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Liv Rums

Liv Rums is made by Matugga, a brand founded by Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa. The former grew up as a single malt drinker in Uganda, and only really discovered rum thanks to his second-generation Jamaican wife. Perplexed by Uganda’s lack of rum culture with so much sugar cane in abundance, the duo realised there was a serious of African rum full stop. So, in 2014, they decided to do something about it.

Dr. John Walters at the English Spirit Distillery, one of the few people making rum from scratch in the UK, helped get the Rutasikwas going with spirit before they could found their own distillery, which they did in 2018 in Livingston. Paul studied at Heriot-Watt and began making rum with sugar cane molasses from East Africa and pure Scottish water. The rum undergoes a long fermentation, which features a degree of wild fermentation comparable to Hampden Estate. Some dunder is also used and the process lasts for a minimum of seven days but can go up to 10 and there are even experiments that last up to three weeks.

Matugga Rum is made using 100% pot distillation, using four 200-litre direct-fire alembic copper stills (two wash and two spirit) with swan neck condensers. As Paul talks about the 150-litres of wash being filled, the low wines being collected and then processed in an intermediate still, and how the direct fire contributes to some of that subtle smokiness he likes, he sounds more like a whisky distiller, which is reflected in his still choice. He’s also very precise about his cuts to extract the heart of the spirit, which is collected at 74% ABV.

This process makes cracking rums, but the Rutasikwas also wanted a range that was more accessible collection to those looking to whet their rum appetite. That's where Liv Rums comes in.

The Black Spiced Rum is made similarly to Matugga spiced rum, reduced in a tank to 50% ABV and macerated with spices. Molasses syrup is then used to sweeten and colour, Paul doesn’t value colour caramel as believes all ingredients should add something other than aesthetic, and values the caramel creaminess molasses has.

The flavoured expressions are also macerated like the spiced rums, the Raspberry and Hibiscus with real Scottish raspberries, and Honey and Lavender with Scottish honey and lavender flowers. Both use sugar, 100 grams per litre, to meet the liqueur standard, but they’re not saccharine at all.
There’s also a Pot Still white rum and its Navy Strength equivalent, which are just pure distillate and water, nothing else is added and Paul says they spend no time resting as he does want to retain complexity. These might be accessible, but they’re not cheap or by the number of additions.

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