If you’ve been reading our Badass Liquor Boss Series so far, you’ll know that we’re on a mission to find you the most Badass of Bosses and their spirits. We’re chatting to gin and rum distillers around the country to bring you stories of the love, life and grind that goes into each bottle. This month we caught up with Katherine Jenner, Co-founder & Managing Director of Burning Barn Ltd. Burning Barn’s story is a great one, full of heartbreak, disaster and ultimately a will to succeed – we won’t spoil the story, but let’s just say ‘Forged from the Fire’ has real meaning to the team behind Burning Barn rums!
Hi Katherine! Thanks so much for chatting to us! First up, what did you do before creating your rum?
I worked as a buyer for a UK supermarket and for a wine trading platform.
What made you decide to create your rum and what’s the inspiration behind it?
Being closely connected to our family fruit growing business we were always thinking about ideas for diversification. The rise of craft gin and beer inspired us to emulate that success in a different category.
Then in September 2015 a toffee boiler (I forgot to mention, we make toffee apples on the farm) malfunctioned resulting in a sugar fire that burnt down all the buildings on the farm. Our farm is on the flight path to Birmingham Airport and the smokestack from the fire led to flight paths being diverted for that day, only the heroics of the local fire brigade prevented the fire spreading to the farmhouse. 30 years of work had gone up in smoke in 12 hours.
The fire was the catalyst for us to quit our jobs and start Burning Barn Rum. It informs the branding and inspires the flavours – a smoky Smoked Rum (the first in the UK) , a fiery Spiced Rum and a Honey Rum that uses Honey from bee hives on the farm.
Tell us about your distillery – location, any names for your stills etc. and can you tell us about the distillation process and/or botanicals used?
Our distillery is based in Hampton-in-Arden on a fruit farm. We are a fully licensed distillery, rectifier and compounder. Primarily our process is based on compounding and blending – we source amazing base rums, import them then flavour them with ingredients sourced locally and inspired by the fire. Our Smoked Rum is unique, using apple wood grown on site. We are the only rum producers that roasts the spices in our spiced rum creating a unique fiery flavour and we use Honey from our own hives in our Honey Rum.
What have been the biggest challenges/achievements, or your favourite story so far?
The biggest challenges have probably been legislative; licensing, audits, inspections, legal stuff. Starting a business in a highly regulated industry is not for the faint hearted! Thankfully we have had some amazing high points. Listings with Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, working closely with Barn on the Farm festival and having a whole festival bar dedicated to our rums. More recently Pineapple Club (UK Top 50 Bar) have used our Spiced Rum in their best selling cocktail.
How would you describe your rum/s in 3 words?
Authentic. Innovative. Punchy.
What’s your favourite way to drink your rum/s?
Our Smoked Rum makes the ultimate Old Fashioned, I like it with apple molasses and pink grapefruit peel. So good!
What rums would you always have on your shelf (other than your own of course!) / any favourites at the moment?
Going into summer we’re cracking out the white rums. We have an amazing one from a craft distillery in Washington DC called “Cotton and Reed” which makes an excellent daiquiri.
We were inspired by the tale of the Badass Liquor Boss Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe. Her story is one filled with excitement, intrigue and a tough as nails approach. So with that in mind, we’re asking all our guest bloggers – what do you think makes you a Badass Liquor Boss?!
She sounds like a handful! I’m not sure I’d describe myself like that but there are so many things I’ve learnt that I would pass on to other women thinking about starting a business in a male dominated industry. It’s mostly about self belief and risk taking; having the confidence to start, banishing imposter syndrome and having difficult conversations with people who dismiss you. Back yourself.
What’s next / any exciting plans?
So many exciting plans – our converted firetruck bar “Orielle” is on the road at events around the country, we are launching our ready to drink line of cans and we have our much anticipated yearly release of a special edition later in the year.