Given that Japanese whisky is now considered by some as the best in the world [much of this premise steaming from ‘one man’], it’s of no surprise that Nikka would enter the rum market with such pre-kudos behind them. However, this isn’t Japan’s only rum distillery and Nine Leaves was actually established four years ago [in 2013], so i am [as per usual] catching up.
All you may want to know about this distillery can be found in an excellent article by thelonecaner.com. So, onto the spirit.
Nine Leaves ‘Clear’  Ob. 50%
I was told by one of Nikka’s representatives that Nine Leaves own the island of Tarama Jimo, where they grow their sugar cane. The harvested cane is then shipped to Shiva where they distil rum exclusively from Forsyth’s pot still at their small Nine Leaves micro-distillery. Serge Valentin says that Nine Leaves ‘Clear’ is “Pot still rum from Japan, made out of Japanese brown sugar, not out of cane juice”. WF65
- N: Fruity, peachy ester notes, somewhat reminiscent of barley spirit.
- T: Fruity raisins, Madeira cake and almonds. I really like it.
- F: Surprisingly long but spirity without much further detail.
- C: Ultra clean rum with a few new-make traits along the way.
Scores a near miss
Nine Leaves ‘Angel’s Half’ 1/2yo  Ob. 50%
A rum aged for only six months in seemingly excellent bourbon casks.
- N: Cream cheese with a hint of goats, pepper, something of a cereal funk and a soft cask char.
- T: Woody virgin oak.
- F: Spicy and flavoursome
- C: Quality as expected, is high.
Nine Leaves ‘Encrypted’ 2yo  Ob. 48%
- N: The eldest of the Nine leaves flight, that’s two years in bourbon casks. As a result, there’s lots of cask chat with a bourbon-meatiness & a [Grigio] wine vibe.
- T: Raw bourbon woodiness from the same cask calibre as the ‘Angel’s Half’.
- F: In the final stages the spirit seems lost to the [virgin?] wood.
- C: White rum can be an easy way to understand cask influence given the spirit can be dominated so quickly and candidly by the wood.
Nine Leaves isn’t the first small distillery, rum or otherwise, where the young juice isn’t necessarily improved with ageing. The wood & maturation policy is of course key. Their young spirit is undoubtedly decent & likeable but unlikely to be bought for nosing & tasting.