Whisky Auctioneer Random Rum Tasting

A little bit of a strange one but just run with it……Back in May, the website Whisky Auctioneer held their first dedicated Rum Auction. They decided to do this as they believe that they had seen a significant rise in the number of Rums being entered in their regular monthly Whisky Auctions. As a result of this and to promote their auction at the time, a few writers were asked to write a series of notes about bottles that were to be entered into the auction. Different writers received different bottles. I received a suitably eclectic selection and I had sat on these notes for a few months to ensure that I wouldn’t be posting information on bottlings that would never see the light of day anywhere. But truth be told, I have seen close to all of these bottles pop up on Auction sites in the past few months and some are readily available still so I thought that this would be worthwhile sharing. No real background information, just quick fire tasting notes……so here goes.

Ron Zacapa Centenario Etiqueta Negra – 43% abv – Modern Rum

Nose: Quite confected. A caramel bitterness. Noticeably viscous due to the post distillation additions. Creme Caramel. Wood influence is minimal. Milk chocolate. Prominent coffee notes.

Mouth: Very sweet entry. Almost no alcohol from the spirit which is a slight worry. Palate remains consistent with the nose. Caramel. Fudge. Milky coffee. Chocolate milkshake. Bitterness and a touch of wood influence on the relatively short finish that adds darker chocolate notes to the palate.

Just disappointing. Similar to others in the range to be honest. The extra 3% abv helps lift it above something that you’d expect a child to drink but it’s just dulled due to the additions. Even a nip of harshness from young alcohol would be welcome but it drinks like boozy chocolate milk.

0.5/5

 

Havana Club 15 – 40% abv – Modern Rum

Nose: Classic longer matured a Havana a Club nose. Prominent honey and vanilla pod. Milk chocolate. Sweetness. A lot of sweetness. There is also a sour note. Tobacco is definitely hanging around but it’s nudged out of the way by the over zealous sweetening and honeyed notes.

Mouth: Honeyed entry carrying a light floral but syrupy sweetness. There is a touch of spice backing this up. Fresh green apples. Vanilla. Cocoa. Sweet wine like notes. The finish is of medium length and is what I now expect from Havana Club. A little peppery barrel spice, mild tobacco and milk chocolate.

I don’t really touch Cuban Rums nowadays, and this is a classic example of why. They’re a touch “samey”. They have hints of promise but fail to deliver consistently for me. Nose outperforms palate close on 100% of the time.

1.5/5

 

Velier 70th Anniversary Chamarel 2010-2014 – 56.5% abv – Vatted Single Rum

Nose: Heavily spice driven. Fennel seeds. Fenugreek. A hint of jeera. The vibrancy of fresh cane and the sweetness that it brings. Cinnamon. Black pepper. There is also a growing anise note reminiscent freshly cut fennel. Dusty wood, vanilla and red bean paste.

Mouth: Very spicy entry with the full heat of the alcohol hitting hard. Quite apparent fruit carried on the sugarcane notes. Hazelnuts. Lots of dusty oak and wet cardboard. Celery. Definite notes of chicory and the associated bitterness. The finish is led by growing wood spice, drying oak and the ever present cane notes. Not hugely complex but it drinks well.

I fortunately own a bottle already. Not massively complex but it’s spice led approach work and the experience is pleasant. It’s a good drinker.

3/5

 

Velier Enmore 1987 Full Proof – 56.6% abv – Traditional Rum

Nose: Quite a bit thinner than expected. It’s a little spirity and there’s certainly a touch of fuel about it. Conference pear slices with fresh cream. Mid palate brings chocolate. Powdery cocoa. Royal icing. Cookie dough. A hint of spice and wet wood.

Mouth: It hits with a lot of heat and a lot of spice. Citrus oil. A saline like quality. Caramelised Sugar. Vanilla. Creme brûlée. Light wood. Plenty of pepper. Candied citrus peels. Raisins. The finish fades and is the sum of its parts with light oak, vanilla, cocoa and mixed raisins and peels.

I found this too ‘spirity’ and not forthcoming…I also found it lacking in depth.

2/5

 

Damoiseau 1980 (Damoiseau Release) – 60% abv – Traditional Rum

Nose: Full on medicinal heaven. Sticking plasters. A lot of depth. Cough sweets. Liquorice. Bronchial cough mixture. It carries heft but is remarkably approachable. It plays very nicely. Time brings a developing fruity character. Black cherry yoghurt. Sour cherries. Victoria plums. A hint of florals and a cologne like nature that brings a sharper aspect and allows spiced oak to show itself.

Mouth: Medium body and carrying a pleasant mouth coating oily quality. The bitterness of a classic tropically matured Demerara. Liquorice sweets and liquorice root. Warm prunes. Sweet and bitter in equal measures. Bourbon cherries and an almost dairy quality. Quite medicinal still as on the nose and the mid palate brings cloth sticking plasters, salted Dutch liquorice and stone fruit. The finish just goes on and on. It remains consistent with the beautiful depth of liquorice, stone fruit, bitter / sweet interplay. Kop kop sweets. Cough mixture. A hint of salinity grows. This is a very, very good rum.

If I could afford it….I’d buy it. It hits so many sweet spots for me. Medicinal. Liquorice. Stone fruit. Saline. Floral. It’s why I love the Bellevue independent bottlings. A deep, flavourful and aroma packed delight.

4.5/5

Preparing these notes was good fun spread over a week of tasting. Some were instantly forgetful, some were good drinkers, some were disappointing and one was an absolute belter. I consider myself fortunate to have got to try them and I hope that you enjoyed this eclectic set of notes.

© 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.

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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.

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.

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.

Foursquare Hereditas – Private Cask Selection

Seemingly of late, releases from the Foursquare Rum Distillery Exceptional Cask Selection have been a little like buses here in the UK……you wait ages for one, then three turn up at once. That is definitely the case here. Setting aside the Foursquare Distilled, Blended , Bottled and Velier Distributed Patrimonio we have in the space of a week seen the Exceptional Cask Selection IX which is Empery and X which is 2007 and is the successor to the excellent 2004 and even more excellent 2005. The third in this public transport based Rum release analogy was a surprise to some but a piecing together of the jigsaw pieces for others. It is the appropriately named Foursquare Hereditas Rum – Exclusive to the Whisky Exchange.

I have covered release from Foursquare Rum Distillery quite extensively on these pages and you can either put your own search in the “search box” or click here to read a little more about them. This bottling is the first exclusive release from The Whisky Exchange post unveiling of their new classification system and would be classed as Single Traditional Blended Rum under their system….or Single Blended Rum under the Gargano / Seale. It is also an exclusive Private Cask Selection bottling. But what is it like?

Foursquare Hereditas Rum – Exclusive to the Whisky Exchange – 56% abv – Single Blended Rum – 2520 bottles

As you will be well aware, Foursquare produce predominantly ‘single blended rum’ which is a single distillery blend of traditional batch (pot) and traditional continuous (twin coffey column) distillation. Unlike most other producers, Foursquare blend their batch and continuous distillates prior to maturation. Exact ratios are never revealed but you’ll occasionally be advised when something is batch or continuous ‘heavy’.

The make up of Hereditas is a 14 year solely ex-bourbon barrel Single Blended Rum and a 14 year ex-bourbon / ex-sherry Single Blended Rum. The former is self explanatory but the latter saw 10 years in ex-bourbon prior to being placed into ex-sherry barrels for a secondary maturation period of 4 years. 14 years is a long time in the Caribbean climate and we are only just starting to see Rums of this age coming out of Foursquare……the ones that I’ve tried thus far have been an intense proposition to say the least. The Sherry barrels used are all ex-Oloroso with varying histories prior to their use at Foursquare but they are all first fill.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Higher abv but absolutely no need to fight through any pesky alcohol bite. As soon as your nose gets anywhere near the glass you immediately get that familiar and classic Barbadian, and more so Foursquare nose of a well integrated oak and Vanilla. But there is so much more depth here. The intensity of a spiced fruit loaf nearing readiness in the oven. Imagine that the top of that fruit loaf had slightly burnt and crisped up a few raisins. Plump Raisins. Flamed orange peel. A heavy, warming stewed plum note develops. Hereditas possesses the kind of depth and character from the Sherry cask that I had previously only experienced on a short lived love affair with a good batch bottle of Aberlour A’Bunadh. Time in the glass allows those classic notes of coconut and damp wood to come to the fore accompanied by hazelnuts and light cocoa. Deep, approachable and inviting but with a light floral perfumed quality.

Mouth: Blimey. This is a BIG rum. Good mouthfeel. Sweetness. Bitterness of burnt raisin. Mixed candied peels. Hazelnuts. Walnuts. Plump, juicy raisins. Plenty of fruit loaf notes. Light ginger syrup. Very hedgerow….homemade mixed berry jam. Soft Liquorice. There is plenty of weight and heft on the palate. The mid palate becomes pleasingly spicy. Those 14 years of tropical maturation begin to flex their muscles. A robust dryness grips your tongue and begins to tug at the edges with a little heat and peppery spice. Plenty of wet wood and a hint of minerality. An earthy quality. Right at the back end there is a hint of coconut, dark chocolate and fennel seed. Plenty of woody and stone fruit bitterness…..all in balance with the arid barrel and sweet fruit loaf notes. The finish is entirely consistent with the entry and mid palate. Dark chocolate, plenty of wood, fruit, barrel spice and pleasing molasses and soft liquorice bitterness.

Hereditas is a multi faceted but entirely cohesive experience. Whilst it is heavily influenced by the 4 years maturation in those first fill ex-oloroso barrels…it also carries with it the heft of those 14 years in ex-bourbon in that beautiful Barbadian sunshine. Don’t you dare confuse it with the awful Rum / Sherry hybrid abominations coming out of continental Europe either. We’re talking Single Blended Rum, two barrel types, no colour and no chill filtration plus patience and time. This is a deep, woody, intensely fruity and rewarding tropically matured beast that will win over sherried whisky lovers and Rum fans alike.

It is available from The Whisky Exchange.

4 / 5

I have to confess that I was a little cautious about the trio of Sherry cask releases. I’ll be brutally honest. Premise, whilst a very competent and approachable Rum, maybe an excellent Rum by many other producers standards, just wasn’t for me. We’re talking very “nit picky” but for me it was completely overshadowed by its companion releases at the time in Dominus and 2005 and therefore was the only release that didn’t get picked up in quantities larger than two….an action which has become the norm for me and Foursquare releases. After having a little time with all three, my fears are without foundation.

© 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 – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum – Part 1

I shared a rather large article a short while ago and it comprehensively told the story and explained some of the processes behind the creation of MHOBA Rum. You can find a link to it here. Right….if you went down that rabbit hole it’ll be a short while later and you’ll either be enthused to find out more about MHOBA Rum given how personal and hands on the creation of the Rum is…or complaining that you’ll never get that time back…..I’m hoping that it’s the former given the effort spent and time devoted by Robert to inform the article….but as a drinker I totally understand the latter. So I’ll assume that you’re enthused and keen to find out more. This review will be split into two and I will look to cover the Unaged and Flavoured releases in Part 1, and that encompasses 4 products.

They are:

MHOBA Pot Stilled White

MHOBA Select Pot Stilled White

MHOBA Pot Stilled High Ester

MHOBA Franky’s Pineapple

All of the distillates start off with the freshly pressed sugarcane juice extracted from the sugarcane varieties N57 or N36. This begins fermentation almost immediately as it is pressed due to the naturally present yeast. Following transfer of the juice to their 2000 litre fermentation vats, the fermentation processes split dependent upon the end product to be created…..High Ester long ferment or standard length ferment.

MHOBA Pot Stilled White – 43% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

This Rum utilises a 7 to 10 day fermentation period using standard bakers yeast. The fermentation is not temperature controlled. Distillation occurs on the handmade pot stills and the resultant distillate is chosen, reduced in abv using local pure crystalline water prior to bottling by hand.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright. Fresh. Vibrant notes of freshly cut cane. Plenty of plastic notes. Acetone. Furniture polish. Model Glue. Creamy with a hint of menthol.

Mouth: Initial sweet and creamy entry. Reminiscent of slightly sweet freshly whipped cream. Cane notes creep into the mid palate along with a herbal quality. The finish brings fresh cane, cream, light brine and plastic.

Its a functional and versatile offering. Makes a decent Daiquiri or Ti Punch.

3 / 5

MHOBA Select Pot Stilled White – 58% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

This Rum is the result of the 7 to 10 day fermentation period using bakers yeast and sugarcane variety N57, this blend is slightly different though. The new make spirit at MHOBA is collected in small separate fractions (cuts) and this blend is adjudged to comprise the best cuts taken over the period listed on the front label. In this case the batch number is 2018SR1 with a collection period of July to September 2018.

Tasting Notes

Nose: This builds upon the foundation of the Pot Stilled White with vibrant sugarcane at its core, and adds layers of complexity. It becomes increasingly vegetal. Earthy notes of turmeric and saffron. Quite a herbal quality too. Bright acetone notes sit atop well cooked root vegetables. Powdered sugar. The hint of fresh fruit.

Mouth: A sweet and bitter quality on first sip. Roasted root vegetables and light white pepper. The bitterness is reminiscent of bitter gourds such as Korola. A robust mouthfeel. Deep sugarcane flavours develop on the mid palate bringing menthol and a hint of apricot. The finish brings tinned apricots and fresh cream with classic Agricole notes of grassy cane.

This really does offer up plenty to enjoy as an unaged Rum. It is flavourful and offers a robust depth that matches a lot of established and well respected sugarcane juice Rums and Rhums. Probably my favourite in the unaged line up and just about as good as it gets insofar as the balance of aroma and flavour is concerned. Makes a great Fish House Punch.

4.5 / 5

MHOBA Pot Stilled High Ester White – 78% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Note that later batches are at differing, lower abv levels but the release reviewed is Batch number 2018 HE1 using sugarcane variety N57 from the September 2018 harvest and is bottled at 78%. The initial small period of wild yeast fermentation that is present in all batches is then boosted in the fermentation tanks with the addition of dunder prior to the commercial yeast. It is presented in its straight from the still form.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Far more approachable than you’d expect for a product that has a 21 day fermentation period utilising dunder. This is the sum of everything that preceded it and so much more. Very grassy, cane driven nose initially. Unmistakably Agricole like with vegetal notes but completely recognisable as a heavy pot still product. It steps foot in Jamaican funk territory. Olives. Brine. Acetone. Fresh tropical fruit. Layers upon layers. Starfruit. Guava. Ripe mango. Boiled fruit sweets. Sweet cane and the perfumed aroma of small wild strawberries. Fermenting fruit. Furniture polish, solvent glue and black pepper.

Mouth: A full and encompassing, oily mouthfeel. This is a big rum. A lot of heat in the initial exchanges. This rum has more of an obvious earthy and savoury quality on the palate. Spiced pumpkin soup. Black pepper. Turmeric. Mustard oil. The mid palate brings a return of the fresh vibrant cane. All encompassing, the rum dominates your palate. Grilled tropical fruit. Fruit leathers. Strawberries and cream. Brine. Salty preserved lemons. Citrus oils. Eucalyptus. The finish has real length and is initially peppery, with black olive tapenade and the sweetness of liquorice root.

A real exercise in crazy. Its an absolute monster and can get away from you initially. Its an all encompassing sensory assault but once you are acclimatised it allows you to access a little more nuance. Its like a cross between the A1710 La Perle Brute and Savanna Lontan. High Ester with a lot of bright acidity and fruit plus that solid base of accessible pot still backbone that the A1710 possesses. I can’t drink too much of it in one sitting but it definitely warrants your attention.

4 / 5

MHOBA Franky’s Pineapple – 43% abv – Flavoured Rum

At its base is the Glass Cask Aged Rum along with a blend of two differing unaged Pot Still Rums. These are infused separately with ripe and fresh Natal Queen pineapples that have been seared….the infusions are then blended to produce Franky’s Pineapple. Pineapple seems to be the big thing as far as flavouring Rums go at the moment and there are a fair few available. Stiggin’s seemed to have started it but the door did not close. This should be an interesting prospect as I know of only one other sugarcane juice Rum flavoured / infused with Pineapple.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Full on pineapple sweetness up front. Initially freshly cut pineapple but there’s greater depth. An almost charred, bbq pineapple with caramelised syrup and a hint of smoke. Hints of grassy cane spike through the sweetness almost like a Rhum arrangé.

Mouth: Entry is not as sweet as the nose would suggest. The influence of young wood appears initially on the palate and this then develops into bbq pineapple. A light but sweet pineapple sponge cake. Warming mid palate with hints of charred fruit. Quite an earthy note is present. The relatively short finish brings more pineapple sponge cake with a drizzle of fresh cream. This is very much an infusion rather than a sweetened pineapple rum, and it is all the better for it.

I have used it in Pineapple Daiquiris and also in a Pina Colada and it does exactly what you want it to do.

3 / 5

If you’ve not tried anything from MHOBA as yet, you really should seek them out. Availability is growing and I now know of two outlets with Europe wide shipping and one that definitely ships to the USA. All very different, all have their own character and personality. If you were to buy only one it would for me be a toss up between the Green Label Select and the Red Label High Ester……it depends what kind of experience you are after. I like the occasional high ester offering but prefer steady drinkers and for that reason the Select is my go to.

So, that’s Part 1 over. Next up will be the Aged products. Glass Cask, American Oak, Strand’s 101 and the majestic French Oak.

For availability click the link to Richard Blesgraaf’s online store in the right hand panel or visit LMDW.

© 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.