About Time You Met: Gemma Wakeham, Co-Founder of Two Drifters DistilleryBy Angelica Malin
Two Drifters Distillery is doing things a little differently when it comes to producing their award-winning rum range. Spearheaded by husband and wife, Russ and Gemma Wakeham, the duo set about creating versatile, well-rounded rums that limit their impact on the planet. We chatted to Gemma about their sustainable rums, running a carbon negative distillery, and how they adapted their business during lockdown:
Tell us a bit more about Two Drifters Distillery
Two Drifters Distillery make premium rums, from scratch, in Devon (UK) and are the world’s first rum distillery to have a carbon negative footprint. Our ethos being that the UK can make amazing rums, without having to import rum and do it without harming the planet.
Previously you’ve worked as a nurse at King’s College London and then in Medical Sales. How did you transition to making rum?
Three weeks after I gave birth (whilst on maternity leave from medical sales), Russ got a postdoctoral position in Vancouver. So, we packed up, put our house on the market and moved to Canada with a new born baby! We spent 2.5 years there and eventually decided we wanted to move home to Devon, start our own business, make it as sustainable as possible to show the world how it can be done and use rum to showcase it all! We’ve always been massive rum fans, Russ took me rum tasting on our first date over a decade ago!
How is it possible to make the distillery the first in the world to have a carbon negative footprint?
Russ’ job before the distillery was working on carbon capture and utilisation. He learnt so many ways in which businesses could do so much more to reduce their CO2 emissions, but weren’t. We limit the amount of CO2 we create at the distillery, for instance, we use renewable energy tariff to run our all-electric equipment, we use 100% electric vehicles and charge them on zero-emission energy. We calculate every emission, even down to the search engine we use on our laptops.
Where we can’t reduce or remove the emissions, like shipping, agriculture, glass bottle production etc, we offset with Climeworks – a Swiss company that captures CO2 from the air, turns it into stone and stores it underground. We offset more than the whole process creates, making us carbon negative.
Photo Credit: Matt Austin
Why is sustainability important to you?
Knowing what we do about how to be more sustainable, how could we create a business that does harm to the planet? We love rum but not enough to contribute to climate change. Devon is a very special place to us, we want to keep it special.
In addition to rum, white rum and spiced rum is the overproof pineapple rum. Do you plan to explore more flavours of rum?
We are definitely just at the start of our rum journey. We are a young distillery with grand plans, so 100% watch this space for new processes/rums/flavours! It’s already amazing to see how much better our rum is tasting after 18 months of creating it, we’re only going to get better!
How have you had to adapt the business during the pandemic?
At the beginning of lockdown last year, we started making hand sanitiser. There was such a shortage, and with Russ’ chemistry knowledge, we were able to contribute in a small way. We sold it online but donated a % of it to frontline workers. Making hand sanitiser from molasses isn’t cheap or easy so as soon as general supplies were back up, we stopped. Since then, we have been fortunate in that home-drinking has kept us ticking over, as well as social media activity. We use social media to tell our story, as want our followers to know the work that goes into our rums, and we’ve had an amazing response to people following our journey.
What advice would you give to others looking to change their career path?
Plan, plan, plan some more and then have a contingency plan. Setting up the distillery has been the hardest job I have ever done (and I used to be a nurse in a busy ITU dept), there is no clocking off and there is so much worry. However, the rewards are worth every ounce of worry – owning a business that people want to talk about is amazing.
Photo Credit: Matt Austin
Lastly, where can we buy some rum?
Loads of places! The easiest place is to go to our website www.twodriftersrum.com and you can buy it from there or we have stockist page as well, with links to lots of retailers including John Lewis, Masters Of Malt and Amazon.