Rum, for the Whisky Drinker

Excellent Scotch whisky relies on a love of craft combined with a strong sense of place. That place being the beautiful, windswept, grey-green and sunlight-agnostic terrain of Scotland. The characteristics we love in Scotch whisky are forged in this very particular locale.

A world away, among coral sand beaches, broad green leaves and more sunlight than you can shake a palm frond at; the countries in and around the Caribbean sea have been using their own very well defined love of craft and sense of place to make some extraordinary rums – since the 17th century, in some cases.

Dark rum and whisky – different at first glance, but under the hood there is a lot of shared DNA. Both distilled in pot or column stills, both matured slowly in oak casks for the development of flavour. These spirits take simple ingredients and then rely on exacting processes to introduce great refinement and complexity in the finished product.

Rum Spotlight: Guyana

In the UK ‘Demerara Sugar’ is regarded as the highest grade of sugar – a sign that the sugar grown in Guyana on the banks of the Demerara river is some of the best in the world. Guyanese rum, made from Guyanese sugar, clearly owes so much to being made from such excellent raw materials. Since the British colonies never faced competition from ‘old world’ spirits, rum production was quick to step up in the 1600s – and so the old pot still method of distillation is more prevalent in Guyana. This means that the rum distillate is already crammed with flavour before it even gets introduced to a cask. In addition, Guyana used to be the majority producer of rum for the British Navy, and there is a wealth of experience in the country for making rums of all types.

Meet The Producer: Diamond Distillery

The Diamond Distillery near Georgetown, Guyana is owned by Demerara Distillers Ltd – the last (official!) remaining rum producer in Guyana. Situated on the banks of the languorous and chocolate coloured Demerara river, the Diamond Distillery has been making rum since 1670. That’s not a typo – this distillery has over a century more experience than Scotland’s oldest (official!) distillery.

Guyana’s rum production centralised over the years, and as other distilleries closed, the Diamond Distillery inherited their best equipment. It’s now a kind of working museum, with 9 functional stills of unique design. The distillery boasts the world’s only active wooden pot stills, the ‘Versailles’ single wooden pot still, the ‘Port Mourant’ double wooden pot still and the ‘Enmore’ wooden column still. Made of a combination of copper and native greenheart wood, these stills can create entirely unique flavours in their distillate. Origins can be guarded secrets, so true experts pride themselves on being able to tell on which still a Guyana rum was made, by taste alone.

Guyana 20 Year Old Rum

Single Cask • Distilled in 1999 • 64.7% ABV • 55 Bottles

Despite 20 years of maturation in an ex-bourbon cask, this amazing dark rum has an incredible brightness in its flavour. The colour of golden sunshine, it overflows with exotic fruity flavours and the grassy freshness of freshly-squeezed cane sap. An excellent rum for the early evening, to freshen and prepare you for a lively night.

We can’t say for sure, but a friendly expert was confident that this rum was made on the ‘Port Mourant’ double pot still due to its character. We invite spirited discussion!

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Tasting Notes

Nose — A strong first impression of dark Demerara sugar, which then shifts aside to reveal more subtle vegetal aromas, like agave or aloe sap.

Palate — On the tongue, this rhum punches with fruity, tropical flavours. A leading note of soursop and cherimoya fruits develops into the subtlety of asian pear and golden apples.

Guyana 21 Year Old Rum

Single Cask • Distilled in 1998 • 60.9% • 149 Bottles

No two whisky casks are ever alike, and this holds true for rum casks as well. Despite only being a year older, and also matured in ex-bourbon, this dark rum is a completely different beast from our 20 year old. Caramel sweetness is tempered with oaky dryness and even some leathery notes – this very old rum would be an incredible partner to a cigar as the last sliver of late-summer sunlight disappears from the horizon.

The difference in character may be due to a difference in still. Again, we cannot confirm nor deny, but a gambler might find good odds on this rum having been made on the ‘Versailles’ single wooden pot still…

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Tasting Notes

Nose — Draws you in with aromatic wood; sandalwood and white oak at the fore. A touch of vanilla. Sweetness follows, of orchard fruits and then barley sugars.

Palate — The flavours begin youthful, but the maturity of the spirit lingers on the palate afterwards. Sugar bubbles into rich caramel, developing a slight char. A charred oak flavour becomes almost leathery, and then leaves a gentle tingle of spices.

Rum Spotlight: Nicaragua

Nicaragua was formerly a Spanish colony, and so it got into the rum game later than Guyana. This was due to the colonial powers trying to get their European distilled spirits into the new world markets. However, time proved that excellent local produce should never be sidelined, and sugar began to be distilled into rum in the 1800s – around the time that Aeneas Coffey’s famous still was making waves in the distilling world.

As adopters of the new technology, Spanish-style rums (or ‘rons’) tend to be made on column stills, producing a spirit that’s lighter than pot-still rum. This, coupled with Nicaragua’s comparatively mild climate, produces extremely characterful long aged rums, where aromatic flavour really has time to slowly infuse the heart of the rum.

Meet The Producer: Flor de Caña

The ‘Flower of Sugarcane’ distillery started operating in Nicaragua in 1890. Literally playing with fire, Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa founded the distillery in the shadow of one of the world’s most active volcanoes, San Cristóbal. Shrugging off the occasional uncouth eruption, the distillery took advantage of incredibly fertile volcanic soils to produce its sugar, and has been the enduring pride of Nicaragua for well over a century.

Today, Flor de Caña is renowned as the world’s first entirely carbon neutral distillery, using renewable energy, carbon capture and sustainable farming to produce their spirit. This never comes at the cost of the actual product, and Flor de Caña ron is the recipient of a great many prizes, including ‘Global Rum Producer of the Year’ in 2017.

Nicaragua 19 Year Old Rum

Single Cask • Distilled in 2000 • 66.6% ABV • 190 Bottles

Despite the column still distillation and the ‘milder’ Nicaraguan climate, there is nothing demure or quiet about this rum. 19 years in an ex-bourbon cask has done a lot of work. As dark as a slab of ginger cake – and as robustly sweet, chewy and spicy as one too. This full-bodied rum entirely coats the palate with rich fruity and cakey flavours, and propels a citrussy sharpness up the back of the nose.

An excellent teatime counterpart to heavy fruit cakes, or a spicy alternative to whisky in a toddy.

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Tasting Notes

Nose — The aromas are dense and compacted together – overlapping layers of ginger cake, banana loaf and nuggets of crystallised pineapple. Woody aromatic notes follow: hints of cinnamon, vanilla and old, dry bookcase.

Palate — Thick and sweet on the palate, with a foretaste of dried prunes, dates and baked apples. Every part of the palate gets washed in these flavours, and a citrusy sharpness breezes up the nose from the back. Then the ginger cake returns, cooked until dark and dressed with desiccated coconut. A background oakiness pervades throughout.

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Quantities Extremely Limited.

One of the things that can be reliably said about the Caribbean is that it’s hot down there. In rum, just as in whisky, that is distilled closer to the equator, one year of high ambient temperature maturation can be the equivalent of 3 years of maturation in Scotland.

Caribbean rums mature quickly, and lose much larger volumes to angel’s share – approximately 7% per year.

The upshot of this is that our three stunning rums, though by no means baby-faced at 19, 20 & 21 years old, still possess a maturity far beyond their years. These are exceptionally venerable by Caribbean standards, and years of evaporation have left extremely limited quantities of these sublime spirits. Order today to ensure you snag a bottle – or three!

Choose a Guyana rum to taste what almost 400 years of tradition and unique wooden stills can bring to liquid distilled from some of the finest sugar in the world.

Choose Nicaragua to experience the flavours that sugar grown on volcanic soil can provide, and celebrate a distillery that collects awards like they’re going out of fashion.

Like many whisky devotees, we’ve been absolutely floored by the quality of the spirits distilled from cane sugar. Finding these bottles of long-aged rum, tasting them and learning their stories has been the greatest of joys. Join us in a dram of these rums, imagine looking over the crystal waters with lush vegetation at your back, and then count the days until our next expedition to the new world.

The Cask 88 Rum Collection
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