Market Row Rum - Patrick Venning

Meet the former big drinks exec turned craft rum runner.

It takes a lot to go from the safety of a big company to the world of startups, especially when you are part of the senior management and responsible for some of the biggest and most dynamic brands in the globe.

That's what Patrick Venning and his co-founder did, establishing Market Row Botanical Rum in 2020.

We caught up with him for a quick round up about the journey so far and what went into the idea.

Let’s start at the beginning – you’ve been working in the drinks industry for a long time but when did you first have the idea to launch Market Row Rum and what prompted you to start?

Back in 2019, having just finished a stint at Fever Tree, my old boss from Chivas approached me with his idea of a rum from Brixton. He knew I had a soft spot for rum as I had worked on Havana Club for many years, he also knew that we both harboured an ambition to run our own brand.

The concept is intrinsically linked to the location – even down to the name – what is it about the Brixton Market that caught your attention?

I have always loved visiting markets, wherever you go in the world, markets have a vibe. Of that Brixton is no different and whether it is the street market or the arcades, Brixton has a real character to it. 

Why botanical rum and not gin, or something else?

You’ve got to be passionate about what you are developing. Rum is a fun category, where you have an ability to play and experiment. 

We listened very hard to what consumers were saying about rum which helped us to shape Market Row and also why we think there is plenty of opportunity for us. The people involved in the rum category are generally very supportive to one another.

There are so many aspects to have to deal with, as well as take in consideration when opening up a new distillery. What was the most exciting part of the process for you?

Developing the product was really exciting because we knew that everything depended on it. There are very few brands out there who have succeeded with a mediocre product, although I am sure we can all name certain brands that just don’t do it for us!! 

If we were going to develop a premium brand the blend needed to be exceptional. It was great to get strong feedback from our network but it was very special getting feedback from consumers. I think this is the most rewarding part of the job when people tell you they like it, buy a bottle and then buy another one!

Where do you get your base rum from before you blend and redistil and why those rums in particular? 

We source all our rums from the Caribbean, the Jamaican high esters from Worthy Park, Hampden Estate and Moneymusk, the Bajan rum comes from Foursquare and Alcoholes Finos Dominicanos provide the rum from the Dominican Republic. They all bring something special to the blend, the high esters from Jamaica, the fruitiness from Foursquare and AFD brings the smoothness, interestingly our DR rum is the only rum made from cane juice.

Did finding the base rum come first and you then built a botanical flavour profile over it, or did you have something in mind for what you wanted to make and worked backwards to source the right components?

It was an iterative process which means we tried the blend first and then added the botanicals but as you can imagine, when we adapted the rums we had to make adjustments to the botanicals. 

This is (our distiller) Matt’s area of expertise and he was very particular about delivering the right blend which worked with the right botanicals. It was also important that we developed a rum from Brixton which is why we have Asian and African ingredients not just those from the Caribbean.

How many iterations and trials did you go through to perfect the profile and how long did the process take?

Probably about 4 months in total, as we had to wait for some rums to become available and we probably made around 10-12 different attempts before we went from being 95% happy to 100% happy

For you and you co-founder Laurent Lacassagne (former chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers), it must be quite different given your previous roles. What is it like to be on the other side and to be the tiny team and upstart brand?

We love it! Having the ability to shape your brand precisely how you want it and rather than by a committee or the accountant is what we wanted. 

We talk almost every day and mostly we agree, it’s when we don’t that we remind ourselves of the times we had got things wrong when we were at Pernod Ricard.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a small brand owner, especially in regards to becoming more established?

Management of resources, making sure that every penny is well spent and giving you a return. Cash flow is something I have never had to worry about before.

What’s the most exciting thing about the craft spirits industry in the UK at the moment?

The speed of change, the ability to make really exciting new products, the commitment to independent local businesses.

And last but not least - What’s next for Brixton Distilling co?

We need to keep growing! I am keen that we are flourishing in south London before we go anywhere else.

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Market Row Botanical Rum
Market Row Botanical Rum

4 May 2021