Matugga Rum founders Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa, in their distillery in Livingston, Scotland

Scots rum distillery launches £300,000 fundraiser

The UK’s first black female-owned distillery has its sights set on global expansion with the launch of a £300,000 equity crowdfunding campaign.

Investment in the Matugga Distillery will help the rum company become a ‘cane to cask’ producer, with plans underway to develop a sugarcane plantation in Uganda.

The Livingston-based distiller is recognised as one of the first companies in the UK to produce rums from scratch.

The award-winning Scottish rum producer is seeking £300,000 of investment at a pre-money valuation of more than £1.2m to enable it to export worldwide, expand its team and purchase additional distillery kit which will increase output eight-fold.

Married co-founders Jacine Rutasikwa and Ugandan-born head distiller Paul Rutasikwa have experienced huge demand during lockdown for their rum brands Matugga and Liv, which blend distilling skills honed in Scotland with their proud African and Caribbean roots.

The couple hope to capitalise on the rising popularity of rum, which had a global market of £17.2bn in 2021. The UK rum market alone grew by 37% in just two years from 2019 – amounting to £1.3bn last year.

Now they’re giving people the chance to own part of the UK’s most diverse and pioneering rum distillery.

MD Jacine, who is believed to be the UK’s first black female distillery owner, said: ‘We can’t keep up, we’ve sold more than 25,000 bottles already, but our distillery is now at full capacity.

‘The rum market is ready for disruption, and while the UK craft rum category is relatively new, we’re producing some of the most adventurous and unique rum expressions available anywhere in the world. Hardly any major retailers stock locally made craft rum, but the appetite is there so we need to think big to be ready to meet that opportunity.

‘We are producing New World rum and we’re rewriting the rulebook as we want to push the boundaries of what has gone before by producing exciting rums that offer surprising flavour and character in every bottle.’

Every bottle is distilled from scratch in Scotland, crafted with pure Scottish water and infused with Scottish, East African and Jamaican botanicals. The rum is produced using a degree of wild fermentation and 100% copper pot distillation.

Matugga Rum founders Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa, in their distillery (Photo: Elaine Livingston)

Paul explained the company’s wider purpose: ‘We have substantial ties to Uganda, and our team shares a common desire to support the livelihoods of sugarcane growers in East Africa.

‘With this at the front of our mind, we are developing a sugarcane plantation on our family land in Matugga that will employ and train local agricultural workers. By harvesting cane from our land and converting it into high-quality distilling molasses we will become a “cane to cask” rum producer.’

The ageing of rum is a central part of Matugga’s technical focus. The majority of the spirit from its distillery is matured in oak barrels with some products aged in high-quality casks previously used to store wine, cognac, bourbon, sherry or port.

As well as supporting local economies in Scotland and Uganda, and providing great tasting rums to drinkers around the world, co-founder Jacine hopes the business can have a wider impact by providing a positive example to other black entrepreneurs who have ambitions to scale up through investment.

Between 2009 and 2019, 0.24% of venture capital (VC) funding was invested in Black businesses in the UK. The barriers facing black entrepreneurs were a significant factor in the pair’s decision to explore crowdfunding.

London-born Jacine, whose grandparents were part of the post-war ‘Windrush’ generation who migrated from the Caribbean to the UK, highlights that the company has largely relied on self-financing.

She said: ‘When starting a business, black entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs and particularly black female entrepreneurs face huge barriers and often struggle to get to the next phase for a number of reasons – whether its access to finance, networks, education or mentorship.

‘There are still, sadly, systemic inequalities and individual and institutional biases at play. But we’re lucky that since moving to Scotland we’ve encountered a highly supportive community who value our craftsmanship and are as excited about our growth plans as we are.

‘It’s not very often that you see black-owned businesses on equity-based crowdfunding platforms, and we’re looking forward to launching our campaign to the general public. It’s an exciting time for our distillery and we’re inviting rum lovers to back our business and help us take Scottish rum worldwide.’

You can invest in The Matugga Distillery’s crowdfunding campaign via Crowdcube HERE.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has reported that rum enjoyed the biggest growth of all spirits during lockdown, while gin declined by 4.6%.

The Matugga Distillery produces and retails the full spectrum of rum styles under its two brands, Matugga Rum and Liv Rum.

Jacine Rutasikwa is thought to be the first black female distillery owner in the UK (Photo: Elaine Livingston)

Learning from the ‘ginaissance’, the pair have helped to spark the ‘rumaissance’ by producing a more accessible rum range featuring Scottish fruits and flora; Liv, a brand inspired by the pride the pair feel in their adopted hometown of Livingston.

Matugga has already sold more than 25,000 bottles through its online stores, as well as retailers such as Co-op and Master of Malt and DUGAS, a leading French distributor. It has also attracted celebrity fans including chef James Martin, who featured the rum on ITV’s James Martin’s Saturday Morning.

Head distiller Paul is working on a number of collaborative projects with Gregg Glass, Master Whisky Maker and Blender at Whyte & Mackay. What started out as a simple exchange of casks has developed into the start of a genuine friendship and collaboration encompassing the exchange of ideas, innovation and the actuation of these.

The company is also collaborating with Heriot-Watt University on a ground-breaking project to characterise the composition of its distillery waste (pot ales) and find new ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the distillery. This research programme is supported by The Scottish Food & Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund.

The Matugga Distillery has expanded its revenue streams beyond just selling its popular rums – including immersive distillery tours, virtual tastings, retail pop-ups and private cask investments, with plans to launch a new rum club, a rum school and a contract distilling service.

The artisanal rums, which are uncompromising on quality and crafted from scratch using only the finest ingredients and processes, have been recognised with a number of awards including Gold at the recent Rum and Cachaça Masters as well as winning Scottish Edge.

Find out more about Matugga Rum HERE.