Irish Whiskey 75% is controlled by one company. It’s a very, very sophisticated industry. And I suppose what I’m trying to do is make it less sophisticated and taking it back to the ground, take it back to the beginning and starting again. And that’s what I’m doing.
Nathaniel Schooler 48:51
If you could see me I am just nodding!
Mark Reynier 48:55
Good. Well, that’s really interesting on the on the telephone. Yes, thank you for that.
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If you want to learn more about the drinks industry and launching a global business listen to this interview with John McDonnell he launched Patron Tequila and now works for Titos Handmade Vodka.