Cane Rat Distillery Founder Rodrigue Akkari (Interview)

Published by The Rumlab ago about the Cane Rat company

Cane Rat Distillery Founder Rodrigue Akkari (Interview) article cover image

Rodrigue Akkari is the founder and distiller at The Cane Rat Distillery in Stoke Mandeville, UK. He began his career in engineering, working for an Oil and Gas consultancy on automation and instrumentation projects, before moving on to aerospace and medical software development.

Being a huge fan of rum, he decided in 2020 to take this interest one step further and create his own rum distillery, one that would also give back to the community and environment. In order to gain additional funds, and to promote the project, he pitched the distillery on Kickstarter and began setting the process to obtain licensing in motion. The campaign raised almost 40% of funds from like-minded people on the first day and subsequently went on to reach and exceed its goal, one of only two distilleries ever in the UK to achieve this via Kickstarter. Learn more about Rodrigue Akkari in the next interview:

TRL: What does the rum mean for you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

I spent a large part of my student years earning extra money by working part-time as a barman. Whilst doing so, I was exposed to the world of rum and was fascinated by the sheer variety of styles and flavors of rums. If I had to put a moment where the interest was first seeded, I would say it’s when I tried my first Agricole. The aroma immediately conjured up childhood memories of eating sugar cane in Nigeria, where I grew up. (This is what inspired the name “Cane Rat” for the distillery; the cane rat is a large rodent that feeds on sugar cane and can be found in the sugar cane fields)

My interest in rum evolved over the years, as did my interest in distilling until it came to a point where I made the decision to actually go ahead and create a distillery.

Rum allows more creative freedom in its making than most spirits out there, and the engineer in me was naturally attracted to the distilling process itself.

TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.

Terroir – It should embrace its identity.

Variety – It’s the spice of life.

Unpretentious – No snobbery, please!

TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

The opportunity to blend creativity with science and engineering, and the opportunity to engage with a lot of knowledgeable people.

It has also provided me with a means of giving back to the community and environment through the distillery, sourcing ethically, responsibly, and sustainably wherever possible.

TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

Anywhere where I can share it with some of my best friends.

TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe

On a hot day, a Papa Doble, made with fresh grapefruit, lime, Maraschino, and a nice Agricole, shaken with ice. On a cold day, an aged rum, neat.

TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?

Rum is such a wide-ranging spirit, and confusion is rife out there about what exactly rum is. There is a mature side to rum and rich history behind its culture and methods of creation which needs to be brought to light.

TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?

Personally, I would start off with un-sweetened and un-flavored rums, and work from there. And don’t be afraid to like what others do not, and vice versa. Your palate is unique to you.

TRL: Is the commitment to sustainable development the key to success for the permanence of the rum industry in the world? Why?

In this day and age, it is the key to the success of every industry, period. Our ethos at Cane Rat is to source as sustainably and responsibly as possible. You will find that most people who are committed to such practices are not afraid to go the extra mile and put in the effort required in creating a superior rum.

TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?

I want to go back in time and meet the younger me. I would tell him to get moving on starting a distillery!

TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?

I look forward to creating various flavor profiles in our rum, through maturation in a variety of casks, experiments with dunder, and also with yeast strain isolation.

TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.

I’m not leaving anytime soon!

TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?

They are the people at the front line and have the best opportunity to introduce people to rum in all its forms.

TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?

Demand that your product is ethical and sustainable wherever possible. The producers who commit to such practices tend to also care about the quality of their products.

TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?