My interest and appreciation of the output from Mhoba should be apparent to anyone that has visited this site previously. I have a few multi bottling reviews (here and here)and one very large reference piece charting the origins of Mhoba Rum and it’s founder, Robert Greaves here. Robert is a man that I have a great deal of time and respect for. Not only does he produce great Rum, he’s also an extremely humble, open, honest and likeable man. So imagine my delight when I found out that another person that I also consider to be thoroughly decent was bottling a Mhoba product. That person is Eric Kaye and along with his partner in crime (and wife), Maura Gedid, they are independent bottlers Holmes Cay.
Holmes Cay have grown slowly but surely since my first encounter with Eric and their products back at Rumfest in 2019. Their mantra is “No Additives. No Adulteration. Just Rum”……and it is one that I fully support and can get on board with. Spanning Australia, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, Mauritius, South Africa and Trinidad, they’ve not been too shy to encourage exploration beyond the Caribbean. Sadly, they’re also unavailable here in the UK outside of Rum auction websites and that is a real shame.
How therefore have I come to acquire this bottling. That is all thanks to a coffee and a ham & cheese toastie at the Starbucks around the corner from Crewe railway station in October last year. Eric had been in Liverpool exploring the delights of the Main Rum warehouse and uncovering some new treats to bottle. Eric had kindly agreed to meet me in a stop off on his way down to London. I duly collected him from the station and we seconded to the sterile wasteland that is a Starbucks in a railway town on a weekday mid morning. I took some samples of quite coveted bottles for Eric to try and he kindly gave this bottle in return…..and a pretty cool hat too. I also got to try a couple of samples, straight from a plastic Starbucks cup, of some insanely good upcoming bottling’s. Even then, they shone through their dire, drab surroundings and provided a brief journey to another place, if only for a second.
So enough talk of trains, hats and sterile coffee shop environs, let’s move into the Rum.
Holmes Cay Mhoba 2017 4 Years Old – 59% abv – 0g/l additives
As the name would suggest, this is a Mhoba bottling distilled in 2017 and bottled in 2021. It was bottled at its barrel strength of 59% abv and drawn from an ex-South African Whisky barrel (number 49). The barrel was one of a batch obtained from the James Sedgewick Distillery in Wellington, South Africa. Sedgewick’s produce Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky which is a Grain Whisky (can be made from any grain including unmalted Barley, Wheat, Corn & Rye) and Three Ships which is a Single Malt Whisky (Malted Barley). That parcel of barrels contained both malt and grain whisky barrels, all barrels were old and therefore very well used, and Robert being Robert, he refurbished around 2 in 10 barrels by removing material and re-toasting. Due to the losses to evaporation (the temperatures are at Caribbean levels but with greater fluctuation of highs and lows) the casks were consolidated, therefore it is likely that any releases from the 2017 ex-South African Whisky barrels may have seen time in both ex-malt and ex-grain whisky barrels.
Nose: We often say that distilleries have a signature aroma, honed from their techniques crafted and perfected over a number of years, Robert has definitely achieved that in a short space of time with Mhoba. It’s like a unique blend of high ester Jamaican output, unaged agricole from the French West Indies, the heavier and massively appealing (to me) pot still side of cane juice and the glue-y output from Fiji. But that amalgamation is quintessentially Mhoba.
Vibrant, bright, ester laden sugarcane juice. Light acetone. Plastic. Model glue. Lingering fuel aromas on your hand following filling up the tank. Earthy notes of turmeric, saffron, ginger root and freshly foraged mushrooms creep in. Layers of complexity keep building and revealing themselves as the glass sits. A fruitier side reveals itself with sticky caramelised pineapple, pineapple upside down cake, manuka honey. Imagine oily lemon and lime rind covered in powdered sugar. White wine. A really unshakable candyfloss note. Wafts of chocolate coated raisins, toffee pennies. Complex and rewarding……and more unnervingly, approachable.
Mouth: Initially there is an unmistakable and prominent liquorice root……those little wooden sticks that rewarded constant chewing with earthy, rooty, bitter and occasionally sweet liquorice. Robust, oily and possessing plenty of grip on the palate. As you sit and take repeated sips that sweetness grows with toffee pennies, pineapple cubes and tinned pineapple juice. Beautifully controlled acidity. Citrus oil. Sticky and almost damp muscovado sugar being added to a spiced fruitcake mix. Liquorice. Honey on toast. Sugared almonds. A drying and spiced mid palate which is where the barrel influence first shows itself, and it brings white pepper, ginger juice, baking spices. The finish is a touch shorter than I would’ve liked but it builds towards it on the preceding sips to leave that drying sweet, bitter and woody liquorice root, sugared almonds, peaches and maybe a hint of coffee at the death.
In conclusion: This rum is on the lighter side of the Mhoba output. Way less wood influence than their usual offerings and it feels more approachable for it, but don’t let that make you believe that it is lacking in any way. Quite the opposite. It is complex, rewarding and shows great development from nose to palate and into the finish. Robert has again produced an exemplary distillate and Eric has been smart enough to snap it up and bottle it. A perfect match.
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