This month we’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with a rum that thinks it’s a gin from those booze innovators at Foxhole Spirits. Sound a bit crazy? Well, it is called Mad City.

One of the biggest trends in spirits in the last few years is the blurring of previously discrete categories. For example, gin starts to take on some of the characteristics of whisky after ageing in bourbon casks. Our new arrival, Mad City, is a flavoured rum, no doubt about that, but its clean bright flavours, which we think will appeal to gin lovers in particular, are a world away from sweet spiced rum

The man behind it is James Oag-Cooper. The company was originally set up in conjunction with Sam Linter from Bolney Estate, one of England’s best vineyards, but  is now independent. The team has form when it comes to this sort of genre-bending. Their first product was the Foxhole Gin made with a grappa-like spirit distilled from leftovers from wine production. This was followed last year by HYKE, another gin which strayed into brandy territory as the base spirit is made from surplus grapes. 

Oag-Cooper explains: “Our goal has always been to prove that using sustainably sourced, surplus materials can create spirits better than those that use grown for, single-purpose materials. With Mad City we’ve been able to apply our skill working with botanicals to rum and demonstrate expertise in a different category. We believe that the style of Mad City, with no sugar added post distillation, puts it in a category all of its own. The result is fine and balanced, absolutely delicious, and thoroughly satisfying to drink. This isn’t a flavoured rum or a spiced rum. It’s Mad City”.

The label is by Bristol-based urban artist, Sled-One. Pretty crazy

The base spirit used to make Mad City is packed with flavour. No wonder, as it includes pot still rums from three distilleries in Jamaica: Worthy Park, Clarendon and Hampden Estate; column still rum from the Diamond distillery in Guyana; pot still from Consuelo Estate in the Dominican Republic and finally some column still spirit from the West Indies distillery in Barbados. All of these are unaged. 

Oag-Cooper told us: “The approach was the same as for HYKE & Foxhole Gin.” It’s about matching the botanicals to flavours in the spirit. He continued: “The development process involved lots of blending of rums and botanicals, but the final production method once we had the exact flavour profile dialled down is just like a gin; we add all of the botanicals together, macerate and distil through an Arnold Holstein hybrid still, before cutting with natural spring water.” The botanical list is long: coffee, coconut, papaya, cherry, lime peel, sweet and bitter orange, rosemary, coriander seed, allspice, cassia bark, green and black cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, cacao nibs, ginger root, tonka bean, molasses, liquorice root, lapsang souchong, cubeb, hibiscus tea, and vetiver root. Phew! It can’t have been easy getting that line up to harmonise especially with such characterful rums.

The coconut, coffee and molasses aside, you would not be surprised to find these botanicals in a gin, and indeed the profile is quite like a gin. The spicing is very subtle and elegantly done, first sip you think it might be gin but hold the front door, there’s no juniper and then there’s pineapple, chocolate and coconut with grassy and citrus notes with warm baking spices. It’s extremely elegant and has a sweetness about it though without any added sugar.

The big question is then how do you drink it? With gin, everyone knows what they are doing, mix it with tonic, make a Martini, stick it in a Negroni. That’s why gin is so loved because it’s so adaptable while always remaining distinctive. But what do you do with this botanical rum? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that it does go with tonic water making a sort of G&T that isn’t a G&T. It’s also great in other classic gin drinks like a Tom Collins or indeed a Martini; the latter worked particularly well-made half and half with dry vermouth. Naturally, it’s right at home in a Mojito or Daiquiri. Mad City suggests adding basil and acacia honey to the latter for “a mad twist on a classic”. They’ve also come up with a Hard Seltzer made with coconut water, fizzy water and orange zest. Very simple and refreshing. And a take on the rum and ginger with a little added Italian vermouth. See here for the full recipes. 

Treat it like a white rum or a gin, and really you can’t go wrong. We’ve been told time and time again that rum is the new gin. Hell, we’ve been saying ourselves more than once. It hasn’t quite happened yet but if there’s any rum that’s doing to tempt the gin drinker, Mad City is it.

Mad City rum is now available from Master of Malt.