William George Rum

A few weeks ago at Manchester Rum Festival I got to meet a chap named Andrew Nicholls promoting a Rum. That Rum was called William George. I had been enjoying my bottle for a few months now so it was good to put a face to the brand. Andrew himself is one of the founders and oversaw the blending of the Rum. He started life as a bartender in January 2000 and only recently gave that up at the end of 2018. Andrew is the Netherlands Rum Educator for WSET and was the Benelux Representative for the ACR (Authentic Caribbean Rum) programme. On top of this he has gained awards for his bartending and bars, is part of the seminar selection committee for Tales of the Cocktail and is also on the judging panel for ‘Worlds 50 Best Bars’……His list of accolades is far more impressive than anything I can muster….though I do have a 25m swimming badge and a certificate marking my third place in the school ‘egg and spoon’ race in 1985.

There is also a story behind the Rum, so if you’ll indulge me I’ll recount it below.

William Simpson

Andrew created this blend to honour his two grandfathers…..can you guess their names? Yep….you got it…..William and George. William Simpson (above) and George Nicholls (below) were Grandfathers to the two founders of William George Rum….Andrew and Richard Nicholls.

George Nicholls

William moved from England to Zambia in 1938 and returned to England to serve in World war II….he then returned to Zambia after the war. George moved from England to Zimbabwe in 1956 after also serving in World War II. Both men developed a love of Africa and they would have been in Africa at the same time in 1956, though they were living in separate countries. This connection ties through to the imaging used on the labels. Housed in a tall and elegant bottle, the label is quite unique and detailled. William lived in Zambia and George lived in Zimbabwe. On the border between these two countries is Victoria Falls. The quill on the compass is pointing to 11 degrees west of magnetic North which in 1956 would have been true North when calculated from Victoria Falls. Further label details connect to the Rums namesakes with the font being taken from a 1964 Certificate of Baptism that George had signed as Godfather to his friends child. The handwritten element reflects the writing found in a letter that William sent to his wife (Andrew and Richards Grandmother) in the 1950’s and the wording you see reads ‘blissful happiness for decades of time’. This is what was written by William in the letter to Wendy. So there you go. Lets have a look at the bottle contents.

William George Rum – 43% abv – Blended Rum

It looks to be that the blend has been put together without any emphasis on age or origin, instead attempting to focus on the flavour profile and the core value of no additives. The information on the bottle tells us that the Rum has been blended in Amsterdam, so that will be at E&A Scheer. It is a blend of six Rums in total. Four Pot Still Jamaican Rums and two multi-column Trinidadian Rums. The Jamaican Pot Still components which make up 61% of the blend are all unaged. They are from Hampden, Worthy Park, New Yarmouth and Clarendon. The multi column Trinidadian components which account for 39% of the blend are obviously from Angostura. One of them is unaged and the other is a blend of 2 to 5 year old Rums matured in 200 litre ex-bourbon barrels which are then carbon filtered to remove colour. The ester range of the marques used within the blend ranges from 100 gr/hlaa to 900gr/hlaa with the total volatile count of the final blend being 317.1 gr/hlaa.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nice and oily in the glass with legs taking an age to form. There’s no doubting or avoiding the fact that this blend has a majority Jamaican pot still component within. Bright grassy cane notes. The merest hint of the familiar aroma of Uncle Wray. Molasses. Creamy. Tinned fruit cocktail and single cream. Candied sweetness of pineapple rings in juice. A good balance is struck as just when you get your nose lost in the unaged pot still, the lighter aged column notes lift to the surface and bring with them vanilla. Citrus oil and a little bright fruit sweetness linger almost permanently as you approach the glass and as the liquid heats up it morphs into warm banana fritters. A little ethyl acetate creeps in right at the back end. Plenty to enjoy here.

Mouth: Not as sweet an entry as the nose eluded to but it’s definitely as oily as the appearance led me to believe. Plenty of grip on the palate with a little heat. A hint of tinned strawberry soaked trifle sponge. It’s all pot still up front and very approachable….also massively enjoyable neat. Grassy vibrant cane plays alongside the merest hint of white pepper and the zip of citrus. Sugared almonds. A mixed bag of creamy Macadamia and Cashew nuts. Sweetened whipped cream and peaches round things out. Growing heat.

Not as entertaining on the palate as it is on the nose (maybe a lift to 46% would assist?) but that is not meant to do the palate a disservice….it wouldn’t usually see regular rotation neat for me but it has done since I opened it. Dare I say it that I’m also mentioning it in the same sentence as Veritas……which is quite frankly a superb Rum and is high praise indeed….though this does sit around £10 higher in price than Veritas. Its designed to mix well but also to display and retain its character….and it does. It makes a superb Daiquiri (I do enjoy prominent pot still in a daiquiri) and a very refreshing Rum and Tonic. Also…..I love a Banana Daiquiri, and with a more than 50% pot still component, this does a hell of a job. My bottle was picked up from the chaps at Skylark Spirits on their Amazon Store.

© 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.

Advertisements

MHOBA Rum – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum – Part 2

Time for Part 2 in the series of MHOBA Rum reviews but the third part in the full MHOBA series of articles. You can pick up on Part 1 of the reviews here and also read a lot more into MHOBA and the inner workings of what they do here.

You can clearly see in those two articles how much effort goes into the production of the output MHOBA and how much care is taken to prepare the casks for the maturation of MHOBA Rum. This article will feature three of the four matured Rums in the line up. These are:

MHOBA Strand 101

MHOBA American Oak Aged

MHOBA French Oak Cask

*There is another release, the Glass Cask which will be included here once I have completed my notes*

Let’s get right into them.

MHOBA Strand’s 101 – 58% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Now called Strand 101 for its LMDW release, it remains however inspired by its namesake…the “Crazy Dane” Knud Strand. Knud has a history of working with large brands from Bacardi to Cachaça Novo Fogo and this bottling, like quite a lot of MHOBA ideas was a happy accident. Following an extensive sample tasting process Knud found himself with samples of the first run of the High Ester and the super woody 2 year Glass Cask Aged. He mixed the two together to hopefully balance the in your face funk of the High Ester and super woody profile of the glass cask. During a few tasting and presentation sessions Knud found that the blend proved to be popular. The desire was to have the product as an homage to some of Knud’s favourite products. The 101 to reflect his enjoyment of Wild a Turkey 101….Knud expected a direct proof to abv halving as per the US system but true to Roberts heritage, Imperial Proof was what we got. The Blue and Gold of the label reflects Knud’s love of Smith & Cross. But what is the liquid like.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright vibrant cane. Very pungent. Acetone. Varnish. Earthy root vegetables. Menthol. Herbal and perfumed. A hint of oak influence excerpts itself with a whiff of smoke. A lot of fermented fruit and wild strawberries carry through on the nose. It remains astringent and pungent with crisp green apples. It’s almost the best of both worlds. Vibrant youth and more balanced age.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet and oily entry accompanied by a lot of heat. The bite of a youthful spirit rules the early exchanges with fresh sugarcane, fermenting tropical fruit and cider. A lot of funk. On the mid palate the aged component begins to envelop your tongue and becomes quite tannic, drying out your palate. This leaves a medium length finish that develops from tinned fruit with fresh cream through coffee, an oaken influence and then into a warming peppery finale. Good balance of youth and maturity.

Very very enjoyable Rum……and if you’ve met Knud, you’ll see how it reflects his character…..approachable, warm and a little bit crazy.

4 / 5

I attempted to pair it up with Smith & Cross in a Mai Tai but it destroyed the Jamaican in standard recipe proportions so it needed re-balancing. Once I’d done that, it made an unbelievable drink.

MHOBA American Oak Aged – 43% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Initially left to mature in large glass demijohns with wood fire charred and cut American oak staves, this Rum is then transferred to Ex South African Whisky casks for a second maturation period. It is then reduced and bottled.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Charred wood. Smoke. Caramel. Vanilla. Burnt wooden splints. Light sweet grain notes. Bonfire embers and powdered sugar. Warm fudge. Black pepper and pencil shavings.

Mouth: Heavy, drying oak. Damp cardboard. Grilled smoked meat. Warm charred timber…memories of woodwork classes at school. Butterscotch. The mid palate brings a slowly growing coffee influence. Dark chocolate. The charred embers of a fire on the beach. The dry and medium length finish is all dominant oak, light vanilla and powdered cocoa with lingering charred, smoked wood that grows increasingly bitter.

Not at the top of my list as far as the aged Rums go, but I do have a small cask sample of just the ex South African Whisky barrel matured and its a bit special.

3 / 5

MHOBA French Oak Cask Rum – 65% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

The French Oak Cask release sees a real step up in bottle presentation. It is housed within a hand constructed laser engraved bamboo box and the front and rear bottle labels are laser engraved bamboo. As you’ll note, this bottle was personalised and given to me at the UK Rumfest in October. Receiving it was a very humbling experience. The Select Reserve Rums are some of the Rums adjudged to be the most exceptional. In this instance the selected distillates have been matured for a minimum 12 month French Oak casks that previously held Cape Red Wine. These casks are brought in by MHOBA and are refurbished.

Barrel Charring with Hardwood Coals

The first eight French Oak casks obtained by Robert we’re stripped, ground and reassembled before toasting and sealing. Toasting would be via either the use of coals of an LPG torch. Each cask was filled over a two day period. First half filling with a single distillate Rum, Robert then sampled the cask blend the day after and make a decision on where to go next. Second distillate Rums are then added along with water for dilution reducing the abv to somewhere between 65 and 70%. Only when happy with the contents are the barrels sealed. The French Oak Cask reviewed here is taken from an equal blend of the best six casks from the initial eight. I do have an LMDW order bottle that has seen an additional six months in the barrel so I will update when that is opened.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose displays a lot of control for a 65% spirit. The oak is well integrated into the spirit but a perfumed and fragrant effect from the French oak is definitely present. A perfect balance of spiced notes from the barrel and classic, grassy sugarcane notes. Reminiscent of some truly wonderful aged agricoles. Bright acidic fruit, crisp apples. Growing tropical fruit….ripe mango. Guava jam. The oak is ever present but never overly dominant. Warming and spicy. Pencil shavings. Hints of red grapes and tart cranberries.

Mouth: Well balanced entry. Initially sweet, intensely so with a touch of powdered sugar and tropical fruit leathers. The freshness of the cane shines through. Intense moisture sapping dryness and huge amounts of grip on the mid palate from the French oak. There’s also a mineral quality. It remains soft though and never aggressive. Well balanced spice notes from the oak bounce off the vibrancy of the spirit to provide a fulfilling experience. The exceedingly long and intense finish sees sugarcane and tropical fruit mix with a huge oaken influence laden with spice, barrel charr and wet cardboard. Cranberry juice and succulent, crisp apples. A well balanced, fulfilling experience that will surprise a lot of people. Well crafted well executed rum.

Some producers have been working for years and have still not produced something as accomplished as this Rum.

4.5 / 5

I am fully aware that the Rums reviewed in this series will and may have moved on from these expressions. Different batches, harvests and more cask time are all components, welcome ones of being such a small producer and that fascinates me. It is also why I feel that MHOBA are so exciting as a producer, changing, developing and growing in both output and confidence all of the time. Robert has full autonomy over the distillates and therefore has the ability to experiment with fermentation methods, time, dunder, cane varieties and also with cask maturation enabling so many possibilities. Updates will be provided moving forwards.

© 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.

Flor de Caña 12 Centenario Slow Aged

Flor de Caña which translates as Sugarcane Flower from Spanish is a product from a distillery that traces its roots back in excess of 125 years.

In 1875, Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa, a young adventurer from Genoa, Italy traveled Nicaragua. He initially decided to operate a short and safe steam boat route through Nicaragua to transport passengers and goods from the East Coast of the US to the West Coast at the height of the California Gold Rush. This route was a success, but as news broke about the construction of the Panama Canal and the U.S. coast-to-coast railroad, Alfredo Francisco decided that it was time to change direction. In 1890, he located the setting for the Flor de Caña distillery at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua. The fertile soil of its surrounding lands, the water and the hot volcanic climate proved to be instrumental in forging the rum’s ethos. Since 1890 the sugarcane mill and distillery have been located in Chichigalpa, North West Nicaragua at the base of the San Cristóbal volcano.

The process continues under the supervision of the same family, 5 generations later. Through its history, the brand, the company and the family have survived a plane crash, dictatorships, civil war, nationalizations, hyperinflation, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It remains a family concern.

That’s the background marketing and tall tale out of the way…..now let’s get into the Rum.

It has to be noted that Flor de Caña have had huge issues with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) amongst its cane field employees and the press has not been good. The whole issue sounds appalling. Apparently steps have been taken and I’ve read about investment in hospitals and a further promotion and reach for Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade Certification. There are plenty of articles online covering the CKD issue and the remedial steps taken (hopefully as a result of the issue and not as a result of the impending release of the information at the time) therefore there is no need for me to shift focus away from the product review. It cannot however just be swept under the carpet.

Flor de Caña Centenario 12 Slow Aged – 40% abv – Modern Rum

Flor de Caña as a product was first distributed by Campañia Licorera de Nicaragua SA based in Managua in 1937. As a company they pride themselves on their sustainability via their renewable energy use, their volcanic soil, climate, water supply and the fact that they claim to not utilise post distillation additions. Speaking of distillation, it is entirely multi-column distillation. Not an immediate route to a product lacking aroma and flavour. Just see Don Q for proof that the flavourless argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but it is however an indicator of a lighter style of Rum. Maturation takes place in ex-bourbon barrels that are apparently ‘sealed with Nicaraguan plantain leaves’. With reference to the large meaningless number ’12’ on the bottle, and then the also vague ‘ Slow Aged’, I have varying and slightly conflicting information. They do not utilise a solera system, which cancels that theory out. I have seen it written that a brand representative had advised someone that ‘banana leaves are put in the barrel to promote slow ageing’. I assume this would possibly hark back to the statement above regarding plantain leaves and maybe that would promote less exchange through the barrel if it is lined with these leaves therefore slowing maturation. I have also recently seen information stating that the number is an ‘average’. The 7 Slow Aged would be a blend of 5 to 9 year Rum, the 12 Slow Aged here would be a blend of 10 to 14 year old Rum as apparently they don’t exceed 2 years either side of the stated number. Whichever theory is correct, if either are, it is a large prominent number designed to mislead next to a random phrase that is totally meaningless. It works for them though as websites list it as 12 Years Old and people talk about it as a 12 Year Old Rum….and the consumer loses out yet again. I’m not a fan of designed in, purposeful ambiguity and misleading numbers. We have neither a guaranteed minimum age nor an explanation for the number on this bottle. There is also a lack of explanation on the website. For a company that has been striving for accreditation for its processes and one that is keen to highlight that it doesn’t use additions, its a shame that it doesn’t apply as much effort to its label clarity. They are however clear to point out however that this is in their ‘Ultra Premium Collection’…..whatever that is.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Very light. A touch of up front alcohol…perhaps more youth than alcohol. It’s also carrying a little sharpness. Light floral notes and freshly cut apples and grapes. Sweetness creeps in with a hint of caramel pennies. Not much action from the barrel as far as wood influence is concerned. No depth to speak of.

Mouth: Very light and unassuming entry. Not a lot of body to it. Maybe an initial flavour reminiscent of rubber balloons……a hint of caramel follows with the merest whiff of milk chocolate. A suggestion of sugared almonds….it also carries their disappointment too. Mid palate shows a bit of barrel spice and the oak does start to cut in and provide a drying quality but the lack of body and mouthfeel means that it’s short lived in both the mouth and the memory. It’s very flat. What you are left with is a thin and watered down, mildly woody experience and a really apparent and unpleasant bitterness that just grows….like biting into an unseasoned, roasted, mini unripe gourd. The very short finish is a simplistic with light oak and a touch of brown sugar. The bitterness doesn’t want to leave either and it is the only facet of the oak that dominates, or even influences to a greater extent.

1.5 / 5

It was going to be 1 / 5, but it gained an extra half mark as it would’ve been so easy to try and manipulate this product with additions, but this measured clean and doesn’t taste doctored in any way. I usually like bitter flavours. I enjoy the extreme bitterness of Korola, I always choose good quality dark chocolate and I’m also a fan of the bitterness in old demeraras, but here its just unpleasant when coupled with the rest of the lacklustre experience. It’s instantly forgettable, insipid, thin, watery boredom bottled. Price wise it is £35 in the UK, and I can think of numerous bottles not as costly, some even utilising the same distillation method, that are so much better than this rum. The nonsense number also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That said, the ‘7 Slow Aged’ is much better than this.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 39.5% – 0-5 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.

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve

Released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of St Lucia’s Independence in 1979, the Ruby Reserve is only available on island and only 1979 bottles have been produced. Changing hands between the British and the French 14 times during the 17th & 18 Centuries, St. Lucia gained independence on the 22nd February 1979. More detailed information can be found with a visit here. I have been fortunate enough to get a small sample from a friend to use in this review, and use it I will. I have written quite extensively about St Lucia Distillers in these pages and a quick trip to the search box will uncover some detailed information on the distillery, their processes and their stills.

Image Copyright of Dave Marsland

I don’t want to waffle on more than I need to as we have some Rum to taste…..

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve – 46% abv – Single Blended Rum (though it contains both molasses and cane juice components)

The wonders of social media means that we have information from Michael Speakman of St Lucia Distillers about the exact components of the blend….and it as follows:

It is a blend of 49.5% column still and 50.5% pot still

Column Still components are:

21.5% is: Coffey Still – RR101 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 6-12 years

28% is: Coffey Still – RR104 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon – 6-12 years

Pot Still components are:

16% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

6.5% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex brandy barrels – 8-12 years

5.5% is: Vendome Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

21% is: John Dore I Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8 years

1.5% is: Vendome Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 7 years

Tasting Notes

 

Nose: Definitely instantly recognisable as a St Lucia Distillers Rum. That classic medicinal note from the John Dore I pot still is very prominent during the early exchanges. A hint of acetone and sticking plasters soon gives way to tobacco and a hint of barrel spice. There’s some real depth to the blend and an element of minerality to the nose. Time is shows a very rewarding experience. Light vanilla runs throughout with powdery cocoa and chocolate coated coconut pieces. Ever present astringency brings a beautiful Jamaican element to the Rum with caramelised pineapple, salty preserved lemons and citrus oil….there’s something about that classic sticky fruit, saline and citrus interplay that really elevates the Rum. Fresh star fruit, mango and guava juice. A hint of grassiness and a wine like note rides the growing oaken influence with a developing spiced and floral pink peppercorn before the well-integrated wood shows as freshly cut pipe tobacco culminating in walnuts and marshmallow sweetness.

Mouth: A dry and quite spicy entry to the Rum brings milk chocolate coated nuts and raisins. Mixed dried tropical fruit and citrus peels. A tannic wine note is certainly present along with stewed plums, prunes and baking apple with a touch of mincemeat (think Christmas mince pies). Syrupy oat flapjacks and caramelised bbq pineapple lead into a little bitterness. Maybe a touch of scrumpy. The mid palate carries a beautiful dryness from the oaken influence and brings cinnamon and nutmeg. More savoury spice notes of cumin and fennel seed rest in the background. There is also liquorice root, damp musty oak and wet cardboard. The finish which carries some length starts off with warm, spiced scrumpy. A light stone fruit bitterness leads into oak and jammy fruit with tobacco and a hint of spice rounding things out. The oak really hangs around and allows the medicinal notes from the nose to make a last-ditch come back with a touch of molasses.

This is a really solid Rum and as we’ve become used to with their 1931 Series and new Chairman’s Reserve 1931, the make up of the blend is really sound with every element playing its part. I prefer the nose to the palate on this one but it rewards time and provides plenty of interest.

4.5 / 5

I’m massively grateful to a friend for the sample. Sadly that has just made me crave a full bottle. Unfortunately as it’s only available on the island, the chances of me obtaining one are low. But if anyone can help me out, I’d be massively grateful.

 

© 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.

Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 64.8%

Kill Devil, as you will have seen on these pages before are an independent bottler of Rums hailing from Scotland from the stable of Hunter Laing. This is one of two bottlings , sister casks if you will, that have recently been released as exclusives through online retailer The Whisky Barrel. It’s quite a saturated market for Caroni releases as there are many independent bottlers piggybacking on the reputation gained from the tropically aged Velier releases that always sell out and always end up on auction sites. I seem to personally walk the line between loving certain releases and despising others. Even the releases that I like are only really enjoyed when the mood takes me. The legendary Caroni Distillery that closed in the early 2000’s has somewhat of a cult following. I have previously written about a mix of Tropically matured and European matured Rums from the Caroni Distillery and that information can be found herehere, here and here.

 

Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 64.8% abv

Distilled in December 1998 and seeing a full 20 years maturation, it was bottled in January 2019. Probably fully but at least partially matured at Main Rum in Liverpool, this would’ve used Estate molasses. Drawing from a single cask that yielded 214 bottles, this Rum has been bottled at its cask strength of 64.8% with no colouring or additives. It is currently still available on their website here and will set you back around £150. There is another release as mentioned above clocking in at 65% abv and that will be up on the site soon.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Needs a little time to stretch its legs. It’s not very revealing initially. Quite a tannic nose with some really heavy and spicy oak present. The tar and fuel like notes are present, definitely present, it’s Caroni after all…..but they are kept in check by what feels like huge oaken influence. This is a positive for me as I’m more of a fan of the oak and fruit led expressions. Butterscotch sweets, a candied fruit and burnt raisin creeps in with the vague hint of tropical fruit that gets beaten down by a touch of smoke and a hint of creosote riding the wave of oak. Time brings a lightly herbal quality with hints of root beer. A touch of acetone and wood varnish is accompanied by a menthol note. Water brings a creamy, almost dairy element to the nose and calms down the typical Caroni notes. It brings a hint of milk chocolate and sweetens up the oak.

Mouth: The full force of the oak really flexes it’s muscles on the initial entry. Very hot, very spice driven, extremely drying. There is a hint of sweetness present before the creosote kicks the door through. It’s heavy on the oil and lamp fuel with just a hint of tar. Respite comes in a developing interplay between fruit and bitter notes. Plum Sake and sticky dates….the sticky kind that we buy by the box here at Christmas but also big medjool dates stuffed with walnuts. The mid palate brings freshly cut ginger (and it’s juice) and more of that tannic oak spice. The merest hint of candied fruit, maybe pineapple, and a touch of clementine oil. Heavy on the eucalyptus and menthol with pine notes. Hints of pineapple mint. Water brings the sweeter elements forward and accentuates the walnuts and sticky dates. Makes the whole package more approachable as expected with chocolate coated raisins and it brightens up the oak making it a tad less dominant. The finish is long and remains very consistent with the mid palate. Fruit, oak, menthol and a hint of lamp fuel but an underlying sweetness.

4 / 5

It’s another good example of the type of Caroni that I enjoy. Fruity with dialled down tar, fuel and creosote which enables me to find what’s beneath the components that usually form a barrier to my enjoyment.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 64.8% – Measured abv 65% – 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.

El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage

I last wrote about El Dorado Rums a good few years ago. To summaries a little about the brand, I previously compiled this information:

“El Dorado rums are produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) at the Plantation Diamond Distillery. This lies on the east bank of the Demerara River, Demerara County, Guyana (which is on the north-eastern shoulder of South America). Sugar and Rum production has existed in Demerara County since the 17th Century. The big breakthrough came in the 1650’s when the British planters introduced the pivotal process of distilling. This proved to be so popular that by 1670, every sugar estate had a small still attached to it which meant that by the 1700’s there were well over 300 independent estates involved in producing their own unique rums in over 300 stills. Through time these estates and distilleries have been amalgamated to the point that the Plantation Diamond Distillery operated by DDL is the last remaining distillery in Guyana. Here they have retained the old marques, traditional skills and original stills which make Demerara Rum distinctive. With 9 different stills, there is no other rum distillery that can offer the range and variety that DDL can spread over 20 different styles of rum.”

With that said, maybe we have a look at this expensive bottling.

El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage – 43% abv

One thing to say from the off, is that the age statements on El Dorado bottlings are pretty much bullet proof. What you get with it is a minimum age….not aged up to. Looking to obtain blend component information I was struggling to unearth a complete list but a glance at the review of the 1988 release over at Lance’s site, The Lone Caner, gave a few of the components. The blend contains, amongst others, EHP from the Enmore Wooden Coffey Still, PM from the Port Mourant Double Wooden Pot Still and AN from the Albion French Savalle Still. There have been releases so far from 1980, 1986 and 1988 and so far as I know, these components have been present in all. Presentation is suitably flashy for something that will set you back around £435 in the UK as it is still available at Drinks Supermarket in its 1986 guise. Lets see if it warrants that price tag…..

Tasting Notes

Nose: Not as giving as I’d hoped. Initial aromas are of banana caramel and thick molasses. Walnuts. Iced coffee and walnut cake. With time a maceration of prunes, raisins and dates shows itself but you have to work hard. I’d expect maybe a hint of bitterness given its age and components, but not a hint of that PM anise is present. Maple syrup like aromas and a clear and obvious sweetening. It almost smells granulated if that’s possible. A hint of light floral notes with concentration but man this is dull.

Mouth: Very thick mouthfeel….sadly I feel that it’s not from craft. Quite oily….though it feels more ‘greasy’ as is its layering of your tongue. Vanilla. Melted Quality Street Caramel Pennies. Each sip clings to your mouth in a most alarming way. That coffee and walnut cake complete with coffee icing. Mild raisin like notes like a poor quality old PX sherry. A hint of citrus oil….maybe. None of the expected oak from its 25 years. None of that enjoyable tannic bitterness that I was craving. It’s just sweet….full of dead spots and is a huge disappointment. The finish which is short, is all vanilla, oily sweetness and sweet soft liquorice. A crying shame.

If this is Super Premium, you can keep it. I’ll take entry-level.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 43% – Measured abv 32.5% – 39.8 g/l additives*

0.5 / 5

Very often, myself included in the past, the Rum community have given an easier ride to El Dorado given the fact that they have such a collection of heritage stills at DDL. But one evening I contemplated this approach…..and I questioned myself. I’ve seen reasoning that this product is nowhere near as bad as a lot of products like Bumbu, Don Papa and the like and sure, it doesn’t taste as bad as those offerings. But ask yourself, is taking a poor distillate, filling it full of additions and then hawking it as ‘premium rum’ for £35 a bottle really worse than what’s happened here? Taking a blend of quality distillates from heritage stills and through whatever means, sweetening them to the point of removing so much character that you render it unrecognisable….and then selling it as a ‘super premium’ product for £435? I find both practices massively deceitful, and I find the latter very disrespectful. It’s such a shame as this could’ve, and should’ve been wonderful. Sadly, it’s a dull, uneventful mess.

Fortunately we have the El Dorado Rare Collection to fall back upon…….

© 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.