Published by The Rumlab ago about the Brix company
James has a 25-year history in the Sydney & Melbourne hospitality scene, operating his own bars and restaurants across both cities. After watching a thriving craft spirit industry develop over the last 20 years in Australia, mainly featuring gin & whisky, James and co-founders Damien Barrow & Sid Soin, set out to create a quality Australian Craft Rum, which was missing from the market.
In 2017, James and his two rum-loving mates opened Brix Distillery in the heart of Sydney’s hospitality & creative hub, Surry Hills. Now operating for 5 years, Brix has become a leading player in the Australian craft rum scene, winning a slew of awards & pushing the boundaries of the category, which has mostly been dominated by one major commercial producer & several international brands. James and the team at Brix spend their time educating Australians about the qualities of great rum & look to challenge misconceptions, changing minds about the versatility of rum & showcasing how rum can be enjoyed across all walks of life.
TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
Rum is my life! I live and breathe it day in & day out, from spending time with the team at the distillery, all the way through to working with bars and restaurants to find their perfect Brix service. I have always loved rum since I could enjoy a drink, and rum has always been my drink of choice. But it wasn’t until my palate had fully developed that I realised the quality of rum we had in Australia was lacking.
We saw some great rums coming in from overseas, but Australians had no option of upgrading to a better quality local product. I remember sitting in the bar I had at the time with my business partners, drinking premium rum from Barbados & assessing the amazing craft gins & whiskies that were being produced around Australia, wondering why we didn’t have any great rum options here. That’s the moment Brix was conceived and where our passion for quality Australian rum began.
TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.
1. Raw Ingredients: the characteristics of the molasses & sugarcane we source to contribute to the end product we bottle. Our molasses comes to us from the cane fields of Central Queensland, where the cane grows in perfect conditions. In our research phase, we searched the country for the best quality molasses we could find & are extremely happy so.
2. Craftsmanship: The people behind the scenes of our distillery play a major role in our rum’s profile. We are an urban craft distillery, which relies heavily on human interaction at every step of the process. When to pitch the yeast, how to control the ferment, when to make our cuts, which barrels to fill, and how long to mature…. These are all steps along the production process which involve human interaction, skill & instinct. I’m proud to say that our Head Distiller and his team are masters of this craft.
3. Barrel Selection: Our rums are all matured in oak barrels which have previously held Australian beer, wine or spirits. It’s all a part of our local sourcing policy which strives to use Australian ingredients wherever possible, showcasing local influence & telling unique stories for each product we create. Our team inspects each barrel before accepting it to ensure they are of the highest quality & have been maintained to our expected standard, in order to develop our rum over the maturation period. The barrels we choose play a huge part in defining our rum’s profile through colour, flavour & aroma, so we place huge importance on this policy.
TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made to the rum industry?
I’m very proud to own and operate the only dedicated rum distillery in Sydney established in the past 40 years. Since we set up 5 years ago, we have achieved some unbelievable feats and I definitely feel we are at the forefront of proving that Australian Rum is a category ripe for global growth.
I have also been involved in developing (and hosting) the first Australian Rum Awards in 2022, a project driven by a very passionate group of people to showcase the best Rum Australia offers across all rum categories, something I hope to be involved with for years to come.
TRL: Favourite drink + Recipe
While I am partial to a Rum Old Fashioned with Brix Australian Rum, I have been lover an ‘Old Cuban’ over this past summer. It’s light, fresh & herbaceous, especially with our delicious Brix unaged rum.
Brix Cane Spirit – 45ml
Prosecco – 25ml
Simple Syrup – 15ml
4-5 Mint Leaves
Add Brix Cane Spirit (or other white rum), simple syrup & mint leaves to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake hard until the shaker becomes ice cold & mint leaves have released their flavour. Strain into a coupe glass & top with prosecco. Garnish with a mint sprig.
TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?
Without a doubt, the main reason for rum education is to challenge consumer perceptions of rum and bring more people into the rum category. The vast majority of people that I come across on my travels consider rum a lesser spirit and don’t even realise that rum features in many of their favourite cocktails! They consider rum to be a cheap spirit to drink with cola, which gives you a horrible hangover…. and that’s the extent of it.
We need to challenge these misconceptions and allow people to realise that the days of pirates and sea monsters are over. The future of Rum is in education and appreciation, much like the whisky category has instilled in its loyal followers. As a category, if rum producers can educate people about the fact that with good ingredients, talented distillers & quality barrels, rum can sit alongside the best whiskies in the world, then we will see consumers making better choices & realising that well-made rum is an absolute joy. We are in for a great ride ahead!
TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste a good premium rum?
Drinking straight spirits can be a shock to the system if you go in too quickly, so I always advise you to use all your senses at first to prepare. Smell the rum’s aromas, visually check the colour & viscosity of the rum through the light, listen to the rum talk to you (my glass always seems to say “drink me….”) and then have the smallest of tastes to whet your palate & get the taste buds activated. Take it slow and season your palate before trying to analyse the rum too much. Then you will be prepared to really assess the rum’s characteristics.
After your first and second sips, you can adjust to your liking. There are no rules! Much like whisky, a few drops of water or a single ice cube will help to open up flavours & aromas and dilute the rum slightly if you’d like to approach it more readily. But overall, find something you like and build on the style from there. Try different brands and go on a journey of discovery. The rum world is vast and varied and I guarantee, you’ll eventually be pleasantly surprised to see the versatility & variety of styles that are produced all over the world.
TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?
I hope to play a major part in building the Australian Rum category, helping to promote our vast array of styles and profiles. Being such a large country, with a growing population of distilleries producing rum, it’s amazing to see the variety and diversity of styles being produced. The climate changes wherever you are in Australia, which leads to varying sugarcane growth, molasses flavour profiles, distillation techniques and maturation conditions. Australian Rum is at the beginning of a boom and alongside Brix, I’d love to play my part in showcasing these products for the world to enjoy.
TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.
I’m not going anywhere! Is that a hint?
TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?
I see bartenders as one of the most vital links for a rum to get through to consumers. As producers, we trust these industry professionals to create and inspire different ways of drinking our rum. As consumers, we trust bartenders to educate us and open up new ways to discover different rum styles. Bartenders allow us all to develop our knowledge, try a variety of spirit profiles & discover new and exciting products (especially before we commit to purchasing a full bottle). Plus, we all know that every bartender’s favourite spirit is Rum! They are definitely a major conduit for the rum category to grow further into the future.
TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?
Have fun, innovate, create, and don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. Rum isn’t bound by strict rules that other categories need to abide by, so use this flexibility to your advantage and develop new processes, new styles & new rum-drinking experiences. Be transparent in your approach so other people can learn and grow within the industry.
TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?
Published by The Rumlab ago
Published by The Rumlab ago
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