A Potted History of the Rockley Still

This will represent the first guest post to appear on the site and in this instance it will be written by my friend Nikos Arvanitis. I am very eager for it to appear here on this site given that I am a huge fan of the medicinal elements within the Rockley Still style of Rum and I have really enjoyed communicating with Nikos on this subject during his recent Caribbean adventure. Thus far am only aware of two years of distillation for Rums purporting to be from this mythical still. The year 1986 saw a couple of Samaroli Blackrock and Bristol Classic Rockley Still Rums and the year 2000 has seen a Rum Swedes, a La Confrerie du Rhum and an Our Rum and Spirits release in the Rockley Still ‘style’ (though the latter two do not state it in the label). Both years of distillation point towards W.I.R.D (Blackrock) as a point of origin but the following potted history may expose the fact that these Rums are not actually from the Rockley Still at all, but are merely a Rockley Still ‘Style’. Delving further into it, that also may be a misleading statement as there is a high likelihood that no-one actually knows what the Rockley Still distillate tastes like, and therefore we are simply unable to replicate it truly as it could be a lost style. Anyway, without further delay I shall leave it to Nikos, who after touring the Caribbean living like a local and not a tourist is best placed to speak with some authority on the subject.

A Potted History of the Rockley Still

Rockley DocumentI always thought that in order to understand Rum, I ought to follow the path of sugarcane in the Caribbean, the history of the plantations, the habits of the slaves and others not so technically aware of the production process issues. That was basically the reason that I moved to the Caribbean for a while. By communicating with the locals and by undertaking personal research, I was able to hearken to the personality of this mythical distillate, gaining experience through peoples’ stories. I would like to share with you a short and turbulent history of Rockley Still. The Rockley Estate is located on the Southwest coast on the island of Barbados in the Christ Church Parish. Its existence stems from the early to mid-18th century. The island of Barbados was rich in sugarcane plantations, and most of these plantations distilled. This was also the case on the Rockley Plantation.

BatsonsThe nationalization of the plantations of Barbados started, and this resulted in a slowdown in sugar production. A natural extension of this slowdown spread to molasses production and therefore Rum production. A company by the name of Batson’s started collecting the machinery and stills from the plantations that were beginning to close. All of these closures took place during the late 19th and early 20th century, and the truth is that they built up a very good collection of Pot Stills. Within their collection, there were two small-capacity Pot Stills which we believe date back to 1850 that were built in London. We are still not sure if one of the two (the smallest) came from Rockley Plantation, and simply sought a new ‘home’ because it was probably well-known that the plantation would be transformed into a golf course for rich tourists.

The continuity of its existence finds it relocated to the West Indies Rum Distillery (W.I.R.D), where it was purchased in order to allow W.I.R.D to possess a Pot Still and reduce the competition with Batson’s. This happened somewhere between 1905 and 1920. After conversations with members of the distilleries where the stills were originally located, we received confirmation that they were actually used for distillation. However, it is certain that they have both been inactive for at least 50-60 years, as no member of the company, even the oldest ones, have ever seen them active. They are well maintained and are located somewhere at the W.IR.D. So if we assume that actually the smaller of the two IS the legendary Rockley Still, it is apparent that Rum distilled from this has not yet been released to the market, since it has simply been inactive for so many years. We shouldn’t forget though that the name of a dead plantation and a lot of years without distillation make a Rum a lot more interesting to the market because it is all Smart Marketing. However, this is far from true, as the history is history and we are not able to change it…

Rockley Still
My love from Greece and the Port Cask finish Foursquare Rum which accompanies me whilst I write these few words about the Rockley Still.

Cheers

May the Angels Share Return to the locals…Save the Caribbean….Bless

Bio

Nikos Arvanitis has been working as a bartender since 2006. Rum is his passion and his desire to understand it lead him to the Caribbean. Using the Island of Barbados as his base, he has visited 15 Islands in the tropical zone of the ‘West Indies’ and over 30 Rum distilleries and sugarcane fields, both active and inactive. His journey is still on and he has named it “From The West Indies to the World”

email: nikos.arvanitis.rum@gmail.com

facebook : https://www.facebook.com/nikos.arvanitis.7

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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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Our Rum and Spirits Guyana 24

Our Rum & SpiritsOur Rum & Spirits is an independent brand hailing from Germany. It is the brainchild of restaurateur Christian Nagel. Christian has been an independent restaurateur for almost 9 years initially had 2 Rums on his menu. In time this increased to over 30. In August 2011 he opened a new restaurant in the world cultural heritage town of Hildesheim called Gasthaus im Brühl. The menu there started with 35 Rums and now has over 80 due to the popularity of Rum with his guests. He began getting asked whether he had plans to sell his own Rum bottlings and this led him to source an importer of Rums within Germany. The Our Rum & Spirits brand was born. Their first bottling was a Guyana Diamond 11-year-old Rum. Only 60 bottles were available, it was 62.5% abv and was sold for 48 Euros per bottle. All have been sold except for 3 bottles kept back to be served to restaurant guests. In December 2014, Christian obtained enough bulk Rum for 100 bottles of Barbados Rum and he also purchased a barrel of Guyanese Rum to further expand the range.

Our Rum & Spirits Guyana 24 Year Old – 61.2% abv

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This Rum is from the Enmore Distillery which closed in 1993 and was distilled in their Single Wooden Pot Still which was originally located at the Versailles Distillery prior to it’s arrival at Enmore. It was distilled in December 1990 and was bottled in January 2015. The Rum is from Cask 20 which was stored in England prior to the end of 2013 when it was relocated to Germany. The barrel mark is MEV which means Main Rum Enmore Versailles…..this was not a distillery applied barrel mark. The barrel yield was 178 bottles at its cask strength of 61.2% abv and the Rum is neither coloured nor chill filtered. The Rum is a limited edition for Our Rum & Spirits and each one costs 110 Euros.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a pale gold / straw colour in the glass. A little swirl reveals……nothing. Well, apart from a thin halo around the glass. Slowly, little beads begin to develop. They just sit there, getting slightly larger before over a period of 2 to 3 minutes, slowly and reluctantly returning home. There are immediate astringent notes along with freshly sharpened pencil aromas…..and lots of them. This Rum doesn’t give much up at all. There is a bourbon like oak, some white pepper and a fortified wine tingle. Like the colour, very light.

In the mouth: Holy Hell…..I gulped too much initially. Massive schoolboy error. Coughing ensued and I needed a sip of water. It felt like a roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris! Where did THAT come from…..its a mild-mannered, gentle beast surely?!? Apparently not! Right, now with the respect it clearly deserves. Heavy is a word that I would use. The Rum is very smoky, almost peaty. Those freshly sharpened pencils are there along with raisins, sticky dates and an all-encompassing mouthfeel. It is very spicy up front but this subsides as you sip more of the liquid. It is also very dry due to its 24 years in the barrel. It feels almost gloopy in your mouth….its not, but it feels that way. I’ve not tried many 15 year plus Demerara Rums but this has spiked my interest! I want more if this is a common theme! It slowly reveals more raisins, dates and chewy toffee. It’s a grow-er not a show-er for sure. The finish is very very long on this beautiful Rum…..in fact, I think that I can still taste it! True to the initial observations the finish is entirely consistent…..pencil shavings, oak, a wine influence, astringency and dry smoke. There is also a Bakewell Tart taste right at the end.

*edit 09.03.2015 – I finished off the last remains of the sample and continuing the woody theme, it reminded me of making wooden arrows in the garden shed as a child, that freshly sawn timber and sap aroma. There was also a faint bit of liqourice on the finish that I didn’t pick up on my initial visits*

I added a little water. The astringency is removed and the oak is calmed. This allows a muscovado sugar aroma to peep through the oak. To taste it is still warming but not as spicy. There is a slightly bitter, woody quality now. It is still very dry but with light vanilla. To be honest, keep it at full strength…..it provide a far better experience there.

This Rum is one of the oldest demerara’s that I’ve tasted and has opened my eyes a little. Such a depth of flavour and such a heavy body to the Rum……I’m afraid that my closing words have to be…..I want one!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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.

La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée No1

Etiquette---Cuve¦üe-Confre¦ürie_2La Confrérie du Rhum is a Facebook Group that if you are not yet a member of, you should rectify by clicking the link. The group, set up in 2013 by Benoît Bail has over 3600 members drawn from all corners of the globe with varying levels of involvement in the Rum world from brand ambassadors, producers, distilleries, bottlers, bartenders to Rum lovers, bloggers and amateur enthusiasts. The past 18 months have seen the group have huge success becoming bigger and more well known for its forum activity along with its sharing of articles, images, websites and ideas.

Due to popular demand, Vincent Bidault de Villiers , Jerry Gitany and Benoît, the custodians of the group decided to bring to market a special bottling commemorating the group that will be sold to its members in January 2015. This special edition La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée No1 500ml bottling will be very limited with just 55 bottles being produced.

The Rum itself is sourced from Barbados, specifically by way of commemorating what is seen as being the birthplace of the history of Rum. It was distilled at the W.I.R.D (West Indies Rum Distillery) in 2000 before being aged in American Oak barrels for 13 years, partly in Barbados, then Germany before being bottled for La Confrérie du Rhum in 2014. The bottles have been hand wax dipped by Benoît himself to increase the visual appeal and to compliment the red label. The label itself has a map of Barbados along with the name and logo.

This Rum was inhaled so quickly that this only represents my initial thoughts based on one glass, and whilst I have asked to be considered for a bottle once available for purchase, this is not a sure thing. If successful I reserve the right to revisit my notes…

La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée No1 – 43% abv

Sans titreTasting Notes

Barbados 2000In the glass: The Rum is a pale gold / straw in the glass and is ridiculously pungent. A swirl leaves reluctant little beads decorating the glass…..there is the apparent aroma of something quite medicinal….almost like a peated whisky. I have encountered this aroma before and this alongside the distillery (W.I.R.D) would lead me to believe that it is a Rockley Still (style) Rum……for some reason, whilst I find these qualities a little suffocating, dominant and hard to get along with in a whisky, they are very appealing to me when found within a Rum! Oak is certainly apparent as is the faint whiff of heavy-duty cardboard boxes. There is also the hint of something resin like. There is also the aroma of tropical fruit but more like stewed fruit…it reminds me of a fruity teabag that has been left to brew for a while. It is certainly heavy on aroma with a good dose of smoke rounding it off.

In the mouth: Initially there is a little sweetness and it is very whisky like from the off. My mouth is instantly filled with the medicinal iodine, smoke and oak that I would associate with an Islay whisky. This subsides as the Rum drys out quite rapidly to leave liquorice torpedo sweets, tar like molasses, and a little more of the medicinal edge reminiscent of sticking plasters. The finish is a long one for sure with the faint medicinal notes remaining and accompanied by black pepper and more of that liquorice and tar like molasses.

I have tasted a similar Rum from the same distillery but that was at a much higher abv. That was more intense on the aroma but much of the flavour was hidden behind the cask strength and needed releasing with a drop of water. Colour wise you would think it a little light for a Rum of this age but the other Rum of this style also shares its colour. If you get the opportunity to try this then you really should. It’s medicinal notes won’t be for everyone but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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