You started Honest during last year’s lockdown. Had the idea been brewing for a while before that?
We’ve been friends since we were 13, so we’d known for a while that we’d like to end up doing something like this. We worked our first bar job together in Wellington during Uni, which in a way was the birth of the brand – learning how to make cocktails and what makes a good spirit. But more than 10 years later, with the world in lockdown and both of us without jobs, we sort of had an epiphany about starting our own rum company.
We had different backgrounds that we knew could help (Luke being from a design and marketing background and Dave coming from a sales, finances and logistics background). We decided to run with our idea, and it’s been all go since.
When you started the business, had you had much experience in making rum?
We had a bit of experience from our days of managing bars in both NZ and Australia. But we always knew we wanted to make something a bit different – we didn’t want to be too traditional with the spices we used or our infusion process. We’ve stuck with the core values of rum but added our own quirky edge. That was always our idea – to build a unique identity.
Tell us about the process of making the rum. How did you settle on the final flavours?
Rum can be made a few different ways, mainly using sugar cane juice or molasses as the core ingredient. We use molasses, which is mixed with water and yeast and left to ferment for 10-12 days. The result of the fermentation is called a wash. The wash is added to a still, and then boils and gives off a vapour, and the vapour travels up the columns.
When the vapour is cooled it results in distilled white rum. We infuse the rum with our spices and let that rest for a couple of weeks. Once we have the flavour profile we’re happy with, we remove the spices and dilute the rum to 40% ABV… and there you have it.
What practices have you incorporated within Honest to be carbon zero?
Our production strategy and initiative is something that we wanted to implement from the get-go to help reduce our emissions. Reducing waste and emissions is at the forefront of every decision we make – from packaging to distribution. Because we have a physical product, we knew transport and logistics would be a big one for us. We’re not there yet, and it’s a constant work in progress to discover new solutions that steer us in the right direction of carbon zero.
For us, offsetting isn’t the best solution, as it only helps to balance what you take. We debated this for a long time, wondering if creating a product was just adding to the problem. But we decided that our overall goal is to set the new standard in sustainable business practices.
We hope the sustainable processes we follow become the fundamental way all businesses operate, and hopefully, we can show that there is an alternative to harmful business practices. There are many initiatives we plan to introduce over the next few years, including repurposing our products and offering a refillery option.
For us, supporting community initiatives, and educating our staff and customer base, is a good step towards helping NZ reduce our overall emissions.
How are you tracking towards your goal of building a no-waste production?
The team we work with have been amazing in accepting all of our ideas and strategies. Distilling can be a very water-intensive production method, so we only use recycled water and have plans to expand on our water and power sourcing.
We also take any leftover waste from production (like our botanics and molasses) and turn it into compost. For future runs, we would love to be able to grow herbs, spices and florals from this compost and use them in production and cocktails.
What are some less conventional ways you like to enjoy Honest rum?
We have a fantastic (ever-growing) list of cocktails on our website and Instagram. One of our favourites has to be our spin on the classic espresso martini – the six spices in our rum enhance the creaminess and richness of the cocktail, making it the perfect drink for any occasion.
Our six spiced mulled wine is another favourite. But we encourage our consumers to try it the conventional way too – our rum is made to be sipped, so we generally love to have it neat or on the rocks. Everyone has their own palette and enjoys it in different ways.
Rum is the heart of the business, but are there plans to make other spirits?
Rum is our focus and at this stage, we won’t be branching into other spirits. We do have plans to make other rums infused with different botanicals, fruits and florals, so watch this space…