There are variations on a theme when it comes to rum – because it is distilled everywhere from the West Indies, to the USA, South Africa, the Philippines, Reunion, Thailand, Mauritius and even in Scotland!

The source material remains either fresh sugarcane juice, molasses or sugar syrup but the maturation and blending and different styles make rum easily the most broad and diverse product in the spirit world.

Spirits writer Dave Broom wrote in a recent article that the omens are really good for rum nowadays because there is a focus by producers on making unique distillations – and the market is appreciating special, aged, single pot-still bottlings, much like single malt whisky. The days of rums reputation as being a cheap drink to be mixed with cola or as the base for a cocktail, he wrote, are hopefully in the past.

Our latest panel tasting ran the rule over a variety of local and imported rum, aged and spiced examples alike. There were four local examples: Hoodoo rum, Inverroche (7 and Limestone 10) and a spiced black, One33, from a craft distiller in St Francis Bay. Then there was Don Papa, Mount Gay Extra Old, Pyrat XO Reserve and three other spiced examples: Baron Samedi, Captain Morgan Spiced Gold and Kraken black spiced.

The overall preference was for the more recognisable international examples with Winnie Bowman observing that South African rum doesn’t yet measure up to their standard and quality.

“The best examples are really good with delicious sweet, caramel and vanilla, raisin and sultana flavours,” observed Patrick Leclezio. “There are any number of these that I’d be happy to sip neat – or with a block of ice – because of the taste and complexity.”

It’s a spirit which has been touted as the “next big thing” internationally because of its diversity of flavour. Over the years its appeal has been appreciated by both the working class as well as the upper class. Are we witnessing the start of a rum renaissance?


or bust

Tasting panel: Dr Winnie Bowman CWM, Patrick Leclezio, Shayne Dowling, Fiona McDonald

Lemon and citrus was the consensus of the main flavour for this one. Lemon oil or a bruleed lemon meringue, Shayne said. Patrick mentioned the overt fruitiness of this one, and noted its warm finish.


Inverroche 7

Boiled sweets and pink cachous notes with a slight medicinal and fynbos edge to both the nose and the palate. Fiona found a polished oak or even fresh sawdust nuance, possibly from the oak used in the spirit’s maturation not being quite integrated. Shayne picked up on a dried mint character. “I wouldn’t necessarily pick this as a true rum if it were tasted blind,” said Winnie.

This offering from the Philippines is everything you’d expect: rich, vanilla sweetness, reminiscent of melted ice-cream, Fiona said. Golden syrup and even a hint of Sauternes, which Winnie agreed with. Patrick and Shayne found butter toffee and caramel with honeycomb. Harmonious and balanced with a lovely long finish.

Don Papa

Smoky, singed orange zest, violets and potpourri was what Winnie noted while Shayne was taken back to a childhood where his grazed knees had Gentian violet dabbed on them! There’s toffee dryness and an almost peaty nuance. The alcohol or volatile spirit stood out a touch.

Inverroche Limestone 10

Mount Gay Extra Old

The real deal from Barbados – and it shows in is subtlety, elegance and smoothness. Polished, creamy and silky in texture with lovely vanilla, crème brulee, butterscotch, spice and Madeira cake. Restrained, rounded, rich and a delight to drink. Balanced, complex and harmonious.

Pyrat XO Reserve

A blend of Caribbean rums, aged in American oak casks. “Almost like Cointreau in its bold orange aroma and flavour,” said Fiona. Lovely sweet, creamy marmalade richness – without the bitter notes, said Winnie, while both Patrick and Shayne said it was balanced and harmonious with a long vanilla finish.

One33 Black

This is actually a mixed spirit, with One33 white rum blended with a fortified wine spirit – and might explain why there was some confusion about this product. Some toffee, butter and caramel, Fiona noted but also a hint of cola and balsamic vinegar. Shayne found it savoury rather than sweet and Winnie found the spirit very prominent.

Baron Samedi Spiced

Haitian spices are the key to this spirit which is made in Ontario, Canada. Winnie found traces of coffee smoke on the fringes of spice and caramel while Shayne discerned cardamom, cinnamon and sweet brown butter flavours. Gentle, broad and deliciously fruity in flavour.

Captain Morgan Spiced Gold

A crowd pleaser that sells millions of cases worldwide – and for good reason. It appeals because of its cinnamon and nutmeg spice, pink cachous sweets, sultana, golden syrup and jasmine and vanilla. Balanced, rounded, smooth and gently sweet.

Kraken Black Spiced

Creamy, buttery vanilla with caramel toffee and smooth sweetness. “It has depth and complexity, not just sweetness,” said Winnie. Shayne loved the toffee milkshake and typical rum and raisin ice-cream character. The spirit’s deep, castor sugar and typical molasses character appealed to Patrick who praised it as a wonderfully typical spiced rum.