Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 – 12 Year

Back after a summer break with a review of Worthy Parks latest flagship Rum. The Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 12 Year Old. The first vintage release from Worthy Park under their own label since recommencing production in 2005 following an absence of over 40 years. Excluding mixed maturation independent bottlings with a vintage we have only seen fully distillery matured vintages under the Habitation Velier label including the 2005, the quite excellent 2006 WPM and 2007. A little background information can be found on the distillery by clicking here. You will also see just how much I enjoyed the Habitation Velier 2006 by clicking here.

A brief account of the history of Worthy Park Estate and their rum production first….The Worthy Park Estate is located at the geographical centre of Jamaica in the Parish of St. Catherine which is in a valley known as Vale of Lluidas. The Worthy Park Estate was founded in 1670 and commercial cultivation of sugarcane began in 1720 and has continued unabated to this day. Rum production at Worthy Park has been recorded from as early as 1741, which makes it the oldest producer still in existence in Jamaica. Post World War 2 there was an over-supply of Jamaican Rum in the marketplace and as you would imagine, this drove prices down. Because of this reduced value, the Spirits Pool of Jamaica met with the islands distillers and between them an agreement was made to stop Rum production at the facility in the 1960’s. In 2004 a decision was made by Gordon Clarke to begin Worthy Park Rum production again. Worthy Park Estate re-entered the Rum market in 2005. 

Worthy Park have in excess of 20 varieties of sugarcane that are harvested with the majority of the fields being dedicated to 3 varieties. They also utilise 3 different yeasts within their fermentation. An activated dry yeast, an isolated proprietary yeast ( taken from one of their sugarcane varieties) and a wild yeast. This wild yeast is cultivated in 4 american white oak pre-fermentation vats. This yeast is developed in a 3 month process which involves molasses, crushed cane stalks, cane juice and ‘special’ ingredients. The yeast is then allowed to develop on its own in these open tanks which are devoid of any temperature control. Worthy Park have 6 fermentation tanks, of which 4 are temperature controlled via a heat exchanger in order to create the ideal temperature for fermentation. The 2 non-temperature controlled tanks are dedicated to the wild yeast fermentation for their high ester distillate and this is a process that can last for between 2 to 3 weeks. So, these various yeast strains and fermentation methods allow Worthy Park to produce a varying number of marques that each has its own code based upon ester count.

These are: 

WPEL – <60 gr/laa

WPL – 60-119 gr/laa

WPM- 120-239 gr/laa

WPH – 240-360 gr/laa

WPE – Up to 800 gr/laa

Distillation is undertaken on a magnificent Forsyths Double Retort pot still.

Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 – 12 Year – 56% abv – Pure single Rum

With all of that said, lets have a look at the bottle in question. A limited release of 8000 bottles globally (4000 for the EU / 4000 for the US & Jamaica), this bottling, which carries a guaranteed minimum age statement of 12 years was distilled in 2006. It is made from estate molasses, is the WPL marque (refer to breakdown above) and is matured at the distillery in Jamaica for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels prior to bottling in 2018 at its cask strength of 56%. No chill filtering. No additions. No bullshit. I first tried this at the UK Rumfest in October 2018 in the VIP Rum Room and I was not the only one with a huge smile on my face after tasting it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Very interesting from the get go……the mildest hint of peppermint and dark chocolate….think Fry’s Mint Chocolate Cream for those of you old enough to remember it. The fun doesn’t stop there though. The trademark, clear as day Worthy Park Banana is here by the fruit bowl full…..both overripe…..warmed…caramelised and baked…in a lightly spiced loaf. Perhaps a little buttered Spice Bun. Sitting alongside it is a cup of strong tea. There is a growing salty olive tapenade note from the pot still that is bringing with it preserved lemons. Let’s not shy away from the huge slab of oak running through the middle of the nose either….big musty damp oak flexing its muscles but being kept in check by the banana, a hefty dose of molasses and a little acetone allowing a growing menthol influence to announce itself. The bitter sweetness of bonfire toffee and dark chocolate. This all harmonises and ties itself together with a little barrel spice and the block of pipe tobacco that my grandad used to cut with a small penknife on a tray on his knee.

Startlingly complex, assertive and well defined nose that really exhibits each element at its best.

Mouth: The big, oily mouthfeel allows the initial entry to carry a little honeyed sweetness……along come freshly cut pears too. There is a fleeting appearance made by our good friend warm, overripe banana. It carries a sticky, malty note too. Maybe the merest hint of candyfloss being spun at a fairground. That sweetness is relatively short lived due to the force of a growing oaken influence. It is the spice that asserts itself initially before the dryness creeps in bringing with it light menthol, dark chocolate and a slight hint of leather. The oak is warm….it blankets your tongue with just enough heat to at least hint at the fact that the Rum is 56%. The mid palate takes the oak and slowly begins to unwrap it allowing baking spices, warm buttered banana loaf, chocolate coated banana chips and creme caramel to develop…..this is joined by little flashes of sweet / sour citrus and kola kube sweets. Burnt raisins, molasses, liquorice bring light bitterness which leads the oak into a long, warming finish resplendent with a little menthol, those tobacco notes found on the nose, buttery fudge and cocoa. Little spots of sweetness appear at the back end with the heavy pot still character carrying through until the death allowing the molasses to linger.

The palate of this rum really does continue the good work and foundations laid down by the nose to build layer upon layer of complexity. It remains entirely consistent throughout the transition from initial nose to the final dying embers of the finish. It never bares its 56% teeth either aside from a little heat into the mid-palate.

In Conclusion: Complexity by the bucket load.  Such a well balanced presentation of the distillate too. Nothing is too aggressive or ramped up, everything is in perfect harmony. Each element has its part to play, no matter how big or small and as an experience it just sings.  I can’t help thinking that we’re witnessing something really special here. Maybe a coming of age for a distillery, now back producing its own estate bottlings, using its own estate molasses following a hiatus of over 40 years. It displays huge confidence and the self assurance of a distillery that is really beginning to stretch its legs and I’m so excited for what is to come from them.

It is fully compliant with the Jamaican GI, is devoid of any kind of shenanigans, is as honest as the day is long and (I don’t say this lightly as I’m a HUGE fan of the Habitation Velier 2006 WPM and the Single Estate 57% release) this could be just about as close to Worthy Park perfection as I could’ve hoped for.

5 / 5 +

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Distillery #1 – Jamaica – Batch 2

We’re back with another ‘secret’ but not so ‘secret’ Jamaican bottling from That Boutique-y Rum Company. I reviewed the initial Batch 1 release here and found it to be a pretty pleasant release, a little different to many of the usual independent ‘secret Jamaican distillery’ releases. So essentially, That Boutique-y Rum Company aim to bring interesting expressions, not categorised by colour or ‘style’ to Rum Geeks, Adventurous Rookies and the Rum Curious. As the consultant at the helm is Peter Holland of The Floating Rumshack fame, expect some belters.

As a quick aside, there may or may not be some information on said ‘Secret Jamaican Distillery’ if you were to click here or here.

But without further ado or fanfare, lets get into this one.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Distillery #1 – Jamaica – Batch 2 – 51.5% abv – Pure Single Rum – 1821 Bottles

If you recall from the previous review of Batch 1, that release was 9 years old and it was matured in both Tropical and Continental climates. You will also recall that it was from the ‘secret’ Worthy Park Distillery. This release is 6 years old and dependent upon bottling was distilled in either 2013 or 2012. The information available tells us that this Rum has entirely Continental maturation…..but for a change, all of those 6 years were spent inside an ex-Sauternes cask. Sauternes being a sweet French desert wine from Bordeaux made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. The grapes used are chosen as they have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as “noble rot“. This has the effect of making the grapes slightly ‘raisined’ which results in a concentrated and quite distinct flavour to the wine. A release of 1821 bottles, mine is number 1468, the Rum will be naturally coloured and will not have been chill filtered. Now Worthy Park is quite unique and recognisable, but what exactly has that 6 years in an ex-Sauternes barrel done to it….

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nice and astringent to start out. Wearing it’s youth on its sleeve. Definitely Jamaican, definitely Worthy Park. Overripe banana, but dialled down. Black tea. A little savoury too…maybe a touch of cured meat. A spicy nose with ginger and a hint of sweet fragrant spice. Ripe Victoria plums. Fresh apple juice. A date like toffee asserts itself alongside sweet maple and pecan pastries. Brazil nuts and raisins. Light molasses providing that sweet / bitter interplay. A hint of oak appears at the back end and brings with it warm spicy fruit loaf. Very appealing.

Mouth: Nice and lightly sweet entry. Nothing too hot. Nothing too distracting. A very prominent sweet white wine note (well obviously…..Sauternes) but carrying something darker and sweeter… maybe prunes in a sticky toffee pudding. Vanilla ice cream topped with a thick, sticky PX. Raisins raisins raisins. Plump and juicy. Growing oak on the mid palate brings a pleasing dryness that doesn’t dominate in any way, the spike of peppery barrel spice and a hint of molasses bitterness. The dark fruit theme develops with slice of my Auntie Hazel’s fruit loaf straight from the oven with butter on it. Light warmed banana and a spoonful of molasses. Garibaldi biscuits. The medium length finish is the sum of its parts, completing the experience with the return of youthful alcohol vapours at the back end and sweet candied pecans.

4 / 5

Plenty to like, and at times I think that I prefer this to Batch #1……at times I don’t though. Either way, at just shy of £37 its definitely worth picking up.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MHOBA Rum – A South African Farm to Bottle Story

MHOBA translates as ‘Sugarcane’ from siSwati which is the language spoken by the local Swazi people.

Seemingly appearing from nowhere, MHOBA Rum have started to make themselves known in the Rum world. I first encountered them at the UK RumFest in London in October 2017 where they had three or four expressions of their Pure Single Sugarcane Rum that were creating a bit of a stir. I got chatting to owner, Robert Greaves about the brand and their expressions. I purchased two bottles in 2017 and stayed in touch with Robert. Fast forward to the UK RumFest in October 2018 and MHOBA are again present at both the Boutique Rumfest and the main weekend event. This time they have brought with them eight individual expressions and have taken the Boutique Rumfest by storm with a huge buzz surrounding them. This continued over the course of the whole weekend with MHOBA becoming a bit of a talking point among the attendees post RumFest. I knew that I needed to get some information written about them to hopefully get the limelight directed to a team that I thought were humble, engaging and willing to chat. The intention was to get a few questions out to Robert to build an interview……to find out his background, his motivation and his processes. It rather quickly became apparent that a simple question and answer interview would be underplaying the wealth of information that Robert has discussed with me during our conversations and I hope to recount the timeline from the beginning to that landmark 2017 Rumfest visit up to the recent delivery of a large order to LMDW in France which is a significant moment bringing the Rums of MHOBA to a global audience. So please stick with me if you will, as I attempt to tell you an in-depth and quite personal story of a proudly South African ‘Farm to Bottle’ Producer.

MHOBA Rum – A South African Farm to Bottle Story

Robert Redvers Greaves was born to an Artist Mother and a Mining Engineer Father in Johannesburg, South Africa in January 1978. The families of both his Mother and Father have been in South Africa for 3 or 4 generations. His Fathers lineage is entirely British as far back as the family have been able to trace, whereas his Mother is descended from Scottish and Dutch origins. Schooled and raised in Johannesburg, Robert then studied Mechanical Engineering at Stellenbosch and WITS Universities. Post studies, he began working as an Engineer in the Mining industry in underground construction contracting until his Father offered him the opportunity to take over his small Mining business. The business, built up since 1985 comprised two small-scale and marginal Mining operations in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Robert made the decision to relocate from Johannesburg to the larger of the two mines near Malalane to manage the mine himself and to save any costs associated with having to employ a Manager for the operation. As a result of the drastic deterioration of the Mining industry in the whole of South Africa over the course of the last 20 years, business income needed to be supplemented. To do this during the period of decline, they started growing sugarcane on their property to sell to the local Sugar Mill.

Robert and his family live on the Eastern side of South Africa near the border with Mozambique. Their property is just south of the Kruger National Park nature reserve in the Nkomazi area of Mpumalanga, not far from the small town of Malalane. By far the largest business in the surrounding area, and the raison d’être for the existence of town of Malalane is the recently renamed RCL Foods (previously TSB) Sugar Mill. The surrounding farms that provide the Sugar Mill with sugarcane alongside the supply of all other goods and services that the Mill requires provides a livelihood and to a certain extent, a way of life for the majority of the areas residents. Relocating from the ‘New York of Africa’……Johannesburg, to the rural farm life in Malalane had a profound and significant effect on Robert. Having an involvement with and being surrounded by the sugarcane farming culture influenced his lifestyle and his way of thinking. For most of its existence the mining business started by his Father had been marginal as far as profitability goes and with the steady and apparent decline of South Africa’s economy and the mining industry being plagued by problems, other opportunities needed to be identified to both supplement and possibly provide an alternative direction the keep the business running and the property maintained.

Growing sugarcane and being embedded in a cane growing region, sugarcane and sugarcane products provided a focal point for Robert to develop an opportunity involving their produce. Given the low value of unprocessed cane locally and his farm being relatively small in terms of yield when viewed alongside other larger properties in the area, producing sugar that could compete with the large expanse of the RCL Foods Sugar Mill was out of the question. Robert considered the production of alcohol from their cane. Without the knowledge that he now possesses, Robert initially thought that Rum was only made from molasses. Following a period of online research, he realised that Cachaca was a spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. Socio-economic parallels are often drawn between South Africa and Brazil and the idea of making what he initially viewed as ‘South African Cachaca’ quickly gained traction as he had the sugarcane, and the similarities of their local cane growing cultures meant that locals could take to a sugarcane spirit as the Brazilian people had done. Robert had the vision of making a ‘Single Malt Whisky style spirit’ insofar as that he wanted it to be the product of batch / pot distillation and did not want to sully the distillate with colour or flavourings other than the oak. As he had not yet discovered Rhum Agricole, it would be a ‘Brazilian Style Rum’.

The eureka moment, the realisation of a future in Rum making came in 2013. Robert and his wife attended a wedding at the hotel Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius, and a man named Guillaume Graffeille was the person that helped him arrive at this pivotal decision.

Robert recalls sitting at the hotel bar and being mesmerized by the quantity and variety of available Rums on the back-bar and it far exceeded anything that he had previously laid eyes on. Fortunately it seems, the barman had disappeared for a short while and as he perused the weird and wonderful bottles on display, Robert was assisted by a bald chap who was buried in paperwork and appeared to be a Senior hotel staff member. His name was Guillaume. Rather reluctantly, but whilst retaining every ounce of his professionalism, he broke away from his administrative tasks to assist Robert in his requests to view some of the numerous bottles on the shelves and also provided answers to the numerous elementary questions being asked. Robert specifically recalls that at one distinct point the man asked, “Where do you come from?” and when the question was answered with “South Africa”, his retort was, “Yes, you guys know nothing about rum. You only know grapes, wines and brandy”. As discussions progressed, it was reveled that the hotel had a selection of 120 Rums and that they enjoyed being able to take guests on a “Rum taste tour” with Rums sourced from across the globe. “Wherever there is sugarcane, there is Rum” advised Guillaume. It was at this moment that the penny dropped for Robert. Just about everywhere that sugarcane is grown, some form of Rum is produced, and in the area that he lived it was actually one of the exceptions to the rule. If Rum worked in so many other diverse cane growing locations, why not where he lived? Surely all that he needed to do was make good quality Rum? Its at that point that Robert seemingly went headlong down the path to becoming a bit of a Rum maniac.

Early Efforts

Upon returning from Mauritius, Robert immediately started juicing his sugarcane by hand in a vice on a workbench making small 10 litre fermentation batches that could take several hours. These were left to ferment in buckets. He also hand built his first rudimentary stainless steel gas fired still during that first fermentation from what was once a milk urn. Numerous batches of ungodly and revolting distillates were produced, all enthusiastically tested by him and anyone else that was unfortunate enough to be near and willing enough to try……there were not many repeat volunteers. With a lot of persistence, a willingness to try many variations on his fermentation’s and several revisions of small handmade stills, Robert managed to produce what he (at that stage) and the majority of willing volunteers believed was a really good, “smooth” spirit by triple distilling to 95% abv. He continued to experiment and perfect the pure spirit that he wanted to produce at that stage and as feedback became more and more positive he decided to apply to obtain a license to allow the production and sale of his own Rum commercially.

Following months of objections from neighbours, several consultants and countless lawyers bills, Robert eventually received his “Micro Manufacturers Liquor License” and excise account from the relevant South African tax authorities in June 2015, opening the gate and allowing him to produce and sell MHOBA Rum. Very much a ‘hands on’ and practical chap, he built their first roller cane press and a 200 litre stripping still which allowed them to do quite well in terms of selling their “White” and “Glass Cask” aged Rum in the local market. This is even more impressive given that this relative success of their first two Rums occurred in a country that has considerably lower levels of Rum knowledge and appreciation. Positive feedback was raining in from “those in the know” within the industry and that is the point when Robert met Andy Kiloh, also known as the RumBro. Andy was able to carry samples of the MHOBA output to The Miami Rum Festival in 2016 and he returned with encouraging feedback and opinions from those introduced to the Rum. A key driver to the 2017 Rumfest appearance was a visit by Robert to the Mauritius Rum Festival in 2017 as this is where he met Ian Burrell. Appearing to be quite taken with MHOBA Rum, Ian invited Robert to the UK Rumfest a little later that year. Ian’s enthusiasm for MHOBA was a huge confidence boost for Robert as it was the first time that he understood that there would be a potential market far beyond local sales. UK Rumfest 2017 proved to be a steep learning curve as it presented the ability to taste Rums that were previously unheard of to him and more importantly he had the opportunity to meet the producers whilst simultaneously receiving very positive feedback from some well respected names. He specifically received some constructive advice and feedback from Richard Seale at the 2017 UK Rumfest and that advice has been key to allowing Robert to raise his game quite substantially. Having some of the most knowledgeable people in the Rum world compliment his Rum was a big deal to Robert and this alongside the constructive feedback provided the energy required to elevate MHOBA to bigger and better things.

Amazing how economic situations can give rise to new opportunities to motivated and hard working individuals and the story is testament to the fact that chance meetings and words of encouragement can change the trajectory of a persons path by allowing them to focus on new goals that may have been in front of their eyes the whole time.

Processes

The “Farm to Bottle” aspect of MHOBA is no empty moniker. As a team and a producer, they do things themselves. From owning the land where their cane is farmed, manufacturing their sugarcane press, their fermentation vats, their stills, their labels etc, Robert has created an environment whereby they may be reliant upon materials, but they know how to repair equipment and he knows the distillation equipment intimately….after all, he built it. The following information will cover the sugarcane from fields to harvest, sugarcane pressing, fermentation, distillation, maturation and bottling and thanks to Robert, it will be littered with some pretty unique images.

Cane Fields and Harvest

This is a crucial stage in MHOBA‘s rum making and a major part of what differentiates them from a molasses producer or even a cane juice producer buying juice from someone else. The varietals that do well in their area were developed by the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) which makes them unique internationally, and when combined with the local climate, soil type, magnesium rich water and local microbials gives MHOBA rums a most definite, distinctive and unique terroir.

Very few people (even in the international rum geek fraternity) really understand how much work goes in to being a true “Farm to Bottle” producer. They plant their own cane, grow their own cane, cut and de-trash their own cane by hand and then shred and juice the cane using manually operated, hand fed machinery. There is a massive amount of work, all done by the MHOBA team, that goes in to producing each and every litre of their pure sugarcane juice wash. Once a tank of freshly squeezed juice is fermenting, the rest of the rum making process is then relatively easy in comparison to getting that juice ready for the yeast.

Another thing worthy of note is that MHOBA have begun the process of becoming accredited as the first fully organic sugarcane producer in South Africa.

Sugarcane Pressing

Robert has built two types of cane presses in the last 6 years. The first was a more conventional roll type press which had two counter rotating large steel wheels which squeeze the cane sticks between them. This old press is no longer in use, though is pictured below:

Original Redundant Cane Press

Press Feed Conveyor

Cane Press Location

They utilised the rotating roller press for about two years before Robert designed and then built the current press, which is totally unique. He have never heard of anyone else using a press of this type. The press works on a batch principle which makes it slower in terms of cane throughput, but it is significantly more effective in extracting the juice from the cane. It is basically a large, thick walled steel pipe which is filled with pre-shredded sugarcane. This shredded cane is then pressed with a hydraulic plunger which presses the shredded cane with a force equivalent to a weight of about 60 tonnes.

Removing Spent Bagasse

The process of juicing sugarcane at MHOBA is as follows:

  • After cutting and de-trashing (removal of the cane stick tops and leaves which contain no juice) cane by hand it is placed in heaps in the fields which are again loaded by hand on to a small tractor-trailer which delivers the freshly cut cane to the cane press
  • The cane sticks are hand fed into a hammer mill which shreds the cane into a more compressible coarse pulp. This pulp fills a stainless steel hopper or bin which is the correct volume to fill the press
  • Once the feed bin is full the hammer mill is stopped and the hopper contents are fed by conveyor belt in to the barrel of the press
  • The full press barrel is then moved sideways into the press position underneath the hydraulic ram and the ram moves downwards by means of a hydraulic cylinder and compresses the shredded cane at the bottom of the barrel
  • The pressure on the cane is maintained for several minutes until no further juice is seen exiting the bottom of the barrel
  • Once the press is completed, the ram is retracted and the cylinder is then moved sideways to the bagasse ejecting position and a smaller hydraulic cylinder and ram are used to push the plug of compressed bagasse out of the bottom of the cylinder on to a conveyor belt which places the spent bagasse on a stockpile
  • A portion of the spent bagasse is mixed with cattle and chicken manure to form an organic fertiliser which is returned to the cane fields and the remainder of the bagasse is burnt to generate heat for the stills
  • The cane press produces between 1 and 4 000 litres of pure cane juice per day

Pure Nkomazi Sugarcane Juice

Cane Juice Collection Tank

Fermentation

MHOBA grow 6 or 7 Sugarcane Varietals on their farm which are supplied to the local sugar mill. There are two dedicated varieties grown in their fields which are dedicated to the production of MHOBA Rum. These are N57 and N36. Both are South African developed varieties, developed by SASRI (South African Sugarcane Research Institute). It is these two varieties that as mentioned above, MHOBA are in the process of acquiring organic certification for.

2000 litre Fermentation Batch (7-10 Day)

Because MHOBA shred their cane prior to pressing as mentioned above, quite a bit of the naturally occurring yeast is washed off the outer portions of the cane when it gets squeezed and ends up in the juice. Their press is also quite slow to operate so it takes several hours to press a full batch of juice and during its time in the tank the juice begins to ferment naturally. Once a full 1000 litre batch has been pressed it is usually fermenting moderately using only the natural yeasts. They then transfer the 1000 litre fermentation batch to the fermentation tanks and add a commercial yeast which is standard baking yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast pitching and variety are uniform for all of the currently released Rums thus far, including the High Ester long ferments. Robert has experimented with some 100% wild ferments but they have not yet made it to sale.

Dunder / Long Fermentation Batch (21 Day)

MHOBA do not use temperature control during fermentation as due to the small size of their batches, the critical mass has not yet been achieved in terms of the yeast activity raising the temperature of the ferments to a detrimental level. They have recently begun using 2000 litre fermentation’s in anticipation of their new 1000 litre pot stills which will be fired up over the next few weeks. These larger batches are getting significantly warmer than the 1000 litre batches. If the decision is made to step up from 2000 litre batches, cooling may well be required. All normal ferments last for between 7 to 10 days.

Dunder / Long Fermentation Batch

High Ester ferments are for a period of 21 days. The dunder in these High Ester batches is added when the cane juice is transferred to the fermentation tanks so the initial few hours of natural / wild fermentation is the same for all batches but once in the tanks, dunder is added before the commercial yeast.

Dunder / Long Fermentation Batch at the Halfway Point

Distillation

Robert has built several pot stills since starting to make rum, and he has never actually distilled anything in a still that he didn’t make himself. The lighter distillates created by Robert didn’t hold up too well to cask maturation initially and following his discovery of ‘Single Blended Rum’, but not having the required still types, Robert decided to blend heavy single pot distillates with lighter twin distilled high ABV Rums to mimic a single blended distillery output.

The Three Pot Stills

The pot stills in use at MHOBA have all been made from copper and stainless steel. Copper contact with the vapours and distillate during distillation is very important as it helps with removing sulphur containing compounds from the new make spirit. The pots, which hold and heat the fermented sugarcane batches are made from 316 stainless steel as this section of the still needs to be structurally strong to support the weight of the still and the batch of fermented sugarcane juice.

The Three Pot Stills

The pot portion of the still contains no copper as its influence submerged in the wash has almost non existent effect on the taste of the distillates that the still produces. The structural parts of the tall narrow upright necks of the stills are again fabricated from 316 stainless steel for it’s strength, ease of fabrication and resistance to corrosion.

Pot Still Temperature Display

Condenser Piping Arrangement

Within the outer stainless steel shell of the still necks is a lot of copper. The entire vapour path inside the still necks is packed with copper wool plates and pipes which they make themselves. There is significantly more copper contact in the vapour path in their stills than in a traditional copper alembic type still or even in a more modern copper bubble cap type pot still.

Condenser Assembly

Condenser Return Manifolds

Robert is a firm believer in “form follows function” and stainless steel is the natural choice for the structural components of a still as it is strong, chemically neutral in the process and is easy to cut, shape and join using conventional fabrication techniques. Copper required for its chemical influence on the distillate and it’s excellent heat transfer properties is machined to maximise its surface area and placed in the vapour path of the still where it is exposed to the rum distillate in vapour and liquid states.

Drilling Copper Spacer Plates

Drilled Copper Spacer Plates

As mentioned above and clarified with the images of the components being fabricated and assembled, there is more copper in contact with the MHOBA rum during distillation than most conventional copper stills but the copper in their stills is not visible once they are assembled.

Maturation

The Team

The maturation of MHOBA Rum occurs in a steel and galvanised sheet metal warehouse which allows the benefits of the hot humid South African climate to act upon the casks and the rum they contain. There is much talk internationally of tropical vs continental ageing in rum, MHOBA have something similar to Caribbean tropical ageing with heat and humidity except that their temperature variations are more extreme both daily and seasonally as they are not on a small island where temperatures are moderated by the surrounding ocean.

Barrel Warehouse

Robert expects to be able to accommodate around 1000 casks in their current warehouse and they will hopefully need to start building a second warehouse in the not too distant future. 

Barrel Racks

Although MHOBA are still extremely small and have only accumulated around 100 casks of which 20 are ex-American whisky casks with the remainder being European oak casks which are all ex-Cape red wine casks. Their casks are of various sizes between 200 litre Barrels and 500 litre Puncheons all of which are previously used casks and many of those are completely dismantled and refurbished by the team before being filled the rum. Their oldest cask aged rums are currently almost 2 years old. 

American Oak Ex South Africa Whisky Casks

As mentioned above, they have mostly French and American oak casks……and now one Hungarian oak barrel.

Refurbished Hungarian Oak Cask Containing MHOBA Rum

Some of the casks are left in the state they were from their previous use as they are used for secondary maturation (finishing) and other are completely dismantled and refurbished and re-toasted to get much more oak influence into the rum. When charring with hardwood coals, the cask is rotated about a foot at a time and then left for around 5 minutes before rolling another foot or so. Each cask is usually subject to 3 or 4 full rotations until desired char levels are achieved on the staves. The cask is then stood upright so that the coals char the inside of the cask head. The head that has been removed is toasted separately by using hot coals.

Barrel Charring with Hardwood Coals

Barrel Medium Toast with LPG Torch

Bottling

The bottling of MHOBA rum is very basic and entirely manual as is the rest of their rum-making process.

Hand Filled Bottling

Rums which are blended and or diluted to a specific ABV are blended in stainless steel vessels and the blend and ABV are adjusted to suit. The ABV is roughly checked using density based measurements via a Hydrometer or Digital Portable Density Meter until the blend is correct and the rum is then left to rest to allow as much sediment to precipitate and settle as possible.

Rums which are blended and / or bottled at a specific ABV are first blended in stainless steel and roughly proofed using a hydrometer

ABV Estimation Using a Density Measuring Device

The batch of rum is then filtered at ambient temperature using a stainless steel plate filter which removes the majority of solids in the batch from ageing and / or dilution and blending. The rum batch ABV is then finally adjusted and checked to be within the allowable tolerance of the stated ABV using a highly accurate alcolyzer system. The batch is then re-filtered using cotton wool plugs or filter paper and then stored in sealed glass demijohns before being poured in to the final bottles which have already been labelled.

Rum Filtering

The MHOBA cask strength rums and single batch white rums are not diluted or adjusted in any way and are bottled at the ABV at which they were maturing in cask or at the ABV at which they were distilled in the case of the Pot Stilled High Ester Rum. These rums are only filtered through a cotton wool plug before being bottled.

ABV is Finally Measured Using an Alcolyzer

Robert is unbelievably proud of the fact that so much of the final product that is produced is made by the team at the distillery. He personally designed nearly all of the labels and they print and engrave all of the labels at the distillery before applying them to the bottles.

Printing of Foil Labels is Done at the Distillery

The Premium aged rums are labelled with thin laminated bamboo which is laser engraved and cut by two laser engraving machines which run at the distillery.

Laser Engraving and Cutting of Bamboo Labels is done at the Distillery

These same rums are then packaged in individual boxes which are also cut and engraved by hand before assembling the pieces to form the final boxes.

Pure Sugarcane Happiness

MHOBA are currently producing 10 expressions. The original two of these rums are only for sale in South Africa and the remaining 8 are predominantly aimed at the export market but are also bottled in 750 ml and are available in South Africa.

Robert with the 8 expressions for export

Their rums vary greatly from light easy drinking, versatile multiple distillate, lower ABV rum right through to heavy, robust High Ester, dunder fermented rum which is bottled at distillation strengths of 60 to 70% ABV.

Export order for LMDW

Their aged rums vary considerably too with some aged only using American oak and another only in French oak casks.

Select Reserve Rums Before Being Sealed and Placed in Individual Bamboo Boxes

They are also now maturing rums which are not yet available in various other casks including Hungarian oak, once used “fresh” Bourbon casks and ex South African whisky and wine casks. The Whisky casks have been a mixture of ex-South African Grain Whisky and Malt Whisky casks, with the Malt Whisky casks having a peaty aroma. Something that I think will work very well with their distillates.

Hopefully this has been an informative read for you and my thanks goes to Robert for the time that he has spent recounting the details to me and the level of information which he has shared. There is a companion piece that will follow this article and within that I will cover each of the available MHOBA Rums that are available from LMDW.

*All images provided by Robert for use within this article have either been taken by Robert or by Sven at Phonix Capture

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Diablesse Caribbean Rum

New Rum brands are popping up everywhere…..and here is another…..but I have a little more knowledge about this one. Around two years ago I met brand owner Cleo Farman for lunch in South Manchester. She had contacted me as a result of a mutual friend suggesting that we discuss her ideas for bringing a new Rum blend to market. I had prepared a few of my own blends from my home stock for us to discuss at that initial meeting. There were a few real stand outs (for me) and a few were pretty ropey. Anyhow, we discussed distilleries and principles and the state of the industry from a consumer standpoint. As is often pointed out, we Rum Enthusiasts sometimes exist in an echo chamber whereby we are surrounded by similar views on what constitutes good Rum. My focus during discussions was on the formulation of an honest product, free from additives and nonsense. Cleo, who has previously owned multiple successful bars in Manchester happily agreed and listened as I rabbited on about the importance of not messing around with Rum. If you are doing it, do it justice. I sang the virtues of distilleries like Foursquare, Mount Gay, Worthy Park, Hampden and St Lucia Distillers and all of this information was absorbed. Things were going well and I was hopefully going to be more involved in the project but then due to personal issues (if you know, you know) in early May last year I had to back away and sort a few things out. Fortunately Cleo pursued the project and with the help of a few quality bar tending friends progressed with sourcing and trialing blends. Fast forward to early November 2018 and I met for lunch with Cleo again. In her hand she had the final blend. She also had a brand name and label images. In mid February I was able to purchase this creation from Master of Malt. I’d imagine this to be a pretty proud moment and reward for Cleo’s hard work….and financial outlay! Below is a little image that I took at the launch at Cottonopolis in Manchester…..one of the signature drinks is a quite awesome Roasted Banana Daiquiri. So we know that it plays very nicely in cocktails…..but what does it taste like?

Diablesse Caribbean Rum – 40% abv – Blended Rum

So here we have it. Diablesse Caribbean Rum. There is a marketing tale to accompany the Diablesse name but I’ll let you view the brand website for that. Presentation is in a nice heavy bottomed squat bottle….similar to the one that the excellent Woods has started using and from the wooden topped cork stopper to the label design and material its a pretty classy package. But its whats in the bottle that counts. This Rum is blend of three Rums. An 8-year-old Single Blended Rum from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, a 4-year-old Pure Single Rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 2 year old Traditional Rum from the Enmore Coffey Still at DDL in Guyana. Proportions wise, though not deadly accurate, we have roughly 45% Barbados, 35% Jamaica and 20% Guyana. Along with the sourcing of credible Rums for the blend is the little note on the label……Pure, Golden Rum free from added sugar and other adulteration…..It is this principle that I put so much emphasis on during our early discussions….and the fact that it made such an impact on Cleo that it has made it to the label is very satisfying on a personal level.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A beautiful candied aroma. The Worthy Park definitely rules the early exchanges. Tropical fruit punch. Trademark overripe banana. Molasses. This leads into a char-grilled pineapple. The maturity of the Foursquare component brings coconut shavings and a warming, well-integrated oak with just a hint of spice notes from the barrel. Cocoa powder and vanilla fudge. Beautifully light marshmallow.

Mouth: Very soft and gentle entry. Butterscotch Angel Delight. Freshly sliced tropical fruit accompanied by a gooseberry like sharpness. Relatively thin mouthfeel and a little alcohol bite….but a touch of youthful exuberance never did any harm. Mid palate brings spice bun and mashed banana with just a sip of black tea before warming, peppery oak and vanilla hits home. Subsequent visits reveal more of the interplay between the banana of the Worthy Park and the well-integrated oak and classic peach vapours of Foursquare. The moderate length finish is warm and spice led with banana bread, dried cranberries, pineapple cubes and a little black pepper.

3.5/5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 40% – 0 g/l additives*

Price wise this sits at the higher end of standard at £37. Like Neptune which is the last top quality new brand that came before it, it is an economy of scale thing. But like that Rum, as sales increase, pricing may change. I’ve definitely spent a lot more on a less honest and poorer quality product. This is no-nonsense tasty blend of two of my favourite distilleries plus a little Enmore column still to lighten things up. It’s clear that Cleo cares about the Rum given her emphasis on no additives. I’d buy another, and I reckon that you should pick one up too.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Blended Rum #1 – Jamaica

Back into another Boutique-y Rum Company release. This time it’s a blended Rum comprising entirely Jamaican components. You can read a little about another Boutique-y Rum release and a little about the company itself here. Now that has been said, let’s get into its ribs.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Blended Rum #1 – Jamaica – 55% abv

The bottle hints at the use of Dunder with its skull and crossbones and bubbling, festering pit hogging the label. We also get little in terms of information. Just that the blend is composed of Pot AND Column Rum from a mix of Jamaican distilleries. Digging a little deeper we can ascertain that the blend components were distilled at some point in 2008 and bottled in 2018 making the blend 9 years old. Requesting info from Peter Holland has revealed more information. The Pot Distilled components are from Long Pond, New Yarmouth, Clarendon (Monymusk) and the Secret Distillery from Lluidas Vale…..*cough* Worthy Park *cough*. The Column component is from Clarendon (Monymusk) too.

Long Pond has seen a fair few releases recently and sitting around 18 miles away from Hampden it is also located in the Trelawny Parish. It releases very vibrant and fruity Rums from my experience with some of the continental aged products that I’ve tried and a fair few batshit mental offerings if the NRJ Velier releases are anything to go by. The VRW and STC❤️E are beautifully drinkable expressions whereas the TECA and TECC releases are monsters. New Yarmouth is the home of J Wray & Nephew and we have been fortunate to see some amazing releases from the distillery via Compagnie des Indes….Ethyl Acetate is king in these bottlings. Clarendon, the home of Monymusk and Captain Morgan produces both Pot and Column distillates and is more of a large scale modern facility. Worthy Park you will know all about.

So as you’ll see, quite a varied blend and hopefully the results will be positive….but there’s only one way to find out.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Yup. Definitely Jamaican. Definitely Long Pond. That bright, almost candied tropical fruit is first on the nose. Guava, mango and papaya. There follows a huge hefty weight of ethyl acetate bringing forth Grilled Pineapple, varnish, pear drops and glue that can only be the New Yarmouth kicking the door in. Crisp notes of white wine. There is a beautifully solid vanilla, warming oak and banana loaf backbone to the blend. This carries those bright acidic and fruity top notes and allows them to play so well together. Time brings Kola Kubes, banana jam and a hint of eucalyptus. Glorious stuff

Mouth: Initial entry is beautifully sweet with a very heated follow-up. It’s quite spirity initially and does display some of its 55% abv. You soon acclimatise to this though. Very fruity. It’s reminiscent of a mixed tropical fruit jam. A beautiful interplay of Pineapple, Guava and fresh Papaya with just a squeeze of lime juice. The mid palate brings the weight of the oak into play and this begins to dry your mouth from the tongue back. Spiced oak and pepper in turn announce vanilla, salted caramel and a beautifully sticky molasses note. The finish is not particularly long, choosing to make a sharp exit. Grilled pineapple, fresh papaya and a hint of that beautifully enticing caramel right at the back-end with lingering peppery oak dead centre of your tongue.

4.5 / 5

For me, this one is all about the nose. It’s so nuanced and interesting. You get the feeling that you’re experiencing some great individual distillates. The palate whilst it never reaches the extreme highs of the nose is superb. I have enjoyed it neat, it makes a great Milk Punch, Rum Cow and the other week I made a most enjoyable Jungle Bird with it. 485 bottles of this blend have been released and I’m on my bottle number two. I may even pick up a third before it disappears from shelves. I suggest that you follow suit.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 55% – Measured abv 55% – 0 g/l additives*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Distillery #1 – Jamaica

That Boutique-y Rum Company follows hot on the heels of two other That Boutique-y entities…..their Whisky Company and Gin Company. I own a bottle of the Spit Roasted Pineapple Gin and also a couple of the Whisky bottlings….a lovely 11yr Aultmore and a killer peated 8yr expression from The English Whisky Company. I was clearly going to be very keen to pick up a few expressions from the rum range…..seemingly I ended up buying more than “a few”. But a little about the company first. The premise behind the company is to bring interesting expressions, not categorised by colour or ‘style’ to Rum Geeks, Adventurous Rookies and the Rum Curious. With the consultant at the helm being Peter Holland, they’ve certainly managed to bring a few interesting things to the market. So far I have picked up Blended Rum #1 – Jamaica (2 bottles), Diamond Distillery (Versailles Still) 13yr Old, O Reizinho 3yr Old from Madeira and this Secret Distillery #1 – Jamaica 9yr Old…..so let’s get into it.

That Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Distillery #1 – Jamaica – 58% abv – Pure Single Rum 

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room…..Secret Distillery. There’s only one distillery in a Jamaica that doesn’t permit independent bottlers to use the distillery name on the bottle….so we’re obviously dealing with a Worthy Park product. You can familiarise yourself with the work of the quite excellent Worthy Park here. No year of distillation on the bottle but an age of 9yrs coupled with a release in 2018 would lead me to see it as being from a 2009 distillation. Mine is bottle 378 of 426 and it has been bottled at 58%. Whether that is cask strength or reduced, I’m unsure….the upcoming Worthy Park 12 year Barrel Strength is noted as being 57% so I would say that it’s probably as close to cask strength as rounding down will allow. How many of its years have been spent in a tropical climate is unknown…but I’d hazard a guess at in excess of 5. I have queried the maturation locations and also the barrel marque so will hope to feed back. Although not noted, I’d also assume the ethos of the brand is no caramel colour and no chill filter. For future releases I’d like to see maturation location(s) listed similar to the Transcontinental and Excellence Rhum bottlings. Maybe an evolution of the rear label to include a little more info….or have it website listed. Anyhow….onwards.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Quite boozy initially. It shows its 58%. Time definitely aids this Rum as it definitely opens up. Certainly Worthy Park, but we don’t get the immediate up front banana in this. Instead it’s more spice led. Ginger juice. Spiced Fruit cake mix that has just been put into the loaf tin…think Raisins, Dried mixed peels and Molasses. This develops through a little of the Worthy Park stewed black tea and dialled down overripe banana to reveal a touch of Bakewell tart. Time brings a growing sweetness of cola pips, Perfumed oak and Wham Bars. Spiced barrel notes linger on the nose. Not completely your typical Worthy Park.

Mouth: Warming entry with a few sharp fruity notes. Gooseberries. Some fresh green apple. This is short-lived and soon develops into quite an oak led experience on the palate initially. Dry with plenty of black pepper. Vanilla. Spicy barrel notes and a hint of freshly picked pineapple mint. The mid palate is all tropical fruit. Banana, light Pineapple and Guava. This is accompanied by coconut shavings and molasses. Spice bun. Burnt sugar on Scottish shortbread. The long finish brings more of those spicy barrel notes and black pepper along with development of the frangipane element of a Bakewell tart. There is a development of sharp fruity white wine notes towards to back end…wait long enough and pleasant medicinal notes appear.

4 / 5

It’s a strange one to sum up. I enjoy this Rum, even though it’s not your typical Worthy Park expression….maybe I enjoy it because it’s not a typical Worthy Park expression. I enjoy a few other Worthy Parks a lot more though. But these are the fully tropically matured offerings such as the Habitation Veliers and the Estates own releases. All of the above aside, it’s a good, but different Worthy Park offering. It’s definitely a grower, and time is most certainly its friend. A very good example of multi location matured Worthy Park. Plenty to enjoy.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 58% – Measured abv 58% – 0 g/l additives*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ultimatum Worthy Park 10

Ultimatum Rums are released under the Little Distiller brand which is under the ownership of The Ultimate Whisky Company. Those companies are again under the ownership of spirits specialist van Wees from Amersfoort in the Netherlands. The Dutch company was founded by Han and Maurice van Wees in 1994 to allow them to buy, bottle and sell Whisky. The Ultimate is their independent Whisky bottling brand, Ultimatum is their independent Rum bottling brand. They apply the same principles to their Rum bottlings as they do their Whisky bottlings…..Single Cask offerings…..No Colouring…..No Chill Filtration….Presented at 46%.

Worthy Park I have written about quite extensively and you can find a few of my articles here. Worthy Park Estate is located at the geographical centre of Jamaica in the Parish of St. Catherine which is in a valley known as Vale of Lluidas. Founded in 1670, the Worthy Park Estate has only ever been owned by three families. Commercial cultivation of sugarcane began in 1720 and has continued unabated to this day, and Rum production at Worthy Park has been recorded from as early as 1741, which makes it the oldest producer still in existence in Jamaica. Rum production at the facility ceased in the 1960’s and then some 40 years later, in 2004, a modern facility was created by Gordon Clarke. It opened in 2005 creating a multitude of marques. Upon their re-entry to the Rum market, the decision was made to begin selling bulk rum to brokers who would then sell to bottlers. This Ultimatum bottling is a result of a 2006 distillation. Production of all Worthy Park Rums takes place on their Forsyths Double Retort Pot Still.

Ultimatum Worthy Park 10 – 46% abv – Pure Single Rum

So, adhering to their principles, this 10-year-old Worthy Park, distilled in March 2006 and bottled in September 2016 has not been chill filtered, has no caramel colour added, and is completely free of nasties. A single cask offering (cask #19), 263 bottles were yielded at 46% abv. It cost me somewhere around 35 – 40 euros.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A warming and quite ‘bready’ nose. Bread and butter pudding. Quite a pleasant bright fruitiness to the early exchanges. Almost a touch of acetone. Could this be high-end WPL or low-end WPM? Not as banana forward as other offerings. It plays off some well-integrated oak with warm banana bread and molasses. The bright fruit notes are maybe some crisp apple and there is definitely a sharpness and a suggestion of gooseberries. The banana bread becomes quite malty and is accompanied by stewed strong black tea notes. Sugar on warm porridge and the hint of candyfloss.

Mouth: Quite a warming and peppery entry initially. This soon abates an brings the sweetness of banana bread that has just started to burn. A smidgen of treacle. Malt loaf and butter. The promise of the nose doesn’t fully translate to the palate though. Quite a weak mid-palate with light grain whisky sweetness (that’ll be the candfloss) and light oak with a whiff of smoke. The short to medium length finish is a little underwhelming with the sweetness of molasses and mashed overripe banana that rides through the oak into quite a dominant grain whisky quality. You’re left with the memory of bonfire toffee and a light medicinal note.

There are so many good examples of Worthy Park Rums on the market. This is competitively priced and has not been tampered with, for that it should be applauded. But although pleasant, there are better offerings out there. It never quite hits the mark of few of the independent 2005 releases and comes nowhere close to their own tropically aged releases. But nevertheless, if you don’t want to spend a fortune and you want to buy and appreciate a solid Rum at an accessible price, this could be just what you’re after.

3.5 / 5

 

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.