Wednesday 18th May 2016
7.30pm at Lysses House Hotel
A tutored Rum Masterclass and Rum tasting with Pusser’s Rum Brand Advocate George Phillips and Ian Robinson of Cellar Trends Ltd.
Cellar Trends are the UK agents for Pusser’s Rum and Botran Rum in the UK and we were very luck to have the opportunity to hold a Rum Masterclass and Tasting which included a tasting of all 4 Pussers and all 3 Botran Rums available in the UK.
George Phillips, as Pusser’s Brand Advocate, was in charge of the first part of the evening and proved to be very entertaining, interactive and be good at throwing chocolates around (if one answered a questions correctly!). I did not make copious notes as I have already written about Pussers Rums and there is more information about the various rums at these links – Pussers Rum Spiced, Pussers Gunpowder Proof 54.5% and Pussers Rum Blue Label 40% – but I did make some notes of interest.
- We learned about the “Duppy Share”. As spirits are quietly ageing away in barrel quite a lot is lost to evaporation. Pussers Rum is aged in the British Virgin Islands in the tropics. As one can imagine, the rate of evaporation of rum ageing barrel in the hot, tropics is much higher than an equivalent barrel of Scotch Whisky aged in the Scottish Highland. The amount of spirit lost to evaporation is known as as “The Angel’s Share” in Scotland and elsewhere. In the Carribean it is known as “The Duppy Share”. Duppy is a Jamaican Patois word for the ghosts or spirits that are said to live near the base of cotton trees and have a taste for rum. They are said to visit rum barrels and steal the best part of the rum.
- The rate of spirit lost to evaporation is around 2% per year in Scotland and Cognac, in the Carribean is around 10%. Thus, when all the evaporation is taken into account, one single bottle of Pusser’s superb 15 year old rum is produced from the equivalent of 8 bottles of the Pussers Blue Label.
- Pussers 15 Year Old is a small batch straight 15 Year Old Rum i.e. it is made unblended from only 15 year old rum, nothing older and nothing younger.
- Pusser Rum Spiced, bottled at 35% abv. is not technically allowed to be called a Rum in the UK. In the UK a rum has to be 37.5% or over. This will soon be rectified and Pusser will be bottling their Spiced Rum at a higher abv. for the UK market. It still remains one of my favourite Spice Rums. It is made in a very natural way and is not as sweet as many of the dark and treacle-y spiced rums available. It is made by macerating natural spices etc. (including, and this is a guess, cloves, cinammon, nutmeg, vanilla and ginger) in a young Barbados rum for up to 14 days prior to filtering and bottling.
- Pussers Rum Overproof Green Label bottled at 75% abv and which is currently only available in Germany may get a limited release in the UK in due course.
After a quick break, Ian Robinson took over for the second part of the evening to tell us all about Botran Rum from Guatemala. Unlike Pussers Rum, which is made from molasses, Botran Rum is made from virgin sugar cane spirit. This combined with a complicated barrel ageing process, which Ian did a valiant job of explaining, produces a very different style of rum.
- Guatemalan Rum has its own Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) which is both a designation of quality and geographical limitation. It means than certain processes, fermentation, distillation, ageing in the solera system etc. have to be adhered to.
- Unlike more tropical Caribbean rums, Botran Rums are aged in a cooler, high altitude mountainous region. This means that the rate of evaporation is slower and allows the rum to mellow of a number of years. This gives the rums a different taste profile. This would not be properly feasible (or economic) in hotter rum producing countries.
- The Solera ageing system, initially developed in Jerez for Sherry production, is a complex system of fractional ageing. To simplify, if one imagines 3 layers of barrels with the oldest rum in the bottom and the newest rum at the top. The oldest rum is drawn off at the bottom and is continually replaced with new rum from the barrels above, which is in turn topped up from the top layer above that . The top layer of barrels is topped up with youngest rums. This is a very simplified idea of the Botran Solera process. There are different off-shoots of the solera and re-blending of the rum along the way.
- Because Rum is continually mixed in the solera, Botran cannot put the age of the rum on their labels. The labels state that the rums are Solera 12 or Solera 18. This is a rough average of the age of the rums in these bottlings. There will be rums older and younger than 12 or 18 year old in the Solera 12 or Solera 18 respectively.
- The oak barrels used for ageing Botran Rum in this solera system is a mix of four different types of barrel – fresh and charred ex-Bourbon Whiskey Cask, ex-Sherry casks and ex-Port casks – I think I am right in saying they are the only Rum producer who use four different cask types.
- Botran Reserva Blanca is a three year old rum that has the colour filtered out of it using charcoal filters. As it is aged for 3 years in American white oak barrels it has a lot more character, as well as being mellower and smoother than cheap white rums. I think this was the biggest surprise for people who attended the tasting.
- Ron Zacapa is also made at the Botran distillery!
Once again, a big thank you to George Phillips and Ian Robinson for a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening. Roll on the next one.