Rummieclub Overproof Rum


A newcomer to the crowded marketplace has been the recently opened Rummieclub, which is Amsterdam’s newly opened rum distillery. The Rummieclub distillery is the brainchild of two people, Judith de Bie and Martijn Gerrits.

I first met Judith at the UK Rumfest in 2019 and I have been waiting eagerly for their first bottling…..but it wasn’t that easy to get to that point.

Their decision to start a rum distillery around four years ago led to one major event……it meant that they had to sell their home and move to the Bijlmer. Judith gave up her job at the City of Amsterdam and started working part-time to research all things Rum to make the dream a reality. After a few locations didn’t work out, they found a building in the east side of Amsterdam in Diemen. They decided to start a crowdfunding campaign, selling their first rum bottles to close the small financial gap that enabled them to buy their equipment. As the rental agreement had already been signed, they were obviously elated that the crowdfunding was successful. Then the wait started, the build process had a lot of delays and took far longer than anticipated. Almost a year later , and with their living room full of equipment and barrels they finally got the keys in December 2019.

Since then they have been distilling non-stop, filling barrels, honing their skills, experimenting with differing yeast strains, including some that have been homegrown.

Their website has a wealth of information and can be found here.

It includes crazy levels of detail for the processes behind their products….some of which I will utilise below.

As small and honest rum producers, Rummieclub want to be open about their production process. The rum category is one where the rules and processes differ by region and brand. Because of this, rum can be very diverse. This diversity has a downside, as a customer you don’t always know what you are buying. Rummieclub would like to be known as one of the producers that gives all the pieces of the puzzle about their rum production so that you are fully aware of what you are buying. All of this brings us onto one of their inaugural releases…..Rummieclub Overproof.

Rummieclub Overproof – 58% abv – 0g/l additives


Just look at that label! It has no bearing on the bottle contents but I am very impressed by its vibrancy.

Rummieclub Overproof undergoes an non temperature controlled 10 day fermentation in an open topped vessel. The organic molasses sourced from Paraguay was slowly added to the ferment over several days. Commercial yeast (Saccharomyces Cervisiae) was used for this initial batch. The resultant +/-8% abv wash is then distilled to 85% abv in their 500 litre Istill. An Istill affords Rummieclub a lot of control to make all of the choices that they want to make, and it can produce an array of differing distillates. It has a stainless steel boiler with a direct heater in the boiler. Rummieclub use copper waffles to extract some undesired compounds. On top of the boiler there is a packed column with a robot that opens and closes thecolumn as thay desire. It has numerous temperature probes and different valves for the heads, hearts and tails cuts, which they make based on temperature and taste. They chose this apparatus because it’s energy efficient and gives them the control and options that they were looking for.

Following distillation, the Rum is reduced using water that has been through a reverse osmosis filter to 58%. From here it has a resting period of around two months. 130 bottles of the Overproof were produced for Batch #1 and I am bottle #69 (Dudes!). Each release will see a different local street artist design the label utilising the Rummieclub colours. The label for this release was designed by Munir de Vries and it represents his vision of animals getting drunk on overripe fruits.

Just ahead of my notes, I wanted to give a little information on the level of experimentation going on at Rummieclub…..As mentioned earlier, they are experimenting with homegrown yeast and the next batch of Overproof will utilise their own yeast taken from raspberries. I asked if this would bring differing fruity notes or whether it was all about how the yeast does its job. Apparently the raspberry yeast gives an almost rotten fruit or papaya flavour. The homegrown yeast works differently to commercial dry yeast and gives different results, they are also a lot less consistent with occasionally way lower yields. Experimentation is also taking place with yeast from blueberries and mint from the garden, but the raspberry yeast is giving the best results so far. There is also a desire to experiment with dunder in the next Overproof.

With all of that said, what is it like?


Tasting Notes

Nose: Initially a light fruity vapour driven nose which warps into warm, buttered malt loaf and malted milk biscuits. Its also leaning on the creamy, almost yoghurt-y side. As it develops it becomes fruity with the sharpness of cranberries and there merest hint of caramelised pineapple. Spice, pepper and ginger grows as does the aroma of warm, almost melting plastic.

Mouth: The palate is spice led during the early exchanges with lots of black pepper and ginger juice which seem to morph into raisins, which brings some sweetness. It has one hell of a mouthfeel, very oily and chewy due to the lack of chill filtration. Molasses shows up and brings a beautiful sweet and bitter interplay that just sings. Burning car tires and warming molasses round things out with a hint of salty liquorice at the back end and maybe the merest hint of Horlicks and Maltesers.

In conclusion: Amazing to think that this is their first release such is the quality of the Rum. Its not just towing the line of the glut of unaged output from new distilleries of late. They’re not messing around. It has a unique profile that shows how they want to pursue their own direction….and their level of experimentation has me really excited to see what they can do moving forwards. I for one cannot wait to see what comes next from their unaged output, let alone their aged stuff. Makes a tasty daiquiri too. Outstanding effort!

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

The UK Rum Club x SBS Release

As a few readers may be aware, I am one of the Founders and Admins of The UK Rum Club which is a Facebook Group with around 2600 members. We focus on pure rums over spiced, flavoured or doctored products

Along with our first release due out in the next month or so which is a Chairman’s Reserve bottling in conjunction with Royal Mile Whiskies, we have recently announced a collaboration with S.B.S Single Barrel Selection

An important announcement was made on the Facebook Group and a small extract is contained below:

We are extremely happy announce that in collaboration with S.B.S and Skylark Spirits, The UK Rum Club will have a pre-Christmas charity release!

With that in mind, to allow members of The UK Rum Club to experience the wilder and geekier side of Jamaican Rum and to expand their horizons, the collaboration with S.B.S has come to fruition

We are releasing the SBS x The UK Rum Club High Ester Jamaican Rum collection of 4 200ml bottles and whats more, your purchase will benefit charity

The pack will contain 4 individual 200ml bottles, each containing high ester Rum from a different Jamaican distillery.

They will be unaged and will all be bottled at 57% abv.

You will have the chance to experience:

Worthy Park – WPE – ester level of 600-800 g/hlaa

Hampden – DOK – ester level of 1500-1600 g/hlaa

Long Pond – STC^E – ester level of 550-700 g/hlaa

New Yarmouth – NYE-WK – ester level of 1500-1600 g/hlaa

Each pack of 4 bottles will be in its own presentation box and will be a limited run of 125 units priced at £99.99 plus postage

What is perhaps most important though is that 10% of each box, thats £10 of your purchase, will be split between two charities that are in need of funding, and that have a direct connection to Steven (Rum Diaries Blog) and Wes (The Fat Rum Pirate)

The charity that we here at Rum Diaries Blog has chosen is MyAware – Fighting Myasthenia Together

The charity that Wes over at The Fat Rum Pirate has chosen is CHUF – Childrens Heart Unit Foundation

Click the link to join the UK Rum Club, to read why we have chosen these charities and if you would like to, sign up to purchase a pack and help charity in the process The UK Rum Club Facebook group link

Your support really would be appreciated

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

AuRhum “Infinity” Jamaican Rum

This is another offering from those crazy Danes at AuRhum and this release is definitely a crazy one. But first, a little information.

AuRhum is a company comprising three Rum enthusiasts, Alexander Vincit, Lindy Andersen and Tommy Andersen. These three enthusiasts have known each other for a good many years and they share a passion for their Rum ‘hobby’. But why decide to become independent bottlers in a market that is becoming saturated? Varying degrees of quality and varying degrees of honesty within the existing marketplace are two reasons. The raison d’etre for these three enthusiasts is that they believe that the consumer deserves an honest approach and a good experience when they purchase a bottle. As a result their key rules are based around zero additives and zero sugar. They want the experience to be authentic, honest and more importantly, affordable without having to spend upwards of £100 on a bottle. With all of this in mind, AuRhum aim to create a range of bottlings that are either unique or that enable rarely seen distillates to be enjoyed. As if their lofty, but sensible goals weren’t enough, as both Alexander and Lindy work in the armed forces they want to assist and support both current and former colleagues who perhaps have not shared their luck. They insist that 5% of the company profits must be donated to a Veteran Charity in Denmark.

The aged “Purity” release was reviewed a short while ago and can be found here. Now that you’re back, its time to keep things short and sweet as I’m quite excited about this one.

AuRhum “Infinity” Jamaican Rum – 63% abv – 0g/l additives

The chaps at AuRhum have gone back to Jamaica for this release, and more specifically back to Worthy Park. They have kept things very simple. Distilled from estate molasses on the wonderful Forsyths double retort pot still, this distillate which bears the marque WPE possesses an ester level of up to 800 gr/laa. That’s a very high ester level in most locations, its definitely very high ester by Worthy Park standards but in Jamaica as a whole its sitting just above the middle of the range. But ethyl acetate content isn’t all that should be considered when looking at Jamaican Rum, or Rum in general. Also keep in mind that Worthy Park are doing all of this without the use of muck or dunder in their processes. You can read a little more about those processes here.

Presented at a full bore 63% abv, completely devoid of additives, chill filtration, sugar and also possessing no age whatsoever, this should be a no holds barred ride into some of Worthy Parks highest ester distillate. This is one of just 57 bottles from Batch #1.

Tasting Notes

Nose: This is a BIG one……it makes the entire house smell amazing. Huge acetone notes fill the air on initial pour…..but there’s something really comforting about it. It’s full of bright and punchy pineapple notes. Plenty of sweetness riding a wave of liquorice and that aroma that you only get when fresh pot distillate hits your hands straight from the storage tank tap and starts to warm up. That intoxicating mixture of molasses and acetone. It feels creamy with notes of natural yoghurt. Time allows you to push through into some light mashed banana and candied sweetness sitting atop pear drops, pineapple cubes and aniseed balls. The top notes are lightly floral but always have the undercurrent of brooding molasses depth. The warmth and feeling of standing next to a still in the Caribbean accompanied by liquorice, alcohol vapours and those mildly sour notes. The further you dig the more you feel something salty and savoury grow with black olives and maybe a hint of light soy sauce.

Mouth: A hot one to start with that tosses aside some initial sweetness to dish up a lot of spice. Aniseed, ginger juice, cumin black pepper and liquorice root powder. Green olive tapenade and a hint of flaked sea salt. It’s big and oily on the palate displaying amazing persistence and the ability of some of the finest negotiators to hammer its point home at all costs. The alcohol alarmingly doesn’t feel too much at 63%. There’s a mellowing of the distillate on the mid palate but the persistence remains, releasing a wave of fruity sweetness resplendent with pineapple, guava and banana skins and the liquorice midget gems that are so rarely found these days. Molasses returns on the finish with a vengeance and it carries with it a real salty coastal vibe. Green olive and salted lemon peel but with a touch of powdered sugar. It has quite a lengthy finish but it doesn’t give any more than the earlier experiences….rather it just allows them to fade, but when it has that sweet salty interplay down to a tee why does it need to.

In conclusion: Think of this as more of a transportation vessel than a Rum….I completed my notes in the garden listening to Slam FM from Bridgetown followed by Zip FM from Kingston and the aromas and tastes accompanied by the 31 degree heat put me right in the middle of a distillery with those beautiful molasses, liquorice and sour notes backed up with intense warmth. As with a lot of these Rums the nose is by far the winner when it comes to straight tasting but that’s to take nothing away from the quality of the distillate which is exemplary. I’ve paired it with tropical soda, coke and even tonic….it also works very well in small quantities in a banana old fashioned. Lovely stuff and well chosen by the chaps at AuRhum.

Man I LOVE Worthy Park.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

AuRhum “Purity” Jamaican Rum

Today I have a familiar Rum but from an unfamiliar independent bottler. The familiar Rum was distilled in St. Catherine (so we know where its origins lie) and the unfamiliar bottler is AuRhum….who hail from Denmark. Before we dig into the bottle information it may be prudent to set the scene of who AuRhum actually are and why they choose to do what they do.

AuRhum is a company comprising three Rum enthusiasts, Alexander Vincit, Lindy Andersen and Tommy Andersen. These three enthusiasts have known each other for a good many years and they share a passion for their Rum ‘hobby’. But why decide to become independent bottlers in a market that is becoming saturated? Varying degrees of quality and varying degrees of honesty within the existing marketplace are two reasons. The raison d’etre for these three enthusiasts is that they believe that the consumer deserves an honest approach and a good experience when they purchase a bottle. As a result their key rules are based around zero additives and zero sugar. They want the experience to be authentic, honest and more importantly, affordable without having to spend upwards of £100 on a bottle. With all of this in mind, AuRhum aim to create a range of bottlings that are either unique or that enable rarely seen distillates to be enjoyed. As if their lofty, but sensible goals weren’t enough, as both Alexander and Lindy work in the armed forces they want to assist and support both current and former colleagues who perhaps have not shared their luck. They insist that 5% of the company profits must be donated to a Veteran Charity in Denmark.

Pretty admirable stuff. But we need to shift focus to the bottle that is being assessed today….AuRhum “Purity” Jamaican Rum

AuRhum “Purity” Jamaican Rum – 57% abv – 0g/l additives

As mentioned at the beginning, we gain most of the information that we need from the bottle, with the remaining questions being asked directly. Distilled in St. Catherine, Jamaica can only mean one thing, and that is distillation at the mighty Worthy Park on their Forsyths double retort pot still. You can gain a wealth of information about the distillery and its products by clicking here. The marque information is unavailable but generally the most commonly available aged marque is WPL (Worthy Park Light – 60-119 gr/laa) although that is not confirmed. Distilled in late 2013 / early 2014, the Rum was matured for 4 years at the distillery in ex-bourbon barrels prior to being shipped to Denmark in early 2018 for a further 1 year ‘finish’ in ex-Port casks. It was bottled for AuRhum in early 2019 and is a release of 360 bottles, mine being hand numbered as 148 and it is presented at 57% abv with No Sugar, No Additives and No Chill Filtration. It is available for the equivalent of around £82 plus postage. If awards are your thing, it picked up a Gold at the 2019 Nordic Rum Fest.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nice and punchy. Its apparent youth and associated alcohol are quite forceful initially. Fortunately they don’t stick around and dissipate rather quickly after a few minutes in the glass. Immediately it reveals the now trademark signatures of a Worthy Park offering….Big solid notes of strong, stewed black tea. This is elevated and carried on a mushy overripe banana sweetness that throws mashed up mango into the mix, with spice bun and sweet coconut milk rice. Warm blackcurrant jelly that has been recently poured over trifle sponges and is waiting to set. Heavy berry and fortified wine notes themselves bring dark chocolate, raisins, prune juice and a developing spiced characteristic. This spice driven facet to the nose is initially quite peppery with cinnamon, fiery fresh ginger and a hint of cumin. As the Rum develops in the glass, and it really does develop over time, more of that sweet rice and coconut milk begins to usher in a creamy characteristic and the once stewed black tea morphs into a more mellow and milky spiced chai offering. The merest hint of window putty makes itself known.

Mouth: Plenty of heat on the first couple of visits. The relative youth of the rum coupled with its 57% abv means that it’s one that needs a little acclimatisation. As your palate becomes accustomed to the heat, a sharply sweet and hot spiced note are the order of the day with fiery crystallised ginger and pepper balancing well with a bag of dried cranberries. Almost immediately it feels like the rum is starting to dry out but rather confusingly as soon as this feeling has washed over the tip of your tongue, a real saliva inducing sweetness bathes the sides of your mouth with tart and sweet red and black currants and a hint of gooseberry which, given the vast quantity of other Worthy Park bottlings that I’ve consumed, must be as a result of the port cask. Continuity is there from nose to mid palate with the familiar overripe banana and black tea mixing with the creamier coconut rice, vanilla rice pudding and milky chai. There’s a slice of sour cherry pie leading into the finish that does possess some real length and is heavily spiced with ginger, black pepper and a touch of ginger cake. A little dark chocolate bitterness wrapped up with tart berries and sweeter prunes ushers in a return of a spicy red wine characteristic. Maybe some raisins and a touch of soft liquorice. It becomes a little bit ‘cigar ash’ at the back end as the fruit dissipates and you do begin to feel more cask influence growing.

In Conclusion: It’s quite young, and it shows in both the heated nature of the distillate and its delivery which can feel a little like an excited puppy dog clamouring for your attention. It’s also a fiery proposition, and one where the alcohol carries some real influence throughout and as a result the transitions can feel a little jumpy, but the overarching factor remains that the base spirit is a very solid one. The finishing period in port casks has definitely added something worthwhile to the Rum rather than detracting from it. For me it certainly is an enjoyable Rum, and like that excited puppy, I’ve grown quite fond of it. More than worth a purchase.

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies

As its name would suggest, Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies is an exclusive bottling of Chairman’s Reserve for Royal Mile Whiskies. A large amount of releases appeared on the market towards the back end of 2019 and the early part of 2020. I own quite a few and so far I have only reviewed the Whisky Exchange bottling and that review can be found here. Again, as before, I will endeavor to put some distillery information prior to looking at the Rum in question.

Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are the South Eastern, generally larger Islands of the Lesser Antilles within the West Indies. They are comprised of Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada. I have sadly never visited, but I am more than aware of the Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic spires, Gross Piton and Petit Piton that grace the Chairman’s Reserve labels.

St Lucia Distillers emerged from a long tradition of on site, rustic rum production that was a common feature of the West Indies sugar plantations. The molasses (a by-product of the sugar industry) was fermented and distilled into Rum which was always in high demand, despite the fluctuations in the economy of the West Indian plantations. By the late 1950’s, only two distilleries remained on Saint Lucia. One in Dennery on the East coast, established in 1931 which was the site of the Barnard family plantation and the other in the Roseau valley which was owned and operated by Geest, a Dutch banana company. The St Lucia Distillers Group was formed in 1972 when due to the rise in European sugar beet, sugar production on Saint Lucia ended forcing the Barnard family to enter into a joint venture with the Geest owned Distillery moving their operations from the Dennery Distillery to the Roseau Bay Distillery in the Roseau Valley. This is the current location of St Lucia Distillers. In 1992, the Barnard family, who had been planters and Rum distillers for over a century, purchased the Geest shares. In 1997, the Barnard family sold some of their shares to Angostura Ltd before in 2005 selling their remaining shares to Clico Barbados Holdings with third generation rum maker Laurie Barnard staying on as Managing Director. In 2012 Laurie Barnard passed away and in 2013, Mrs Margaret Monplaisir was appointed his replacement. In early 2016, Martinique-based “Groupe Bernard Hayot” (GBH) acquired Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies (SLD) for an undisclosed sum.

Since its inception in 1972, St Lucia Distillers have grown from producers of single label mass market Rum to producers of well-regarded Rums and Rum based products. Not surprising given their capabilities. Distillation at St Lucia Distillers takes place on one of their 4 stills…..1 continuous and 3 batch.

Their continuous distillation process is supported by their Coffey Still , a two column (continuous) which was commissioned in 1985.

Their batch distillation is supported by three stills.

John Dore 1 – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998.

John Dore 2 – This pot still distills only molasses Rum, has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004.

Vendome – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003.

With that said, lets dig in.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to Royal Mile Whiskies – 56% abv – 0g/l additives

Distilled pre-August 2006, this Rum is 100% Vendome distillate from the 2000 litre capacity Vendome Pot Still. It was matured in ex bourbon barrels for a full minimum period of 13 years at the distillery in St Lucia before bottling at 56% abv on 16th August 2019. It is without additives and the outturn was 286 bottles with the one being assessed today being number 043.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Big. Punchy. Sharp. Medicinal rules the early exchanges here and there’s no getting away from it…..(but why would you want to). I’m finishing up my tasting notes outside on a sunny afternoon, this glass is on the table three feet away from me and it’s STILL all that I can smell. It very vibrant and the air resonates with bright, stinging acetone. Fruity acidity. Sticking plasters. Menthol. Pine air freshener. The smell from your car tires when you’ve just come to a sudden halt, complete with accompanying 5ft skid mark left on the road and the aroma of someone melting plastic in the distance. A weird whiff of soapy water passes quite quickly fortunately and as we move past the medicinal qualities the nose begins to adopt far fruitier characteristics. Cherry stones. Freshly cut pineapple that’s perhaps been left a bit too long and is fermenting a little. A hint of warm, soft banana. Mixed nuts and raisins and the sharpness of cranberry sauce. Flamed Orange oils. There’s also plenty of brine and salty kalamata olives. It also begins to show its maturity with the damp, woody notes, tobacco, turmeric root and spice that form a canvas for the medicinal and fruity notes to sit atop.

Mouth: Huge, oily mouthfeel on entry. This is a dry, tannic affair initially with a lot of sharp notes. Not as much heat as anticipated. It’s also a little bit ‘hoppy’. Yes there is acidity there but it’s not too distracting or off balance though the balsamic and fruit vinegar notes do creep in and make a beeline for your salivary glands. Antiseptic. Herbal. Eucalyptus. Creosote on a summers day. Fountain pen ink. Brine. Olives. Pink peppercorns. Fruit then comes strolling through the door in the form of fermenting Pineapple. Star fruit. A little of that banana from the nose. Maybe a hint of candied citrus peels. Definitely thick cut Orange marmalade. Honey. Rising bitterness on the mid palate brings forward the oak, barrel spices and promotes the saliva inducing moisture sapping influence on your tongue. The finish, which possesses some real length is led by antiseptic, eucalyptus, caramelised sugar, Lion Ointment before the oak brings crystallised ginger, growing spice and herbal notes. You’re left with an interplay of set honey and eucalyptus for a good while after you’ve taken your last sip. Muscavado sugar aromas sit with in the empty glass.

In Conclusion: Where the the Whisky Exchange release displayed the art of blending two similar, yet different heavy pot distillates, this Royal Mike Whiskies release is a balls out, take me as I am single still expression that doesn’t care for delicate floral nuances or popularity contests. It’s pure, unabashed medicinal glory brings with it a solid development from nose to palate and heaps of fruit and honey. When you push past the initial notes you’ll uncover a rum that plays sweet off perfectly against dry and they both bring the fight to the creeping sharpness. It’s very good.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange

The Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange (to give it its full and complete title) is one of a deluge of new releases that we have seen from St Lucia Distillers under their Chairman’s Reserve label recently. With a bit of a dry spell for new releases from the distillery being well and truly ended as like the proverbial buses, you wait ages for one…..so and and so forth. Not that there will be any complaints from me…for once. Before we get into this Rum, a little history about the distillery.

Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are the South Eastern, generally larger Islands of the Lesser Antilles within the West Indies. They are comprised of Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada. I have sadly never visited, but I am more than aware of the Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic spires, Gross Piton and Petit Piton that grace the Chairman’s Reserve labels.

St Lucia Distillers emerged from a long tradition of on site, rustic rum production that was a common feature of the West Indies sugar plantations. The molasses (a by-product of the sugar industry) was fermented and distilled into Rum which was always in high demand, despite the fluctuations in the economy of the West Indian plantations. By the late 1950’s, only two distilleries remained on Saint Lucia. One in Dennery on the East coast, established in 1931 which was the site of the Barnard family plantation and the other in the Roseau valley which was owned and operated by Geest, a Dutch banana company. The St Lucia Distillers Group was formed in 1972 when due to the rise in European sugar beet, sugar production on Saint Lucia ended forcing the Barnard family to enter into a joint venture with the Geest owned Distillery moving their operations from the Dennery Distillery to the Roseau Bay Distillery in the Roseau Valley. This is the current location of St Lucia Distillers. In 1992, the Barnard family, who had been planters and Rum distillers for over a century, purchased the Geest shares. In 1997, the Barnard family sold some of their shares to Angostura Ltd before in 2005 selling their remaining shares to Clico Barbados Holdings with third generation rum maker Laurie Barnard staying on as Managing Director. In 2012 Laurie Barnard passed away and in 2013, Mrs Margaret Monplaisir was appointed his replacement. In early 2016, Martinique-based “Groupe Bernard Hayot” (GBH) acquired Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies (SLD) for an undisclosed sum.

Since its inception in 1972, St Lucia Distillers have grown from producers of single label mass market Rum to producers of well-regarded Rums and Rum based products. Not surprising given their capabilities. Distillation at St Lucia Distillers takes place on one of their 4 stills…..1 continuous and 3 batch.

Continuous

Coffey Still – The two column (continuous) Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985.

Batch

John Dore 1 – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998.

John Dore 2 – This pot still distills only molasses Rum, has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004.

Vendome – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003.

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

I’m a big fan of a lot of the output from the distillery with a particular penchant for the Vendome and John Dore I stills, and there is far more information contained within this site as I have previously written quite extensively about the distillery. Information can be found by clicking here.

Right….lets get into the Rum in question…..the Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange – 56.3%abv


Distilled in pre-August 2006, this Rum is a 50 / 50 blend of batch distilled Rums. The first was distilled on the 2000 litre capacity Vendome Pot Still and the second was distilled on the 1500 litre capacity John Dore I Pot Still. Matured in ex bourbon barrels for a full minimum term of 13 years at the distillery in St Lucia, this Rum was bottled at 56.3% abv on 16th August 2019 is devoid of additives. Its great when there are no shenanigans. Only 286 bottles and this one is 264.

Tasting Notes

Nose: As expected, the nose on this blend of pot distillates is a big one. There’s so much billowing out of the glass. Quite sharp initially it also possesses some sweetness. The unmistakable qualities of both stills are fully on display here. Medicinal is the order of the day for the Vendome and more classic pot still notes are present for the John Dore I. Acetone is unmistakable and very prominent. Plenty of brine is accompanied by an acidic, almost balsamic note. Sticking plasters. Pine. Sweet menthol notes. Given time to breathe in the glass, you can push past the medicinal characteristics and this really opens up. There’s cherry stone aroma, similar to the one found in the new Mount Gay Pot Still release. This ushers in barrel influence with wet wood, vanilla and some growing spice characteristics….think black pepper, ginger, fennel seeds, candied hazelnuts and the unmistakable aroma of the cedar wood insert from a cigar tube. I want to say black tea too…..it kind of is and isn’t at the same time. A minerality follows this with wet pumice stone. There’s a sweet sugared almond or maybe a powdered sugar aroma that sticks with the back end and some warm sticky tropical fruit like papaya and guava jam show up. Molasses, Raisins, dates and maybe black walnut bitters. It becomes almost floral at the back end.

Mouth: Blimey. There it is. Big. Dry. Tannic. Very oily. Plenty of warmth to the entry but not as much heat as expected. It’s in possession of a big and oily mouthfeel and that starts bringing a fair bit of acidity which grows a little too much and becomes mildly distracting….fortunately only for a short while. It’s a little tangled and knotted based upon the first sip and you definitely need to acclimatise to separate the experience, but it starts to develop very nicely with the Vendome medicinal notes playing a role up front and dead centre. Herbal tablets. Antiseptic. Fiery ginger. Medicinal, verging on peat smoke…..more Ledaig than Caol Ila though as it’s carried on the drying wet spicy oak. It teases your mouth encouraging your salivary glands to work overtime with its dry pepper, sharp vinegar and citrus oil. This slowly guides you towards the John Dore I with its acetone, brine and salty coastal notes. The mid palate has plenty of weight and is barrel led initially with cocoa, ginger, and plenty of peppery heat. A touch more smoke, leather, cedar sap, pine and menthol. Milk chocolate coated ginger pieces…..think more fiery heat than sweet ginger. Maybe a hint of cigar tobacco. The back end brings chocolate coated honeycomb, caramelised peanuts and cashews. A touch of sweet syrupy black cherry and a heady mix of stewed rhubarb and ginger syrup. The finish is still going…..it’s a full reflection of the preceding experience. The herbal, acetone, brine, medicinal and sharp notes pull you through heat and spice into the fading sweetness of honeycomb, caramelised nuts, and strangely a hint of melon Jolly Rancher sweets. The barrel bursts in at the death with black pepper, fennel, a return of the minerality rounded out with sweet smoke and menthol.

In Conclusion: It’s a near spot on amalgamation of the more straight up (when compared to its bottle mate) pot still nose of the John Dore I with its acetone and brine and the more weighty medicinal nose of the Vendome. The balance achieved on both the nose and palate with these two big, vocal characters is very impressive and is testament to what they can do at St Lucia Distillers. It continues to develop and the transition from nose to palate is excellent. It’s no secret that my favourite still at St Lucia Distillers is the Vendome, second place goes to John Dore I…..it could’ve been a mess…but it isn’t. The John Dore I tempers the Vendome perfectly well and the abv is spot on. Now all we need are regular releases like this with more blend combinations…..I’d even like to see a John Dore I only bottling released here. It’s not without its flaws…..but it’s just so enjoyable. Well done St Lucia Distillers…..you listened…..and this Rum geek is very happy.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

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.