World Rum Day: Meet the sisters looking to take the spiced rum world by storm
Some might say being a GP during the pandemic is a story in itself – but factor in five professional sisters, ‘career women by day and budding rum moguls by night’, who’ve drawn on their Cameroonian heritage to launch a spiced rum brand in a mostly-male dominated industry, and you have to tip your rum hat.
“It’s been an interesting year,” says Laura Czech, an NHS GP, eldest of the sister and co-founder of ÉTÄN. “The rum has been amazing. The medicine has been interesting. Using a different part of my brain and combining the two together has been a really good, positive step.”
The Fosang sisters grew up in west London, but memories of sugar cane in the fields behind their parents’ home in Cameroon are still fresh in Czech’s mind today.
“I last had the opportunity to visit Cameroon a few years ago with my parents (their dad was an army captain in the diplomatic service), husband and son. It was a wonderful trip, as I got to share places I’d visited as a child and introduce them to my extended family.”
The idea to launch a rum came to the sisters just before the pandemic hit. “We’re five professional women in completely different careers, ranging from law, medicine, accountancy to teaching,” explains Czech, 40.
“We’ve never done anything together, but we like to go out at least once a month, the five of us, and have a good time. We decided to do something which represents us as women, a nod to our heritage and something fun, so that’s why we decided to do it.”
A golden spiced rum, ÉTÄN (43% abv, £37 for 70cl, etanrum.co.uk) means ‘five’ in Mungaka, a dialect in Bali, Cameroon, and it’s distilled with five botanicals found in and around West Africa, with some native to Cameroon. One day, they hope to use sugar cane from their family plantation, but for now, Alcohol Solutions in Manchester (the visionaries behind Three Rivers Gin) have taken on production.
“They’ve been great and put together our recipe and bottled it – despite the exacting standards of five forthright women! – to absolute perfection,” Czech quips.
“It’s not quite as harsh as other rums, because people can either love or hate rum, we’ve come to realize,” she adds. “It’s a rum that’s clean and fresh, with lots of flavour profiles and it works well in so many cocktails, or on its own. It’s got some really nice distinctive notes of lemongrass, vanilla comes through the cassia, which is cinnamon bark, sweet cinnamon as well as orange peel. It’s a really lovely flavour profile and different to other rums you’ll try.”
Launched last August, Ian Burrell, global rum ambassador and cocktail specialist on Channel 4’s popular Sunday Brunch, certainly thought so when he tried a sample.
“He sent me an email saying would we like it to feature on Sunday brunch?” recalls Czech. “I said that would be amazing. He created a cocktail, pitched it against two others, and ours won, absolutely hands down. The presenters were completely raving about it and we sold out within four hours of being on the show. We couldn’t have paid for better feedback,” says Czech.
Awarded a Silver medal at the London Spirits Competition 2021, the Fosang sisters hope ÉTÄN will make rum more accessible for women. But, there’s scope for wide appeal.
As spirit lovers look to experiment, Dawn Davies, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange, says there’s been a real increase in the popularity of spiced rums: “We’ve recorded a volume and value increase of 176% in the last 12 months, and this is because it’s captured the imagination of those looking to replace their favourite flavoured gins.”
That said, there’re many challenges facing small businesses as a result of the pandemic, and breaking into unfamiliar ground can be tough.
Czech admits there’s been highs and lows; working evenings, weekends, and late Zoom meetings. “There’s been lots of late-night discussions and sometimes we’ve had to go to a majority vote.”
However, she adds: “It’s been brilliant, really good fun and it’s really unified us. My mum lost our dad a few years ago, so we’ve got quite close, the six of us. I’m the eldest of the bunch, and my younger sisters [fifth sister Kareen has just turned 30] are closer to each other, but it’s really brought us all together, so it’s been wonderful.”
One thing that has surprised them is how few women have a foot in the distillery door. “All of us are fairly high achievers, we’ve got no bounds, we never have to what we can achieve, so it’s really surprising going into an industry where there are very few women, and very few black women.
“It’s been an eye-opener, there are still industries that exist, and still parts of an industry where women and black women are really underrepresented.”
Czech says the recent focus on black-owned businesses has seen real movement. “We’ve had our rum put into Black in Carnaby, a black owned business shop in Soho trying to promote black businesses, and that’s been really good. We’re really supportive of the movement to get better representation and trying to diversify the market a bit more, because there’s a lot to give, and a lot to show.”
Two more spiced rums to celebrate World Rum Day…
Devil’s Bridge Spiced Rum, 42% abv, £39 for 70cl, Devil’s Bridge Rum
A multiple Gold medal winner at the World Rum Awards 2021, Devil’s Bridge is another reason to spice up your life. It scooped Gold in both the ‘Flavoured’ and ‘Botanical & Contemporary’ category and blends the finest Caribbean rums with Welsh ingredients: Bara Brith (a Welsh fruit loaf), Glengettie Black Tea and Shirgar butter. The result is beautifully smooth with rich, spiced fruits; its complexity lends a unique character to cocktails.
Cut Spiced Rum, 37.5%, £25.65 for 70cl, Master of Malt
Awarded Silver at The Rum Masters 2019 (The Spirits Business), Cut is a sweeter style of Caribbean spiced rum infused with real spices; there’s vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and creamy caramel in the offering. Full, balanced and toothsome. Tailormade for Tiki style cocktails such as a Mai Tai, blend with a darker rum of your choice. Bring on the rumfest!