Rum brand gets boost from expats heading home

A British-owned rum brand claims to be enjoying a spike in demand from expats returning to the UK from the Middle East because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Californian-based British national Nigel Brown was inspired to create the Siddiqui brand by the illicit moonshine culture of the first wave of oil workers who went to work in the Middle East in the 1950s.

The pandemic has led many current British people working in the region to come home, which the company said had led to a 32% boost in sales of the brand which takes its name from siddiqui, meaning “my friend” and used as a code word by expat communities for black market and DIY spirit.

Alcohol was subject to a widespread ban in Middle Eastern countries from 1952 and a manual known as Blue Flame for making illicit hooch began circulating among foreign oil workers the following year.

Brown said: “With so many expats forced back to the UK from the Middle East, what is emerging is a sort of reverse homesickness.

“Many people in the UK who are sipping Siddiqui are in many ways pining for the Middle East experience.”

The company says over 600,000 people normally live in expat compounds in the Middle East but the exodus has led to a fall of around 13% in employment in the Gulf states, according to recent research by Oxford Economics.

Brown is a British national who grew up in Saudi Arabia as the son of an oil worker who made illicit siddiqui and threw wild parties for expats.

Nigel Brown created the trademarked version in his own California distillery in 2013.

Siddiqui chairman Rick Chimblo also grew up around the illicit moonshine culture in Saudi Arabia.

“The recipe was encapsulated in the Blue Flame manual that everyone followed religiously, and the recipes have been perfected ever since, particularly by us at Siddiqui Rums,” he said.

Siddiqui has teamed up with Penderyn Distillery in Wales for bottling and international distribution in a 15-year deal.

The brand has UK listings with Amazon, Ocado and Master of Malt.