National Liquor News spoke with Jack O’Neill from Nil Desperandum, the distillery behind Australia’s only organic-certified rum.

O’Neill shared the organic ethos of Nil Desperandum and the brand’s ambition to provide Australians with high quality, traditionally produced, organic rum.

NLN: What does organic mean at Nil Desperandum?

O’Neill: If it’s not Australian Certified Organic it’s not organic. In the US and Europe, for example, the use of “organic” to describe a product is strictly regulated and cannot be used without accreditation. Unfortunately, this is presently not the case in Australia, and Australian consumers are being misled by products trading off the reputation of organic certification with throwaway usage of the word organic to describe or name a product.

 Similarly, many rum producers trade off the reputation of Australian rum since 1906 as a product legislated to be aged for a minimum of two years in wood – with products that are not. Our rum is oak barrel aged for a minimum of two years and is Australian Certified Organic through a rigorous compliance and audit regime that verifies man-made chemicals aren’t present in the Australian Certified Organic farm of origin of the sugar cane, the Australian Certified Organic Sugar Mill source of the molasses, or any stage of transport, fermentation, distillation, maturation, blending and packaging.

NLN: Why did Nil Desperandum decide to go organic?

O’Neill: Australia has a rich of history of making and enjoying rum, but from Australian grown sugar cane that has been intensively farmed with prodigious use of chemicals including herbicides and pesticides. A significant majority of rum worldwide is produced in developing countries with lesser or negligible regulatory oversight regarding the use of chemicals. We think consumers deserve better.

We know exactly where our sugar cane is grown, where our molasses is milled, and that there are no chemicals in our rum. No other rum in Australia is Australian Certified Organic and very few rums in the world are certified organic.

From conception to implementation every aspect of our business has been considered and optimized to gain and maintain Australian Certified Organic accreditation. From the raw ingredients, to cleaning products, to production methods and documentation. It was an arduous 15 month journey to tick all the required boxes, along with an exhaustive annual audit to give consumers the confidence that what we say is true.

NLN: Why is being Australian Certified Organic so important for Nil Desperandum?

O’Neill: Consumers and decision makers want real transparency and integrity within the drinks and hospitality industry. Current labelling exemptions mean in most cases consumers have access to far less information to assist in spirits purchases than other food and beverage products. We think this has to change. Our approach is not to just talk the talk, but to walk the walk with no ambiguity about what is in our rum and what isn’t in the rum.

NLN: Does producing organic rum affect the quality of your product?

O’Neill: Nil Desperandum literally means “no worries,” from the Latin “nothing to despair.” But don’t be fooled by our easy-going optimism: we are producing rum equal to the world’s best on Queensland’s beautiful sub-tropical Sunshine Coast.

Organic farming by its very nature is lower yielding and more flavoursome than modern intensive farming. You simply can’t over farm the limited amount of land being used to grow sugar cane by the use of chemicals.

We are quite possibly the third largest producer of rum in Australia and the only producer of Australian Certified Organic rum. Our rum is delicious. It’s an incredible position to be in as we field a growing number of domestic and international consumer and trade enquiries for a product that has a unique and compelling point of difference.

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