David Steele, captain of Uist Sea Tour’s ship, had set himself out on a new adventure producing a beverage which is popular on the High Seas. Drum roll please for the new member of your drinks cabinet:
South Uist Rum!
Captain Steele got the idea to produce a new local rum from a friend of his who has his own distillery in Dumbarton and David’s been back and forth to that distillery since 2016, learning the tricks of the trade.
A couple of years ago, we did a photo shoot through Uist Sea Tours for his product, Island Slice Rum. Then thought, well, we’ll just do our own. His friend said to him one day: ‘Right David, now’s your time. This is when you want to start doing it. Then we went away and we started creating flavours and that’s how it all came about.
He’s a 6th generation rum distiller. His family have been doing it for years. He’s the first of the legal generation though, but it still counts.
There are various techniques to making rum, and it can take a while. Before bottling or branding David had to come up with the spirit and taste that he wanted from his rum, before adding and playing with flavours. This whole process can take time before you get your first dram.
‘We created our rum and we wanted to flavour it after. We just did everything in small batches and we were trying out different things. It took us two weeks, really to come up with the flavour we were looking for in the Spiced Rum. We were trying various different concoctions, and I was foraging in Uist and trying to get something from here that tasted good. I think the Rosehip one that we’ve got was actually ‘take number six.’
David has launched the South Uist Distillery with three rums; Dark Rum, Spiced Rum with Rosehip and a third Scotch Bonnet Rum.
It’s the same for all kinds of alcohol. You make it, and then it’s the decisions about what flavours you add to get the right drink at the end, and now we’ve got three.
I’m still learning the whole process. I didn’t go to university, so I need to learn properly from people who are in the business. I’m basically unofficially doing an apprenticeship. Instead of jumping into building too soon, I’d rather concentrate on making sure that the product tastes good, remains good, and then we can have somewhere big enough to make enough quantity of it here, initially.
I was always impressed with what Johnny and Kate have been doing with the North Uist Distillery. But then when you actually get into the nitty gritty of it and how difficult it is and how much work is involved in it, you’re like, okay, hats off to you.
And we’ve also got Angus MacMillan and MacMillan spirits co. It’s great to see that there are now three new distillery’s coming up in Uist.
David is still back and forth to Dumbarton distilling the new product but has plans to have his own premises in Uist in future. His Rum Dream hopes to create jobs and employment for others. At the moment he has a small team of people working with him on the website and branding and he’s looking next for someone to support him in sales and marketing for the South Uist Distillers Co.
Although his future plans do include having premises in Uist there’s also a clue on the label for what’s coming in the future. On the bottles on the three rums is a nautical map of the South End of South Uist and Eriskay. Where ‘X’ marks the spot of where the famous SS Politician ran aground, carrying a precious cargo of 22,000 cases of whisky. Have you figured it out yet?
‘So obviously, eventually, we’re going to make whisky. I had the label in my head and the X on the hidden treasure. That was the thought process. And on the map it’s got names of where go fishing.
All in all, It might actually be that full time employment is the aim. We want to try and keep people in Uist or attract people back, and just to contribute in making Uist a better place to live. We’re crying out for people and hopefully this would be more of a year round job than just a seasonal one for someone.
David is 6 months through his rum voyage and hopefully you’ve had the chance to taste this new beverage.
I’m still early into this. I’m figuring things out. I’ll make a lot of mistakes, but hopefully I’ll get more right than I’ll get wrong.
See how things are going for the South Uist Distillers co on their website and on Facebook and Instagram, where you can buy your bottle online. You can buy a bottle locally from Eriskay Shop, Lovats, Berneray Bistro and in the local pubs. You can also buy it from further afield in The Whisky Shop in Stornoway and also in Glasgow.