Back in 2008, swarthy old seadogs Roger Holmes and Jamie Duff ditched their fancy London day jobs and returned to New Zealand to launch Stolen rum. Since then, the sugary nectar has won a few awards, added names like Peter Gordon, Nick Worthingon, Brent Smart and James Hurman to the investor list and, through a combination of savvy PR and branding and a good product, is now stocked in a number of classy bars, swanky restaurants and luxury lodges. And, to launch a new rum variety called SX9 that's aimed squarely at the hospitality industry, it's taken a leaf out of the 42 Below book with a potentially controversial campaign enlisting the services of local mules to help smuggle its illegal contraband into Australia.
SX9 is a specialised over-proof rum used in cocktails, cooking and in the Caribbean funerary tradition called Nine Nights and Stolen co-founder Jamie Duff says there are only a handful of companies in the world who actually make this very obscure Jamaican product.
It's a New Zealand first, he says, but it won't be available to the great unwashed because, in keeping with Stolen's premium, edgy positioning and its focus on using PR and a now obligatory dose of cheekiness (see here, here and here) to drum up word-of-mouth, SX9 will only be available in a few select bars nationwide.
"It is only given to people who love the product; as a relationship tool you could say," says Duff. "Some large companies give cash, we give rum."
Stolen, which is now being distributed by Beam Global, is also keen to spread its boozey gospel to Australia, and it says there are a bunch of bars in Melbourne and Sydney that really want to stock SX9, but due to an archaic law in Australia (to protect Bundaberg, Stolen says), no rum aged less than two years in wood can legally be imported for sale.
So, in an effort to get around this (and as the basis of a PR stunt), it's taken the law into its own hands and harked back to the glory days of prohibition-era rum running by asking for rum mules—preferably respectable, honest-looking business people—to deliver it across the Tasman.
A series of rather mysterious classified ads and posters, as well as Facebook activity, have put the call out for willing candidates (there have been 12 applications received so far) and chosen mules will be issued with a bottle of SX9 and a mule tee to wear on the trip. The mules may be required to provide photographic evidence and and they will be rewarded upon successful drop-off.
No word on whether the bottles need to be swallowed or carried in 'nature's glovebox' in quintessential mule style. If so, let's just hope none of them are caught in the act and forced to expel their goods in front of a customs officer.