The '17:30' Club
Most military “messes” will hold a Happy Hour on Friday evenings, when all drinks are sold at half price and everyone scrambles to grab a seat and a glass before the whole supply is drained. On December 30th 1979, on board the M.V. Benjamin Bowring, the team of the Transglobe Expedition created something similar.
Ran’s extraordinary life would not have been possible without the support of his crew and his loved ones.
During the epic Transglobe Expedition, Ran's team became the first to circumnavigate the surface of the globe from pole to pole. This was a never-to-be-repeated, daring feat that tested the endurance and friendship of all who took part. The team covered the Sahara via Tombouctou, the jungles of Mali and the Ivory Coast and the inhospitable North West Passage and Antarctica.
The ship was stationed at 62.17 degrees South, 15.39 degrees East, on a bearing of 220 degrees, when Oliver Shepard came up with the brilliant idea. No matter where they were in the world, they would always find time to toast their accomplishments. Each and every single day, the team raised a toast high into the air. To the expedition. To friends. To family back home.
The ‘17:30 club’ was born and still exists to this very day.
The Spirit of Adventure
From sailing the seven seas to the pirates of the Caribbean, scaling great heights to plumbing the ocean’s depths, rum has long been associated with adventure. It’s the spirit of derring-do, of no-holds-barred, of nothing is impossible. It’s the spirit that takes your loftiest ambition and puts the fire in your belly to achieve higher, further, greater than you ever thought possible.
That’s what makes rum the perfect choice for Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer and one of Britain’s best examples of daring, endurance and determination. But to live up to Sir Ranulph’s reputation, we needed a distiller of equally uncompromising aspirations. Someone unafraid to thumb a nose at tradition and push the limits of how things are done. In the end, there was only one man who could match Sir Ranulph, and that was Dr John Walters.
The first man to distill rum in these green and pleasant fields, Dr John’s English Spirit Distilleries in Essex and Cornwall - historic homes of rum-soaked smugglers and pirates - has created a great British rum worthy of any adventure, and has done so with new techniques and never-before-attempted processes that the establishment will balk at.
Whether you sip it neat over ice or have a Ran and cola, you’ll be enjoying a spirit infused with tradition and Britishness, but also with the drive to achieve great things. It’s the rum to take with you on your own adventures, your own new horizons.
Together, Dr John and Sir Ranulph are taking the traditional rum into uncharted territories.
This has never been done before.
This is an expeditionary spirit.
This is the Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum: the spirit of adventure.
The Master Distiller
The Pioneer of English Spirits
It started with brandy, and an obscure piece of legislation.
Around the same time he was looking for a new challenge, former biochemist Dr John Walters discovered you could own a still for personal use as long as you registered with the HMRC. He registered, built one, and started his new project with some fermented and twice-distilled grape wine. It was better than the expensive cognac he’d just bought; his interest was piqued.
Today, Dr John is the grand experimenter of English spirits. Whatever the spirit, whatever the occasion, his aim is firm and true: to distil the world’s finest spirits and liqueurs with no shortcuts and no compromises. His own internal spirit is one of a stubborn explorer; if he’s told something can’t be done, he will find a way to do it.
Take rum, for example. It was traditionally made in the Caribbean because no one had the courage to take it outside - until Dr John distilled it in Essex. And his rum has no rivals - unsurprising for someone whose life is based around challenging assumptions, taking no shortcuts, and taking an uncompromising approach to get the very best.
Dr John’s English Spirit Distillery customises all of its small 200 litre stills on-site because he believes larger commercially-available stills are too big to guarantee a quality product, just as he started this adventure because commercially-available spirits weren’t up to scratch.
His detailed and dogged approach bears its fruit in a flawless spirit. Dr John takes immense care and attention over everything. He is rigorous, focussed on revising and improving and doing it all over again until it’s right. Small batch spirits can be hit and miss; his spirits are wholesome, natural and with a well-rounded initial feeling. It’s about a smooth glide, not an abrasive blow. No fire in the mouth. No chemical burn.
And as Master Distiller for Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, Dr John has found his perfect partner in crime. Two greats of British endeavour, together at last. Pull up a chair and we’ll get a round in.
Uncharted territory for rum-making
Rum could only be made in the Caribbean, they said. It needs that certain character to be considered truly rum.
No one should ever tell Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr John Walters what they can’t do, because they’ll turn around and prove you wrong.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum is the spirit that shouldn’t be. It’s an expedition into uncharted territory, challenging assumptions and permitting no shortcuts. This is a brand new way of making rum, never before seen on these shores or any other.
The process is remarkably simple: we skip the ageing bit. But before you get worried about a fire in your throat as well as your belly, remember who you’re dealing with here. Adventurers love a challenge, but they always come through with a top-notch experience. We get the spirit right the first time round so that it has a quality taste before it goes in the barrel.
Ours is a very, very small batch production - the stills are tiny, and there’s attention to the most minute of details. Triple distilled from 100% pure sugar cane molasses - not commercial sugar cane syrup - the Sir Ranulph Fiennes Great British Rum has an unbeatable rich flavour. It’s distilled three times to help concentrate the flavours of the molasses and strip out the undesirable harsh elements of the alcohol; that’s how we get such a smooth, refined, high quality spirit.
We still have that unique flavour that can only come from the spirit coming into contact with the barrel. Instead of it sitting in that barrel for five years, though, we put the barrel in the still. We’re using exotic woods from some of Sir Ranulph’s most iconic expeditions - Sequoia from Canada; Norwegian pine; date palm from Oman - to deliver multiple adventures in one bottle. Distilling with wood to extract the right flavours may sound simple, but make no mistake: plenty can go wrong in the extraction. Only the skill of a true master distiller can pull off the feat successfully. The result is a golden spirit with a distinctly British character.