Interview With Katherine Jenner, co-founder of Burning Barn Rum

Find out how an actual barn fire (and the resilience of her father in law in rebuilding his business afterwards) gave Katherine Jenner the name for (and the guts to finally launch) Burning Barn Rum.

What’s your career background?

I have a background in trading fine wine followed by some time at Lidl, where I worked across a number of key roles including: wine cellar, promotional planning and supply chain management.

My husband, co-founder and rum aficionado, Harry, is a Captain in the Rifles Regiment of the British Army.

And your ‘Eureka’ moment?

Harry says it was the moment we pitched the idea to his dad (a serial entrepreneur) and he listened!  We’d bombarded Harry’s father with a number of ideas over the years and this was the first compelling idea that stuck!

From my own perspective, the moment I tasted our final Smoked Rum recipe I knew we’d created something truly special.

We’d both been frustrated for a while by the lack of choice in the flavoured rum category – the majority of spiced rums were overtly sweet for our liking, and in general mass-produced. We found that we could produce recipes that showcased flavoured rums in a different light – offering real ingredients and authentic flavouring techniques (e.g. using only whole natural spices and no artificial nasties).

We’d marvelled at the revival of craft distilling, the emergence of captivating artisan brands and a revitalised appetite for involving craft gins and vodkas and were keen to play our part in rum’s long overdue renaissance.

Our Smoked rum in particular provides a different take on flavoured rum as it’s designed to be a sipping rum. We love the idea of taking more time over your rum, sipping it slowly and truly appreciating it. The modern attitude towards drinking less but higher quality really resonates with us.

Where did the idea for Burning Barn Rum come from?

It could be argued that the idea was born from despair. On the 26 September 2015, flights into Birmingham Airport were diverted due to a vast column of dirty, black smoke rising from a barn on its flight path. That barn belonged to our family and that fire destroyed the family business that laid within.

Simon Jenner’s (my father-in-law’s) successful fruit growing business had diversified over the years into toffee apple production in the 1990’s, a truly ‘from scratch’ family business with Harry’s father personally designing and engineering all the bespoke machinery.

It wasn’t so much the heart-breaking setback but the gritty, single-minded determination with which Simon swiftly revived his business post fire that convinced Harry and I to take a chance and launch our own artisan proposition. Burning Barn was quite literally ‘forged from the fire.’

What’s your USP?

Our vision isn’t so much to replace existing big brands but to establish a new category that underpins flavoured rum’s hitherto untapped taste credentials.

Our goal is to be the progression brand of choice for the consumers who want to progress from cheaper, sweetened Spiced rums into more sophisticated and innovative options.

We recognise that people’s tastes change – once you’ve drunk craft beer it’s hard to imagine going back to the brands of 5-10 years ago. Burning Barn aims to be the rum version of this progression!

Whilst our flagship Smoked rum is produced using apple wood from our on-site orchard, to create a velvety smooth sipping rum with deliciously distinct apple and treacle notes; our more enlightened Spiced rum is infused with hand-roasted spices (ginger, chilli and vanilla) plus warming allspice and the discreet presence of coconut. Both are flavoured with entirely natural ingredients and contain no additives or added sugar.

Who is your target audience?

Our apex consumer is the ‘millennial’ craft beer enthusiast who likes rum.  In broader brushstroke terms, anyone with an inquisitive nature regarding how artisan products are made and who invariably chooses quality over quantity. The consumers who place value in quality, natural ingredients will find what they are looking for in our brand.

We’re also seeking to broaden people’s rum drinking repertoires by creating rums that are comfortable accompanying cheeseboards, acting as an accomplished aperitif, mixer, nightcap or reassuring ‘winter warmer.’ Rum is a hugely diverse and versatile drink which deserves to be enjoyed by more people in more ways

How do you spread the word about what you do?

We love to share what we’re up to with our social media community, we’re just about to embark on our first trade PR drive and we have several tasting events coming up.

We love meeting consumers at food and drink shows and festivals. So far this year we’ve attended Pub in the Park, Manchester Rum Festival and the BBC Good Food Show. Coming up, we’ll be at the Leeds Rum Festival in October, we’re attending the Spirit Show in November and have more exciting events planned for 2019.

We’ve reached the final stages of this year’s Speciality Food Awards and will be launching our e-commerce site in the run up to Christmas.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Tapping into two very distinct rum propositions at the same time has worked really well for us.

Spiced rum is an existing category so our take on this proposition is easy to explain, while our Smoked rum is unique, innovative and exciting.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

HRMC red tape caused more than a few sleepless nights, however once we were awarded our licences it took 6 weeks to get our products on shelf.

And your proudest moment to date?

Very close between seeing our first bottle in all its splendour and our first Harvey Nichols order!

What are your top three pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs?

  1. Never lose faith – take a leaf out of Simon Jenner’s Book.
  2. See opportunities within every temporary setback (Forged from the Fire).
  3. Love what you do –  life’s too short to put your heart and soul into something that doesn’t make your heart sing.

You can find out more about Burning Barn Rum on their website