Aperitif Perfection - Mark Ward of Regal Rogue.
When we first stumbled upon Regal Rogue I was unsure if I would like the taste. Vermouth was not a drink that I have been properly introduced to, if ever introduced to! However I was very keen to try it simply because the bottle was so beautiful, so eloquently wrapped and with an intriguing artwork. At first sip I must admit that I was completely sold on the content as well! With beautiful uniquely rich and crisp flavours it was hard not to instantly love it!
Regal Rogue is a sensorial journey fearlessly handcrafted to disrupt the world of Vermouth. Created by Mark Ward after a legendary trip around the world to discover the spices of Asia and the wines and native foods of Australia. With a passion for the marriage of gastronomy and mixology he created something utterly unique in the world of Vermouth using 100% Australian wine from emerging winemakers enriched with native Australian aromatics in collaboration with the Aboriginal Community of Australia.
Tell us a little bit about your background and story - and how Regal Rogue came about?
I left the city of London in 2002 to pursue my dream, that was yet to be discovered, and decided to bartend and ended up working with Roger Moore (ex-Bond) for two years. After that I went travelling and settled in Australia where I worked with Luke Mangan, Pete Evans, Sean Connolly and focused on food and drink pairing with ingredients from the kitchen. Having launched Hendricks Gin, Sailor Jerry Rum, Chivas Whisky, Havana Rum and numerous other brands, I felt the next move was to launch my own and the use of native Australian aromatics with wine led me to vermouth. We were the first Australian vermouth in 20 years when we launched and there are now around 12 brands in the market, so it’s amazing to see and be a part of such a movement in the category here and globally. We now sell in AUS, UK, Italy, South Africa and the US, so it’s very exciting time for the family has been formed in the Regal Rogue team.
It is a fabulous brand name and a fabulous bottle and packaging! What is the story behind the name and the illustration?
I wanted something that was led by a character and although the illustration is not me, it is all based on my journey around the world, English heritage and the concept of a global traveller wandering to source ingredients to put Regal Rogue to life. The name came from the juxtaposition of ‘Regal – rich in heritage, quality in provenance and well mannered’ and ‘Rogue – new world style, new world provenance compared to the tradition of EU styles and cheeky and mischievous in nature’.
We’re very lucky in that we were awarded multiple awards within the first 6 months of launching in 2011 and have gone onto win numerous EU awards for the packaging design.
Vermouth has been a bit of an unknown to me and I can't remember ever being properly introduced to it! With Regal Rogue in the mini-bar it has quickly become a go-to aperitif! To other people not familiar with the Vermouth tradition, what is the basic concept of Vermouth and when and how do you drink it?
In the 50’s 60’s 70’s it was all about over ice or long with lemonade, however, as the Martini came in later in the 80s, 90s it then went back to the classics or being a modifier. However, Regal Rogue with 30% less sugar then traditional vermouth, celebrated wine from Australia’s key regions and a natural, fresh style, we are bringing back the quaffable style of vermouth and we are making it happen. Our global serves are over ice, long with tonic as an alternative to wine or low alcohol Gin twist. I think with more focus on health and lifestyle, this is our time to bring something exciting to consumers who want clean, but still want to enjoy a drink.
Tell us what it is about your vermouth that sets it apart and what distinguishes it from the more well-known European brands?
Three key things; 100% Australian wine (which will be organic wine next year), 30% less sugar and made as naturally as we can to give a clean, fresh style. We don’t age in wood and we ensure that the characteristics all come from the wine and aromatics.
We are impressed by the fact that it contains 30% less sugar than other vermouths. How does this affect the process and the taste?
It just means it is cleaner and the flavour profile is all about the wine and aromatics, not sugar. The process is a natural process that is all about maintaining the wine notes and a natural extraction of the aromatics to create very specific flavour profiles in the Lively White citrus and floral, Daring Dry savoury and earthy, Bold Red aromatic spice and dried fruit and Wild Rose tropical fruit and fruit spice.
Vermouth is a famous Italian tradition. How has the Australian market welcomed Vermouth into their drinking habits?
It was a lovely start in 2012, then we had to ride out the general media and early adopting food and drink consumers to see the trend globally, a few other brands and now it’s a key category in most good bars and restaurants. The drive of the likes of Banksii has also really pushed the category and educated the consumer what vermouth is, so there is much wider awareness now. I personally think that AUS is in the top 3 food cultures in the world right now, so Food & Beverage is on par with the rest of world.
Do you work with bars and bottle-shops to educate them about Vermouth and how to drink it?
We recently appointed Lauren Baker as our AUS Rogue and her focus is literally just to support our key On and Off premise accounts to help them communicate to vermouth and Regal Rogue so that the consumer understands what we are and how to drink it. Right now it is all about educating for the category and then where we sit in it.
If we wanted to go out and enjoy your Vermouth in the Sydney night scene, where should we go and what should we order?
We are so honoured to work with such an array of amazing venues in Sydney, it makes it hard to pick just one! Restaurant Hubert use our Daring Dry in their house martini – definitely pair that with their oysters for a great aperitivo.
Which of the four Regal Rogue flavours is your favourite and tell us your favourite way to enjoy it? Any secret recipes to share…..
Having spent 6 years developing them, I love them all for very different reasons and occasions, but my go to each time is always over ice and respective garnishes to suit the varietal, but right now the Wild Rose or Bold Red Sour is a winner.
Head to www.regalrogue.com for more information and cocktail tips.