What is it? Well I don’t think a category exists for this one so bear with me. First things first, it’s American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. Second things second, the interesting bit: The rum is a blend of sugar cane based rum and molasses base rum mixed together – not something I’ve come across before. Usually you have sugar cane based distillate or molasses based distillate, I guess you could go crazy and blend the 2 distillates together, but this is distilled from a mixture of sugar cane juice and molasses. Fermentation takes around 6 to 7 days, so reasonably long (sugar cane takes longer to complete its fermentation than molasses wash). Distillation is done in 2 Alembic pot stills which are direct fired and the rum is then filled into american white oak casks which have previously held Laws Whiskey where they are aged for 1 year in Colorado (so high altitude) – the casks are filled wet, which means they still have some remnants of whiskey sloshing around in them.
My bottle is from cask 552, in case you are interested.
Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 40% abv. The only addition is some local honey (less than 0.04% per bottle).
I’m not going to copy and paste details from their website so you can pop along and read all about it here; Montanya distillation and other stuff about them.
Now anyone who reads this blog and/or speaks to me on Social Media will know that I’m a huge flag flyer for disclosure and bit of a geek, so for me the Montanya website is gold dust. There’s not really much space on a bottle of rum after you’ve done all your nice labeling so you’re quite limited with how much disclosure you can do there, naturally a website is the next best thing. I like to know things like distillation periods, still capacities, barrel size and stuff and the website is amazing – talk about disclosure, it even breaks things down to the volume of the raw ingredients used, abv levels of their wash, char levels of the casks, volume of rum produced per still run as well as explaining how distillation works, if that’s something you’re keen to learn about. Clearly there is a lot of love and pride going into their products, I’ve not seen a website with this level of content and commitment before and you don’t go to those lengths unless you care about what you do.
Sugar? OK, as with all my reviews I’ve dipped my hydrometer into this and it’s report a sugar level of 29 g/l. Now before we all jump up and down and start shouting about that disclosure you need to understand what a hydrometer measures – it’s not sugar. A hydrometer works by measuring the density of a liquid, and depending on the density it will sink or float at a certain level. The ones we use for measuring sugar in spirits are calibrated to measure alcoholic density – ethanol is less dense than water so the more water there is in a spirit (the lower the abv) the more dense it is, which means your hydrometer floats more. When sugar is added to rum the ethanol and water ratio doesn’t change but the sugar increases the density of the rum so the hydrometer floats more, we can then use conversion tables to map the stated bottle abv against the measurement on the hydrometer (it’ll show a lower abv as the sugar is causing it to float more) and work out how much sugar is added. It’s not an exact science as other things can impact the density. We know honey is added here, albeit a small amount, and I have no idea how honey will change the density of the rum. Honey is sugar but its a complex sugar so it may have skewed the results of this. There is some sweetness here, that’s for sure though as I spilt some on the bottle and it went sticky when it dried.
As I know other things are going on here, and Montanya have such a fantastic disclosure policy, if they say there is no added sugar then I’m pretty confident there wont be. I’m sure someone will chime in and put me to right on the whole thing.
Nose: Really fresh, lots of sugar cane, warm hay, cut flowers and wet grass. Thin caramel or honey, light vanilla, cherries, pastries, and a touch of ginger. There’s some spicy prickle here, like red chilies and white pepper. Fleeting hints of tart green apple, like a Granny Smith, pop up here and there, melon and a handful of spent coffee grounds deeper down.
Palate: Medium mouth feel. Quite forward on the whiskey at the start, it takes a few good sips to realise it’s a rum. Honey, vanilla, banana (green ones though), cherry, pineapple and green apple again but sweet this time not tart. A little butterscotch. It gets quite spicy mid-palate with the white pepper and red chili, root ginger and tannic oak. There’s a touch of milky coffee, a little brown sugar and this cooling taste of cherry stones, almost almond’y note as it finishes off.
Finish: Short to medium. Quite creamy here with milk chocolate, milky coffee, pastry, honey and banana. There’s the odd burst of spice here and there, mainly ginger, but the finish doesn’t linger too long.
Thoughts? Unusual. It’s fresh, then fruity, then spicy, then creamy, so I got a bit lost with it’s direction and balance. I also find it quite sweet in the mouth. I’m not sure how the honey impacts this but luckily the sweetness I’ve picked up doesn’t do what added sugar normally does; there isn’t any of that flattening or buzz on the finish. I think I’d prefer it without the sweetness in it personally as the flavours are really lovely, it’s dangerously easy to drink and is clearly very well made. I’ve been lucky in drinking this during some glorious weather we’ve had over our summer and the combination of the light freshness, flavours and hot weather we’re spot on. I’d imagine this would also mix very well, if that’s what you’re into. Bearing in mind this is only a 1 year old rum, it’s packing quite a lot of flavour.
The issue I have with this rum is the price. In the UK it’s retailing for £40 a bottle, which is expensive for a 1 year old rum, especially when other rums from Montanya that are older are only a small amount more. I know it’s a small batch jobbie and that does increase the cost-per-unit a lot but still, it’s expensive. If I’m being honest I’d look to be paying around £30 for a rum of this age, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t run out and grab another bottle at it’s current price. If I was going to spend that amount I’d be looking at the Montanya Exclusiva and Valencia instead – both of which I’ve picked up by the way, if that’s any indication on my views.
Note: I’ve been made aware that Montanya are a B Corp certified business. This means that they have been certified as meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and their purpose. In layman’s terms it means that you operate your business as though people and environment actually matter, and do no harm, essentially looking out for other humans and future generations. As a result of this, one of the things it impacts is operating costs, so this is one of the reasons why the price per bottle is higher than you would otherwise expect to see for something of a similar age.
You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here: