We have been wanting to do this interview for quite some time but now we finally managed to do it. There probably has not been that much to talk about with 1423 and S.B.S in quite some time, but read for yourself 😉
Would you like to introduce yourself, 1423 and S.B.S?
I am Joshua Singh, Founder and export manager for 1423, we are a Danish based importer, distributor and brand owner founded in 2008 when we released our first bottle 1423 1st edition which was essentially also the predecessor to S.B.S.
How did you decide to become part of the industry and what would you do today if it weren’t for that?
Me and the partners in 1423 all started out as whisky drinkers and back around the beginning we used to attend various whisky festivals around Denmark to learn and taste more about the spirit. It was at one of these festivals we were introduced to rum for the first time and we were easily convinced that rum was a lot more interesting than whisky. Shortly after that introduction we started the work that eventually ended up being 1423 1st edition.
If I had not been in the rum industry, I would most likely have been a business owner of some other venture along with my brother. We tried a number of other enterprises before I ended in rum and it has always been in our blood to be our own boss.
Now the audience of this blog is probably mostly interested in the S.B.S releases. How important are they for you financially, relative to 1423s other products?
S.B.S is financially not a big business, however it has its merits from both being a complimentary products to our other brands being able to offer a full rum portfolio to our clients and also act as a fun place where we can play around, experiment and enjoy our geeky sides of rum.
After the announced name change by Maison Ferrand’s brand Plantation, there has been a lot of criticism for your product “Ron Esclavo” as well. Can you tell us more about that?
Ron Esclavo has received a heighten attention and criticism on various social media platforms this past month. Esclavo being the Spanish word for Slave has stirred up feelings in people around the world that was never the intention. When we created the name almost 10 years ago, we were 4 people of Indian descent who whenever we did your tastings spend a lot of time talking about the triangular trade and the darker history of rum. Africans were taken away from their homes and brought to the plantations to work the sugar cane fields and later after they received their freedom the English started bringing over Indians to work as Indentured workers under terms that were close to the same.
The name Esclavo was created because of that, to help tell the story and start the discussion.
In hindsight, do you still think the name “Ron Esclavo” was a good idea?
Looking back today we would have chosen a different name, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and I am sorry for the people whom we have hurt. Today we would have gone in another direction. The next step now for us will be to change the name while still being able to tell the story we intended.
You have also bottled a rum for the band Rammstein. How did that come about? Did their management approach you? Do you also like their music?
Some years ago we did a bottling for the Danish rock band Volbeat, it was an idea we created after we got booked to do a tasting with the band members and we prepared a bottle with special label to give to the band as a fun gimmick. They liked it and we helped them produce the first edition of their own rum.
That experience we had a lot of fun with and together with my partners we sat down and thought about how we could do more. One name immediately sprung to mind: RAMMSTEIN! We contacted their management and presented them with our idea, and they loved it.
Rammstein was the obvious choice as several of us like their music and if you ever see me in the office you will be seeing me wearing a Rammstein t-shirt 9 out of 10 days.
Something that I have been quite fond of as well are the products of the Ghanaian distillery MIM. Both, the cashew apple brandies as well as the rum samples I have tasted. Can you tell us more about them and your collaboration?
The Collaboration with MIM actually started as quite a coincidence, they approached us to help them do their first bottling of their cashew brandy and once we had started they came back and said “by the way, we made a rum”. It did not take many seconds for the first one to shout out “Why didn’t you tell us and bring us samples”.
The samples we received were unique, a totally different profile from anything else we had tried, cane juice fermented for 5-6 days and then distilled in a pot still we have never seen similar in any other place.
What the future will bring you will have to wait and see, we have filled some casks here at our warehouse that will be released under S.B.S in time, but for MIM as a brand I don’t know what their plans are for the future.
Which of your releases are you especially proud of and why?
That is a difficult one, there are too many to choose from. If I had to point out a few I would say our advent calendar “24 Days of Rum” where we work closely with producers around the world to present 24 different rums from 24 different countries. The opportunity to show people the many facets of rum while giving them an opportunity to learn in the process.
And of course, the releases we have done in collaboration with Worthy Park.
How did the partnership with Worthy Park come about?
I travelled to Jamaica for summer holidays 6 years ago and spend 4 weeks on the island visiting different cities and the 3 distilleries that I managed to get a tour at, Appleton, Hampden and Worthy Park. When I came to Worthy Park which was my last to visit, Zan Kong had just taken over as their export manager a few months prior and I believe I was his first tour he ever did. That tour made me fall in love with the place, the beautiful scenery, the people and of course the rum. When I came back home, I brought samples for my team and not long after we placed the first order to get started.
If you ask me, there are few players in the rum scene who do finishes better than you. What separates a good finish from a bad finish?
A good finish or secondary ageing had to add something extra to the flavor of the original product while keeping the rum and the base as the primary. For instance, when we do a finish on an older rum it is out of wish or idea that we can add something extra to make it a little better. The finish however should never be overpowering the original.
A good example could be the S.B.S Cuba 2012 double maturation we released last year, the Cuban rum in itself is rather light in both aroma and taste but after a secondary ageing in Virgin Oak it really steps out and you get a more full bodied heavier profile that really turned out very well.
Since we have already talked about Worthy Park and finishes, you have also done finishes for them. That sort of relationship is rather unusual, isn’t it? What was the process behind that?
This actually started after the German Rumfest a few years ago, me and my colleague Thomas had brought a sample from a PX sherry cask we had filled with Worthy Park, the reception was very good and Zan who had joined us for the festival loved it as well. At that time, it was not easy for Worthy Park themselves to start a project like this so we agreed that we would start it up together and in time move everything to Jamaica. The release we made earlier this year will therefore also be the last and the next release will be 100% Jamaica.
Can you tell us about finishes that have gone bad? What did you do with these rums?
We have seen a few barrels where the wine or spirit that was left in the wood from previously had turned bad. Normally when we receive these barrels, they are emptied for what is left and then rinsed, but in a few cases we have been unlucky. It has happened in the past to 1 cask with Worthy Park and 1 with Foursquare. The Worthy Park we redistilled at the Danish distillery Enghaven and the Foursquare we have
left in the cask to watch what happens in time.
You’ve recently invested heavily into a new warehouse. What can we expect from 1423 and S.B.S in the future?
We are always working on new projects, some will come to life while others will be forgotten. At the moment we are planning the next release of S.B.S that will come on the market around September and will include some experiments we have made and where we try to invite the people in to the process by bottling the same rum from different casks so they can feel the influence.
Which product that is completely unrelated to 1423 have you been enjoying recently?
The best experience I have had this year would have to be from our German friends at Rum Artesanal and the 1994 Enmore / Versailles release they did in the beginning of the year. That bottling is truly outstanding. Cheers to Dominik and his team for choosing some really extraordinary casks.
Any last words?
It has been a crazy year 2020 with Covid-19 raging the world, let us all hope for better days to come. I for one look very much forward to getting back on the road, visiting rum festivals, rum people, and rum distilleries. Travelling is a big part of my job and my life so I hope to see you and all your readers back out there again soon.
Thanks a lot, Joshua!