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Review 14 – Mezan Rum

Social media is a wonderful thing and truly connects people everywhere. Thanks to our (relentless) posting of cocktails and rums on Instagram we were contacted by Mr. Warren Bobrow, the USA brand ambassador for Mezan rum who kindly introduced us to his wonderful partners in London.

Fast forward two months and the RumCask Family found itself stood outside Edison House on Old Marylebone Road excited about the evening ahead! Let’s sample some rums we thought. Take a dozen photos, write up the tasting notes and complete the social media circle-of-life by clicking post!

Wrong. Very wrong.

What was to ensue over the next two hours would be nothing short of a history lesson in spirits and yes, rum would take centre stage but by no means would it steal the show in this all-star cast. You see Mezan rum is but one of many brands owned and distributed by Marussia Beverages (formerly Eaux de Vie).  Established in 1984, Marussia Beverages import and distribute a fantastic array of spirits. Starting over 30 years ago with Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados they now boast a range that includes many gins, bourbons, sake, vodka, sherry and rum!

Our host for the evening was Mr. Philip Wilson, brand manager for Marussia. “Head down there and his office is on the left” said a helpful gentleman when we first stepped on to the Marussia floor. Our collective jaws hit the floor when we walked in because this truly is an office like no other. Desk to one side, a few boxes on the other, a large conference style table in the middle and a bar at the back! Actually, most bars would only hold a fraction of the bottles that Philip’s shelves held. Here stood a true library of spirits.

The ethos of Marussia we were told has always been about “the story”.  Who is the producer, why is he or she distilling this spirit and how are they doing it? Philip explained that “Once we find a good distiller we know we can work with them. We know that they will be consistent and continue to make a good product”. The mantra is organic and true and the company has grown from roughly half a dozen people 10 years ago to more than 40 today.

img_3375So to rum and specifically, Mezan. Many years ago having purchased some casks from Jamaica and Guyana the team left them to the side to mature and almost forgot about them! Perhaps they were being kept for a future staff party but when they revisited them they realised they’d bought something pretty special. This set off a chain of events that sent their Cellar Master travelling throughout the Caribbean searching for rums that were “artfully crafted from a single year’s distillation by a single distillery (some of which no longer exist). Unsweetened, uncoloured and only lightly filtered, these rums represent the truest expression of their producer and their country of origin”.

The rum is all purchased in cask and then set aside for maturation. Using only ex-bourbon casks (but sometimes re-casking) the rum slowly ages “until it has reached the height of its potential”. It is then bottled one cask at a time and ready for pouring. Mezan’s slogan is “The Untouched Rum” and that is the driving principle here. No blending (save for the XO), no sweetening, no colouring and only a light gauze filtration such that the final product is an authentic, regional rum delivered to the distiller’s demands.

Here-in lies the key to Mezan. These are genuinely unique rums. Produced from “distilleries old and new, some founded centuries ago, others no longer in operation”, these rums are one-offs and never to be repeated. In essence these bottles are time capsules from an age gone by with each drop embodying particular methods and cultures from different parts of the Caribbean all in homage to the Noble Spirit.

X.O. Jamaica

wp-1477032089889.jpgMezan’s only blended rum is a carefully composed concoction showcasing rums from 3 different Jamaican distilleries. Only 5000 bottles were ever produced and the end result is classic Jamaica.  Light straw coloured with a touch of pale gold, the Mezan X.O. has a narrow nose with tropical fruits and particularly bananas being very apparent. The flavour hits the front of the tongue and here we taste guava. Moving to the back of the mouth and throat the spices really come through. Not overly dry and the taste does not linger long in the mouth. Well balanced and flavourful, Philip even likened it to a classic Fruit Salad sweet!

Guyana 2005

wp-1477032169482.jpgDistilled in the double wooden pot still from the original Port Mourant Estate founded in 1732. After the estate closed the still was initially moved to Uitvlugt Distillery and then eventually to Diamond Distillery who produced this Guyana 2005. Diamond typically produce medium-to-heavy Demerara style rum and this offering from Mezan is no exception. A wide nose that couldn’t be more different from the X.O. and complex with a sense of big, over-ripe fruits. A lot of flavour on the palette that moves from oak and ripe bananas to leafy vegetables.

 

Panama 1999

wp-1477032122403.jpgProduced by the famous Don Jose Distillery in 1999 the rums in this batch go through a double maturation process whereby they are aged twice in separate sets of white oak.  Using modern multi-column stills the distillery grows its own cane for the production of aguardiente and rum. They also cultivate historical yeast cultures which add character to their rums. A beautiful honey coloured rum with a narrow nose. Baking spices and a pleasant sweetness (all natural!) are a joy to behold. The flavour profile is elegant and spreads evenly across the tongue. Vanilla and oak combine well to give a quite exquisite finish.

Our tasting journey ended here with Philip and we didn’t quite manage to get on to the Trinidad 1999 from the now closed Caroni Distillery nor Monymusk Distillery’s Jamaica 2003. However, he assures us we are welcome back any time to continue our education!

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The Rum & Crab Shack – St Ives, Cornwall

As some of you may know, RumCask spent some time in Cornwall recently and ended up in St Ives along the pier at the Rum & Crab Shack. A great location on the harbour and a unique selling point of having a wide selection of rum with their food – they were guaranteed a visit from me!

The Rum & Crab Shack was established in St Ives in 2012 by a team of four who were drinking rum and had a light-bulb moment to combined rum with their other favourite thing – crab.

The restaurant is set on the first floor, which is ideal to give the patrons a nice view. The house rum there is Dead Man’s Fingers which is a small batch spiced rum created by the shack itself. The menu is full of fresh seafood as expected, with a section dedicated to lobster and crab. They have a bar area where you can come in for a drink, or wait to be seated for food (no reservations here, first come, first served!).

As you may have seen on our Instagram, the first drink we tried was the house cocktail, ‘dead mans grip.’ It’s a mixture of lemon and lime juice, passion fruit syrup, Benedictine, peach bitters and egg whites along with the house rum. A delicious and incredibly moreish cocktail that seemed to drink itself!

The staff on the restaurant side were also warm and welcoming. Even though they seemed full, they managed to squeeze us in for a table for some dinner, which was hugely appreciated. It was definitely a busy night when we were told 3 of the dishes we wanted were sold out. We settled on the Whitebait and the Rum and Crab soup to start. This was followed by the Crab Claws and the Lobster Mac & Cheese. The standout dishes were the Whitebait and the Crab Claws. A top meal to accompany the rum.

The dessert is where they really excelled. Torn between the ‘Espresso Yourself’ cocktail and the Rum Cake, a tough decision was made, with the Rum Cake being the winner. Topped with cream cheese frosting and served with Cornish vanilla ice cream, the rum (dead man’s fingers) and vanilla soaked cake was sublime. A great way to round off the meal.

Another point worth mentioning is the price of the rum in the bar. This was extremely competitively priced, and much lower than I expected. If you would like to try a variety of rums without breaking the bank, then the bar here is worth the visit.

Overall, a very enjoyable visit to a very cool rum bar which as a bonus does really tasty food with amazing views. An all round winner in our book, make sure you go down and check it out!

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Review 13 – The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum

The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum has been around for just over a couple of years and was founded by Jessica Swinfen and George Frost. George fell in love with rum during his many family holidays to the Caribbean. He teamed up with Jessica and between them they embarked on the journey which lead to the creation of The Duppy Share.

After doing their research by tasting a wide variety of rums from different islands in the Caribbean (sounds a tough job) the co-founders decided on a blend of a 3 year rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 5 year rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. They decided on this mix to get the punch and fruitiness of Jamaica and then balance it out with the sweeter and more rounded elements found in Barbados. These rums are then sent to be blended in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, before bringing it to the UK to be bottled to become the final product.

The name comes from Caribbean folklore and has an enjoyable story behind it. According to their website:

“Caribbean legend has it that the dark Duppy spirits swoop
between the islands stealing the best share of the rum. Spirit masters, skilled
in the fine art of blending, the dupes take only the best.

This is the Duppy Share.”

This is also known as the Angel’s Share which I have written about previously here.

The Duppy Share have decided to celebrate a Summer of Rum by running a rum blending masterclass which is led by Jessica Swinfen. I was very kindly invited to this event in a Young’s pub to sample their rum and be transported away from a cloudy Wednesday evening in London to a beautiful Caribbean beach, if only for a couple of hours

I was greeted with a delicious Rum Punch made from The Duppy Share which they then shaved fresh nutmeg and added bitters to, to add that little extra touch which I definitely appreciated (Thanks Rosie Little). I was then introduced to the co-founders that were in attendance. They were both very friendly and very personable, exactly the right recipe for this type of event I feel.

After a second (or was that third?) helping of the Rum Punch we were ushered to the masterclass area to begin. Without ruining the experience for anybody who will go to this event in the future, you are given a short history of rum and then taken on a journey throughout some very important areas in the rum world. You are then given the opportunity to take what you have learnt and blend your own rum to take home. The whole masterclass is delivered exceptionally well and is very informative yet interactive and most importantly, fun. I think it’s an event diverse enough to be it a learning experience into rum, a wacky date, or a fun evening with a couple of friends.

I managed to get a few words with George Frost as well on the night with his plans and how he prefers to drink The Duppy Share. He’s very passionate about his rum and both he and Jessica agreed they didn’t like some of the sweetened offerings that are available today and much prefer the rums with a kick which is what they have tried to maintain. As for cocktail of choice, George said he prefers it in an old fashioned whereas Jessica says she loves it in a simple daiquiri, two very different cocktails which goes to show the diversity of their creation. A few more examples can be found here.

But let’s move onto the review of The Duppy Share. The bottle is a unique shape with a long thin neck which makes it easier to pour out. It is topped with a cork which helps keep an authentic feel to the rum. This is affirmed with the beautifully designed label which reminds me of a post card or a poster from the first half of the 20th century. All of their marketing lends itself to transporting you away from wherever you maybe to a Caribbean Island, to warmth, summer, and a beach. Not a bad thing at all.

In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. Slightly lighter than in the bottle. On the nose the first notes that are noticeable are oak and vanilla. Then we get some fruits mainly banana and a hint of pineapple. There are traces of sweetness which seem to be brown sugar. An interesting mix here on the nose. On my first sip the rum tastes a lot older than it smells. There is a fair depth to this rum. I can taste the oak and fruits I smelt on the nose but the Jamaican side of the rum does pack a punch and you get this when you swallow. However, the end of the rum leaves a spicy finish which helps to take the edge off the rum. Further investigation and I can taste vanilla and nuts as well. A nice mix, but one which needs to be taken with caution, too big of a sip and this rum would burn. But give it the attention it needs and you are treated with a solid rum which is decent value for money.

Unfortunately, other than the delicious rum punch I was handed at the start of the masterclass, I haven’t had a chance to mix this rum into a cocktail, which is where it seems the target audience is. That will be a step I take in the future but if the rum punch was anything to go by, I am in for a treat.

Overall although primarily a high end mixing rum which is diverse enough to be used in a variety of cocktails I think it has been aged and blended well enough to be drunk neat as well, or maybe with a touch of water. Their marketing approach has been to step towards rum as a drink when sat on a beach in paradise which is how I view my rum, be it neat or in a cocktail. Well played Duppy Share and I look forward to what the future holds.

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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!