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Tag: rum

Top ten: Rums under £40

The only thing we love more than great rum is great rum than you can get for an amazing price. Everything on this list costs less than £40. Lovely. Rum…

The only thing we love more than great rum is great rum than you can get for an amazing price. Everything on this list costs less than £40. Lovely.

Rum is finally getting the attention and love it deserves and that makes us very happy indeed. The diverse and historical category truly has something for everyone, whatever your taste. But one thing that unites us all is that we love a good bargain. In this selection of budget-friendly bottles, you’ll find rums of all styles: ones that you can sip neat or use to mix up a storm. There are classics and expressions that connoisseurs love as well as rums that are perfect introductions to this delightful drink. So, what are you waiting for? There’s delicious rum to be had!

bargain rum


One of the finest cockle-warming spiced rums you’ll ever have the pleasure of imbibing, the award-winning Rumbullion! is the ideal festive treat. It’s produced using Caribbean rum, Madagascan vanilla and orange peel as well as cloves, cinnamon and a touch of cardamom so you can be sure it’s packed full of flavour. Rumbullion! mixes brilliantly, but if you like your rum neat it’s more than capable of standing up on its own.

What does it taste like?. 

Intense, sweet vanilla, flamed orange zest, cardamom, old-fashioned cola, manuka honey, molasses, candy floss, toffee apples, crème brûlée and a fabulous mix of thick cut bitter orange marmalade and tingling, zinging spices from cloves and cinnamon.

bargain rum

Dunderhead Rum

Dunder is the leftovers in the pot after distillation which is added to fermentation vats. It’s full of bacteria and wild yeasts, and creates big funky high ester flavours that rum fans love.  This dark blended rum uses that signature production process to full effect, combining high ester Jamaican pot still spirit with other rums from around the Caribbean to create a full-bodied, fruity drink that’s terrific in a wide variety of cocktails, but especially the Mai Tai.

What does it taste like?

Brown sugar, banana, orange zest, honey, toffee, cassia, molasses, poached fruit flambé and some grassy funk.

bargain rum

Veritas Rum 

If you want a versatile, tasty white rum then there’s plenty of classic names you could go for, but we think there’s a lot to be said about Veritas. It’s a collaboration between Foursquare distillery of Barbados and Hampden in Jamaica, and then bottled by Italian spirits distributor Velier, so plenty of expertise has gone into creating this expression, which is a better sipper than many bottles in its price range and makes a sublime Daiquiri.

What does it taste like?

Vanilla pod, custard and fresh tropical fruit with some vegetal elements lead. Sticky molasses, banana and a little creamy nuttiness develop.

bargain rum

Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy

Born from a collaboration between Plantation founder Alexandre Gabriel and cocktail historian David Wondrich, Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy is perfect for those who want a quality flavoured rum. No syrupy, artificial notes here.  It’s made by macerating the flesh of actual pineapples in an aged rum, which is then combined with white rum which was distilled with the rind of the same fruit to create an authentic, refined and subtle pineapple profile. Sip it neat, sure, but don’t be afraid to experiment with this. It makes a tremendous Rum Old Fashioned. 

What does it taste like?

Honeydew melon, cola cubes, Jamaican ginger cake, spiced molasses tart, crumbly shortbread, cassia spiciness, vanilla, lemon, mango and spearmint.

bargain rum

Neptune Rum

An awards-show darling, Neptune Rum is a beautiful golden pot and column still rum, created from a blend of eight, five and three-year-old rums made from pure sugar cane molasses. It was distilled and matured in ex-bourbon casks at the esteemed Foursquare in Barbados, so you know we’re talking about a quality rum here. It’s got a terrifically refined and versatile profile that makes a cracking Espresso Martini or Old Fashioned.

What does it taste like?

Maple syrup, fresh apricot, vanilla, nutmeg, warm bourbon oak, sherried peel, ripe peaches,  shredded coconut and green banana.

bargain rum

Issan (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

Rhum Agricole is the style that above all else really intrigues spirits enthusiasts thanks to its complex, raw profile. If you’re in the market for one, That Boutique-y Rum Company has picked out an absolute corker of a bottling you have to try. Sourced from the Issan distillery in the northeast region of Thailand, who place a big focus on sustainability and community, the spirit is made with the juice from red sugar cane, which is distilled in the copper pot still that you see on the label to create an expression that’s fascinating and delicious in equal measure

What does it taste like?

Grassy and herbaceous, with green olive water, damp hay, black fruit, tinned sweetcorn water, sweet vanilla, touches of aromatic vanilla, butterscotch and dark berries.

bargain rum

Grander 8 Year Old 

If you’re not familiar with the delights of Panamanian rum you’re missing out. If you’re up for a little exploration, we prescribe Grander 8 Year Old, a lighter, sweet-tasting Spanish style-rum matured in first-fill American white oak ex-bourbon barrels. Try and mix it the way you would whisky and marvel at the results.

What does it taste like?

Sponge cake and earthy vanilla, leading to a subtly floral hint later on. Citrus fruit freshness develops, soon to be joined by a restrained hint of peppery spice.

bargain rum

Pull The Pin Spiced Rum 

Former Royal Engineer Thomas Foster founded Pull The Pin Spiced Rum after leaving the army in search of a new challenge and we salute his new choice of career! Foster went one step then creating his own spice blend to infuse the rum with, adding butterscotch and roasted hazelnuts into the mix to complement the warmth and natural sweetness of the spices. Try sipping it over ice with a ribbon of orange peel and crystallised ginger.

What does it taste like?

Silky notes of butterscotch supported by aromatic baking spice, with prominent cinnamon, brown sugar and tobacco.

bargain rum

Cut Overproof Rum 

Bottled at a breathtaking 75.5% ABV, this is not a rum for the faint of heart. But don’t be fooled, this jacked-up version of Cut Rum’s standard spiced rum has plenty of flavour which, even once diluted, stands up mighty well in a number of serves.

What does it taste like?

Heavy vanilla and burnt sugar, with a powerful kick of cardamom.

bargain rum

O.V.D. Demerara Rum

A classic dark rum with an almost cult status, O.V.D is a perfect introduction into the delicious world of Demerara rum. O.V.D stands for Old Vatted Demerara, a style of rum blending unique to the Demerara region of Guyana. This particular rich and creamy bottling was distilled from molasses in a wooden Coffey still (yes, really!) in Guyana before it was blended and bottled in Glasgow.

What does it taste like?

Buttery, toffee-rich aromas, dried peels, stone fruit, sweetened coffee and banana sweets.

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Flor de Caña: rum and adversity in Nicaragua

Nestled at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua lies rum distiller Flor de Caña, a fifth-generation family business whose 130-year history is peppered with political,…

Nestled at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua lies rum distiller Flor de Caña, a fifth-generation family business whose 130-year history is peppered with political, personal, and environmental crises. Today, the FairTrade-certified operation is a force for change that utilises 100% renewable energy to create a sustainable rum range in every sense of the word. We spoke to global brand ambassador Mauricio Solórzano…

Having weathered a civil war, a revolution, hyperinflation, distillery fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – the distillery is located along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, which has the most volcanic activity in the world – Flor de Caña has experienced more than its fair share of strife. And yet, despite all the odds, it has remained in family hands for five generations (for context, only three in every 10,000 family-owned businesses make it that far).

The brand’s story begins 1890. The distillery’s location – at the foot of the San Cristóbal volcano – was decided by founder Alfredo Francisco Pellas. The Italian entrepreneur left his hometown of Genoa in 1875 to construct the Grand Interoceanic Canal, a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The project never came to fruition, but Pellas remained in the country and bought a sugar mill in Chichigalpa, where the distillery remains to this day.

Originally, Flor de Caña was made in limited quantities for friends and family but in 1937 the business became Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua in 1937, and the brand was commercialised for the Nicaraguan market. Safe to say, it hasn’t been an easy ride. “As a brand and as a country, it’s been very hard to get to where we are now,” says global brand ambassador Mauricio Solórzano. “Nicaragua through history has been through natural disasters, civil war, hyperinflation. Right now we just are getting out of two monster hurricanes. We’ve been through a lot.”

Flor de Caña Distillery

The distillery in the shadow of the San Cristóbal volcano 

One of the most striking events in Flor de Caña’s history is a devastating plane crash involving fourth generation family member Carlos Pellas and his wife Vivian. “Miraculously, they survived,” says Solórzano. “But when Mr Pellas went to rescue his wife from the plane, it exploded.” The couple suffered burns that covered 80 percent of their bodies. The accident, which killed 148 people, is considered the greatest air disaster to occur in Central America. In 1991, Vivian set up an NGO, Aproquen, to provide child burn victims in Nicaragua with free medical services.

Flor de Caña: the rum

While historic distillers are sometimes slow to embrace and prioritise sustainability, the same can’t be said for Flor de Caña, which 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 liquid is also gluten free and certified kosher.

Its sugarcane fields – all 35,000 acres of them – are located five miles from the active San Cristóbal volcano, which has erupted some 30 times since the 16th century. Both the soil and water are enriched by minerals and organic material from the volcano, lending a “volcanic character that is very different from other producers of rum,” says Solórzano, while the unique microclimate in this region means wood interaction ageing process is “more intense and more dynamic”.

The distillery follows a sustainable model throughout production. Excess material from the sugarcane harvest is used to power a turbine that powers the entire facility. When the molasses from the sugarcane is fermented with Flor de Caña’s own yeast cultivar, the CO2 emissions that are naturally released during this process are captured, repurposed, and sold to the brewery industry in Central America. 

Maestro Ronero of Flor de Caña

Flor de Caña’s current maestro ronero

The wort is distilled five times in stainless steel columns and the distillate aged in charred ex-bourbon barrels “from four to 30 years,” says Solórzano. The rum is free from added sugar and additives. “If you put a little bit of Flor de Caña into the palm of your hand and you rub your hands together, you won’t have a sticky sensation at all. That’s because we don’t add any caramel or anything artificial.”

Fascinatingly, Flor de Caña is home to the most bountiful reserve of aged alcohol in the region. In the 1980s, foreign trade was nationalised by the socialist Sandinista government. Rather than turn over their stocks for a meagre profit, they decided to age them in neighbouring Honduras, “which is very close to our facility, because we are located on the north side of the country,” says Solórzano. “When the government changed a few years later, we brought back those reserves of alcohol.” By the early nineties, Flor de Caña had the largest reserve of aged rum in the world.

As well as stock, sustainability of people is also key to Flor de Caña’s operation. The company has provided free schooling for the children of all employees since 1913 – including the current maestro ronero,  Tomás Cano, a third generation distiller who went to primary school, secondary school and university through that model – and free healthcare services for employee’s families since 1958. “I like to say that we grow with our people,” says Solórzano. “They’re our biggest asset.”

For a distiller that has already endured so much, 2020 has not been without its own unique challenges; the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, plus the brutality of Hurricane Iota and Storm Eta. But Solórzano remains unrelentingly positive. “These things give us the strength to build our character for the future,” he says. Make no mistake: for Flor de Caña, the only way is up.

Flor de Cana

Flor de Caña 12 year old is great neat or in simple cocktails

Flor de Caña 12 Year Old tasting notes:

Nose: Toffee apple and buttercream, with notes of vanilla pods and honey. A second whiff reveals crisp, tart citrus.

Palate: A huge hit of dark brown sugar and cocoa evolves into caramel, brandy and plums on the mid-palate.

Finish: There’s spicy oak and a touch of dryness, followed by long, lingering stewed fruit notes.

The Flor de Caña range is available from Master of Malt.  

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Cocktail of the Week: Spiced Rum Coke Float

This week’s cocktail is a retro classic with a kick. We all remember the Coke Float from the ‘80s but what about a Coke Float with rum in it. Now…

This week’s cocktail is a retro classic with a kick. We all remember the Coke Float from the ‘80s but what about a Coke Float with rum in it. Now you’re talking!

There are some drinks that have the time travelling powers. The very name can transport you into the past. One such is the Coke Float, just Coca-Cola over ice with a scoop of ice cream on the top. It was a staple of burger joints when I was growing up in the 1980s. Ordering one made you feel like you were in some optimistic American series, like Saved by the Bell. Putting ice cream on top of a carbonated drink goes back much further, however. According to trusted source Wikipedia it was invented in 1874 by Robert McCay Green, though it doesn’t seem inconceivable that someone had put ice cream in a fizzy drink before. It’s not rocket science. 

All very nice and nostalgic, but we’re grown-ups now and so Tom G. Hurst from Rockstar Spirits had the brilliant idea of putting rum into this classic drink. Again, he might not be the first person to have done this, but still, what a great idea! And not just any rum but his Two Swallows Citrus and Salted Caramel bottle. This is made from high quality aged rum from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana – the people behind El Dorado. Then the team at Rockstar add natural ingredients to create a delicious, not too sweet flavoured rum. Hurst has worked hard on the profiles so that each rum works particularly well with Coca-Cola – as he told me: “80% of rum is drunk with Coke.”

Hurst’s background is in new product development. He worked at William Grant & Sons during an incredibly fertile period for the company when it launched Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and Monkey Shoulder blended whisky. All drinks that launched a thousand imitators. Hurst saw that rum was ripe from premiumisation and so in 2018 he set up Rockstar Spirits. Figures released last year by the WSTA support this with over 10 million bottles of flavoured rum sold 2018/19 and the market is growing rapidly. There are now nearly 200 brands on the British market, up from 50 in 2006.

Two Swallows Rum

The name is inspired Victorian daredevil Matthew Webb who features on the top left of the label

The main line from Rockstar spirits is Two Swallows, a range of flavoured rums made with high quality natural ingredients. The name comes from the classic naval tattoo, and inspired by Hurst’s great great uncle Captain Matthew Webb. Hurst described him as “a global icon. David Beckham of the Victorian era.” He was the first man to swim the English channel. Bryant & May put his face on its match boxes. He came to a tragic end, however. Hurst explained: “He loved the fame aspect and as that faded away, he kept on trying to do crazier and crazier stunts.” One included swimming the rapids at Niagara Falls where he drowned. The two swallows were supposed to carry drowning sailors to heaven.

So that’s the story behind Two Swallows. The brand has only been going a short time but things are going well despite the problems caused by lockdown. “Long term we are very much committed to the on-trade,” Hurst said. But the brand is going great guns through supermarkets and other retailers. It’s one of the bestselling rum brands at Master of Malt. “We launched three new products since the new lockdown to give people a point of difference,” he said. The combination of distinctive packaging and distinctive contents seems to work. Hurst explained the thinking behind the rums: “They had to tick three boxes: excellent standalone spirits, great with mixers, and interesting for bartenders to work with”. To achieve the latter, the rums are packed with subtle flavours which you might not notice on first taste, but can be pulled out with the right ingredients.  

This might be the best Coke Float you’ve ever had. Here’s how to make it:

50ml Two Swallows Salted Caramel and Citrus Rum
150ml Coca-Cola
Good quality chocolate ice cream

Serve in Highball glass over ice with a scoop of good quality chocolate ice cream.  

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New Arrival of the Week: Foursquare Détente

This week we’re particularly excited about the latest Exceptional Cask Selection rum from the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. It’s been aged in ex-bourbon and Port casks for ten years. And…

This week we’re particularly excited about the latest Exceptional Cask Selection rum from the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. It’s been aged in ex-bourbon and Port casks for ten years. And that’s not all, there’s a new vintage bottling on the way too. Double trouble!

First of all, let’s get the name out of the way, ‘Détente.’ It might sound a bit peculiar but it’s just the latest in a long line of gnomically-named bottles from the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados like ‘Criterion’, Nobiliary’ and ‘Empery’ –– some to think of it, I think I lost £20 on ‘Empery’ at Cheltenham a few years ago. Détente, though, brings to mind the Cold War, the word was used to refer to moments of relative calm between the USSR and USA. Could it be a coded reference that some sort of agreement over the terms of the island’s GI has been reached by those two titans of Bajan distilling, Richard Seale from Foursquare and Alexandre Gabriel from the West Indies Distillery?

Sadly not. The word in French can simply mean ‘relaxation’ and is probably just a reference to the perfect way to enjoy it. Whatever the meaning of the name, there’s no doubt that this is an exceptional drop. It’s a single blended rum which means that both pot and column still spirit is used, specifically a double retort pot still and the continuous twin column still for all you rum nerds out there. The final blend is made up of a ten year old, aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks combined with a rum that was aged for four years in ex-bourbon casks before spending another six in ex-Port casks. It’s bottled at 51% ABV with no chill-filtering, colour or sugar additions. 

But that’s not the only exciting new bottling from Foursquare. The company has also released another rum in its Exceptional Cask Selection series this month. It’s also a blend, distilled in 2008 and spent the last 12 years in ex-bourbon casks before bottling at 60% ABV. Full details of both below.

The Seale family have been on the island of Barbados since the 1650s and involved in the rum business since at least the 1820s. The brand R.L. Seale dates back to the 1920s. Foursquare, however, is a much more recent creation. The distillery was founded in 1995 by Sir David Seale and is now run by his son Richard, a master distiller and blender. Under the Foursquare label, the firm produces some of the finest rums in the Caribbean to Richard Seale’s exacting standards. He is outspoken in his opposition to any sugar addition and off-island ageing, both techniques used (to great effect it has to be said) by Alexandre Gabriel at the West Indies Distillery, also in Barbados. So there’s a lot they disagree on which we have documented on the Master of Malt blog in the past. Anyway, that’s enough politics, let’s taste the rums!

From cask types to bottling dates, there’s no shortage of information on Foursquare labels

These are both exceptional liquids, that are best drunk neat or in very simple cocktails which let the quality hine through. With the Détente, I made perhaps the best Palmetto I’ve ever had, made half and half with Barbadillo sherry vermouth, served over ice with a dash of Angostura and some orange peel. Absolutely stunning. Here are the full tasting notes for:

Foursquare Détente Exceptional Cask Selection (available now from Master of Malt)

Nose: Extraordinary complexity: sweet notes like butterscotch and muscovado sugar mingle with spices including cinnamon and nutmeg, dark cherries and orange peel, and then powerful aromatic menthol notes and a touch, just a touch of acetone. 

Palate: Smooth with popcorn, dark chocolate, red fruit, molasses and creamy buttery notes but all the time with a vein of fiery pepper running through it. 

Finish: That menthol note comes breezing through again, like mint choc chip ice cream.

Foursquare 2008 (new stock coming in any day now at Master of Malt) 

Nose: Strong acetone notes like varnish and furniture polish followed by dark chocolate, coffee, and toffee.

Palate: Strong wood tannins, it really grips the mouth with a taste of tobacco, leather and bitter espresso coffee. Big alcohol too, providing black pepper and chilli. A dash of water softens it bringing out notes of milk chocolate, maraschino cherry, cooked apple and manuka honey. 

Finish: Long and intense, like biting into high cacao dark chocolate and those tannins linger. A finish you can chew. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Rum Bonfire

This week we’re shaking up a special seasonal cocktail using Burning Barn, a smoked rum inspired by a tale of triumph of adversity. It’s just the thing to sip round…

This week we’re shaking up a special seasonal cocktail using Burning Barn, a smoked rum inspired by a tale of triumph of adversity. It’s just the thing to sip round a blazing fire as the winter nights draw in.

You know the phrase ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’? I’ve never quite understood why it’s a metaphor for turning a bad thing around, surely lemons are a good thing, no? Especially if someone is giving them away. The story behind this week’s cocktail makes more sense: when your father-in-law’s barn burns down, start a rum business. 

This is just what happened to a barn belonging to Katherine Jenner’s husband’s father. His barn, the home of the family fruit  business, burnt down in 2015 and rather than just take the hint and retire, he rebuilt everything from scratch. As Jenner puts it: “If he can rebuild a business in his 60s we can start a business in our late 20s.” Her background is in wine, with a stint working with Lidl on its Wine Cellar range. Jenner saw how craft beer and gin had taken off but was disappointed by the range of rums especially flavoured ones available. So she thought she could do better herself. This was the germ of the idea for Burning Barn.

Katherine Jenner looking very on-brand

It’s something of a message for our times. Jenner said: “We hope to inspire people with a message of hope in the face of adversity. Everyone has their own burning barn or pandemic to deal with. Take action, go outside, follow your dreams, and not let that get you down.”

Everything begins with a high quality rum from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana aged three years in ex-bourbon casks. “We quickly decided we wanted to use dark rum that had been aged which would have been very expensive to do in the UK,” she said. There is a plan at some point to start distilling themselves but, because of you-know-what, plans are on hold at the moment. “We’d love to make a white rum. That would be pretty cool for the on-trade,” Jenner told us, “bartenders are really engaged with rum. We’ll have to see what works and what doesn’t.” 

The Burning Barn range consists of three bottlings: a rum liqueur infused with honey from the family’s own hives; a spiced rum infused with coconut, ginger and chilli with no additives or artificial flavours; and finally a smoked one. The last one is made very very carefully. “We don’t want another burning barn”, Jenner joked. “We have a smoker, separate from rum itself so by the time smoke reaches the rum, it’s cool.” The rum sits in an old apple juice tank with an oak lid, and the smoke comes from burning applewood. Nothing else is added, no need when you have such high quality rum, so you get a very clean smoky taste where you can really taste the apple. “We don’t alter sweetness at all from when it comes, we don’t add any sugar or anything,” Jenner said. 

Behold, the Rum Bonfire!

The smoked rum is subtle, with sweet apple smoked notes, which compliment the high quality Guyana base. In short, it’s great in really simple cocktails so those flavours don’t get lost. The one we’re making this week is called the Rum Bonfire and it blends smoked rum with Burning Barns’ spiced expression with bitters and a little golden syrup (though you could use simple sugar or honey.) It’s served on crushed ice which is great fun but it also works well served with ice cubes for slow fireside shipping. 

Right, let’s get shaking!

25ml Burning Barn Spiced Rum
25ml Burning Barn Smoked Rum
1/2 teaspoon golden syrup
Dash of nut bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters 

Dry shake all the ingredients and pour over crushed ice in a Martini glass. Garnish with toasted marshmallows for the full Bonfire Night experience. 

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Halloween booooos!

Don’t worry if you can’t hit the town this Halloween, we’ve rounded up five of the spookiest cocktails to get you in the spirit of things (sorry!) at home. You could…

Don’t worry if you can’t hit the town this Halloween, we’ve rounded up five of the spookiest cocktails to get you in the spirit of things (sorry!) at home. You could even serve them in a pumpkin! How scary would that be? 

It looks like it’s going to be a night-in for most of us on the 31 October this year. Never mind trick or treat, we’ve got some delicious Halloween-themed cocktails you can make at home this year. So put down the mulling syrup and pick up your shaker for some easy to make cocktails, all perfect served in the dark with a scary movie! 

And whatever cocktail you plan to create on Halloween night, one way to up your mixology game is to exchange your glass for a pumpkin bowl! To make, simply grab a small pumpkin and carefully chop around the top. Next, remove all of the flesh from inside. Finally, give the whole pumpkin a good rinse and you’re ready to go! Fill it with the cocktail of your choice – make sure you’ve got yourself a straw or things can get rather messy… Oh and don’t carve a face out of it first or you’ll have booze all over your costume. 

Halloween cocktails

Jaisalmer Pumpkin Cocktail 

This warming Spiced Pumpkin Cocktail was made using Jaislamer’s Indian craft Gin. It’s deliciously sweet and sour, and scarily simple to make! 

50ml Jaisalmer Gin
25ml Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup
20ml lemon juice
Cinnamon sticks to garnish 

Add all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well. Then double strain into a Martini glass and garnish with cinnamon sticks for an extra whack of warming spice! 

Halloween cocktails

Bathtub Blackberry Fizz

This delicious cocktail made with Bathtub Gin is light, fruity and fresh, and with a good muddle the blackberries give you all the right colours for Halloween! Chances are you’ve already got everything you need to make it too! 

50ml Bathtub Gin
Fever Tree tonic water
Orange slice and more blackberries to garnish

Grab yourself five of the blackberries and muddle at the bottom of a Highball glass. Next, fill half the glass tonic water and stir. Fill your glass with ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with more blackberries and an orange slice. 

Halloween cocktails

Red or Dead

This is a great smoky sipper from Cut Smoked Rum, a smoked three year old Jamaican rum infused with coffee. Plus, those distinct layers of cranberry juice and soda give it a ghoulish and gory appearance! 

25ml Cut Smoked Rum
100ml cranberry juice
Dash of soda water
3 lime wedges 

Start by filling a tumbler halfway with ice. Next, add the cranberry juice and then carefully pour on the soda to ensure a clear layer. Follow with the Cut Smoked Rum, add the lime wedges and serve. Give it a stir before drinking.

Halloween cocktails

The Witch Doctor 

If you’re looking for a cocktail that makes you go “Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang” Cazcabel has got you covered. Cazcabel Honey, a Tequila-based honey liqueur, adds a lovely sweetness to this cocktail, a little more complex in terms of ingredients for this one, but it is called the Witch Doctor after all! 

20ml Honey Cazcabel 
20ml Smokehead Islay single malt
20ml pineapple juice
25ml lime juice
15ml Orgeat syrup 
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters 

Fill a Nick and Nora glass with ice to chill. Place all of your ingredients into a shaker, and shake. Remove ice from your Nick and Nora glass and strain the mix into it. Garnish with a dried orange wheel and a sprig of fresh rosemary. 

Halloween cocktails

Bloody Rob Roy

A smoky version of the classic Rob Roy, just in case you were unsure what a Scottish outlaw had to do with Halloween… Anyway outlaws aside, this cocktail is made using Ardbeg’s new Wee Beastie, one incredibly smoky dram, with nothing really ‘wee’ in its flavour… Expect smoke and lots of it! 

50ml Ardbeg Wee Beastie
20ml Gonzalez Byass La Copa sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange twist and cherry to garnish

Add your ice and all of your liquid ingredients into a mixing glass, and stir until mixture is suitably diluted to your taste. Strain into your favourite coupe glass, garnish and indulge in a Bloody (smoky) Rob Roy!

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The Nightcap: 23 October

Friday has finally arrived, and you know what that means! It’s time to pour yourself a dram and catch up on another busy week of boozy news with The Nightcap….

Friday has finally arrived, and you know what that means! It’s time to pour yourself a dram and catch up on another busy week of boozy news with The Nightcap.

This week we received some devastating news. Fungie, the world’s oldest solitary dolphin, has not been seen in his 37-year Dingle Harbour home for over a week. The unlikely local celebrity appeared in the seaside town in Kerry, Ireland, in 1983 and he’s been a mainstay of Dingle ever since, becoming a major tourist attraction who even has his own Wikipedia page. News like this really makes you appreciate how quickly things can change and why we take comfort in the things that are always there for us. Like a weekly round-up of news from the drinks industry. Never leave us, sweet Nightcap. Speaking of which, let’s get on with it, there’s plenty to get your teeth into this week!

The MoM blog was jam-packed with boozy goodness, as usual, this week, including the launch of a new #BagThisBundle competition, this time with five bottles of delicious James Eadie whisky, aged up to 26 years, up for grabs. Ian Buxton then returned to outline how your taxes help small distillers, Henry learnt about why it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley and Annie marked 20 years of Compass Box. Adam then continued our Sober October coverage by casting a spotlight on the mimic masters, Lyre’s, tasted the first single malt from the Milk & Honey distillery and recommended some devilishly delicious drinks for Halloween. Jess, meanwhile, welcomed Silent Pool’s shiny new Rare Citrus Gin, while our Cocktail of the Week is a real labour of love which  Aaron Wall, co-owner of London bar Homeboy, talks us through.

The Nightcap

Congratulations on your new role, Richard!

Wolfcraig Distillery appoints Richard Paterson as master blender

Fresh from announcing the plans for its upcoming £15m distillery, Wolfcraig has dropped another huge news bomb: Richard Paterson has been appointed as its master blender. Whyte & Mackay fans need not panic, however, as he will continue his commitments to the brand he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with. The press reveals that it was Paterson’s “continued passion for Scotch Whisky” that drew him to the Wolfcraig project, which will allow him to play “a leading role in the foundation of a new distillery, in the heart of Scotland”. Paterson, a third-generation master blender who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, is one of the most highly regarded greatest whisky makers of his generation, even being nicknamed “the nose” for his olfactory skills, so it’s quite a signing for Wolfcraig. How did they do it? Well, Wolfcraig co-founder Michael Lunn is the former chairman and chief executive of Whyte & Mackay Group, so maybe this appointment wasn’t so out of the blue after all. “This will be an opportunity for me to use all the knowledge I have learned over 55 years in the business to create a truly exceptional Highland single malt, one that can be enjoyed the world over,” Paterson said. We look forward to seeing what you create, sir. If you need anyone whose free for taste tests, you know where we are…

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Guinness 0.0 is described as “the Guinness with everything, except alcohol”

Guinness launches non-alcoholic beer

Ever longed for the taste of a fresh (properly poured) pint of Guinness but didn’t want to consume alcohol. Well, you’re in luck, because Diageo’s colossus Irish stout brand has announced the launch of a new expression this week: Guinness 0.0, “the Guinness with everything, except alcohol”. Apparently, it was made using the same ingredients as the original; water, barley, hops and yeast, except that the alcohol is then removed using cold filtration. This process is said to avoid the pitfalls of presenting thermal stress to the beer, “protecting the integrity of its taste and character”. You’d like to think the brewers at St. James’s Gate got this one right because the press release says this zero-alcohol beer was made following a four-year process led by the technical and innovation teams at the brand’s home. “Guinness has always had an unwavering commitment to quality and our entire brewing team is hugely proud of the care and effort that has been put into the four-year development process for Guinness 0.0,” says Aisling Ryan, innovation brewer (sweet job title) at St James’s Gate. “We have created a taste experience that we believe is truly unrivalled in the world of non-alcoholic beer and we can’t wait for people to finally be able to try it!” Guinness 0.0 will be available in pubs across Ireland and Great Britain from Spring 2021 and in more markets throughout the world later in 2021.

The Nightcap

We were given a little taste of the special 30-year-old Rosebank whisky. We enjoyed it

Rosebank releases 30-year-old whisky from 1990

We’ve been eagerly following the revival of the legendary Rosebank distillery in the Lowlands so we were very pleased to be given a sample of a very special single malt from before the distillery closed in 1993. Called Release One, it’s a 30-year-old single malt with only 4,350 bottles made. Every year, Ian MacLeod, the distillery’s now owners, will release a vintage until the whisky from the revived Rosebank is available. As you can imagine, it’s quite expensive, £1,600, but is it any good? Well, in a word, yes. It’s very pale and for such an old whisky, the wood is in no way overpowering. There are delicate peach and lemon fruit all wrapped up with crème brûlée, cinnamon and almonds, with a finish you can taste ten minutes later. Truly, a dram to savour. Robbie Hughes, group distillation manager explained a little further: “It was matured in 62% refill sherry butts and 38% refill bourbon hogsheads for decades, patiently waiting to be awoken, and delivers layers of incredible flavour that you won’t find in other whiskies.” Furthermore, the first 200 buyers to scan a QR code on Release One will be able to enjoy a dram of Release Two at certain outlets (to be confirmed) as well as an early chance to buy a bottle of it. And that’s not all! To celebrate this release, Ian MacLeod has produced a video of top whisky writers including Felipe Schrieberg and Alice Lascelles talking about Rosebank. You are really spoiling us now! At the moment, Release One is only available directly from the distillery but we will let you know if MoM is lucky enough to get any in. 

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English wine producers are very excited about this year’s harvest (photo courtesy of Chapel Down)

2020: a quality year for English wine

This year English wine has snatched triumph from the jaws of defeat. In spring it looked like the vintage would be a disaster with severe frosts damaging delicate buds. But the day was saved by an unusually warm summer (remember that?) and a September heatwave leading to one of the earliest harvests on record. While there hasn’t been a repeat of the bumper grape crops seen in the last two years, there’s an air of excitement among producers with a harvest described as “corking”. Ian Edwards, co-owner of Furleigh Estate in Dorset said: “The quality of the grapes this year is excellent. It’s the ripest fruit we have had in 15 years of growing.” This quality harvest has coincided with a huge increase in visitor numbers to English wineries which, in the midst of difficult economic conditions, has given producers a much needed dose of positivity. Adam Williams, sales director at the Hush Heath Estate in Kent commented: “The increase in visitors to our cellar has been extremely encouraging… all our tours, tastings and dinners remain fully booked. A positive story amongst all this doom and gloom! One can only hope all this adds up to a big boom in English wine!” We are pretty sure it will.

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The face paint comes separately.

Rock band Kiss releases debut rum

Get set to rock and rum all nite – iconic and heavily made-up brand Kiss has released its first expression! Kiss Black Diamond Premium Black Rum is made using Caribbean liquid aged for up to 15 years and references the closing song on the band’s eponymous debut 1974 album. Swedish spirits producer Brands for Fans is behind the release and says the bottling offers apricot, date, vanilla fudge, cinnamon and chocolate notes, along, interestingly, with arrack vibes. The zazzy label references the band’s costumes and aforementioned make-up from the early days, making it a nostalgic treat as well as a tasty one. “It’s an amazing match for a band who were pioneers both musically and visually in the world of rock ’n’ roll,” said Brands for Fans’ Sari H. Wilholm. “When I taste this rum by KISS and look at the bottle, I feel proud of what we’ve achieved with this product. It’s damn good. Listening to Black Diamond still gives me the chills, and the rum makes me just as excited!” It’s available in Sweden now for the equivalent of £33, and it should land at MoM Towers soon!

The Nightcap

A paradise where beautiful rum is made. Why aren’t we living there?!

Takamaka Rum announces distillery expansion

Takamaka Bay Rum will unveil a slick new look in November as it completes a major expansion of its Seychelles-based distillery. The family-owned brand, which has also launched a brand redesign, new bottle and an increase in its international distribution, has added new stainless steel and copper column stills to facilitate the production of molasses rum. Takamaka already makes traditional pure cane sugar pot still rum at its facility in La Plaine St Andre, but can now make 250,000 litres per annum of molasses rum. Given there’s no sugar industry in the Seychelles, the molasses is sourced from East Africa. A new visitor centre will also allow visitors the chance to learn about the rum’s production and the 228-year-old heritage site the distillery is located in, “This expansion is a pivotal part of our plans as a business,” says Richard D’Offay, Takamaka co-founder. “Not only will it allow us to showcase our amazing rum, and how it is produced, to guests visiting the Seychelles, it has also been designed to be scalable to allow for larger production as we increase our international distribution and emerge into new territories.” 

The Nightcap

A 100% sherry-aged, cask strength so rich you can stand a spoon up in. Now we’re talking

Cotswolds latest whisky is sherry heaven  

Cotswolds Distillery has just announced its richest whisky yet. How rich is it? Well imagine Bill Gates marrying the Queen, and you’re nearly there. It’s fully aged in sherry casks, both American and Spanish oak hogsheads and butts, seasoned with both Oloroso and PX sherry. It’s then bottled at a mighty 57.4% ABV. So how does it taste? Pretty rich, as you’d expect. The nose is all about muscovado sugar, dark cherries and chocolate, and the palate is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it, but, paradoxically, that big ABV keeps the richness under control. The finish is all sticky toffee pudding, dark chocolate and pungent gingery spice. Head of production Nickolas Franchino commented: “I love a sherry cask whisky as it is one of the truly iconic single malt whisky styles. Good sherry casks give rich, fruity, spicy and nutty flavours that marry perfectly with the underlying malt character and are a joy to savour.” Available only direct from the distillery, you don’t need to be an oligarch to buy a bottle, all this richness comes in at a very reasonable £64.95.

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We won’t be stocking any sherry as big as the one pictured, before any of you ask (Image credit: Rob Johnson)

And finally… Fake news is so 2016. This year, it’s all about Fake Booze

You may have seen some rather surprising headlines doing the rounds on drinks social media: “Shock find at Jerez dig proves that dinosaurs ‘invented sherry’”, “Bacardi Bat latest victim of Coronavirus” or “Rum celebrates 100 years as ‘next big thing”, and thought that the world has gone mad. Well, it has, but these headlines are in fact creations of a new site that describes itself as the “world’s first satirical drinks magazine”. Called, naturally, Fake Booze, and with the motto “Like Truth But Better”, it is dedicated to mocking an industry that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously. It’s the creation of former Imbibe editor, booze enthusiast and all-round amusing human Chris Losh. He told us: “It’s basically a chance to raise an eyebrow at the world of drinks the inconsistencies, the misplaced ego and the well-intentioned plans that go awry. Sometimes it’s sharp, sometimes it’s whimsical but I’d hope that it comes from a place of affection not anger”. Thank you, Chris! In these dark times, what we need is a good dose of Fake Booze. 

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LVMH launches premium Cuban rum brand, Eminente 

We were given an early taste of the latest spirit in the Moët Hennessy portfolio. As you might expect from this luxury goods giant, it’s a little bit special. Introducing…

We were given an early taste of the latest spirit in the Moët Hennessy portfolio. As you might expect from this luxury goods giant, it’s a little bit special. Introducing from Cuba, Eminente Reserva Rum…

Moët Hennessy is famous for its Champagne bands such as Ruinart, Krug, and Veuve Clicquot but now, according to brand manager Max Helm, “spirits are the way forward” because there’s not much room to expand in Champagne, both in terms of production and sales. So, joining such illustrious names as Belvedere, Ardbeg and Glenmorangie in the company’s portfolio comes a new rum from Cuba. 

The company had been looking to produce, in Helm’s words “a very versatile style of rum” about three years ago and so some of the team met with the Cuban government which controls the industry. It was serendipitous timing as the state monopoly, Ron Cuba, had been preparing the groundwork for a premium product, laying down stocks of mature rum. “They really wanted to showcase one end of the spectrum. Something you don’t see coming from Cuban rum and to show off their expertise,” Helm said. We’ve heard from other brands that the Cuban government isn’t that easy to deal with but this rum took only three years from inception to bottling. 

It’s maestro ronero Cesar Marti!

It’s a good fit, a Cognac company working with a Spanish rum company as Helm explained: “It’s about working with eau-de-vie, ageing, blending, different barrels sizes.” It was clearly a meeting of minds when the Hennessy team were introduced to the youngest ever Cuban maestro ronero, Cesar Marti. Helm explained: “Cesar Marti is the beating heart behind this. He’s a bit of a prodigy. His family worked in the industry so he understands sugar and soil. But he’s also done a chemical degree so he has expertise in all areas.” His face and signature adorn every bottle. 

The production process behind the rum is fascinating and worth explaining in detail. It all starts with 100% Cuban sugar cane. This is grown slowly and only harvested when it has reached “maximum potential” ie. a high sugar content. Sometimes it is allowed to grow for as much as 22 months. It’s then processed using, as is normal in Cuba, somewhat antiquated machinery. This leaves molasses behind with around 54-64% sugar rather than 45% using more modern equipment so you have “a rich base,” as Helm puts it. It’s then fermented quickly for 25-30 hours to give a clean fruity wash.

Then it’s on to distillation which takes place at various facilities around the island. Rum master Marti produces two spirits: a high strength rum of about 95% ABV, and what is known as an aguardiente of around 75% ABV. A good way to think of these two spirits is the first as a grain whisky providing alcohol and helping bring components together, and the second as the more full-flavoured single malt. The aguardiente is aged for two-to-three years in ex-Scotch and Irish whisky ex-bourbon barrels as the Cuban industry cannot buy casks directly from the US. Marti blends the aged aguardiente with fresh high ABV spirit. This blend is then aged for seven years with increasingly older aguardiente added slowly during this time. According to Helm, there are 14 blending processes overseen by Marti. The result has an age statement of seven years, as in Scotch whisky the age of the youngest component, but contains older spirits. The final blend is about 70% aguardiente, most aged Cuban rum is around 18%. Five grams of sugar per litre is added before bottling.

Where it all begins, in the sugar can fields

The result is an extremely appealing rum (full tasting note below). It’s very much in the classic Spanish style of being clean, fruity and fragrant but also complex, like Santa Teresa from Venezuela. It will appeal in particular to Cognac drinkers. The sweetness is just right. It has a great depth of flavour mixing fresh fruit like cherries with dark chocolate, coffee and tobacco. It’s a great sipper, but also good in simple cocktails like an Old Fashioned, an El Presidente or Palmetto (mixed half and half with vermouth and served straight up with a dash of orange bitters.) 

As you’d expect from LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), the packaging is pretty snazzy too, with the bottle ribbed to resemble the skin of a crocodile and on the label a drawing of the island of Cuba in the form of a crocodile. Helm told me that Cuba has its own unique species of crocodile and the locals refer to the island as ‘el crocodillo.’

Eminente is aimed at spirits lovers rather than rum nerds. Helm thinks it will appeal to whisky drinkers but also to “people who try new gins every week and people during lockdown, who thought I’m not spending money in other ways, I’ll upgrade and spend money on a bottle.” 

Moët Hennessy doesn’t always get it right. The company dipped its toe in rum back in 2005 with a product called 10 Cane which was, oddly enough, an agricole-style rum from Trinidad. It seemed to confused consumers at the time because it was “made for sipping but the consumer preference in the US was for mixing,” Helm told me. He also joked that it didn’t taste good mixed with coke which was how most Americans drank their rum. 10 Cane flopped but the market globally has become a lot more sophisticated since then and Eminente is clearly a much better thought-out proposition. Also, I reckon it’ll have no problems with coke. So far though, the launch is quite low key with limited quantities going into the UK, France, Germany and the Czech Republic. There’s also an on-trade only three year old ‘claro’ expression. 

Fancy packaging, as you’d expect from LVMH. The contents are good too

It’s not just rum, the LVMH spirits portfolio is expanding in other areas too: a new Tequila brand called Volcan de mi Tierra Blanc has just been launched in the US and Mexico; and in 2017, it bought a bourbon distillery in Washington state, Woodinville, But what about gin? Helm, who has been with the company since 2006, told me that when he joined, “there were all sorts of rumours about Hendrick’s but the gin train left and somehow we didn’t have a ticket!” But now that spirits are such an important focus for the group, Helm said: “There will have to be a gin coming somewhere, but when, how or in what form, I don’t know.” So expect a gin from LVMH in the not too distant future.

Eminente Reserva 7 year old tasting note:

Nose: Lots of cinnamon spice with fresh cherries and a little dried fruit plus followed by dark chocolate, coffee and tobacco.

Palate: Fresh, fragrant and floral, light body, just a touch of sweetness, some pepper, then toffee, chocolate and coffee swing in. With a little smokiness in the background. 

Finish: Long and layered with sweet dark chocolate. 

Eminente Reserva is now available from Master of Malt.

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Master of Malt tastes… Diplomático Selección de Familia

This week we’re filling our tasting glasses with a tot of super-premium aged rum – Diplomático Selección de Familia, to be precise, hailing all the way from Venezuela. Here, Diplomático’s…

This week we’re filling our tasting glasses with a tot of super-premium aged rum – Diplomático Selección de Familia, to be precise, hailing all the way from Venezuela. Here, Diplomático’s maestro ronero Nelson Fernandez and UK brand ambassador Jon Lister talk us through the liquid make-up behind the brand new bottling…

Having clocked our burgeoning enthusiasm for super-premium rums, the lovely folks at Diplomático created Selección de Familia to ‘present a new, sophisticated tasting experience to rum connoisseurs’. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the new release, let’s take a brief peek behind the scenes at the brand’s Venezualan home.

Every bottling in the Diplomático range is produced at a family-owned field-to-bottle distillery located at the foot of the Andes Mountains. “We use molasses to produce light rums, and sugar cane honey for semi-complex and complex rums,” Fernandez explains. “We ferment them for different times – the molasses for 24 hours, and the honey for 48 hours. The yeast in our distillery [is added] to create the aromatic profile that is specific for Diplomático.”

Diplomático’s idiosyncratic batch kettle still

From there, the rum wash heads to one of three unique stills, where it’s transformed into three strikingly different distillates. “We have the Barbet, the French column still,” Jon Lister, Diplomático’s UK brand ambassador, explains. “We have a batch kettle, originally from Crown Royal from Canada – that gives us lovely rich flavours and spicy, creamy notes – and we have our Scottish [double retort] pot still, using that to give body and heart and soul to Diplomático.”

Diplomático Selección de Familia is made up of 90% pot still, 5% Barbet, and 5% batch kettle rums, which have been aged for up to 12 years in American white oak, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Interestingly, the ex-sherry casks are the same barrels that were previously used to finish Diplomático Ambassador and Diplomático Single Vintage. However, unlike those bottlings, the rum destined for Selección de Familia is treated to a full maturation in those barrels. It’s bottled with 20g of sugar added. 

“As part of our barrel programme, we have a select amount of barrels that we finish the Ambassador with – two years in Pedro Ximénez casks – and a select few sherry barrels that we finish the Single Vintage range in; Oloroso casks,” says Lister. “We’re not just using [those casks] once and getting rid of them, we’re utilising those lovely flavour profiles. So you not only get the flavours from the stills, the different fermentation styles, the sugar cane honey, the molasses – you’re getting a myriad of flavour profiles from the cask as well.” 

Nelson Fernandez with all his casks

Lovely stuff, as you’ll soon find out. And there’s plenty of chance to taste it, too – the new super-premium bottling will join Diplomático’s core ‘Tradition’ range, which features Mantuano, a dark rum blend containing liquids aged up to eight years; Reserva Exclusiva, a blend of rums aged up to 12 years; and Planas, a white rum aged up to six years.

“When we created this rum, the idea was to show the personality of our distillers,” says Fernandez. “When you create a rum, you put your personality into it, and in this case we put the personality of the family at the distillery… We put a lot of our passion and soul into making rum. And we put a lot of passion and soul into Diplomático Selección de Familia. It’s from our hearts.”

Tasting Diplomático Selección de Familia

Nose: Honeyed forest fruits, gooey toffee, raisin and a touch of date. Very soft vanilla with the merest hint of oily orange peel.

Palate: First creamy, juicy plum set against a backdrop of coconut. Cooked oak spice and brandy ripple across the palate, chased down by rounded pepper and bold toffee sweetness.

Finish: Smooth, with thick notes of demerara sugar. Well-rounded, long finish with a hint of pipe tobacco on the tail.

Diplomatico Seleccion de Familia makes a mean Old Fashioned

The Familia Old Fashioned

While Selección de Familia is a dream neat, it’s also exceptional in an Old Fashioned. We know, because we’ve tried it. Here’s the recipe:

50ml Selección de Familia
5ml banana oleo*
5ml Oloroso sherry
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Build ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with an orange peel.

*Place two banana peels in a jar with four tablespoons of sugar. Seal the lid and shake until the peels are coated. Shake every hour afterwards until the sugar has dissolved. Strain with a fine mesh strainer.

The Diplomático range is available from Master of Malt.

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Exploring the wide world of British rum

Whether they’re fermenting and distilling molasses from scratch, adding spices or botanicals to imported distillates, or blending and bottling ready-to-drink rums from overseas, Britain’s diverse, dedicated and highly experimental rum…

Whether they’re fermenting and distilling molasses from scratch, adding spices or botanicals to imported distillates, or blending and bottling ready-to-drink rums from overseas, Britain’s diverse, dedicated and highly experimental rum brands are carving their own niche. Keen to find out what the future holds for the burgeoning British rum category, we spoke with distillers, blenders, spicers and bottlers from across the UK…

While Britain has a long (often very dark) tradition of importing rum, because the UK’s temperate climate is inhospitable to sugar cane, few have attempted to make it from scratch. The first British distiller to make rum on a commercial scale was English Spirit Distillery back in 2011. From its Essex base, the team produces the widest variety of spirits and liqueurs in the UK – all under one roof, all distilled using raw ingredients under the trained hand of head distiller Dr John Walters.

When the distillery first opened, Dr Walters “started making a whole slew of spirits at once,” explains general manager James Lawrence. “He dived in headfirst to see what kind of vodka he could make, what kind of malt he could make and so on, and realised nobody had commercially produced rum in the UK before – everything before that was imported from elsewhere.” At the time, all the well-known famous brands – “Pussers, Lambs, all the ones with the Union Jacks on” – consisted of rums sourced from the Caribbean and other rum-making, which were transported to the UK and blended together, sometimes with spices added.

John Walters in the thick of it at the English Spirit Distillery

English Spirit has released three rums since – Old Salt Rum, English Spiced Rum, and St. Piran’s Cornish Rum – all distilled from 100% sugar cane molasses from across the globe. “A lot of the larger commercial rum distilleries will use sugar cane juice or sugar cane syrup, which is a lot easier to work with, cheaper, and less messy,” says Lawrence. “But using pure molasses gives a Golden Syrup-y, treacly consistency that makes a really great base for rum.” After a long fermentation – around two to three weeks – and a triple distillation in copper pot alembic stills, around 200 litres of molasses wash has been transformed into approximately 20 litres of rum.

Despite pioneering rum distilling in the UK almost a decade ago, English Spirit remains the exception rather than the rule, illustrating just how time-consuming and expensive the process is, and the difficulties in sourcing and transporting the raw ingredients. Just a handful of distillers have followed in their footsteps – including Dark Matter, a Scottish distillery that makes spiced rum; BrewDog Distilling Company, which last year released botanical rum Five Hundred Cuts; and unaged rum SeaWolf, created by bar owners Mike Aikman, Jason Scott and Craig Harper and made at Ogilvy Spirits distillery. 

Of course, that’s not to say blended rums are any less authentic. In the south west of England at Devon Rum Company, founder Dave Seear worked closely with a Caribbean rum blender and importer to create his take on a premium ‘English style’ spiced rum. “English style rum is categorised by heavy and powerful rum types – mostly pot and column-distilled from molasses and sourced from previous British colonies of Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia,” he says. 

Devon Rum Company Spiced Rum combines two pot-stilled Jamaican rums – a column-still rum and a pot-still rum from Guyana – which are imported at 80% ABV. “Once landed in the UK, we infuse the base Caribbean rum in vats with natural Devon spring water to reduce the ABV to 40%,” Seear explains. The rum is then steeped in a secret blend of spices and citrus zest, with the latter being sourced from local businesses. “Unlike many alternative spiced rums, we add no vanilla, sugar or colouring and have concentrated on the quality of our base rum, our carefully crafted recipe and sourcing quality natural ingredients,” he adds.

Just some of the spices in Rumbullion

Rather than masking low-quality spirit with punchy spices, today’s spiced rum producers seek to create harmony between the base liquid and botanicals. “[Our founders] were frustrated by the lack of respect for the base spirit exhibited by established spiced rum brands, where spices were dumped into poor quality base spirits,” says Hannah Burden-Teh, brand manager at Kent’s Rumbullion. To create their small batch spiced rum, the team layers “carefully blended natural spice tinctures” of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom into their “top quality” Caribbean rum. “Although some of the process finishes in Kent, we want to champion our original locale where the sugar cane grows and is fermented,” she adds.

Honouring the base components is an ethos shared by Devon-based independent blender Hattiers. To create his flagship sipping rum bottling – Hattiers Premium Reserve Rum – founder takes a blend of eight-year-old double retort pot and twin-column coffey still rums distilled from sugar cane molasses in Barbados and combines them with pot still rums from Guatemala, Panama and The Dominican Republic before adding water drawn from a well in the nearby village of Beesands. 

Philip Everett-Lyons from Hattiers

“We typically blend at 62% to 70% ABV, then marry with our local Devon water to bring each blend down to bottling strength,” says Everett-Lyons, who explains that traceability is paramount. “We are completely transparent on all components, which are stated on the label along with full details including still type, maturation, location and cask,” he continues. “We only blend rums with no additives or colourants and choose not to spice or use botanicals in our blends. In our opinion, the quality of the rum shouldn’t be overshadowed by these things.”

Some distillers take this approach further still by bottling single estate rums – East London Liquor Company, for example, which made its first foray into rum with the release of Demerara Rum from Guyana. “What you’re drinking at your local in Bethnal Green is exactly what the locals in Georgetown are appreciating half a world away,” says founder Alex Wolpert, “delicious molasses-based rum made from sugar cane grown along the Demerara River, distilled in the world’s last working wooden Coffey still, aged in ex-bourbon barrels until you get notes of caramel, baking spices and toffee. Basically, perfection. And we’re not about to mess with perfection, so other than proofing the rum down to 40% ABV, we haven’t touched it.”

Their latest release East London Rum from Jamaica is similarly unadulterated. “We’ve developed a blend of three of the most famous rum distilleries in Jamaica to come up with a funky, ester-led white rum that is my new favourite in Daiquiris,” Wolpert says – an 80:20 blend of medium to high-ester rums, with 80% coming from column and pot distillation, and 20% from funky Jamaican pot still. “As a huge rum fan, I’m loath to mess with a good thing,” he continues. “And as a distillery, we understand the amount of thought and hard work that goes into making these distillates, and trust that we can’t make them better than they already are.”

No messing about, the latest bottling from the ELLC

Industry folks regularly refer to the runaway success of the gin category when forecasting the burgeoning interest in rum. Will rum be the ‘next gin’? The answer might be less about the liquid, and more to do with the practicalities of production – especially if, like English Spirit Distillery, you have designs on making the liquid from scratch. “Everyone in the UK was able to pile into making gin quite quickly as opposed to importing it,” says Lawrence. “Whereas with rum, there’s such a massive capital investment needed. You need a lot more room, a lot more experience. You need more time to perfect your product before it’s ready to sell. There is a completely understandable reticence to completely investing, finding a distiller who’s willing to put in the work, and affording someone the time to practise over and over again, as we know full well that you have to do to make a decent rum.”

That British rum consists primarily of independent spicers and blenders is a trend that’s set to continue, at least in the short term. But regardless of whether brands import rum or raw molasses, future-proofing the sector, as Everett-Lyons, points out, brings benefits for everyone. “We believe that there is absolutely room for all, and that either adopting an international definition of rum classification or developing a British standard on labelling would be the next step,” he says. “As other rum-producing nations seek to adopt their own guidelines, now would be a great time to mirror the Scotch Whisky Association and bring some accountability and compliance to our trade. For this to happen, the industry would need to tread ensuring not to ostracise but instead to unite all sub-sectors of British rum.”

It’ll also support the immense creativity already bubbling away within the category. There are so many different directions you can take rum in, as Lawrence rightly points out, by playing with botanicals, barrel-ageing, and even the distillation process. When English Spirit Distillery produced Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, they added three wood varieties – date palm, pine, and sequoia – to the still, which pulled “all that really interesting wood complexity into the spirit” without the need for maturation. A dark rum called Daymark 1683, produced for a company based on the Isles of Scilly, is infused with hand-picked samphire and Cornish sea salt. The British rum revolution really has only just begun. “Give it a few years, there’s going to be some absolutely amazing rums out there,” says Lawrence. “It’s really exciting.”

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