From Brisbane, Milton Rum Distillery aims to reimagine rum for Aussies

Brisbane-headquartered Milton Rum Distillery has a mission: to “Reimagine Rum” for Australians by replicating the world’s best styles and changing the population’s perception of the spirit. 

The company has partnered with the Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s Future Food Initiative since 2021, an association that has helped the business access a network of mentors, investors and other businesses to scale and export to new markets.

“We are a small, tight-knit team and as a business, we are growing fast,” MD and master distiller Alexander Bell told Inside FMCG. “Being exposed to these networks has provided us with the information and the guidance we needed to grow and navigate the last few challenging years.

“Despite Covid and the floods of last year that decimated our operation, we have bounced back and are growing rapidly this year,” he said. 

Milton Rum Distillery is a historic Brisbane brand being reinvented by its current owners. As the business has grown and developed, Bell says it has reaped benefits from being based in Brisbane – recently recognised as one of the world’s 50 most innovative cities for its cutting-edge approach to technology, and boasting a rapidly-growing population and client base.  

“Brisbane has fantastic access to such a diverse range of industries and to the smartest people in their field. Location is one of Brisbane’s strong suits. Being surrounded by beautiful agricultural lands – at the centre of a 360-degree food bowl – has given us the opportunity to source the highest quality produce for our products.” 

Bell says Milton Rum Distillery stands out from rivals through its adoption of technology and novel innovations, and its ability to create in-house the tools it needs as distillers. 

“I am a chemical engineer by training, so everything we do is designed and created from a first principles approach. We look at new products as an exercise in design: What is our goal for this product? Who is the customer? What are the different production methods we could use? And do we have the tools we need, or do we need to design and build those tools first?

“This scientific rigour allows us to hone in our craft and produce spirits that people love,” he shared.

Illustrating the supportive environment Brisbane offers entrepreneurs to grow, Bell has designed, built and commissioned all of the company’s stills. The latest still he designed is at the company’s new Albion premises. The four-metre-high hybrid continuous column still is actually seven stills-in-one and capable of producing more than 300,000 bottles per year using a fraction of the raw materials and energy that a traditional pot still uses.

“This is the first still of its kind in the world, particularly due to its functionality in several key areas of artisanal spirit production. And, it is one of the more complex, beautiful stills in the world. 

“The space we re-established our operations in lent itself to a steampunk aesthetic. As a result, I designed and built the still with many of these design elements.”

The new equipment will help Milton Rum Distillery achieve its goal of nationwide distribution by the end of this year. 

“The production capacity of the distillery is more than enough to get us there, but … packaging is the hardest part of what we do. So we are collaborating with other distillers to share resources. 

“Furthermore, we have teamed up with Help Enterprises to help us with labelling our bottles. They provide employment opportunities to people who need them, and being able to work with them is amazing.”

Bell says joining BEDA’s Food Initiative has opened the door to opportunities it would not otherwise have had access to. Since 2018, the Future Food Initiative has supported the scale ambitions of more than 400 businesses by building global capability and fast-tracking pathways to market and money. 

Each year, the Future Food Initiative runs a global accelerator to improve buyer and investor readiness and hosts domestic and international buyers’ forums where Brisbane’s best and brightest food and beverage products are showcased and pitched to key procurement decision-makers.

“We have met several investors, customers and mentors through the program and the aftercare support has further grown our network, in turn providing opportunities to expand,” explains Bell.

Now appears to be the right time for Milton Rum Distillery to be expanding, with data showing rum likely to be ‘the next big spirit’

“I’d like to think we are in a great position to capitalise on this,” explains Bell. “However, we see sustainability and quality being drivers for value in the years to come. We will continue to improve our processes and value chain to become more sustainable, resilient, and faster to act on changes in consumer behaviour.”

BEDA’s Global Accelerators aligns with the priority sectors of food & agriculture and provide a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to grow through various programs including the Future Food Initiative, which fast-tracks local food and beverage manufacturing businesses to connect with global buyers. With unstoppable economic momentum fuelled by infrastructure development, new investment and an ongoing wave of interstate migration, Brisbane is a city rich in opportunity for businesses. Expressions of Interest to the Future Food Initiative are now open get in touch here