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Review 12: Matugga Rum – Spiced & Original

Rum can be created anywhere that sugar cane grows. As I mentioned in an earlier post about Rum from Asia although the bulk comes from the Caribbean and Latin America, there are other countries which produce a lot of the world’s supply of rum. We know that the climate in parts of the continent of Africa must be suitable for sugarcane and yet we can’t think of any premium rum brands hailing from there. Until now; introducing Matugga Rum, a British Rum with an African Soul.

Matugga (the name of a town in Uganda) source their sugar cane from the rich, red soils of East Africa. Other ingredients added are also sourced from the Easterly region of Africa and then together they are shipped to be distilled and aged in Cambridgeshire in the UK. Matugga is triple distilled before finishing off the maturation phase in English Oak casks.

Matugga Rum is owned and run by Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa and their Master Distiller is Dr John Walters. The story of the ingredients of the rum are just as important to Paul and Jacine as the creation of the rum itself. They source only the best molasses they can from their high quality sugar cane harvest in Uganda. For more insight into Matugga please visit the following article here.

Last month I went to an “Indulgence Session” put on by the team behind Matugga Rum. A very polished and professional presentation that kept the fun and excitement that goes hand-in-hand with rum. After a brief foray into the history of the brand and the team behind it, we moved swiftly into the tasting of the two offerings from Matugga followed by the participants creating a couple of cocktails. All four were also paired with different munchies (grapes, cheese, crackers, chocolate, home made rum cake etc) to help to illustrate the versatility not only of Matugga, but of the spirit in general. The two cocktails they showcased were the Golden Apple which used their Golden Rum and the Spiced Pineapple which used their Spiced Rum. I personally preferred the Golden Apple cocktail which used cloudy red apple juice to great affect to enhance the flavour of the rum. I was in the minority however as the bulk of people who attended found the Spiced Pineapple to be the better of the two. The team came across very friendly and personable and their session was a resounding success by the opinions I heard from other attendees, most of whom knew next to nothing about rum in general beforehand and left the session with the remaining bottles they had for sale. If you get a chance to experience one of these sessions yourself I would definitely recommend it.

After the session the lovely couple behind Matugga sent me a sample of both the Golden and the Spiced Rum as I mentioned I would like to review them properly. I will start with their Golden offering before moving to the spiced variety.

As mentioned earlier, both of Matugga’s Rum’s are 100% pot still distilled. This is quite rare these days as column stills are used more and more. Pot stills are where the distillation process began with rum and this takes us back to the essence. In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. It pours lighter than it looks in the bottle. I think this shows a sign of its age and length of time in the barrel. I do know there is some caramel colouring added to the rum which has helped to give the rum a more appealing look so I cant really judge anything by the colour of the rum. The rum is more viscous than expected in the glass. It has some legs on it when swirled.

On my first sniff I get an immediate sweet hit of treacle. This gives way to some dry raisins and a small hint of allspice. An interesting mix that once allowed to rest brings out a hint of vanilla and oak. On my first sip I get a fresh clean taste which is reminiscent of a young rum. There are notes of vanilla at the start and a sweet treacle taste. This makes way to a spicy finish which leaves a pepper note which seems to add to the slight burn that you feel in the finish.

I am surprised with how smooth this rum is because it hasn’t been aged for very long so the casks haven’t had a chance to help to take some of the edge off the rum. However, having spoken to the team behind Matugga, I was informed that their aging process is at a small enough scale that they can actually keep the rum moving throughout its maturation phase. To try to explain this think of the difference a tea bag makes in your tea. If you move the tea bag around and keep stirring and moving, the flavour of the tea is stronger and fuller compared to just leaving the tea bag static in the mug. Accordingly, the flavours enhance and its  interaction with the casks occurs at what seems like a much faster rate. As a result, the rum tastes like it is much older than it is.

Moving onto the Spiced, in the glass this rum is darker than the golden offering from Matugga and remains similar in thickness. On the nose I get notes of orange peel, grass, a slight appearance of treacle and raisins. I was expecting a spicier nose, but that’s not a bad thing. On my first taste I get vanilla and liquorish at the start. It is very warming and again very smooth. It is smoother than the golden rum variety of Matugga. The end of the rum leaves a spicy feeling around the tongue and the throat which could be mistaken for a burn, but on closer inspection and multiple tastes, I can confirm it’s a peppery and cinnamon finish rather than a burn in my opinion. The orange peel smelt on the nose comes in once the rum has sat for a short period, as does the treacle. The liquorish taste also dulls having sat for a few minutes and yet the spicy and sweet flavours remain at the finish.

From the indulgence session I know that these rums make excellent bases for cocktails. Matugga’s website gives a list of different cocktails they recommend which can be found here. Fruity concoctions definitely work well in bringing out the flavours of this rum. I haven’t yet but I would like to try this rum in a more citrus type cocktail to see how the flavours interact with those more citrus elements. I think the spiced rum may thrive here.

Overall these rums are surprising for what they are. Both are relatively young and yet seem to be smooth enough to sip. I personally wouldn’t sip the golden as it’s a bit too harsh for my taste but I can see how many people would. The spiced on the other hand I feel has less of a punch to it, making it easier to sip. But I am very excited to see what a few more years of aging leads to with Matugga but this must be done ‘slowly slowly’ which in Swahili is ‘Pole Pole Ndio Mwendo.’ As always, good things come to those who wait!