There’s a moment at Rumfest where I end up in a shiny bling area regardless of my inclination and determination not too. Two years ago, and with more time than choice, it was fluffy tigers [WLP]. Part of the Inver House group, Phraya was described to me as “Sangsom premium”. Produced West of Bangkok, this is ex-bourbon cask-aged rum that has been around for some years but is seldom seen in the UK.
Phraya Deep Matured Gold Rum  Ob. 40% tFRP2/5
- C: According to tFRP, Phraya is made up of rums aged between 7 to 12 years, but you wouldn’t know it. In fact, the Sangsom distillery goes to great lengths to control/avoid tropical ageing. I reckon some will buy this for the decorated bottle but it’s worth checking out the column still rum inside too. Smell & taste-wise, ‘it has an unusual sweetness’ and ‘it ain’t half bad’, is all I noted.
Scores 80 points
Laodi 56 Pure Sugar Cane Rhum  Ob. 56% [750ml] tLC83
One of the few rhum agricole’s at this year’s festival. thelonecaner.com tells us: ‘Laodi, whose parent company is Lao Agro Organic Industries, was formed in 2006 by Ikuzo Inoue, a then-52 year-old Japanese engineer, who, with a local Lao partner, acquired a distillery located in the village of Naxone in Laos, just north of the Thailand border‘.
- C: With agricole, the good stuff can be ready straight off the still with no need for ageing and/or flavouring. This one is soft and grassy < coppery, easy, uneventful yet candid with a fine mouthfeel.
Scores 77 points
What have [Rhum] Depaz and Glen Moray got in common? They are both owned by La Martiniquaise.
tFRP tells us: ‘Rhum Depaz hail from the French Island of Martinique. Rhum Depaz produce their agricole rhum in line with the AOC Martinique guidelines. So its “full on” agricole rhum if you like‘.
Depaz Blanc  Ob. 100% Origine Montagne Pelee 45% [WF79]
- C: A bitter sour rhum. Not overly congenial.
Scores 79 points
Depaz Vieux Agricole  Pb. 45%
- C: Around 4 years old, an interesting fennel bitterness is where the interest lies.
Depaz XO  Ob. 45% [WF72] tFRP4/5 RMB84
- C: Age-wise, we are talking between 8-10 years. Malty herbal sweet with bitter fennel becoming less bitter as it moves along. Profile-wise we are talking Glen Moray-esque herbal agricole-light. Overall I find this very good.
Scores 84 points.
For maltheads who liked that, there’s [Depaz] rhum cask-aged Glen Moray: SW
Saint Nicholas Abbey
I’m told SNA is a distillery doing the right thing the right way. Simon Warren tells us that SNA exclusively makes single barrel single estate rum, producing only 6000 bts/50 barrels a year.
St. Nicholas Abbey White Rum  Ob. 40%
- C: I try SNA’s white rum again [WLP77], but this year I go for the overproof version. Non-aged [white] rum is where it’s at if you make & present it right. Bottled at 60% and with a sugar cane heart and a light-sweet-vegetal-sour character, this overproof is gooooood. I was too busy chatting to scrutinise it in any depth.
St. Nicholas Abbey 5yo  Ob. 40% WF78 RR8.3
- C: I also try the 5yo again [WLP79]. First released in 2016, again it feels neutral/lacking though there’s something of a congealed lemon sponge sweetness that’s to my liking, so +1.
Scores 80 points
As for the rest of the SNA range, we don’t have tokens and Simon doesn’t oblige. We did have a laugh however, though mostly at my expense. Thankfully my limited clowning skills were put to good use. I must email him the ‘shit skit‘.
I’ve never understood why tokens are required for SNA’s rums over their own estate-produced 5yo, especially when the older [pre-2010 RSB] expressions – though single casks aged & bottled at the Abbey – were distilled at Foursquare. There’s LM&V pouring Caroni next door. I’m struggling to imagine how/why I’d ever buy SNA’s premium rums when they are [at 40% abv], very expensive and/or not openly available to try – and you thought Daftmill was elusive! So why are SNA at Rumfest year on year? To promote their rums and increase sales? Maybe the elusiveness is all part of the trick. As per usual, everyone else raves about them!
Further reading: stnicholasabbey.com
Finally, Rosemullion Cornish whisky. You may think Rosemullion are lucky to be in the ‘Craft Rum Area’, given a label on the top of their bottles states ‘Rum, oak aged to give a SMOOTH golden flavour‘. They must be here for good reason, so I persevere.
For starters, Rosemullion is a UK rum distillery and they are making 100% single pot distilled rum, so we are on track.
- Founders: Two former industrial chemists, Andy and Liz Bradbury
- Water source: Cornish rainwater
- Sugar source: Imported molasses
- Fermentation [on site]: 12-15 days
- 100% single pot-still distillation [on site]
- Ageing: A minimum of 9 months in US white oak virgin barrels
- Output: 4000 lpa
- The first bottles went on sale in April 2019
Rosemullion Gold Rum  Ob. Pure Cornish Spirit 40%
- N: These guys are selling more than they can make, so it’s naturally young stuff for now. New make-y, but not juvenile.
- T: Light-ish with a vague formation of a faint sticky mouthfeel.
- F: Fairy long chew.
- C: Nicely done. Bottled at 40%, back one.
Scores 79 points
Further reading: rosemulliondistillery.com
Another Rumfest ‘done and dusted’. The current rum narrative is still abundantly clear: the real deal [+/-5%] vs the brands [+/-95%]. On the one hand, you have Luca et al, who continue to explore and promote spirits largely untouched by the large-scale, high-yield branding machine at the expense of the final product. Meanwhile, even the punters who see the wizard behind the curtain simply can’t help being drawn in by their shiny sparkly sugary lures. Either that or they are scared off by the unknown. It’s fitting that LM&V [WLP] is positioned as the centre-piece of the festival, bang opposite the ill-fitting Coca Cola tardis!
[Ideally], here’s where I’m at:
- [First-pressed] sugar cane juice [or syrup] all the way.
- 100% pot-still distillation all the way.
- Natural colour all the way. No deception, please.
- 40% doesn’t cut it for virtually any rums. +40% abv all the way.
- Chill-filtering clearly ruins the mouthfeel and strips complexity, even more so than with whisky it seems.
- Non-aged white spirit or tropical ageing all the way. If it’s Jamaican rum, let it be made in Jamaica!
- Beware double maturation/cask finishes, when used as substitute flavour enhancers.
My biggest lesson this year was from Luca and his stance on regulation. He says that regulation isn’t there to protect the ‘name’ or the establishment, though that it certainly can [SWA]. Luca tells us that regulation promotes the value of provenance, techniques [know-how], and terroir of a spirit.
That’s enough rum. Next time, back to barley.