Garth Foster went from being a bartender and bar manager, to snagging a role as a brand ambassador with Moet Hennessy — a company with which he stayed for around 15 years. That’s a long, long stint — one that is almost unheard of today.
But that time with Moet Hennessy, which sits at the top of the luxury booze brand pyramid (I mean, the clue is in the name), means that Garth has had a long term view on how they have developed, launched, and nurtured brands over the years. It’s a pretty unique perspective.
Garth is now using that perspective for his next act, as the brand and sales manager for Red Mill Rum Co.
It’s a reinvigoration of a Sydney rum brand from the 1930s, one that Garth is working on with David Fesq, the great grandson of the original owner.
If that last name looks familiar to your, that’s likely because David is also part of Fesq & Company, a longstanding wine and spirits distributor which began in 1848.
The Red Mill Rum brand was started in 1933 by George Fesq, and was in production into the 1970s.
“For a couple of decades, Red Mill was Sydney’s most popular rum,” says Garth. As we talk about, Red Mill Rum has something that many new brands have no choice but to conjure up out of thin air: actual history. That’s where the connection between Garth’s time at Moet Hennessy and this new venture comes in.
“It’s a tough one, because a), we’d love to create a luxury product, and that’s definitely what we’re aiming for, but then also, rum as a category is quite egalitarian,” says Garth. “We definitely want to be there for all and not pretentious — we want to create a beautifully delicious product both inside and outside the bottle.
“The thing that sets luxury aside from other goods is the stories you can tell, and I think we’ve got those, we’ve got that history and that provenance.”
I tasted Red Mill Rum Co.’s first product recently at Old Love’s on Clarence Street in the city. It’s an interesting take on rum — and not technically rum, if we’re to take the Australian legal definition of the stuff seriously (which I really don’t). Their first product is called Cut Cane Spirit, because it hasn’t been aged for two years as is the (nonsensical) rule in Australia.
It’s a fragrant style of rum, is how I’d look at it — Garth describes it as uplifting and approachable — and that’s down to the way it has been produced, which he gets into on this episode. We also talk about how he’s adjusting to small start up drinks brand life after more than a decade on some of the world’s most luxurious brands, and he talks about the lessons he learned working at Moet Hennessy, and how that is shaping his thinking for Red Mill Rum Co. and the future.