Life in Lockdown: Two Drifters Distillery

As the country starts emerging from three months in lockdown, we ask some of Devon’s hospitality and food producers, what life has been like. In our third mini interview, we chat to Russ & Gemma Wakeham, founders and owners of Two Drifters Rum Distillery in Exeter.

Two Drifters Distillery produces award-winning rum from their HQ near Exeter Airport. We first met Two Drifters at the 2019 Exeter Food Festival, I got to sample some of their Dark Rum which was most exceptional. Their rum is a green and sustainable product, and is a big attraction for consumers who are conscious of their impact on the environment. Not only that, it has been winning multiple prestigious awards since they started the business just over two years ago.

Being one of, if not the first ever carbon negative distillery, they utilise Climeworks (click through to read more about it on their site) as well as taking many steps to make sure that their business has minimal environmental impact. They produce Spiced Rum, Dark Rum, White Rum and a Golden Rum as well as a few others (visit their website to order some!).

They’ve recently been on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, which you can watch here

1.What is the name of your business, and what do you?

Two Drifters Distillery – Rum

2. How long have you been in business?

We started trading April 2019 but moved in here December 2018

3. The last few months have been unprecedented, as we are reminded often, can you take me through what it was like for you when lockdown was announced?

We had no idea what to expect; we were just getting ready for a very exciting Spring with lots more trade customers on board. Straight away we wondered what would happen, how we would pay rent/bills etc. if we had no trade custom? Would we even be at work, making rum?

4. How did your customers respond to begin with?

It all went very quiet. We took two days off as we assumed it would be weeks before we went back to work. We thought we were locked down like everyone else. No emails, no orders, no phone calls – just nothing! Then the online orders started to come in, our social media following began to increase and we realised people were sat at home, ready to watch/read about our story.

So we went back to work and made rum, showing everyone how we did it – people responded beautifully and our online orders increased every day. Also, luckily, we had a very good online shop set up already so we could move to more online sales very easily.

5. What did you find particularly challenging adapting to a new way of doing things?

Fortunately, we didn’t have to change much as it’s just Russ and I here. We had to factor in home schooling our six year old as well, which was very challenging especially as the orders began to increase. We also moved into hand sanitiser as there was a national shortage. Factoring in a whole new product, when our budgets were already zero due to no trade custom was very challenging.

6. Was there anything that you felt went particularly well? Any big positives to take away?

Being able to tell our story on social media to all our followers. It gave us an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from other rum producers.

7. Moving forward post-lockdown, do you see your business changing long-term, and if so, how do you think it will change?

I just can’t predict how the pubs etc. are going to work long-term so I expect trade custom to stay low for a while. As long as people continue to drink at home then we should be OK and we have a great platform on which to tell our story. Also, we have no events to get out & about to, so social media is the only way we can show-off!

8. What would you say to anyone who has discovered an independent business who has supported them through lockdown?

I appreciate it is easier to go back to bigger brands once lockdown eases, it can be time consuming to go out of your way to support independent businesses sometimes. However, lockdown has forced independent businesses to be better at online sales and so it should be easier than ever to keep supporting us.

Visit their website:


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