Sydney Rum Distillery Founders Steve Magarry, Jonny Croft, & David Ward (Interview)

Published by The Rumlab ago

Sydney Rum Distillery Founders Steve Magarry, Jonny Croft, & David Ward (Interview) article cover image

By Jose Hoffmann

Through extensive research, Sydney Rum Distillery has identified an exciting investment opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of both the Asia Pacific and Australian provenance rums. As the last major spirit to premiumise, now is the time to invest in an industry that offers attractive gross margins and solid balance sheet growth.

Their aim is to capitalize on the growing international recognition of quality Australian artisanal produce. They will leverage this reputation along with Australia’s sugarcane industry to create a range of premium rums that will primarily be sold to an international market. The rums are meticulously balanced and feature a curated selection of Australian native botanicals as well as a customized wood policy program to deliver a unique drinking experience. Sydney Rum Distillery has designed an advanced craft with scale distillery.

Learn more about Steve Magarry, Jonny Croft and David Ward, in the next interview:

TRL: Who are you?

Steve Magarry – CEO/Master Distiller: an eminent Australian rum industry figure with global reach across all facets from operations, manufacturing, bulk contract supply to collaborative partnerships and award-winning New Product Development. Steve is an international spirits competition judge and Asia Pacific sugarcane and rum industry history expert. His most recent role as Group Distiller (Bickford’s Group) managing Beenleigh Rum and Twenty Third Street distillery operational sites is in addition to 20 years of FMCG food & beverage sector experience across procurement, manufacturing, wholesale, export/import, distribution, retail and brand activation.

Jonny Croft – CMO: consumer focused brand builder and creative strategic thought leader, Jonny has a proven history of creating enduring brand legacies and impressive business returns. With 25 years of spirits, beverage and FMCG global marketing leadership with brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Finlandia Vodka (Brown Forman), Jonny has most recently led the turn-around and growth trajectory for V Energy (Frucor Suntory). With a passion for spirits Jonny also has substantial beverage start-up exposure, founding the Small Batch Spirits Co (CARGO CULT Rum) and building the brand across AU, UK and EU markets.

David Ward – Co-Founder: David has 45 years of business experience in small to large organisations across an array of manufacturing, wholesaling and

retail operations and spanning a range of industries from FMCG to financial services. He has extensive experience in functions such as importing, exporting, product and channel management plus mergers and acquisition.

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

Magical aromas, wonderfully complex tastes, endless versatility, a rich evolving history  and a truly global origin – with typically one commonality… warm tropical weather!  

Sitting in a bar in Cienfuego. It was the early 2000’s, my first time in Cuba and I was flying solo. I saw how rum brings us together, the people, the music, the energy and the vibe. I spoke virtually no Spanish, but I spent all night talking, drinking and dancing with people. An unforgettable night!

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

Rich spell-binding aromas that give some hints of the molasses base and time in wood; the rich caramel and chocolatey taste and the warm tingling sensation that it leaves behind.

TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made in the rum industry?

Pushing the bounds with Spiced Rum – ie launching a Spiced Rum with ZERO added sugar (yes – you don’t need to add sugar!) and infusing a Spiced Rum with North Queensland bananas!

TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

The opportunity to freely experiment with innovation. We created CARGO CULT Banana Spiced Rum from a conversation we had with our Ambassador in the UK (Mario Sandgren). He thought our Spiced tasted great with bananas and asked if we could make a banana version. We thought – why not? Lots of Rum and bananas later we had something – and people really liked it. A category where you can innovate without constraint is really invigorating.

TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?

I love music – I’ve been Djing in clubs and bars in Sydney since highschool and you’ll still find me behind the decks every weekend. There’s something intoxicating about playing your favourite new music and holding a room of people in the palm of your hand (with a rum cocktail firmly held in the other!)

TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

Straight from a caballito glass when cooking dinner – so I try to cook most nights!

TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe

A lesser known tiki drink – The Junglebird – an exotic mix of spiced, sweet and sour!

- CARGO CULT Spiced Rum 45ml

- Aperol – 15ml

- Pineapple juice 50ml

- Lime 20ml

- Sugar 10ml

- Garnish with a pineapple leaf and lime wedge

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

The world of rum is vast – there is so much to explore, understand and experience!

It can be made from different substrates, distilled in different ways, aged by various methods (or not at all) and finished with different approaches (secondary cask aging or spicing and flavouring). Rum is made all over the world, and everywhere puts their unique and individual spin on it. Educating consumers is crucial so that they can understand, appreciate and experience these differences.

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

Taste with your nose, let your palate confirm.

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

Would love to connect with Richard Seale to listen and learn – I am in awe of the rum he makes!

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

To broaden the appeal and appreciation for Rum by building brands that speak to high quality Australian provenance and a distillery that can create liquids of unparalleled quality and distinction.

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

Who said we’re planning on leaving?

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

They are the educators at the coalface – no one has more influence, reach and frequency than bartenders.

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

Explore, learn, appreciate, innovate and disrupt!

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