As the first vermouth made from 100% Australian produce and the world’s first quaffing vermouth, Regal Rogue, lives up to its name, setting itself apart from the crowd with its noble product. The initial stock run sold out within six months of its launch in 2012 and the brand has since put on an array of successful activations, including their current ‘Bondi takeover’. To find out more about the brand, its position within the industry and growth, Drinks World spoke with founder Mark Ward.
Drinks World: What makes Regal Rogue different to other vermouths?
Mark Ward: In respect of the global market, we are Australian, using 100% Australian wine and native Australian aromatics, however, in the grand scheme of vermouth – with so many new brands coming from Australia – we are still very unique, due to the fact that we don’t use any wood ageing and an average of 30% less sugar than traditional vermouth styles. As a range, we are semi-dry, relying on the residual sugar in the wine and natural characteristics of the aromatics to form the flavour profile.
DW: What’s your favourite cocktail to enjoy Regal Rogue with?
MW: (Laughs) over ice, across the range! However, I am also loving the Bold Red with Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters, lemon and egg white and Wild Rosé with Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters, lemon and egg white as sours right now. Such a clean drink and low in ABV aperitif.
DW: Why did Regal Rogue create the four different vermouths?
MW: The range is there as a representation of the different wine varietals. From day one, Regal Rogue has always been about representing the quality of the base wine, so a ‘Dry’ white, citrus ‘White’, spicy ‘Red’ and fruity ‘Rosé’ was the obvious go to, however, I’d love to have some fun with more limited wine styles in the future.
DW: Why did you choose Australian native botanicals to include in the vermouths?
MW: It is a true representation of Australian produce. The native aromatics came first, then I played with spirit to make a gin and ended up picking the hardest category and going with Australian wine to make vermouth. In 2008, when this started, the category was in decline; there hadn’t been an Australian vermouth brand for around 20 years and it led me to the challenge. If only we’d made a gin as well…!
DW: How are the native botanicals sourced and which native botanicals does Regal Rogue use?
MW: The native aromatics are sourced from aboriginal communities with our aromatic supplier. He has worked with the communities for years, employs indigenous staff and ensures we stay true to that. We use lemon myrtle, desert lime, native thyme, anise myrtle, quandong, wattleseed, pepper berry, strawberry gum, rosella and Illawarra Plum. They are all matched back to the wine styles.
DW: What was your start in the industry?
MW: I left the city of London in 2002 and joined Roger Moore’s bar group in London, starting at the bottom cleaning glasses. I left to travel and ended up in Australia, where I joined Luke Mangan’s group – this is where my interest in herbs and spices came from before joining Pete Evans’ group Hugo’s. When I left there, I started the brand marketing agency YAKUSAN and we launched Hendrick’s, Sailor Jerry, Chivas and numerous other brands, and in 2008 I decided to go back into the mixing side to make my own brand. The rest is history – full of huge highs and challenges to get Regal Rogue where it is today. That said, we are having a great time in Australia, the UK, US and South Africa, with trade and consumers really understanding the brand as a quaffable vermouth and alternative to wine.
DW: Tell us about the takeover in Bondi this summer.
MW: We are very much led by the summer and beach, and even in the UK and US we are focused on other beach environments, so it made sense to come home for summer and have some fun in Bondi. We have Aperitifs featured in Icebergs, Bondi Trattoria, The Shop, Bucket List, North Bondi Fish and Rocker, and brought it all together to run a series of events as a takeover. We’re hijacking Bondi with a summer of Regal Rogue Aperitifs and there will be more to come.
In addition to that, we created an event series in 2017 called The Rogue Terrace that we hosted in London, Tuscany, LA and finished the year at Icebergs. TRT is a celebration of vermouth, aperitivo, and vinyl, with 2018 seeing us go into the US with eight events scheduled.
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Regal Rogue comes in four distinct varieties: Lively White, Daring Dry, Bold Red and Wild Rosé.