This week we’re looking at three brands that help the environment and taste great too featuring delicious rums from Barbados and Nicaragua, and superb gin from Venezuela. These are wild…
This week we’re looking at three brands that help the environment and taste great too featuring delicious rums from Barbados and Nicaragua, and superb gin from Venezuela. These are wild spirits.
For many spirits brands, it’s not enough these days just to produce delicious liquids to put in cocktails or sip neat. They want to put something back, do some good and help protect the environment. So we’ve rounded up a few of our favourites from the Americas which taste superb but have a commitment to sustainability that goes beyond a PR exercise. Introducing three wild spirits that help protect the natural environment and, most importantly, taste incredible.
Flor de Caña doesn’t do sustainability by halves. It has planted 50,000 trees annually across Nicaragua since 2005. Distilled with 100% renewable energy, its rum is the only spirit in the world to be both certified FairTrade and carbon-neutral, meaning all carbon emissions during its entire life cycle, from field to market, are offset. The firm also provides free schooling to the children of employees. In fact, the current maestro ronero Tomás Cano was put through university by Flor de Cana. The rum is made from local sugar cane, fermented with a local yeast and then distilled in a column before ageing in ex-bourbon casks. As with Scotch whisky, the age statement is the age of the youngest component. No sugar or other additives are added before bottling to create a rum of great elegance.
How does it taste?
The nose has orange peel and menthol with grassy freshness on the palate with a touch of tobacco and fudge. Sip this neat with one of Nicaragua’s fine cigars or make a decidedly superior Palmetto.
The brand is dedicated to protecting and preserving its Amazonian environment and the local communities within it. Named after Canaïma National Park, 10% of the sales from each bottle of the gin goes towards the reforestation of the Amazon as well as preserving the culture and heritage of the indigenous people. The concept of using a spirit brand to aid conservation began with bartending legend Simone Caporale. His trip to the Peruvian Amazon gave him a troubling insight into the destruction of the rainforest’s fragile ecology. The result was Canaima Gin made in conjunction with Diplomatico. The team uses 10 unique Amazonian botanicals which are sustainably harvested alongside more traditional botanicals such as juniper, grapefruit, and orange. They distil each one separately in a 500-litre copper pot still before blending them into the final gin.
How does it taste?
Tangy fruity notes of passion fruit and grapefruit citrus, with a herbaceous backdrop, black pepper heat and an earthy, grassy undertone. Try it in a G&G mixed with grapefruit soda.
Proceeds from every bottle of Neptune Rum sold go to cleaning up the ocean through charities including Surfers Against Sewage, Seabin Project and Our Only World. Happily, the rum itself is absolutely superb which is no surprise as it’s distilled and aged at Barbados’s great Foursquare distillery. The blend consists of a mixture of pot and column still rum, created from a blend of eight, five and three-year-old rums made from pure sugar cane molasses. Since its launch in 2017, Neptune has been picking up awards left, right and centre including two gold medals in the Luxury Masters 2021 Awards. It’s also proved a hit with Master of Malt customers. Check out all those five-star reviews.
What does it taste like?
Maple syrup, fresh apricot, vanilla, nutmeg, warm bourbon oak, sherried peel, ripe peaches, shredded coconut and green banana. Try it in a rum Old Fashioned.
From Scotland to Stevenage, there’s a gang of intrepid British distillers making rum from scratch. Lauren Eads takes a closer look at the thriving UK rum scene. Great Britain is…
From Scotland to Stevenage, there’s a gang of intrepid British distillers making rum from scratch. Lauren Eads takes a closer look at the thriving UK rum scene.
Great Britain is not the first country that comes to mind when you think of rum production. Sure, there’s the historical links with the Royal Navy, the slave trade, and piracy, but actually making the stuff? We don’t have access to bountiful sugar cane crops nor do we have a climate remotely capable of ageing rum in the same way that the Caribbean does. And yet, rum is finding a niche in the world of Great British craft spirits. How?
The gin boom has helped create an interest in spirits, giving rise to hundreds of new distilleries across the UK. Now, many of those distilleries are diversifying, and rum is a great next step. But British producers aren’t only importing, blending and finishing rums in the UK. They are fermenting their own molasses and distilling the spirit from scratch.
“On the face of it we have no business making rum, because it’s a crop that’s not grown in the UK, but we do have Europe’s only cane sugar refinery about 15 miles from the distillery,” explains Will Edge, owner and distiller at Greensand Ridge in Kent. Greensand’s Wealden Rum is made from surplus molasses from the Tate + Lyle sugar factory. “There’s nothing wrong with bringing rum into the UK and finishing it here, but I choose to do it this way because it’s a passion and it doesn’t compromise on our ethic of using locally sourced produce.”
A messy process
The English Spirit Distillery was among the first to start distilling British rum, founded by Dr John Walters. English Spirit has released three rums – Old Salt Rum, English Spiced Rum, and St. Piran’s Cornish Rum – distilled from 100% sugar cane molasses sourced from across the globe. Now, there are many more making British rum, including Scratch Faithful Rum, distilled in Hertfordshire, Two Drifters in Devon, Seawolf White Rum and Matugga Rum, which are both distilled in Scotland.
“Traditionally rum has been imported from elsewhere and blended, either as a combination of different rums or a combination of high esters and other things that go towards making the rum,” says Dr John Walters. “Making rum from scratch is quite a complex and messy process, fermentation is quite tricky and it takes up a lot of space. People are now deciding it’s worth doing because of the authenticity that customers are looking for.”
For Walters, operating from scratch gives total control over the end flavour and product. “It all starts with molasses which is challenging because yeast doesn’t like the high acidity in it, so it struggles to grow. Yields are low, so commercially in terms of alcohol content you get less ‘bangs for your buck’, but you get more flavour. It transforms the flavour profile which is paramount to us and makes us very distinct in the marketplace.”
Morvenna spiced rum
Making rum from scratch
The Cornish Distilling Company, founded in 2016, makes a trio of British rums – Morvenna spiced, Morvenna white and Mooncurser. All are made using UK-refined molasses by head distiller Tom Read. “For us doing it from scratch was important, because we wanted that point of difference,” explains Read. “If we were going to be taken seriously as a rum distiller it had to be made from scratch, and it had to include a white rum so that we weren’t just spicing or sweetening everything that we made. Hopefully, there’s longevity in the way we are doing it.” In the longer term,aged rum is Read’s focus, with the distillery only now at a capacity where it’s able to lay down rums. “Ageing and un-spiced rums are important to me but it’s going to take time. Other brands that import can get an eight-year-old rum the next month. We have to make it then wait eight years.”
While say Jamaican or Agricole rum producers have had decades to perfect their character, it’s not possible to generalise a style of British rum. What you can assume is that it will be “radically different” from other rums, says Dr John Walters. “The rums we’ve been producing for the better part of a decade have improved steadily. We’ve understood more and more where we can go, and the weapons we need to use to direct the final outcome of the product. And you end up with a greater layering of flavours.”
John Walters in the thick of it at the English Spirit Distillery
A non-tropical climate
Obviously, the UK lacks a tropical climate, which is crucial to creating a style typical of a Caribbean rum. But that doesn’t mean producers can’t experiment with temperature control, from fermentation to barrel rooms. Read has considered heating his barrel room by using waste heat from the distillery, which could create a pseudo-Caribbean environment.
But equally, he thinks that the British climate could produce a style of its own. “For us, it’s getting the balance right and thinking about how we can create a British product that’s exposed to a UK climate. There could be an advantage to that. We are coastal so maybe the environment would have an effect on the barrel?” Cask finishing could also add a point of difference, with Read working with ex-bourbon, sherry and whisky barrels of different sizes and ages. “We can’t find out what kind of barrel a spirit will mature best in overnight. It’s going to take time, but finding out what works is going to be really interesting.”
For Edge, the aim has been to introduce a character of the local environment, including Kentish cobnuts. He uses wine yeast and controls fermentation and duration to bring out floral esters as much as possible, without high ester Caribbean tropical fruit flavours. “We are going to be at the stage for years where there’s a lot of experimentation,” says Edge. “What you can say is that a British rum is not going to be a Caribbean rum.”
Currently, there is no legal distinction between rum (distilled in the UK) and those imported, blended and finished in the UK. It would be helpful for consumers to be able to distinguish between the two, but for now, it’s the responsibility of distillers to communicate the point of difference. British rum isn’t trying to compete with other rum-producing countries, but it’s nice to see a brown spirit other than whisky making strides in the UK. “In the long term I really think we can become a respected region for rum production, but it’s about playing the long game,” says Read. “Nothing’s going to happen overnight. We need to put in the hard work to benefit in the future.”
From the people who brought you Waterford whisky, we have not one but three exciting new rums from the island of Grenada. Renegade Rum is here! Mark Reynier’s voyage into…
From the people who brought you Waterford whisky, we have not one but three exciting new rums from the island of Grenada. Renegade Rum is here!
Mark Reynier’s voyage into terroir continues with the release of Renegade Rum from Grenada. Reynier has been obsessed with how place affects flavour since his days as a wine merchant. He has made it his life’s work to show that this concept, widely accepted in wine, also exists in spirits. He began with Bruichladdich on Islay, before moving on to Waterford in Ireland, where he and his team have crafted a series of whiskies that show stark differences based on where barley is grown, something we’ve covered extensively on the blog.
Demonstrating terroir in rum
Now, it’s rum’s turn. Though demonstrating terroir in sugar cane is certainly much less controversial than in whisky with the trade already enthused about clairin, rhum agricole and single estate rums like Appleton in Jamaica.
But as with Waterford, the aim is to systematically break down bottlings by variety, location and distillation type in order to show the impact of terroir. Renegade Rum has been going for six years now, but Reynier has had the idea for much longer. “I started planning the project in June 2015 after an initial exploratory trip to the island. Immediately I felt this was the right home for Renegade after a fruitless 10-year search,” he explained.
The Renegade Rum distillery in Grenada
Starting from scratch
The island of Grenada has a wide variety of different terroirs based on soil type, altitude and micro-climate to grow sugar cane but very little is now grown, so the team had to start from scratch. “Unusually this project has been both back to front and upside down: first we had to propagate cane where none existed to prove it was worthwhile building a distillery; then we had to design it backwards, from the end waste streams back to the incoming cane,” Reynier said.
The island has both French and British influences but the majority of local rums are made from imported molasses, rather than sugar cane juice. Reynier, however, wanted to make agricole-style rums as he feels these more completely transmit differences in terroir.
Not only did they have to plant sugar cane, but they had to build a distillery from scratch. The set-up is totally modern with both pot and column stills. The former with a double retort which removes heavier compounds and the latter has two columns. It’s really worth exploring the Renegade website for more details on the production history of the island and videos showing the development of the distillery.
A rollercoaster ride
According to Reynier, it’s been a difficult project: “It has been a veritable rollercoaster of a ride since then and several times I was on the point of giving up. Several times I wondered whether I had bitten off more than I could chew.” But, he continued, “now we have a landmark, state-of-the-art-distillery built and run by Grenadians to use Grenadian cane – the veritable spirit of Grenada. After all the blood, tears, sweat of determination and technical ingenuity – not to mention a global pandemic – we are delighted that the Renegade Rum Distillery is alive.”
So are we especially after trying these first three unaged releases from the distillery. Here’s what we had:
“Dunfermline farm is situated on the east of the island and surrounded by rainforest, but gets little rainfall itself. Water runs down from the nearby hills into the moisture-retentive soil. This is a traditional cane growing area and typically shows high-yield and healthy harvests,” the press. The team planted this with a variety of sugarcane called Lacalome Red.
Nose: Big funky nose, green bananas, lemon zest, and a touch of smoked meat.
Palate: Concentrated, oily, and thick with a taste like grilled meat. Massive pot still character that will be amazing in cask, I think. There’s a herbal and citrus freshness here too.
This is made from a variety called Cain. Yes, a sugar cane called Cain. The press release comments: “The cane is harvested from a farm called Old Bacolet on the south coast of Grenada between two rivers – a flat floodplain with rich, clay soil; the farm is surrounded by coconut, papaya, mango and other trees which showcase how fertile the land is. The rivers that flow through Old Bacolet bring a cooling breeze on their way to the sea.”
Nose: That’s a big nose: oily, acetone, spices, cinnamon, earthy, rotting veg, and some pineapple.
Palate: Spicy and peppery, fresh, grassy, sweet cinnamon and nutmeg, bacon, herbs, warm spices, and citrus fruit. This has such a lovely underlying sweetness.
Finish: Long and spicy with salami and a texture like a thickened stew, think a lightly funky coq au vin.
These are superb distinctive rums that are great sipped neat but will also lend themselves to excellent Daiquiris, Mojitos etc. They’re alive with grassy agricole-like flavours but the pot stills especially have an amazing weight and meatiness to them that promises much excitement when combined with casks. Watch this space.
Renegade rooms are available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.
This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka… Do you know…
This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka…
Do you know what today is? The day when it really hits home how close Christmas is. December, and Advent with it, is next week. This time next month it will be over. We have officially entered the season to be jolly. But you don’t need to panic and suddenly force yourself to feel the Christmas spirit. It’s Friday, relax and take in a nice bundle of stories from the world of booze first.
Glenfiddich and Goodwood are teaming up for a pretty special whisky release, which we’re lucky enough to taste. Just three decanters of a 42-year-old Glenfiddich have been released to be auctioned by Bonhams to raise funds for Race Against Dementia at 11:00 on 7 December 2021. The whisky is taken from cask #11136 from Warehouse 8, which is a refill American oak hogshead barrel that has been maturing since 13 April 1979. It’s a celebration of Goodwood’s historic whisky connection, which can be traced back to 1836 when a chance inheritance handed Gordon Castle and its estate to the fifth Duke of Richmond, who was alarmed by his tenant’s illicit distilling and used political influence and commercial nous to ensure distilling became legal; paving the way for William Grant to build the Glenfiddich Distillery. Each decanter is paired with a VIP experience at a renowned Goodwood motorsport event and a photograph taken and signed by renowned Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch as well as motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE. Master distiller Brian Kinsman says about the dram that cask #11136 is “a stunning example of Glenfiddich, with an oaky, sweet and long-lasting taste. It has reached a perfection that few casks will ever achieve and is the ideal whisky to celebrate our long-standing relationship with Goodwood.” Each liquid is contained in a hand-blown crystal decanter by renowned French crystal maker Baccarat, and Bonhams have given a low estimate for each lot of £6,500. It’s a great cause and we can confirm the whisky is worthy of the plaudits. Its elegance and balance are astounding. We do hope whoever buys it actually drinks it.
Master of Flavours is made up of whiskies aged for at least 48 years from distilleries like Brora and Glenury Royal.
Johnnie Walker ends series in style with Master of Flavour
In one of his final releases before he retires at the end of the year, Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge has put together the final edition of the cracking Masters range. Johnnie Walker Masters Of Flavour has an ABV of 41.8% and was made with whiskies aged for at least 48 years from ghost distilleries like Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Brora, and Glenury Royal, which was balanced together with whisky from Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. No wonder there’s only 288 bottles priced at £20,000. To create the special release, Beveridge teamed up with previous collaborators Donna Anderson, malt master, James Carson, cask master, and Douglas Murray, distillation master, to pay tribute to the skill of whisky-making. It’s the third and final whisky in the Johnnie Walker Masters series, which includes Ruby Reserve, a celebration of Jim Beveridge’s 30 years working in whisky, and the John Walker Masters’ Edition, a whisky crafted using Scotch aged for a minimum of 50 years from distilleries that were operational during the lifetime of Johnnie Walker founder John Walker. Much like both of them, Masters of Flavour is presented in a Baccarat crystal decanter within a bespoke oak cabinet. Although, it has to be said it does look like a bottle of Haig Club made especially for the Green Goblin. Still, we imagine the whisky itself is outstanding, and excitingly we’ll have a chance to find that out soon…
The new mezcal cask Islay Jazz Festival bottling is sure to get whisky fans chattering
Lagavulin new Jazz Festival bottling is aged in mezcal casks!
The world does slowly seem to be getting back to normal but sadly this year’s Islay Jazz Festival will once again be online only this year. But never fear because sponsor Lagavulin’s annual festival bottling is happening and you can drink it IRL. It’s one that fans won’t want to miss because after initial maturation in refill bourbon casks it then spends an unspecified time in American oak barrels that previously held mezcal! Highly unusual. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% with a 13-year-old age statement, and will cost you £160. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume described it as “The first Lagavulin to be finished in mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.” “Distinctive and unusual” is just right. You probably wouldn’t guess that it had been aged in ex-mezcal casks, but it is hugely spicy and meaty with a strong lingering saline seaweedy finish. There’s also creamy toffee and vanilla lurking beneath stopping it all from getting too much. It’s a fascinating, highly complex dram, that’s sure to get whisky fans chattering. At the moment it’s a distillery-only release but we will let you know if we can get hold of a bottle or two.
We tried this $30,000 51-year-old whisky. It’s pretty tasty.
Royal Salute releases $30k 51-year-old limited edition
We’ve had some packaging on whisky samples at Master of Malt but still, the arrival of Royal Salute 51 Year Old managed to cause a stir at the office. The 50ml sample came in a solid wooden box wrapped in gold (not real gold, sadly) chains with a combination padlock. It’s the second release in Royal Salute’s ‘Time Series Collection’ made up of casks filled before 1970 including some from ghost distilleries. Only 101 crystal decanters are available. Master blender Sandy Hyslop described it as “an undeniably special expression that blends exceptional style with high-aged whisky. Crafting a Scotch of that age requires intense care and attention to ensure the cask characteristics are perfectly absorbed without being overpowering, and the moment I tested the final blend will stay with me forever; the masterful role that time has played over a minimum of five decades of slow maturation really blew me away. This release is a one-of-a-kind expression, and I am honoured to contribute to the legacy that the outstanding Royal Salute Time Series Collection is making in the world of rare and collectable whisky.” There’s no doubt that it’s a special drop of quite jaw-dropping complexity. On the nose, there’s toffee, peaches, dark chocolate, cinnamon and cardamom with a distinct waxy note like you find in Brora (could this be one of the ghost distilleries in the blend?). The palate is spicy and lively with menthol, manuka honey, Jamaica cake, and a lingering waxy texture. We feel lucky to have had a wee taste especially as at $30,000 a pop we are very unlikely to ever taste it again. Well, we suppose that explains the packaging.
It’s a masterclass from Ian worth seeing
Ian Burrell takes Equiano on UK rum tour
Global rum ambassador and co-founder of The Equiano Rum Co Ian Burrell is taking to the road this winter with A Tale of Two Rum Islands, a fascinating presentation of the rum-producing histories of Barbados and Mauritius. The event also gives guests the opportunity to taste Equiano Original and Equiano Light and learn the story behind its name, honouring the legacy of African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, as well as learn about the brand’s philanthropic endeavours. The session concludes with a Q&A, a rare chance to get geeky with one of the industry’s leading authorities. Burrell’s first UK tour in five years kicked off in London on 22 November, and we attended and had a blast. He then headed to Brighton (23 November) and will visit Nottingham (30 November) and Manchester (1 December) next, before continuing the tour in January 2022 in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, and Birmingham. We highly recommend it. Equiano is also marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) by teaming up with London bar Duchess of Dalston (from the team behind Callooh Callay) to create an exclusive cocktail and raise money for Anti-Slavery International.
No need to panic yet but we do want to see some progress here
Wine and spirits firms warn of Christmas alcohol shortage in UK
There’s no need to panic but… a group of 48 wine and spirits companies have told transport secretary Grant Shapps that Britain will suffer a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the lack of HGV drivers. Businesses including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, and the Wine Society raised concerns over rising costs and supply chain “chaos”, raising the risk that supermarkets will run dry and festive deliveries arrive late. Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that importing products is taking five times longer than a year ago and that small businesses are struggling to compete as delivery firms have had to raise HGV drivers’ wages. Unpredictable arrival times are also resulting in goods being either not ready or are left waiting for collection. The call is for Shapps to extend a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers, which expires in February 2022, to a year, and for the government to smooth congested freight routes from ports, as well as providing regular updates on how many HGV driver licences are being processed by the DVLA. “Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond,” Miles Beale, the WSTA chief executive, summarised. Let’s hope the resolution is forthcoming, and if you do need any booze for Christmas, we might have an idea of where to get some….
Want to serve draught pints at home right in time for Christmas? Now you can
Guinness launches £750 home beer tap
Guinness is launching a limited-edition at-home tap to serve draught pints right in time for Christmas. Following the successful rollout of the technology in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK earlier this year, the system should help you attain a better pint in your own home, although we all know how hard it is to get Guinness right regardless. The new technology is thankfully simple. Just pop a Guinness Microdraft into the pint puller, and the technology itself guides the user on how to conduct the perfect two-part pour. “Guinness Microdraft enables people to enjoy a beautiful looking and delicious tasting Draught Guinness on tap in a completely new setting for the first time ever,” said head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah. “Whether it’s to pour the perfect drink at a festive gathering, a Christmas gift for a friend or family member, or simply to enjoy an iconic drink of the black stuff at home with loved ones, Guinness Microdraft is sure to be a hit among beer lovers.” The Guinness Microdraft Bar Tap will be available to purchase for £750 from 6 December and arrives with four Guinness Microdraft cans and two Guinness pint glasses.
Should we be doing more to enjoy the vast array of different wines available?
The most popular wines in the UK revealed
A new survey, which looked at the preferences in wine varieties of adults of drinking age has revealed the top 10 most popular wines in the UK. Winemaking simulator game Hundred Days, which allows players to “embark on a journey of winemaking,” found the favourite varieties, although there’s not much in the way of surprises. Coming in first place is Pinot Grigio, then Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Rosé rounded up the top five, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and Rioja having to settle for places in the top 10. “Britain is one of the largest importers of wine, taking in over $4 billion worth of crates, bags and bottles in 2020. Yet, our research shows that the nation is largely shying away from expanding their wine repertoire and are stuck in a wine rut – making the same purchases over and over again,” says Yves Hohler, lead designer and co-founder of Broken Arm Games. Typically, they feel their game can make a difference by showcasing the vast array of different wines available. Of course, you could save yourself the effort and just click here…
The Christmas tree from 150 repurposed Irish whiskey barrels
Hinch Distillery makes barrel Christmas tree
Getting truly into the festive spirit is Hinch Distillery, which has unveiled a 24ft Christmas tree made from up-cycled whiskey barrels. Topped off with sparkling lights and a big bow, the one-of-a-kind ‘tree’ was made from 150 repurposed Hinch Irish whiskey barrels and took 48 painstaking hours to do. It took a team of eight under the helm of Co Down decoration installer to create the structure, which pays homage to the whiskey distilling process at Hinch, including a globe made from strips that hold the barrels in place. After Christmas, the plan will be to repurpose it for furnishings including chairs and plant pots to make it a year-round installation. Hinch Distillery, which will celebrate its one year anniversary this month, lies between Belfast and Ballynahinch on the Carryduff Road and is nestled in the grounds of the beautiful Killaney Estate, so if you want to see it for yourself, you know where to go. Be sure if you’re interested to see The Whiskey Barrel Christmas Tree light switch-on, which we imagine will be quite a sight. The distillery, which has not yet got its own whiskey, has also bottled a 12-year-old Amarone Cask Finish expression. But that’s just not as impressive as a big barrel tree, is it?
Ever tried Chilli Bacon Vodka before? Now you can. Huzzah.
And finally… Baller launches chilli bacon vodka
The ‘And finally…’ section of The Nightcap has featured many a mad product before, from the strangest of gins to the most confusing of creations. This week we’ve got a chilli bacon vodka to cast a suspicious eye on, straight from London-based distillery Doghouse. The creators of Baller Vodka, which claims to be the capital’s only vodka made from scratch, dreamt up the new flavour to “disrupt the category” thanks to its “first-of-its-kind” chilli and bacon combination. It’s produced using the brand’s wheat vodka as a base, with Mexican-grown Habanero chillies and a secret ingredient, which apparently isn’t actual bacon, to give it a bacon sweet smokiness. Could be vegan then. Not that I’d imagine that’s the target market. The distillery says to enjoy Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka with dry ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice, or in a Bloody Mary cocktail – which in fairness I can see working. Mostly this will be bought by people needing a joke present or something to shot on stag-dos you’d think. And more power to them. We are, after all, the folks behind this monstrosity…
In need of the perfect festive tipples? We thought you might be so from mulled wine to advocaat, we’ve rounded up our top ten Christmas drinks. Christmas is arguably the best time…
In need of the perfect festive tipples?We thought you might be so from mulled wine to advocaat, we’ve rounded up our top ten Christmas drinks.
Christmas is arguably the best time of year to have a drink. From office parties, festive fizz opportunities, or a dram of whisky to keep out the cold, there’s no end to the excuses to have a cheeky tipple. Then there are certain drinks like sloe gin or mulled wine that just scream Christmas.
From Gingerbread Rum to gin made with festive botanicals and even Brussel Sprout Vodka we’ve got the best selection right here, for your convenience. Perfect if you need to do a little present shopping too…
Christmas is a cup is what is promised in this delightful creation. Created as the perfect base for simple, delicious mulled wine, Winter Mulled Cup is produced with a mix of VSOP Cognac, fine Port and festive spices. Then, this is combined with cold-distilled orange and lemon peels and cold-distilled fresh root ginger. It’s not just great for mulled wine, you can make all kinds of wonderful things with this beauty and even sip it neat.
Whisky that tastes like Christmas is something none of us should pass up and this bottling hits the nail on the head. Featuring festive flavours like Christmas cake, dark chocolate, medjool dates, and cinnamon, the aptly named Christmas Cake & Dark Chocolate & Medjool Dates & Cinnamon is a superb Speyside single malt Scotch whisky, aged for eight years and boasting a sleighful of Yuletide elements. Any whisky fan will be thrilled to find a bottle under the tree with their name on it.
You might not be a big fan of puns, but seasonal gin is something we can all agree on as being a wonderful thing. That Boutique-y Gin Company’s GINgle All The Way come complete with a festive snow globe on the label that is filled with the gin’s botanicals, and you can see the likes of spot cocoa, bitter orange, ginger and cardamom. Note, the baubles aren’t botanicals. The recommended festive serve is to add a splash of grapefruit tonic, which sounds absolutely amazing, doesn’t it?
Let’s face it, we all love a good drink that’s based on a classic flavour. Jaffa Cakes. Chocolate. Even gingerbread. It’s a bedfellow of rum anyway, as both are spicy and sweet, but the folks behind Project #173 have ramped things up a notch by taking a good quality rum as a base and bringing in all those yummy aforementioned flavours you’ll find in gingerbread to pair with it. The bottle even features a flake of 23 karat gold leaf, making this one extra-giftable.
If you are looking for an alternative to your favourite cream liqueur this Christmas, then why not try Shanky’s Whip? This affordable and versatile Irish whiskey-based liqueur is based on a combination of Irish spirits, and aged pot still whiskey, blended in with the natural flavour of vanilla-infused with caramel. Smooth, rich and creamy, it’s the perfect drink to serve to guests this festive season as an after-dinner digestif, well chilled over ice or even as an indulgent liquid dessert!
Did you know you can distil Christmas puddings? Well, you can. And Wilkin & Sons did for the wonderful boozy arm of its Tiptree range. This small-batch English rum was distilled alongside hand-made Tiptree Christmas puddings to create the ultimate festive liqueur. Play around and make all kinds of wonderful seasonal cocktails, or enjoy as an after-dinner sipper.
We love a bit of Big Peat and don’t need an excuse to enjoy it at Christmas, but creator Douglas Laing has given us one anyway. This limited edition bottling of Big Peat follows something of an annual tradition for the fab independent bottler, who make the blended malt with malt whiskies from a medley of marvellous Islay distillery, and boasts a full-bodied peaty profile. Titular character Big Peat is naturally the star of the label, enjoying a spot of sledding.
Were you out in November collecting sloe berries to make your own gin liqueur? No, we weren’t either. Instead we rely on Hayman’s to do it for us, blending their classic gin with sloes and sugar to make a classic winter drink. You can sip it neat, rather as you would Port, but it also makes a great addition to various cocktails like the Negroni (or Sloegroni), Bramble, or combine it with English sparkling wine for a British take on a Kir Royale.
Advocaat is a traditional Dutch liqueur made from a mixture of egg yolks, vanilla, sugar and alcohol. It’s essentially boozy custard and who doesn’t like boozy custard? Warninks, the leading brand is part of the De Kuyper group. This can be used to make such classic cocktails as a Green Monster, a Fluffy Duck, a Broken Nose, and, of course, a Squashed Frog. Oh and don’t forget the mighty Snowball.
What a way to round things off, right? And don’t think we’re trying to fool you, this is real. Nelson’s used a whole load of Brussels sprouts to create the most festive and ludicrous of vodkas. Oh, and if it wasn’t Christmassy enough, if you shake it, it also sparkles. Perfect as something of a joke for the office Christmas party or as an after-dinner surprise.
Tomorrow we’ve got a whole bunch of brilliantly Boutique-y releases, both whisky and rum that are uniquely finished in a variety of wine casks. Today we’re going to preview the…
Tomorrow we’ve got a whole bunch of brilliantly Boutique-y releases, both whisky and rum that are uniquely finished in a variety of wine casks. Today we’re going to preview the wonderful rums with help from the man himself, Peter Holland.
Mark it in your diary folks, tomorrow is a big day. Because we’ve got all kinds of delightful booze landing here. Both That Boutique-y Whiskyand That Boutique-y Rum Co. are releasing a collection of small-batch spirits that share a common theme: wine casks have been used, for finishing, or full maturation.
Today we’re giving more of a spotlight to the rum, but it would be wrong not to talk about the whisky at all. This series is a collection of ten whiskies from Scandinavia, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more, featuring four brand new distilleries to Boutique-y including its first first-ever Canadian and Italian whiskies, complete with labels from the pen of Emily Chappell. There’s also the usual array of kick-ass Scotch single malts, as well as a single grain from a closed distillery.
And every single one features a wine cask in its maturation process, including Sauternes, Pinot Noir, Marsala and Oloroso sherry. Boutique-y Dave, or Dave Worthington if you want to get all official, told us that this was inspired by whisky’s long history of utilizing wine casks.
Highlights include the brand’s second batch from France’s first whisky distillery, Armorik, which was matured in a Sauternes wine cask, a three malt mash bill whisky from Puni in Italy aged in an ex-bourbon barrel and finished in a Pinot Noir Cask, the first Boutique-y Teerenpeli release from Finland with full maturation in a Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry cask, and a drink that technically can’t be called whisky (it was matured outside of Canada but distilled there, nice and confusing), but is in effect the first corn whisky produced in Canada to be given the Boutique-y treatment. It’s a 5 Year Old corn whisky that was finished in ex-Oloroso casks.
As for the rum, the four-strong selection hails from across the Caribbean and Europe, including That Boutique-y Rum’s first-ever Dutch rum. Peter Holland tells us that, with every release, he hopes to push the corners of the Rum map out a little further to “bring something new to our loyal fanbase, attract new followers, and challenge some conventions for the sheer bloody-minded pleasure of it”.
He adds that the Wine Cask series is perfectly suited to the season, and offers the perfect balance of being “really very approachable and attractive to the relatively inexperienced, and yet still offering a geeky angle for the experienced rummies out there”. He continues: “Excited doesn’t quite cover it, and I really can’t wait to get these rums in front of folks. Regrettably, the only issue will be grabbing one while we can as they are sure to sell out fast.”
The first of the new series is another addition to the Secret Distillery line, this time a deliciously-easy-drinking Dominican Republic rum, the first bottling from the country. There’s also a Foursquare Sauternes Cask and, if you’re of a mind to explore, a fabulously fruity Engenho Novo da Madeira Amarone Cask as well as a phenomenal Pedro Ximénez Cask matured rum from Zuidam Distillery named the Flying Dutchman. Let’s get to know them a bit better.
Secret Distillery #5, 7 Year Old – Batch 1
The Dominican Republic is regarded for its lighter distilled style rums, the flavours of which are characterised by time in oak cask, and then blended for complexity. This single cask release was distilled from a multi-column set up using molasses and spent five years maturing in the DR, before being moved to the UK, and transferred into ex-Madeira wine cask for a further two years.
Stylistically you should expect a lot of cask driven flavours with dark fruit (blackcurrant), plenty of zestiness and balance as well as a chewy texture. This one is ideal for anyone just getting into cask strength rums, it’s a more comfortable, approachable profile compared to some of the ‘heavy’ Boutique-y releases, and is a safe bet for gifting. Particularly as more seasoned rum drinkers will enjoy the interesting Madeira cask finish.
The label: Created by Grace J Ward, the label depicts a glorious day in the Dominican Republic, with the classic white sand and the beautiful blue Caribbean sea twinkling in the bright sunshine. Former Boutique-y brand manager Jennifer Meredith is present, enjoying a glass of rum and admiring the view. Which appears to include a humpback whale…
Tasting Note: Nose: A complex array of liquorice, lots of coconut, vanilla, ripe peach, bright zesty lemon, dried stone fruits dates, raisins and sultanas. Cane sugar, and gentle notes of cacao. A touch of dried grass.
Palate: A creamy mouthfeel, with a tart raspberry lead that reveals molasses, and vanilla custard.
Finish: Lots of dates and raisins, along with a sweet anise vibe. A warming finish. Lip Smacking, astringent, but not too long.
Foursquare Distillery, 10 Year Old – Batch 4
This is the fourth batch from the consistently award-winning Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. Going by the Gargano Classification (as the distillery does), this is a single blended rum, meaning it’s a blend of pot still and column still marques produced at the distillery. It was aged initially for five years in ex-Jack Daniel’s casks before being shipped to the UK for a further five years in ex- Sauternes cask, a sweet wine from Bordeaux.
To date, Foursquare Distillery hasn’t bottled a production release that features this cask type. Regardless, it’s still In the style of expressions that have gone before and comes with a well-known point of origin, meaning it’s collectable as well as damn-well-drinkable. It’s unmistakably delicious and works across a broad selection of Rum drinkers.
The label: This is one that is a real game of spot the hidden reference to all the distillery labels produced there. Picturing a beach scene in Barbados, there’s Macaws, a certain doctor is in the house and an ominous-looking cave that looks like it might lead to the underworld. The batch four label also appears to include some new headwear. Whatever can that mean?
Nose: All the coconut on the nose, ice cream, raisins and sultanas. Lots of fruit, green apple, a touch of tamarind, guava, and peach. Basically a big slice of cheesecake. An unshakable vibe of cough medicine.
Palate: Sweet onto the palate. Ripe pear, salted caramel, lots of lovely jammy notes, cheesecake.
Finish: All sorts of sultanas, and tart gooseberry, green note, leads into a long dry, astringent tannic finish.
Engenho Novo da Madeira, 3 Year Old – Batch 1
The third Madeira Rum producer to join the Boutique-y family. Engenho Novo da Madeira are one of the big three producers on the island (the others being Engenhos do Norte and Sociedade dos Engenhos da Calheta), and the newest in that they broke ground on the distillery in 2006.
The company was founded by a descendant of William Hinton, a famous sugar producer in the late 19th, early 20th century on the island. The facility is modern with exceptionally efficient sugarcane crushing equipment, but the beautiful 15-16 plate copper still on which they produce the amazing Agrícola da Madeira is over a hundred years old.
It makes an amazing characterful Agricole-style rum, which has been wholly matured in an ex-Amarone cask, a rich, dry Italian red wine that enhances the naturally fruity notes of the new-make. This is one for the explorers, as Madeira is one of the rum world’s best-kept secrets. On a personal note for Peter, this release means he’s bottled three of the four regular rum producers on the island, and has a step closer to his personal goal of bottling the clean sweep!
The label: Mr William Hinton (and his dog), feature in this montage of scenes that trace rum production in Madeira from field to cask. Starting with sugarcane crops to the commonplace sight during harvesting season and then it’s to the Engenho (distillery) for milling, fermentation, distillation and finally on to the ageing house, where racks of casks patiently while away the years.
Nose: Bright and complex. Ripe, sweet cherries, plums, and mango. Vanilla ice cream, candied orange and lemon. A perfumed note of rose petals.
Palate: A fruity, creamy nose packed full of maple syrup, and vanilla custard.
Finish: Long and lasting. All manner of dark chocolate, prunes are tart and tangy. It’s all red grape skins and black tea.
The Flying Dutchman Rum, 4 Year Old – Batch 1
Not only the first rum release from The Netherlands for Boutique-y Rum, but it’s first from mainland Europe in general. And it’s quite the introduction. The outstanding Zuidam Distillery has already supplied Boutique-y Whisky and now is bringing its hallmark attention to detail throughout production, authentic techniques, and (obviously) delicious booze to the rum side of things.
This rum starts with imported molasses (sugarcane doesn’t grow in The Netherlands, but they would if they could), which goes through long fermentation utilising multiple yeast strains before being double distilled in its fabulous pot stills. Maturation occurs for four years at the source using an ex-Pedro Ximénez cask and is bottled with The Flying Dutchman name, which is consistent with the own-label rums released from the distillery.
Peter is particularly excited by this one, describing it as “not like any PX cask rum you’ll ever taste” and being a release that “really knocks back the bullsh*t marketing surrounding the suspicious added-sugar sweetness of a number of PX cask mainstream brands”.
The label: Patrick van Zuidam stars in full Willy Wonka garb and an eyepatch among a roiling sea of fermenting molasses underneath a nightmarish sky. A member of the crew hands him his telescope, as he always has one eye on the future. A pitched battle appears to be won by the crew of the Howard Pyle as the nearest ship to them has been holed, and is slipping below the waves, with the inept, cowardly Captain clinging to the mast. Another ship has turned tail and is making off like a bat out of hell. Despite appearances, we can’t be far from The Netherlands, as that must be a windmill in the background?
Nose: All the Army and Navy sweets and fruitcake as the spices collide with this one. Lots of cinnamon, fresh ginger, and cardamom, with a touch of white pepper. Orange peel, roasted pineapple and a little rhubarb. Salted caramel.
Palate: Ginger, mango, sweet-jammy, sweet rose floral notes. A touch of fennel.
Finish: Roasted pineapple, lots more cinnamon, baking spices and plenty of grip.
The Wine Cask series will be going live on Friday 19 November. Check the New Arrivals page.
As That Boutique-y Rum Company celebrates its third birthday, we talk to rum sniffer outer extraordinaire Peter Holland on how he got the rum bug, why the category could do…
As That Boutique-y Rum Company celebrates its third birthday, we talk to rum sniffer outer extraordinaire Peter Holland on how he got the rum bug, why the category could do with more transparent labelling and falling down the sugar cane rabbit hole.
Peter Holland’s love of rum started, appropriately enough, with “meeting the lady who is now my wife.” Her family is from Barbados and it was seeing her “swigging a neat rum” that piqued Holland’s rum curiosity. If you’re marrying into a West Indian family, then it would be rude not to take an interest. Previously his experience had begun and ended at navy rum “which didn’t appeal.”
Peter Holland, one of only six men in England who looks good in a Hawaiian shirt
But it was a trip to Rumfest in London in 2008 that Holland described as an “epiphany moment.” He realised that “that world of rum was much bigger than Mount Gay Eclipse. Rum wasn’t just the Caribbean, it was world wide. It sparked the journey.”
At the time, premium rum was still something of a niche category. There was a small group of bartenders centred around bars such as Trailer Happiness in London who appreciated the good stuff. Holland found himself pulled ever deeper into the world of rum which would end up with him becoming involved with That Boutique-y Rum Company in 2018, which celebrates its third birthday this month.
Following his sugar cane awakening, Holland began regularly blogging on his Floating Rum Shack website and his free time was spent at tastings and rum events. His first post was in Feb 2009 and “within a year or two you get invited to Cuba, a glorious time to start a blog,” he said. The website got loads of traffic, before Google changed the algorithms.
Time to jump
By 2014, Holland had reached the point where he could not take his rum odyssey further with a full time job as an engineer working in product development. “My job was pretty stressful, it was making me ill,” so it was an obvious decision to turn his hobby into a job. “If I don’t jump now, it’s never going to happen,” he thought.
Many people have tried to do something similar, Holland succeeded. First Richard Seale from Foursquare in Barbados got in touch, he needed a part time brand ambassador. This suited Holland down to the ground, he never wants to be an employee again. “I don’t want to be in a position when someone has to sign my holiday card,” he explained.
Then, “once you’ve got time people come to you with more offers,” he said. The next person to come knocking was Ben Ellefsen from Atom (Master of Malt’s parent company). In 2017 he was looking to set up an independent rum bottler to go alongside That Boutique-y Whisky Company and needed an expert.
That Boutique-y Rum Company: great rum with brilliant labels by Emily Chappell
The birth of That Boutique-y Rum Company
“He gave me a huge bag of samples and asked why he shouldn’t just release all of these.” Holland gave Ellefsen his professional view, “some were past their best,” and by October they were ready to launch That Boutique-y Rum Company.
The range is now huge, taking in all the major rum producing countries like Jamaica and Barbados but also quirky stuff from Thailand and Madeira. There are funky agricole rums, single still bottlings from Guyana and blends that are perfect for mixing. Below Holland has come up with some of his current favourites.
I asked Holland how he managed to track down interesting and unusual rums. Apparently “stumbling over a forgotten cask in a distillery is not going to happen for the bigger producers. You are just not going to have access. Foursquare, for example, doesn’t sell direct.” You have to go through third parties. But with smaller players, you can still visit and have a rummage.
Holland is particularly excited about a single cask from William Hinton on Madeira that was aged in an Amarone (Italian red wine) cask. Coming soon to That Boutique-y Rum Company. “People think older and more expensive is better,” he said. But there are bargains to be had with younger and more obscure distilleries. He’s a particular fan of another Madeira producer: O Reizinho.
Madeira, some great rums found here (photo credit: Madeira Wine Company)
No way back
Despite being full time in the drinks business for seven years, Holland tries to keep a rum lover’s perspective: “I think back to what it was like being a wide-eyed enthusiast blogger and not lose that sense. I like being on the consumer side of the bar.”
He sees it as his job as a sort of rum tourist guide. “There are always new people to bring on board, people who are drinking Bacardi & Coke or Malibu & pineapple and thinking they’re great rum drinkers. If they’re receptive, they can carry on that journey. When you get people down to a blanc agricole then they’re really screwed. There really is no way back.”
He’s a particular fan of rums made from sugar cane juice like Clairin from Haiti but also excited about less traditional rum countries like England and Scotland, though both have a much longer rum making heritage than you might imagine. There were two Scottish and one English rum released as part of Boutique-y’s home nation series released earlier this year. Holland thinks part of the appeal is like with gin – people like buying the bottle that’s made just down the road from them.
He loves experimenting with rum in cocktails and recommends swapping out the Cognac in a Vieux Carré for an aged rum. His favourite cocktail, however, is the Daiquiri made with Signature Blend No 1, though he did add that it would have to be served with a side order of Gaviscon to combat the acidity.
A confusing category
The sheer variety, however, within rum can make it confusing especially for beginners. “People like Woods and Coke but give them blanc agricole from Martinique and they would not recognise it as rum. Rum is such a tiny word but it covers so much.”
Holland admits that inconsistent rules among the various rum countries adds to the confusion. “The messaging on age statements would be such a useful thing to move forward with. People will continue with solera blending but drop the ‘23’ please, it’s highly misleading.” He pointed to brands like Mount Gay who don’t have age statements at all. He’d also like to see more obvious labelling of additions such as sugar rather than hiding them away on the website like some big Venezuelan brands. But, he doesn’t think this will do much to change tastes, “it’s easy to drink neat spirit when it has 40g of sugar.” People like sweet things.
It’s a long road from sweetened rum to rhum agricole. Holland says: “My first taste of agricole rum or cachaça, I just didn’t get it. What the fuck is this in my glass?” It was a similar story with Caroni, a now closed distillery in Trinidad that is sometimes called the Port Ellen of rum. Holland found it “too big and dirty” but the next day “I woke up after drinking Caroni and thought ‘now I get it.” There are, however, some bottlings that are too much even for Holland like some of Jamaican single marks from Velier, rum which were created for blending rather than drinking neat: “if anyone claims it’s their favourite rum and it’s all they drink at night, I’m calling bullshit.” Too funky for Holland? That makes me want to try it.
Three rums to try
To help you along your rum journey, Holland has picked three from the Boutique-y range, one for people at the beginning of their rum journey, one gateway bottling and one for confirmed rum nuts.
Secret Distillery #1 Batch 1 – “A rum for those well on their way. Well for me, that’s going to be something much more full bodied like a well aged (9 year old) pot still rum from Jamaica,” he explained.
Issan Batch 1 – From Thailand, according to Holland, it’s “a rum for those in deep nerd mode, something unaged, something entirely about the distillation, something that can’t hide behind the years in a cask. In this case. It’s a pot still rum made from a monovarietal of sugarcane.”
This week we’re stirring up a booze heavy cocktail with Brugal 1888 rum from the Dominican Republic. It’s called the Dominican Double and to tell us more we have brand…
This week we’re stirring up a booze heavy cocktail with Brugal 1888 rum from the Dominican Republic. It’s called the Dominican Double and to tell us more we have brand ambassador Jamie Campbell.
When you have a high quality spirit, the best thing to do when mixing it is to keep things simple. You don’t want to drown the flavour in sugar syrups or fruit juice. Which is just the case with Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar rum from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.
It’s a classic smooth Spanish-style rum that will appeal to lovers of Santa Teresa or Diplomatico from Venezuela. Made from sugar cane molasses grown on the island, it’s fermented and distilled in a column still, and then treated to prolonged cask ageing. First it spends some time ex-bourbon barrels before secondary maturation in Oloroso-seasoned European oak casks.
Jamie Campbell has just been appointed ambassador for the brand, and talked us through what this double maturation achieves: “The first ageing process provides a lot of the flavours and aromas you expect from a rum, for example vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate, but for me, it is the second maturation in European Oak casks where the magic really happens. Here, we start to get flavours like figs, raisins and bananas which complement the flavours from the American oak ageing and elevate the complexity of the rum to new levels – the liquid is constantly evolving on the palette and has this incredibly long finish and mouthfeel.” Sounds pretty tasty, doesn’t it?
The year on the bottle, 1888, isn’t the vintage, sadly, but the year the brand was founded by Don Andres Brugal Montaner, who was originally from Sitges in Spain. In 2008, the Edrington Group, acquired a majority stake in the company. Nevertheless, it’s still family run. In fact, only family members can become maestro roneros – rum maestros. There are currently two, Jassil Villavueva Quintana and Gustavo Ortega Zeller. Campbell explained that the distillation “process has been passed down through each of the five generations of master rum makers and the exact specifications and process are a closely guarded secret between them.”
Jamie Campbell: barman, ambassador, rum lover
The story behind the cocktail
So you can understand why you don’t want to muck about with it too much. Campbell is particularly keen on something called a Double Dominican. So-called because it combines the rum with a banana liqueur from the same island plus some dry vermouth. The result is something not far from a Palmetto – but with a tropical twist. And who doesn’t enjoy a tropical twist of an evening? We’ll show you how to make one below.
Campbell has been working in the hospitality business since he was 14. “I quickly fell in love with all things restaurant and bar related. When I moved away to university, I landed my first ever bartending job and began to get more involved in the cocktail side of things, when I eventually took over as the bar manager, redesigning the cocktail menu and style of service.” From here he moved into the brand side of the business with a stint working with Lucas Bols before he was made brand ambassador for Brugal 1888 earlier this year. He’s “super excited and passionate about building the brand and the super-premium rum category in the UK.”
Campbell thinks that high quality rums are having a bit of a moment, especially sipped neat or, as he puts it “nearly neat” like in a Dominican Double. He continued: “I love that you can still taste the rum and the complexities of the liquid as typically, rum can often be overshadowed in cocktails and smothered by lots of additional ingredients such as fruit juices. In this cocktail, we simply use a small amount of crème de banane to enhance the tropical flavours of the rum, as well as some dry vermouth to provide a dry, refreshing end taste. It’s asimple cocktail on paper, but the flavour and finish are truly delicious.”
It’s not hard to see why the words ‘trailblazer’, ‘vanguard’ and ‘pioneer’ frequently follow entrepreneur Karen Hoskin, the woman behind Montanya Rum. The values she has instilled at her Colorado…
It’s not hard to see why the words ‘trailblazer’, ‘vanguard’ and ‘pioneer’ frequently follow entrepreneur Karen Hoskin, the woman behind Montanya Rum. The values she has instilled at her Colorado Distillery are three-fold: an unwavering commitment to sustainability, a strong voice on female empowerment, and sensational rum.
It was a sip of aged rum in 1989 that led her into the world of distillation. “It just spoke to me,” recalls Hoskin. “I spent the next 20 years learning about rum, how it’s made and the different traditions. I became geeky about rum and sugar cane.”
It’s Karen Hoskin!
A germ of an idea
But it would be another 20 years (in 2008) until she founded Montanya Distillery, located 9,000 feet in Crested Butte, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with personal savings and no outside investment.
Back then, she was the only female majority owner of a craft distillery in the US, with many assuming she was “somebody’s wife” when attending conferences at the American Distilling Institute. Sustainability in the world of rum was in its infancy, with Hoskin outspoken on the environmentally irresponsible practices of some of the world’s largest rum producers.
Today, Hoskin is not only a leading voice for women in the world of spirits and founder of the Women’s Distillery Guild, but the owner of a B-Corp certified distillery and repeat keynote speaker at the American Distilling Institute.
What’s a B-Corp? “It means we meet the highest third-party verified sustainability, social, philanthropy and employment standards anywhere in the world, and we are ranked in the top 5% of B-Corps” explains Hoskin. “It’s about how we use business as a force for good in the way we handle waste, our supply chain and green energy.” Montanya offsets 100% of its carbon production and is 100% wind powered, while its water is sourced from a snowmelt-fed aquifer underneath the distillery.
Montanya’s pot-distilled “Mountain Rums” are well decorated too. In 2015, its Platino won ‘World’s Best White Rum’ at the World Rum Awards in the UK. In 2017 its Oro won USA ‘Rum of the Year’ at the Berlin International Spirits Competition.
What’s a mountain rum?
The origins of mountain rum are rooted in Central and South American countries including Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua, which is where Hoskin’s approach to distilling originates. Altitude is the key factor, with rum aged in cool mountain top warehouses allowing for a long and slow ageing period, compared to the rapid tropical ageing in a hot and humid climate, such as the Caribbean.
Hoskin never adds sugar to her rums and only uses sugar cane grown at a family-owned farm in Louisiana, which also upholds her high standards on sustainability (no chemical pesticides, no cane burning in the field, a biomass operated mill) and is also non GMO. She takes it in two forms; dehydrated granulated cane and molasses, then puts it “back together again” at the distillery.
“Some people say Montanya is reminiscent of an agricole rum, which is made from fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, and that’s because I’m using 100% of what’s in the sugar cane, minus the water and solids (known as bagasse).”
The stills at Montanya in Colorado
What makes a Montanya rum?
Montanya’s four single barrel rums – Platino, Oro, Exclusiva and Valentia – are distilled in small batches in copper pot stills and aged in American white oak ex-whiskey barrels. They are differentiated through their length of ageing and cask finish.
Platino spends 12-18 months in a cask previously used to age Montanya’s Oro rum. It’s then filtered through a coconut-husk charcoal filter to remove the colour. The result is a bright, light and clean rum with notes of biscotti, cream soda, cardamom, coffee, vanilla, pepper, bell pepper, chilli pepper and a little spice.
“In the rum world you see an 8 or a 12, but that might only be a small portion of what’s in the bottle,” says Hoskin. “This is a single barrel rum which means it’s 100% of the age we say it is. I can’t cheat and add other rums to correct anything. I leave it in the barrel until it has the characteristics that I want.”
The Oro spends 12-18 months in an ex-whiskey barrel. “Most of that character of the barrel is going into the Oro. While the Platino is a little brighter, lighter, cleaner, the Oro is darker, richer, oilier and a touch sweeter because of the contributions of the whisky.”
Expect red chilli, coffee, caramel, vanilla, pineapple and chocolate. “Pineapple is about as fruity as we get in our tasting notes,” says Hoskin. “A lot of Caribbean distillers are producing esters associated with fruit. We tend to be more associated with rich, baking flavours.”
Exclusiva is aged for three years in American oak, with its final six months in an ex-Port and Cabernet Sauvignon French oak barrel. It finishes a little drier and “more tannic” than most rums in general, says Hoskin, with notes of cinnamon, honey and vanilla.
The Montanya range
An ode to women
The final bottling, Valentia, meaning courage or grit in Spanish, is touched by women at every step, from fermenters and distillers to bottlers and bartenders. It’s an “ode to what it took to overcome the barriers in the business” says Hoskin, and a celebration of the progress made by women in rum.
“It’s sad that we even have to talk about the fact that we are women in this industry, but if we don’t women don’t see it as a viable career and we just reinforce the absence of women,” explains Hoskin. “Elevating and making visible women in the business who are thriving attracts more women to the business.”
Aged for four years in American oak, it’s final 6-12 weeks are spent in an ex-rye barrel from Catoctin Creek, Virginia. This rum is mellow, smooth and all about vanilla, cardamon, ginger, honeysuckle, white flowers and spice.
Not the next big thing
Right now Hoskin is working on getting her rum in the hands of fans around the world, not turning it into ‘the next big thing’.
She explains: “10 years ago I was sitting in 67 Colebrook Row when it won best bar in London. They get out of the awards ceremony and everyone mobbed there. It was this small intimate setting and within 30 minutes the entire demographic shifted. Everyone wanted to be at this hot bar and it lost its je ne sais quoi.It would be my dream that rum never gets its day. I would love for it to be a place for connoisseurs; it doesn’t need to be for everyone. Just for people who have a reason to fall in love with it.”
Montana rums are available from Master of Malt. Click here for more information.
Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That…
Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It’s TBWC Home Nations Series!
It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of whisky talent in Britain and Ireland. Obviously Scotland and Ireland are world leaders, both vying for the position as the first place whisky (or whiskey) was made. Quick aside, why don’t the Scots, the Irish, and the Americans just sit down and just agree on a spelling for ‘whisky’ so we don’t have to use tortured constructions like whisk(e)y? This has gone on too long.
Anyway! It’s not just in the old countries, England and Wales now have serious strength in depth when it comes to whisky with the English Whisky Company in Norfolk turning 15 this year and Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons turning 21 in September. These pioneers have been joined by a legion of innovative distilleries making bold, distinctive whiskies.
British & Irish Lions, but with booze
So to celebrate all this talent, That Boutique-y Whisky Company is releasing the Home Nations Series. The idea of the ‘home nations’ is inspired by rugby where England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales put aside their rivalries to play together as the British & Irish Lions, usually with magnificent effect.
I’ve pulled out three that I particularly liked below. These are largely single barrels and bottled at cask strength or high ABV. All come in 50cl bottles. Numbers are extremely limited so hurry, catch the home nations while you can.
Cask types: Matured in a drum with charred English oak spindles
We visited this distillery a couple of years ago and were amazed by the innovations going on with yeasts, fermentation times and, most of all, ageing. This shows how you can get masses of flavour into a young spirit without it tasting over-worked. Extremely clever.
Nose: Super sweet, chocolate digestives and ginger nuts. It’s like a party in the biscuit aisle at Sainsbury’s!
Palate: Sweet toffee and chocolate and then spicy. Really really spicy with black pepper, chilli and bitter minty notes – like Fernet Branca. Some massive spicy wood action happening here.
Cask type: This is from a single STR red wine hogshead.
Distilled in Penderyn’s unique Faraday still – like a cross between a pot and a column (read more about it here). It’s been a while since I’ve had Penderyn, this bottling shows how beautiful it is at a higher strength.
Nose: Sweet cereal notes with apples, caramel, butter and toffee.
Palate: Creamy marzipan texture, there’s a gentle sweetness with baking spices like cinnamon and creamy patisserie notes with orchard fruit. Lovely balance, no water needed here.