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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: rum

Top 10 delicious drinks for Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here… This is your…

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here…

This is your friendly reminder to get your hands on something delicious for Mother’s Day (it’s on 14 March, FYI). Nothing beats cracking open a bottle together, though this year it’s probably going to be a little different – let the Zoom drinks commence! Nonetheless, you can rest easy knowing that you picked out a top bottle for her to enjoy for the occasion. 

Brilliant bottles await! 

Lind & Lime Gin

Lind & Lime Gin

Your mum will love a gorgeous bottle of delicious gin, and that’s exactly what we have here – Lind & Lime Gin is the first release from Edinburgh’s Port of Leith Distillery! The zesty spirit was inspired by Dr. James Lind of Edinburgh, who first made the link between citrus fruits and scurvy. Alongside a good dose of lime citrus there’s pink peppercorn and juniper spice, too. Plus, after it’s been drunk, you could use the bottle for all sorts of other purposes. Candle holder. Vase. Lamp. The list goes on!

What does it taste like? Bright citrus, fresh and authentic. Juniper is oily and subtly spicy, bolstered by pink pepper and cardamom warmth.

Jaffa Cake Rum

Jaffa Cake Rum

Orange and chocolate. A dynamic duo, and flavours you’ll often find in aged rum. The folks behind Jaffa Cake Rum went one step further, a blended Caribbean rum with real life Jaffa cakes, alongside oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder! Make sure to whip your mum up a Rum Old Fashioned, garnished with a Jaffa cake – failing that, a ribbon of orange peel will do. 

What does it taste like? Zesty orange, cake-y vanilla, and tropical fruit tang, with dark chocolate and bittersweet coffee bringing balance.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Whether your mum is a seasoned sipper or looking to explore the world of whisky, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is a superb choice. The delicate and flavoursome Highland single malt was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, with just a smidge of smoke running through it. Sublime stuff, and maybe she’ll even share a dram with you if you’re nice enough to give it to her!  

What does it taste like? Oily and nutty, with almond and butterscotch alongside heather honey, malt biscuits, and oaky vanilla. 

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Our Kentish neighbours at Chapel Down know exactly how to make the most out of their Bacchus grapes, and this sparkling wine is one such example! This is a wonderfully refreshing English wine, brimming with vibrant fruit and gentle vanilla notes, all carried by fine bubbles. The perfect bottle to pop open on 14 March!

What does it taste like? Elderflower, pineapple, mango, citrus, cut grass, and nectarine.

Mermaid Pink Gin

Mermaid Pink Gin

Remember what we said literally just now about beautiful bottles and delicious gin? Well, not to hammer the point home, but we’ve got another brilliant example here from the Isle of Wight Distillery! It’s a blushing variant of its gorgeous Mermaid Gin, infused with strawberries from the aforementioned isle. Think bright berry fruitiness balanced by savoury rock samphire and herbaceous Boadicea hops, and you’re there. Pair with a splash of elderflower tonic and handful of fresh strawberries, and serve it straight to your mum. A sure way to become the favourite!

What does it taste like? A burst of bright berries initially, with citrus and piney notes, balanced by subtly coastal samphire.

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Mother’s Day calls for cocktails! Though if you’re not familiar with the ol’ shaker or stirrer, a pre-bottled serve might be the best option. This is the (New) Old Fashioned from Starward in Australia, made with its very own whisky, house-made bitters, and, for an extra Australian touch, wattleseed demerara syrup. If you have ice and a glass, then you’re ready to serve this tasty tipple!

What does it taste like? Sharp orange, stewed berries and strawberry jam, oak, a hint of mint leaf.

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

A tropical treat for you from the Project #173 range, made with a delicious top-quality rum base which has been flavoured with the tangy delights of pineapple! It’s totally gift-worthy too, because it’s presented in a bottle adorned with actual 23 karat gold leaf. Go on and make Mother’s Day Daiquiri with this. It’s like a normal Daiquiri, except you’ve made it on Mother’s Day without being asked!

What does it taste like? Vibrant pineapple, and tangy tropical fruit, with fried banana, runny caramel, and a crackle of peppery spice.

Dr. Squid Gin

Dr. Squid Gin

Yes, this is unusual, but that’s what makes this Cornish tipple amazing! Dr. Squid Gin is from the Pocketful of Stones Distillery in Penzance, and it’s made with real squid ink – we know you saw that one coming, you read the name, right? As such, there’s a coastal touch to the spirit, balanced by those classic notes of juniper, citrus, and spice. As if it wasn’t cool enough, it even turns bright pink when mixed with tonic water! And it’s presented in a copper flask! See? Cool!

What does it taste like? Juniper and citrus kick it off, with a subtly savoury sea breeze running through, along with a helping of sweeter florals.

Caoruun Gin

Caorunn Small Batch Gin

First things first, if you’re going to give Caorunn Gin to your mum, you’re going to have to know how to pronounce it. It’s ‘ka-roon’. You’ll also probably want to know what’s in the Scottish spirit, and it’s local botanicals galore! Hand-picked rowan berry, heather, coul blush apple, and dandelion feature in here, and its signature serve is with a good quality tonic and slice of apple to garnish.

What does it taste like? Floral heather, woody juniper, and green, leafy notes, with a burst of citrus and spice.

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram has taken all the hard work out of choosing by doing it for you, rounding up 12 of its favourite gins in this gorgeous collection. Within you’ll find 12 wax-sealed 30ml drams from all over the world – we’re talking England, Australia, Finland, and more! It’s the perfect shape for easy wrapping (should you be so inclined), though covered in florals it’s pretty just as it is.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Palmetto

This week’s cocktail couldn’t be simpler, all you need is the finest rum you can get your hands on and some excellent sweet vermouth like the recently-landed Agora Rosso which…

This week’s cocktail couldn’t be simpler, all you need is the finest rum you can get your hands on and some excellent sweet vermouth like the recently-landed Agora Rosso which comes from Suffolk.

The Palmetto is part of a family of simple cocktails consisting of an aged spirit combined with vermouth and a dash of bitters stirred over ice, and served straight up. The best known in the family is the Manhattan but there’s also the Rob Roy, made with Scotch, the Harvard, made with Cognac, and the Emerald, made with Irish whiskey. Palmetto is a type of palm tree so no prizes for guessing which spirit goes into it. Just to be clear, it’s rum.

Harry Craddock’s recipe in The Savoy Cocktail Book calls for equal parts Italian vermouth with St. Croix rum and a dash of orange bitters. St. Croix was a brand made at the Cruzan Distillery in the US Virgin Islands. The distillery is now owned by Beam Suntory but the brand is no more so what to use in your Palmetto? Well, the world, or rather the Caribbean, is your oyster. High ester Jamaican rums like Plantation Xaymaca make punchy explosively fruity Palmettos, the sweet vermouth just about taming the Jamaican funk. Using something smooth and sophisticated from Latin America like the Eminente from Cuba makes the Palmetto a completely different animal, taking it into Harvard territory. If you want just a little funk, Merser & Co is hard to beat.

For the vermouth this week we’re using a new brand that landed at MoM late last year, Agora Rosso. It’s made by an Australian in Suffolk, Arthur Voulgaris. He began his career tending bar in Melbourne where he picked up a love of Negronis before moving to London to work in the wine trade. It was, appropriately enough, in Manhattan where he really caught the vermouth bug. He was working for English wine brand Digby in New York and, he told us in an interview last year: “I drank Manhattans like they were going out of fashion.”

Arthur Voulgaris enjoying a cocktail of an evening

He tried every vermouth he could get his hands on but wasn’t always that impressed with the quality. “I thought, ‘could this category be a bit better? Could there be more finesse and balance within vermouth?’ I find that some of them can be incredibly bitter, and to counteract that and balance it out, a lot of sugar is added,” he said.

When he returned to England to work for Gonzalez Byass, he set about trying to make his dream vermouth. He began experimenting at his place in Suffolk, and the result, after much tinkering, was Agora, which means marketplace in Greek – Voulgaris’ family are from the island of Kos. Most rosso vermouths get their colour from caramel but Voulgaris wanted it to come from grapes, Cabernet and Merlot sourced from the south of France. There’s no added sugar, caramel or glycerol, all the sweetness comes from grape must. The botanicals include wormwood, rose, vanilla, lavender, star anise and cassia bark, and he uses neutral grape alcohol. “I didn’t want anything synthetic. I didn’t want anything that was too confected, cloying, bitter or simply sweet,” he said. It comes in at 120 grams of sugar which is classed as semi-sweet for a vermouth. 

The finished product is made at DJ Wines in Monks Soham, Suffolk. For the next batch Voulgaris is going to use locally-grown Pinot Noir grapes. He’s also planning a bianco made with English Madeleine Angevin grapes and with, as he puts it, “sea coastal botanicals such as Maldon sea salt and samphire” plus “something a bit oriental like kaffir lime.” 

How does the rosso taste? Well it’s very grapey and fruity, with the profile not unlike a fortified wine from the south of France like Maury with floral, fruity and bitter botanicals coming through harmoniously. We tried a batch last year which was a little bitter but he’s upped the grape sugar levels, and the balance is now perfect.

Palmetto

The magnificent Palmetto

It’s extremely nice just served on the rocks with a slice of orange as they do in Spain. But it’s also ideal for a very vermouth-heavy cocktail like a Palmetto. I tried it with both a Jamaican and a Cuban rum with the Cuban probably nosing it as its elegance chimed better with the subtlety of Agora. The classic way to serve your Palmetto is straight up but this year I’ve taken to drinking mine on the rocks in a tumbler and enjoying how the flavours change as the ice melts. It’s the perfect instant cocktail.

Here’s how to make the classic version:

35ml Eminente 7 Year Old Reserva Cuban Rum
35ml Agora Rosso Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker or jug, stir for a minute and strain into a chilled coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

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Three boozy desserts to see out the festive season

During the lull between Christmas and New Year celebrations, so why not put any half-opened bottles of booze to good use with spot of baking? From rum-spiked cinnamon swirls to…

During the lull between Christmas and New Year celebrations, so why not put any half-opened bottles of booze to good use with spot of baking? From rum-spiked cinnamon swirls to a classic tiramisu, we’ve pulled together three show-stopping recipes to try…

When you think about boozy desserts, your first thought probably jumps to a Christmas pudding drenched in brandy. But there’s more to spirited baking than merely setting foodstuffs alight for a photo opp. In fact, adding a splash of booze to your favourite bakes can take the flavour of the dish to a whole new level. You just need to know when to add them, and how much to add.

To help boost your dessert-assembling credentials, we’ve pulled together three decadent recipes to try out ahead of your New Year’s celebrations – tis’ still the season, after all – spiked with delicious booze. There’s even Baileys dish in there, because seriously who doesn’t love Baileys?

1. Dark and Stormy Swirls

Recipe from Goslings Black Seal Rum. Makes six cinnamon swirl pastries.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 rolled sheet of puff pastry, 2 tbsp Goslings Black Seal Rum, 2 sweet apples diced into small cubes, ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 small thumb of ginger peeled and crushed, 1 lime (juice and rind), 50g raisins (soak in rum overnight if you have the time), 50g brown sugar, 50g butter, 1 egg wash

METHOD:

1) Place apples, sugar, butter, ginger, lime juice and cinnamon in a saucepan and gently cook down. Then add the rum and raisins and cook on a low heat for 30 mins.

2) Take the puff pastry sheet and place horizontally in front of you, and brush with the rummy applesauce – be generous.

3) Once coated, roll it up in a tight cylinder. Slice into six and place on baking paper on an oven tray. Coat with egg-wash and grate lime zest over the top.

4) Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 to 30 mins, remove and allow to cool on a wire rack – or serve warm. 

2. Tiramisu

Recipe from Quick Brown Fox.

INGREDIENTS: 

6 free-range egg yolks, 200g sugar, 450g mascarpone, 350ml cream, 1tsp vanilla extract, 100ml Quick Brown Fox coffee liqueur, 1 packet of Savoiardi sponge fingers, orange zest to garnish

METHOD:

1) First, you’ll need to make your sabayon layer. Combine the egg yolks with 130g of the sugar. Put the bowl over a pot of boiling water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the sabayon has increased in volume. 

2) Next, make the mascarpone layer – for this, whisk the mascarpone, cream and 70g of sugar in a bowl. 

3) Now quickly dip the Savoiardi biscuits into a shallow bowl of Quick Brown Fox coffee liqueur (don’t let it soak too much). 

4) All you have to do now is assemble into glasses in layers. First, the soaked Savoirdi biscuits, then the sabayon, then the mascarpone layer, and repeat. 

5) Sprinkle with cocoa and let it set for six hours in the fridge. Garnish with a grating of fresh orange zest.

3. Gingerbread Trifle

Recipe Benjamina Ebuehi of Great British Bake Off fame for Baileys Original Irish Cream.

INGREDIENTS:

250g unsalted butter, 200g light brown muscovado sugar, 50g black treacle, 100g golden syrup, 3 eggs, 400ml milk, 300g plain flour, ½ bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 1 tsp mixed spice, ¼ tsp ground cloves, 900ml double cream, 2 tsp vanilla bean paste, 6 egg yolks, 2½  tbsp cornflour, 65g caster sugar, 2 tbsp biscuit spread, 80ml Baileys Original Irish Cream, 100ml strong brewed coffee, 2 crushed gingernut biscuits, grated milk chocolate, edible glitter

METHOD:

1) Start by making the ginger cake. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 9 x 13 inch cake tin. Gently heat the unsalted butter, golden syrup and treacle in a small saucepan until the butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before stirring in the sugar. In a small jug, whisk together the 3 eggs and 100ml milk and set aside.

2) In a large bowl, sift together the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the syrup mixture, milk and eggs. Mix the batter until smooth and pour into the tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

3) To make the custard, whisk the 6 egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a large bowl until smooth and pale. Set aside. Heat 300ml milk, 600ml double cream and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan over medium heat until just before boiling. Pour a quarter of the hot milk onto the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add the rest of milk a bit at a time, whisking well after each addition. 

4) Pour the mixture back into the pan over a medium heat and stir continuously until the custard is nicely thickened. Remove from the heat and spilt the custard evenly into two bowls. Stir the biscuit spread into one of the bowls until fully combined. Cover both sets of custard with a layer of cling film directly touching the surface. Let it cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge. 

5) Then, mix the Baileys Original Irish Cream with 300ml double cream in a large bowl and whip until you have soft peaks. 

6) To assemble the trifle, cut up the ginger cake into small squares and place them in your trifle dish. Spoon the coffee onto the cake layer followed by a layer of vanilla custard and biscuit-flavoured custard. Sprinkle on a layer of crushed gingernut biscuits and then spoon the Baileys Original Irish Cream layer on top. Decorate with more gingernut crumbs, grated milk chocolate, a sprinkle of edible glitter and drizzle with extra golden syrup if you’d like.

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23 distillers share their Christmas wish lists

The production teams at our favourite distilleries have bestowed the gift of delicious booze upon us all year long. But what are they wishing for this Christmas? We asked 23…

The production teams at our favourite distilleries have bestowed the gift of delicious booze upon us all year long. But what are they wishing for this Christmas? We asked 23 distillers across the globe to share their festive wish lists. Here’s what they told us…

Hands up if you’d love to work in a distillery? The idea of playing mad scientist with spirits all day certainly sounds like fun to us. And while we can’t speak for their day-to-day reality, from the outside looking in, the folks behind our top tipples are living the dream. Which begs the question: in the season of gift-giving, what could they possibly want for Christmas?

Rather than ponder aimlessly, we put the question to distillers of all disciplines. Whether it’s crystal wine glasses, a special bottle of booze, three days off over new year, a homemade custard tart, or peace to all mankind, we probed spirits-makers from across the globe for their deepest festive desires and recorded their revelations. 

1. Ms. Lesley Gracie, master distiller, Hendrick’s Gin

“As always my Christmas list has pets on it – my husband is always a definite ‘no’, but my daughter has bought me hamsters in the past. A few years ago I asked for a pet rat but husband was not to be swayed and even said that it was either a rat or him – he could at least have made it a tough decision! As for this year’s Christmas wish list… It’s any pet I can persuade him to let me have!”

2. David Stewart MBE, malt master, The Balvenie

“I’d like the Monopoly Ayr Edition which has my football team, Ayr United, featured on one of the squares and where I was born.”

3. Christopher Hayman, master distiller, Hayman’s Gin

“This Christmas I’ll be asking for two things: an aeroplane ticket because I’m desperate to be able to travel again, and a life with more real people and less Zoom calls!”

4. Simon Hewitt, distiller, Nc’nean Distillery

“On my wish list this year is Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Flavour. I am inspired by him as a chef – in my opinion he is one of the best in the world. I’ve visited his restaurants in London and they are the best I’ve ever been to. He is also an amazing human – he has a degree in philosophy and when you hear him speak on topics other than food he is very inspiring.”

5. Elizabeth McCall, assistant master distiller, Woodford Reserve

“This Christmas I am asking for a set of large rocks glasses. We have some nice rocks glasses at home which are pretty and get the job done but they are on the smaller side. What I would like is a set of large rocks glasses with a thick glass bottom for a nice weight and giving me plenty of room for my ice and bourbon. One of my favourite ‘cocktails’, which isn’t really a cocktail is the ‘evolving cocktail’, Woodford Reserve on ice. As the ice melts different flavour notes are highlighted – it’s the perfect way to sip and savour a long drink of Woodford Reserve.” 

6. Tom Hills, head distiller, East London Liquor Company

“I’ve asked Father Christmas for a new head torch to aid in the search deep in our cluttered cellar for a long-lost bottle of expensive white burgundy that my housemates swear they didn’t drink whilst drunk, although suspicions remain. Beyond that I’d like a new woolly hat which is a more cost-effective option than ever actually turning our heating on, and a comprehensive support package for the incredible UK hospitality industry from the government, who so far seem hellbent on inflicting irreparable damage on the sector and fail to realise the unparalleled importance of our irreplaceable venues and the teams running them.” 

7. Chris Garden, head distiller, Hepple Spirits Company

“I’m very much looking forward to my traditional Christmas Eve glass of Blossa, a Swedish mulled wine, in front of the fire with my wife while we wrap the kids presents.”

8. Gregg Glass, whisky maker, Whyte & Mackay

“As with many people this year, the greatest gift more than ever is about spending time with family and friends, whether in person or virtually. The one thing that’s on my Santa list this year is a particular book on forestry – I can’t wait to enjoy a spot of festive reading with a special dram. At this time of the year, I usually treat myself to opening a nice bottle of Port and this year will be a lovely Graham’s Quinta Dos Malvedos. I’ll also be mixing things up with Whisky Amaro created by Edinburgh-based Sweetdrams, a truly unique flavour experience – festive mince pies and cocktail creation, here I come!”

9. Mike Melrose, distiller, Dà Mhìle

“After this busy time of year, the ideal Christmas gift for me would be the entirety of January to spend working on R&D. Turning my dreams into tasty reality, at my own relaxing pace with my headphones in. If there was a way I could do it in my slippers too, it’d be perfect.”

10. Chris Molyneaux, master distiller, Daffy’s Gin 

“It’s been a hugely busy and exciting winter for us here at Daffy’s HQ and a couple of weeks off over the Christmas hols will be pure bliss. We are so lucky that our distillery is located in the midst of some of the most beautiful mountains of Scotland, and with the snow now having arrived, we’ve all been dying to get into the hills and ski. So that’s the gift I want the most this Christmas – a massive dump of snow to get out there and make lots of first tracks in!”

11. Michael Henry, master blender, Loch Lomond Whiskies

“I am asking for a bottle of Blue Spot Irish Whiskey. I always have a whisky with my dad when I’m home, with coronavirus restrictions this year I won’t make it back to Northern Ireland from Scotland for Christmas. It will have to wait a while for me to open it as I’ll be keeping it for the next time I can go home to see my parents.”

12. Conor Hyde, master blender, Hyde Irish Whiskey

“I would like a fancy Oji Japanese style cold coffee dripper! Without hurting the integrity of the original whiskey, this dripper creates amazing whiskey coffee infusions. You cold brew the coffee in the cold-dripper using Irish whiskey instead of water. The whiskey slowly filters through the coffee filter over six to nine hours, trapping the coffee flavour and aromatic compounds, to make a mind blowing Irish coffee base.”

13. Ben Weetman, head distiller, 58 Gin

“This year, top of my Christmas list is a new pair of glasses and a really nice fresh hot shave – COVID-safe of course! 2020 has been the distillery’s busiest year yet and the constant cleaning of stills and being ‘in the thick’ of it has taken its toll on my specs. So that’s the practical present and the real ‘treat’ gift would be the hot shave for a bit of Ben time!”

14. David Fitt, head distiller, The English Whisky Company

“My wife Sarah and I always give money to charity at this time of year so I would like (for my peace of mind as a human being) to know a child somewhere in the world benefited from us giving some money. We usually give to UNICEF. We are privileged to live in a society that can provide – a lot can’t. I am looking forward to a couple of days off after a very busy, strange year, spending time with my wife, daughters and maybe other family members and enjoying a drink over the festive period.”

Ewan George, Warehouse Manager, BenRiach Distillery, Aberdeenshire

15. Ewan George, spirits logistics and warehouse manager, The GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh and Benriach distilleries

“Don’t know if Santa will be able to deliver, but from the letter I posted… one, health and happiness for my family, also the workers and families of the company over the festive period. Two, not having to wake up on Christmas Day before sunrise. Three, a bottle from all three of our Scotch brands so I can choose what goes on the table at Christmas – albeit I’ll be the only one enjoying it! – four, snow on Christmas Day with someone else walking the dog! And five, a fresh start to 2021 with a brighter year ahead for all!” 

16. Paul ‘Archie’ Archard, co-founder, Black Cow Vodka

“This Christmas I’m wishing for a set of Sophie Conran Champagne coupes. Perfect for serving our Black Cow Christmas Spirit Champagne cocktail with a twist of orange zest – yum! I’d also love one of our gold-plated cocktail shakers, made by Yukiwa in Japan. Christmas is a time for indulgence, so I want to serve my cocktails in style.”

17. Michael Duncan, stillhouse operator, The GlenAllachie Distillery

“On my Christmas list this year will be some homemade Scottish tablet from the Visitor Centre team who do their best to keep us sweet!”

Stauning whisky

18. Alex Munch, co-founder, Stauning Whisky

“A Spanish Chair made by Danish designer Børge Mogensen is the perfect place for sipping a glass of Stauning Rye, and what I would put at the top of my wish list. Along with the perfect cocktail bar set to make a delicious Manhattan cocktail – with Stauning Rye, of course!”

19. Alex Thomas, master blender, The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

“I have two passions in life that I just can’t resist: whiskey and shoes. I will definitely be hoping that Santa drops both into my Christmas stocking this year. I promise I will share the whiskey with my friends and family if I am lucky enough to receive any. After all, that’s what whiskey is for – making memories with our friends and family and toasting the year that is ending and welcoming the one that is just beginning.”

20. Aare Ormus, distiller, Junimperium Distillery

“The best Christmas gift ever is to have all children and grandchildren back at home and spend the holiday-time together. I hope that we can enjoy our lovely traditional Christmas family dinner together this year despite all the problems and worries of the world.  It is also nice to get some little liquid gifts that can be consumed at Christmas time. For this Christmas I wish for friends and partners to keep their promises and have peace of mind. Merry Christmas to you all, and good health!”

21. Simon Rucker, co-founder, Nine Elms

“I would love to receive something delicious to nibble with Nine Elms No.18 over Christmas: a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, a leg of Iberico ham or a selection of paul.a.young fine chocolates – the 75% Papua New Guinea dark chocolate bar is a firm favourite! But the present I’d love most is to see the hospitality trade – particularly my favourite neighbourhood restaurants, The Canton Arms and Maremma [in south London] – making it through this difficult period and coming out fighting in the New Year.”

22. Iain McAlister, distillery manager and master distiller, Glen Scotia

“On the first day of Christmas Glen Scotia sent to me… a bottle of Sherry Double Cask – also available in a shop near to thee!”

23. Nelson Hernandez, maestro ronero at Diplomático 

“2020 has been a complicated and challenging year on many levels which has given me the opportunity to reflect deeply on what was really important in life. For this reason, my true wish this year is for all of us to be in good health and in the company of our families and loved ones.”

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Inside the English Spirit Distillery

Nestled inside an 18th century barn located in the depths of the Essex countryside you’ll find English Spirit Distillery, which produces the UK’s widest variety of spirits and liqueurs all…

Nestled inside an 18th century barn located in the depths of the Essex countryside you’ll find English Spirit Distillery, which produces the UK’s widest variety of spirits and liqueurs all under one roof, and totally from scratch. With the distillers’ 10th birthday around the corner, and construction on its shiny second distillery in Cornwall taking shape, all signs point to an action-packed 2021. MoM paid the team a socially-distanced visit…

The English Spirit story begins in Cambridgeshire at the former home of Oxford biochemist and ardent cook, Dr John Walters. Inspired by a Radio 4 feature about eau-de-vie made from wild fruits in the east of France, he set about immersing himself in distilling literature; picking grapes from the side of his house and distilling his first spirit on a four-litre still a short while after. According to Walters, it was as smooth, layered and complex as the £140 bottle of Cognac on his drinks trolley. Galvanised by his creation, Dr Walters found a site locally and established the county’s first distillery in 2011 with little more than a single 200-litre alembic still and a reflux column.

Vodka came next, then gin, liqueurs and barrel-aged spirits, all produced with a new make-first philosophy that carries through to this day. “He found that if you really pay attention to the distillation process, it then doesn’t become about the botanicals, the spices, the barrel ageing – you really don’t have to age spirits for years and years,” says general manager James Lawrence. Fast-forward 10 years, and you’ll find an even wider array of spirits and liqueurs at the distillery in Great Yeldham, Essex, where English Spirit has operated for the last six years.

Dr John with one of his little stills

The majority is made from a base of East Anglian sugar beet, which is processed at British Sugar’s factory in Bury Saint Edmunds and arrives at the distillery as a mash. Seax Vodka is the purest expression of the base spirit; single distilled in a 3.9-metre column still and bottled unfiltered. Dr J’s Gin, a London Dry, is pot distilled with juniper, coriander, macadamia nut and citrus zests in 200-litre batches. Coffee Liqueur, one of six liqueurs that make up the core range, sees five Arabica coffee bean varieties partly distilled with the sugar beet base and partly infused using a sous vide.

The distillery’s Single Malt Spirit, meanwhile, is made from malted barley wort sourced from a local brewery (before maturing in English oak barrels). And when it’s time to make one of three rum bottlings – Old Salt Rum, English Spiced Rum, and St Piran’s Cornish Rum – the team source sugar cane molasses from around the globe. Ingredient-wise, nothing is off the cards: English Spirit is the only distillery in the UK to distil sambuca, which is made with elderflower eau-de-vie, and even made the country’s first baijiu from 100% British sorghum grains in collaboration with farmer Pete Thompson.

While the distillery team seeks to celebrate Britain’s agricultural heritage and seasonality, they are by no means bound by it. Peer closely at the labels and you’ll find English strawberries, rhubarb, Victoria plums, cucumbers and red cherries alongside Sicilian lemons and even exotic wood species – Canadian sequoia, Norwegian pine and Omani date palm – which were distilled with sugar cane molasses to make Great British Rum, a recent collaboration with intrepid explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. 

You can see the bones of the 18th century Essex barn that houses the distillery

Compared to the historic barn at Great Yeldham Hall – a Grade II Listed building that dates back 200 years – the new distillery, located at Treguddick Manor in Cornwall “is like being blasted into the 21st century,” says Lawrence. Where the Essex site is home to 20 gas-fired customised copper pot alembics from Portugal, collectively nicknamed ‘Fanny’, the new build will house a vast electric-powered still – around 1,500 litres in capacity – designed by a German engineering firm to English Spirit Distillery’s precise specifications. 

“We use small stills to make an exact cut between heads, hearts and tails,” Lawrence explains. “Sometimes we might want to grab just a fraction of the heads or a few esters off the tails to make a particular flavour profile. The art of distillation is knowing when to make that cut, and choosing how much of those elements to take. Anything over 200 litres in size, you traditionally start to lose the ability to have that precision. You might be at 90%, but you won’t be at 100% accuracy. But John has found a still that can do that in one giant electric-powered self-contained unit.”

The super-still isn’t the only standout aspect of the new site, which will feature a giant waterfall, a restaurant, and five geodesic domes within which the team will grow botanicals and base spirit ingredients, from wheat and sugarcane to Mediterreanean herbs. “Imagine the Eden Project, but smaller, and with more booze,” says Lawrence. The ingredients will also feature in dishes in the kitchen. “We really want to start showing people how you can bring food and spirits together,” he says. “Bespoke drink pairings, cooking with spirits – using them as novel ingredients to get amazing new flavours out of dishes.”

To mark a decade of distilling, English Spirit will return to its roots with the release of an aged brandy made with English wine – fitting, given eau-de-vie started it all. As construction works rumble on at the Cornwall site – “at the minute we’re in deep electrics and plumbing phase,” says Lawrence, with the new still set to be fitted in February – 2021 is shaping up to be a corker for the team. “We’re flying along, it’s amazing,” he says of the project. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Tasting notes:
Dr. J’s London Dry Gin

The ingredients for Dr J’s London Dry? Single-distilled sugar beet new make, juniper berries, coriander seeds, citrus zests (orange and lemon), macadamia nut, and water. That’s it.

Nose: Clean and herbal at first, a second whiff reveals a gentle sweetness underpinning those initial bright grassy notes.

Palate: Creamy menthol, with a hit of juniper and coriander. A pepperiness with vibrant, fresh lemon zest. 

Finish: Dry, lingering lemon, warmth and a kick of macadamia nuttiness. Supremely fresh. 

St Piran’s Cornish Rum 

Named after the patron saint of Cornwall, St Piran’s is made exclusively from sugar cane molasses and blended with Cornish water drawn from a borehole at Treguddick Manor.

Nose: Grassy and vegetal, with a touch of salt, honey, and soft white pepper warmth.

Palate: Dry on the entry with tart citrus and coconut cream. Evolves into raisin and caramel.

Finish: Medium length with vanilla custard, a hint of agave and a menthol note at the very end.

English Spiced Rum 

Made by macerating the distillery’s Old Salt Rum with cherries, hibiscus, citrus, ginger and a few secret ingredients – referred to by Dr John as ‘pixie dust’ – overnight.

Nose: A huge waft of ginger, wrapped up in brown sugar. Hibiscus follows, with hints of sweet vanilla

Palate: Thick and syrupy with toffee apples, glazed cherries, sweet spices, gingerbread, rich raisin and caramel notes.

Finish: A short finish, with bitter orange, cinnamon and a touch of charred oak.

English Spirit Coffee Liqueur 

The team has taken five different varieties of arabica coffee beans and combined them with a base spirit made from East Anglian sugar beet. Some beans are redistilled with the spirit, others undergo a sous vide process. The two are combined and bottled as a liqueur at 25% ABV.

Nose: Milk chocolate, roasted coffee beans. Rich, earthy and complex with a leathery, almost tobacco element and hints of dates and cherry.

Palate: Freshly ground coffee with demerara sugar, vanilla. Transforms into delicious mouth-coating bitter espresso.

Finish: Long, with lashings of gooey caramel and a lingering coffee cake note.

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Meet MoM’s Own! Your drinks cabinet essentials made simple

Stocking up on the basics? Looking for a wallet-friendly way to cover all booze bases? We can help with MoM’s Own, our quartet of tastiness – London Dry Gin, Rum,…

Stocking up on the basics? Looking for a wallet-friendly way to cover all booze bases? We can help with MoM’s Own, our quartet of tastiness – London Dry Gin, Rum, Vodka, and, of course, Blended Scotch Whisky! 

The perfect cheese selection pack. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The stylish capsule wardrobe. Right across life, grouping things together is very pleasing. Especially when they help make your life easier or bring you immense joy (hello, cheeseboard. ‘Tis almost the season after all!). It seemed high time that we got in on the act of arranging things together, this time in the drinks world. So, give a fabulously warm welcome to MoM’s Own, your new go-to for all things spirits!

Spanning Blended Scotch Whisky, London Dry Gin, Rum, and Vodka, MoM’s Own is our vision of drinks simplicity. You want a constantly stocked up drinks cabinet with all manner of cocktail options. You need it to be delicious. You also don’t want it to break the bank. So we teamed up with our pals at Atom Labs to craft the first of four bottlings that do just that!

We chose MoM’s Own to tick as many boxes as possible. It’s your go-to, easy peasy selection whatever you fancy drinking. It’s also got hosting wrapped up (ready for when we can have dinner parties again..!). Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, we reckon these four expressions will have you well on your way to a useful, versatile and – vitally important! –  delicious drinks cabinet. 

MoM’s Own Blended Scotch, 42% ABV 

Looking for a tasty sipper that you could also mix (if the fancy took you), that’s delectable enough to be a treat but affordable to share with friends? Say hello to MoM’s Own Blended Scotch! It’s made with peated Islay single malt blended with a soft, buttery single grain, so you’ve got enough weight and complexity to delight your palate, while being decidedly accessible. Also useful if you’re introducing your pals to the world of whisky.

MoM’s Own London Dry Gin, 40% ABV

Hands up, juniper fans! This one’s for you. We love classic London dry gins, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All we’ve done to a classic recipe is cold-distil citrus peels for a fabulously refreshing and slightly elevated sipper. We’re a fan of it in G&Ts, Martinis and Negronis alike – oh, and it’s an absolute bargain, too.

MoM’s Own Rum, 40% ABV

Dark rum is having more than just a moment – we’ve collectively got a taste for the stuff that’s delightfully delish and exactingly blended. And that’s what you’ve got right here with MoM’s Own Rum! There’s unaged and aged Caribbean liquid, plus higher ester stuff blended in. Wonderful liquid indeed! 

MoM’s Own Vodka, 40% ABV

Great vodka is essential for any drinks cabinet (how could you indulge in that weekend Bloody Mary without it?), so we knew we needed a top-quality option in the line-up. This one’s made with both wheat and molasses as a base, so it’s soft and smooth, with a gentle mouthfeel. Equally good with soda, other mixers, and in things like Moscow Mules

We reckon that’s a pretty good line-up to kick things off. Between those four bottlings, you’ve got almost all drinking occasions covered – and a whole bunch of classic cocktails, too. But we’re not done there! We’ll release more MoM’s Own products as trends develop and we spot a need. If you’re after something specific, let us know. We might just make it for you!

Enjoy the line-up!

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The changing face of Christmas drinks

You can wave goodbye to mulled wine, carol singing and the Queen’s speech this year: Brits want cocktails, TikToks and WiFi for Christmas, according to new research from Bacardi. We…

You can wave goodbye to mulled wine, carol singing and the Queen’s speech this year: Brits want cocktails, TikToks and WiFi for Christmas, according to new research from Bacardi. We can’t help grandma find the unmute button on Zoom – sorry – but we can help you whip up cocktails at home. Read on for four tried-and-tested festive tipples…

We all knew Christmas would look a little different this year. Even before the latest lockdown was announced, almost two-thirds of us were planning to ditch in-person gatherings in favour of digital meet-ups this year, according to a survey of 1,000 Brits aged between 18 and 55. From hosting a virtual Christmas quiz (36%) to opening presents via video call on Christmas morning (32%), this year’s celebrations will be largely of the virtual variety.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Nearly a third of those surveyed admitted being “secretly thrilled” they won’t have to visit extended family, while two in five are relieved they can skip the office party. Almost 40% said they were looking forward to embracing ‘more modern’ Christmas customs – which explains why almost three quarters of us plan on ditching sprouts, eggnog and bread sauce this year.

Their replacements? Vegan nut roast, family TikTok videos and after-lunch Espresso Martinis, the research found. Indeed, half of the people surveyed reckon they’ll be incorporating cocktails into their Christmas celebrations more than in previous years, with almost one in five saying cocktails are “a must”. To help you fine tune your recipes, we attended a cocktail masterclass hosted by Bacardi portfolio ambassadors Andrea Montague and Gianluca Pavanello Canella. Here’s our top tipples:

Bacardi Spiced and Sparkle

We’re allowed to be biased, so we’ll say it. This was our favourite serve. The Bacardi Spiced is packed with cloves and vanilla, and it pairs beautifully with the tart sweetness of the cranberry juice. The big, bold, juicy red wine float is the cherry on the cake. “A lot of the cocktails that we see trending at the moment are something that sparkles –  something that’s a little bit out of the norm,” says Montague. “This really sits very well with this time of year.”

35ml Bacardi Spiced
10ml lemon
15ml sugar syrup
35ml cranberry juice
35ml red wine

Method: Build all ingredients – except the red wine – in a glass over ice. Stir to combine, add more ice, then pour over the red wine float over the top. Garnish with a lemon twist. 

Top tips: To make a hot version, warm all the ingredients except the Bacardi Spiced in the microwave or over the hob, then add the Bacardi Spiced before serving. Delicious.

Martini Fiero Berries Royale

Super wintery, with berries, fizz, citrus, and a juniper from the gin – all rounded out with that lovely orange flavour from the Fiero. “When you hear the word Royale in any kind of drink or cocktail, usually it will involve some sort of sparkling wine,” says Pavanello Canella. “It can be Prosecco, it can be Cava, it can be Champagne.” You can get away with using any of those in this drink, we reckon.

25ml Martini Fiero
25ml Bombay Bramble Gin
10ml blackcurrant syrup
Martini Prosecco to top

Method: Combine Martini Fiero, Bombay Bramble and blackcurrant syrup in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake for around eight seconds and double strain into a flute glass. Top with Martini Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon twist and a blackberry. 

Top tips: When you’re making any drink, always start with the cheapest ingredients, says Pavanello Canella. “That way, if you make a mistake, you can restart and your waste is going to be minimal,” he says. If you don’t have blackcurrant syrup, buy blackcurrants in a can, drain out the liquid, and it’s basically the same thing. Oh, and put your flute glass in the freezer 10 minutes before you make the drink. “That way, you’re going to have a nice frozen glass for a colder drink,” he adds.

St Germain Festive Spritz

This low-ABV drink strikes the ultimate balance between seasonal frivolity and unfettered indulgence. It’s also very tasty and incredibly straightforward to make. “This is a really easy celebratory drink, garnished in a very festive way,” says Montague. You can use sparkling water or soda, she adds, although the latter is more effervescent and has “a little bit more bite, a little bit more spritz to it.”

40ml St Germain
60ml Prosecco
60ml sparkling
Soda water

Method: Combine all the ingredients in a Collins glass. Stir, then gently add ice. Garnish with a lemon twist, dehydrated orange wheel, and star anise.

Top tips: Before you start making the drink, pre-freeze the glass as Pavanello Canella explained above, or simply swirl a few ice cubes around the bottom to chill it slightly. Make sure you remove them before adding the ingredients, though. “As soon as Prosecco hits ice, it’s going to fizz up and go everywhere,” says Montague. “Even if it doesn’t go everywhere, you’ve expelled some of the bubbles, so you’re going to end up with a flatter drink.” 

To make dehydrated orange wheels at home, start by heating your oven as hot as it can go. Then, slice an orange really finely and lay them out on baking paper. Turn the oven completely off, then add the slices to the oven and close the door. “In about an hour’s time you can take them out and you’ve got dehydrated orange slices,” says Montague. “They’re wonderfully fragrant and they last forever in a little air-proof container.”

Grey Goose Countdown

A real showstopper, this drink is a party in a glass. “It’s like a riff on a French 75, but using vodka instead of gin, and with a fruity, tropical but slightly citrusy and bitter note as well,” says Pavanello Canella. The grapefruit peel is more than a mere garnish – it brings a real zesty freshness. Express the oils over the top and around the stem before arranging it in the glass.

35ml Grey Goose
15ml light agave syrup
25ml yellow grapefruit juice,
25ml pineapple juice
Ginger ale to top

Method: Add all ingredients except ginger ale into a shaker filled with ice. Double strain into a flute glass and top with ice-cold ginger ale. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

Top tips: When you’re measuring out your ingredients, start with the agave, says Pavanello Canella, because it’s thick and coats the jigger. “The rest of your ingredients will wash out the remaining liquid that is going to be coating your measuring tool,” he says. And when it’s time to shake, put some extra welly into it. “We have to shake harder and longer, because the drink has citrus juice in it,” says Pavanello Canella. “Shaking actives all those flavours and lifts them up – when you shake you’re adding oxygen and aerating the drink.”

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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!

Behold: the best rums under £40

bargain rum

Rumbullion! 

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.

Check out this 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 created 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 and, even when 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.

And if you want more where that came from, we’ve got more of the best rum here!

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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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