Top Beverages – Double Distilled, Mocha and Spiced rums

Long one here.

I get quite a lot of emails about Press Releases and samples and most of the time it’s not something I progress as that’s not really what this blog is about. I review what I buy (generally speaking) and it’s a hobby, not a job. Every now and then though something comes up that piques my interest, in this case it was a new batch of rums from a “craft” company; a white rum (double distilled), a Mocha rum and a Spiced rum – not rums I’d normally entertain. So why did I accept the samples and why am I reviewing them? Well, they are CBD spirits, that is, spirits that are combined with CBD (Cannabidiol) and it’s a trend that is taking the food and drink industry by storm, people are combining it with bloody everything, I’m sure at some point the government will start putting it in bread like they do with folic acid! CBD is being touted as somewhat of a wonderdrug. Now I’m not a doctor, or a pharmacist, or a scientist, so I can’t really go into it too much or with any form of authority, but in short it’s a non-psychotropic active ingredient in Canabis (you don’t get high from it) and it has a huge number of benefits in what it treats; anxiety, depression, cognitive issues, movement problems, chronic pain, just to name a few, and the side effects (in normal dose levels) are virtually nil – if you want to understand more about CBD then please read up on it and please don’t rely on me, it is a drug and should be looked into carefully.

So does CBD have a place in distilled beverages? Well Top Beverages are a craft company that think so, they combine it with gin, vodka and rum. You can read more about them at their website: https://top-beverages.com

Recently, they have launched the 3 rums already mentioned above, which are all combined with premium, full spectrum CBD and I’ve kindly been given some (rather large) samples to try out. I’ve tried them, so I’ll review them.

In terms of the rums, all 3 are based on the same distilled spirit and as you’d expect from a craft distillery they were very open and complete when I asked them about their method, so geek hats on:

The rum is distilled in Arbroath, Scotland, from molasses. Distillation takes place by combining 650 litres of molasses with water where it is fermented for 3 weeks, creating a Wash of around 10% abv. The Wash is then distilled in a 500 litre and 200 litre hybrid still which uses 3 copper plates to produce around 150 litres of rum at 50% abv, the first run off is then distilled a 2nd time (double distilled) in the 200 litre still, using 1 copper plate. Cuts are made which produces around 65 litres of rum at 78% abv. The rum is then left for 3-5 days to mellow out, at which point it’s reduced to 60% abv. Here is when the spices are added to the Mocha and Spiced rums, for 24 hours to infused, before filtering. It’s reduced again to a bottling strength of 54.4% abv.

Cool.

These rums are all natural colour, not chill filtered, bottled at 54.5% abv and do not contain any sugar or other nasties other than the natural spices where stated. They are in 500ml bottles with 50mg of CBD.

Top Beverages Double Distilled white rum:

Nose: Very grassy at first, some white stone fruit, green grape maybe and white pepper. Starts to get phenolic with brine, green olive and sea shell. Some floral notes appear part way through, a touch of brioche and a little vanilla.

Palate: Sharp and quite astringent. Some fruity mango, white pepper and brine. There’s a cardboard note part way that’s not too great but it does soon go. A little vanilla, pears and some nail polish.

Finish: Short. Clean, green apples, white pepper heat, the sweetness of thinned honey and sugar dusted lemons.

 

Top Beverages Mocha rum:

Double Distlled white rum infused with organic cacao husks and South American cold brewed coffee.

Nose: Woah, coffee. Chocolate. You need to like coffee and chocolate to like this, luckily I like both. Yeah, lots of chocolate, real stuff though, actual cocoa beans and fresh roasted coffee, There is a touch of salinity under it that gives it a fudge note, some fried banana, a little light toffee and hot buttered crumpets.

Palate: Hot and sharp again at first. Not like the nose……which is a shame. Fizzy cola bottle sweets, nail polish, white pepper and sharp mango again, or nectarine.

Finish: Short. Ah, back to the nose we go with fudge, chocolate, salted caramel and a really good milky coffee.

 

Top Beverages Spiced rum:

Double Distilled white rum infused with cassia bark, orange peel, ginger and Indian vanilla pods.

Nose: Well, this is pungent. Loads of ginger, cinnamon, almost a Chinese 5 spice note, a touch of vanilla, some dark chocolate and a brine/salty tang. Some light liquorice and spiced vanilla pop up as the ginger dies down.

Palate: Hot, but ginger hot. Cloves, ginger root, chillies, cinnamon powder and dry – yes, a dry spiced rum, thank god! No sugary sweet stuff here. A little anise, hint of chocolate, mango, apple and pear.

Finish: Medium. Lots of ginger again, cinnamon and anise. Vanilla shows up here, guess it could finally get out from behind the heat and spices from the palate, and some orange zest.

 

Thoughts in general? I find the white rum too rough. I buy my rum to sip and I don’t think it’s really a sipping rum, none of them really area. There is a nice sharp fruit that runs through it and a salty note that balances things out, and what I do like is that these notes filter through to all 3 of the rums, so you can see that they are all based on the same thing. I think the white would be very good in any fruity cocktail, it’s a strong enough flavour that you’d pick it out and it’d compliment the mixing ingredients well, but as a sipper…..no. Pass.

The Mocha rum smells amazing and finishes well, but the smells are not translated into the drinking really, I think it needs longer with it’s infusions. Again would go very well in a more robust cocktail, something where the rum needs to have more strength to it. As a sipper, I’d drink it, but I’d probably just end up with my nose in the glass most of the time.

The Spiced rum is very good. It’s too heavy on the ginger and too hot there, needs to be toned down, but I could happily drink it neat. To be fair I like ginger a lot…..outside of that it’d be a great winter warmer in a punch or hot toddy, or even in a hot chocolate.

Would I buy any of these rums with my own money? In honesty, no. They’re not what I’m after in my journey and they are bloody expensive (500ml bottle for £49.95), and whilst I understand that craft distilling is very small batch and has higher costs, and the ingredients are absolutely top quality, the target for these are going to be people with deep pockets who are looking for ultra-premium mixing rums.

What I’d be very interested in seeing, is if they age some of the rum. Bang it into some small quarter casks and give it time with oak. There are some good notes in the base rum that’d age well and transform with that ageing.

Lluidas Vale (Worthy Park) 12 year old (2006) – The Duchess

What is it? Jamaican Pure Single Rum (molasses derived rum, 100% pot still, from 1 distillery in Jamaica) from the Worthy Park distillery. It’s called Lluidas Vale because Worthy Park don’t like independent bottlers using their name on bottlings, which is fair enough as they can control their brand. Worthy Park is located in Lluidas Vale, hence the name. This rum was from a single cask that was filled in 2006, matured for around 9 years in Jamaica before coming to Europe to finish off it’s ageing until 2018, so a total time of 12 years, at which point it was bottled by Nils Van Rijn from http://www.bestofwhiskies.com under the rum brand The Duchess. The ageing of 9 years in the tropics puts this on par with a European aged rum of around 20-25 years old.

The rum was from marque WPL (Worthy Park Light) which sits in an ester range of 60-119 g/hlaa. And this is 1 bottle from the cask that produced 268 bottles of rum.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 57.9% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Quite savoury and a lot less banana than with some Worthy Parks, not to say it lacks it though with over baked and burnt banana bread and some banoffee fritters, but we’re generally savoury here; tar, WD40, olive oil, olives, camphor, Tiger Balm and a handful of crushed sea shells. Some salty seaweed, but almost smoked and dried and some sweetness of char-grilled pineapple at the end.

Palate: Full weighty mouth, oily. Savoury here again, although a little more fruit and spice; black bananas, over ripe pineapple, mango and some light toffee with a touch of ginger. Then on to the salt, liquorice, tar, shellfish, olive oil and anchovies. Oak appears here but it’s not tannic or gripping, just shows as black breakfast tea and the taste of a chewed pencil with graphite inside.

Finish: Long. Sweeter here than the nose and palate, some cane, toffee, a little marmalade maybe. Aniseed ball sweets and soft eating liquorice make it a touch herbal. There is some cinnamon, ginger and a bit of milk chocolate as it gets to the end. All through though there’s the salty, oily undertone that keeps it interesting.

Thoughts? Excellent. I like Worthy Park, a lot, but sometimes I find it a little on the sweet side. This takes me back to one of my first ever Worthy Park bottles from Bristol Classic (an 8 year old), which was proper savoury. This isn’t quite that level of savoury but it’s definitely over that side of the fence. Interesting, complex, perfect abv and I’d say the right mix of tropical and European ageing.

I picked this up for £55 and I think that’s a great buy given how independent single casks of rum are heading now. Well done Nils, good selection, and thanks for keeping the price reasonable for us! I’d easily pick up another of these.

Long Pond 16 year old (2000) – Duncan Taylor

What is it? Pure Single Rum from Jamaica (100% pot still, from molasses, at one distillery). This rum was distilled at the Long Pond distillery in June 2000 and bottled in February 2017 by Independent Bottler Duncan Taylor after spending 16 years ageing. It is one of 237 bottles from cask number 17. There are no details of where this has been aged, but given the taste profile, abv and the colour of the rum I’m confident this was aged in Europe.

Lond Pond are known, like Hampden, for producing rums with a wide range of ester levels and are very famous for their Wedderburn style which sits at 200-300 gr/hlaa – unfortunately there are no details of the rum marque or ester levels on the bottle so we can’t say with any certainty what’s in here, guess I’ll have to drink it and find out!

Not chill-filtered, not coloured and bottled at 54.1% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Ah, I’m guessing we’ve got a mid to lower ester rum here. Softer and more subtle than I was expecting. Plenty of warm oak at first which, given the very light colour, is surprising. Vanilla, thinned golden syrup and brown butter. Then we get the fruit; mango, papaya, black bananas, banana bread, kiwi and a blast of lime. Nail polish, salty olive brine and some rubber balloons add a savoury touch. There is a slight herbal note in here too, maybe some pine sap and tomato leaf. It all blends well and is not in your face like some other Long Ponds I’ve had from 2000.

Palate: Full mouth, oily, the legs just sit on the side of the glass and hardly move. Immediately it’s savoury; tar, brine, olive oil, olives, rubber gloves and sea shells. Slight sweetness of runny toffee sauce, melted butter and then some salted liquorice. A touch of vanilla, and I mean a touch. What fruit there is are overripe, rotting and fizzy with bananas, guava, pineapple and their juice. Some more liquorice and a bit of fennel and pine arrive at the end.

Finish: Medium. A little hot actually, still savoury though with bags of olives, tar, liquorice candy (Pontefract cakes) and the rubber balloons. The fruit here is even less than on the palate and consists of banana and lime bread or cake and the smallest of kiwis. There is some vanilla and honey popping up here and there but it’s not a sweet rum. Very savoury on the finish.

Thoughts? It’s really, really good. I love Jamaican pot still rums, but I’m slightly disappointed. It’s not as “big” as I was hoping for, which is fine, things don’t have to be maximum ester all the time, but the Mezan 2000 blows it away for flavour and that was only 40% abv, at half the price. There is something missing here, some mid/lower ester rums from the likes of Monymusk are just “rounder” and more complete, so I don’t quite get where this sits.

Don’t get me wrong, I could drink this all day, it’s excellent in the scheme of things, I just don’t feel that I’m getting £75 out of it, which is what it cost me.

Ron Canuto 7 year old

What is it? Ron Canuto Highland Rum is a molasses based, pot still rum from Ecuador, produced by the Zhumir distillery, making this Pure Single Rum. The molasses used is local stuff and they age in Ecuador too, but whilst this is hot it is aged at altitude which actually slows the maturation somewhat. The rum is aged for 7 years in ex-bourbon casks and I note that whilst it doesn’t say it’s single cask rum my bottle has a barrel number on it (barrel number 7) and bottle number 29 – so it does look like it’s come from a single cask.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? Yes. 35 g/l of the stuff….

Nose: Bananas. Immediately lots and lots of bananas. Banana sweeties, banana flavour Angel Delight (a powered, ready to make blancmange we have in the UK), Crème de banane and banana bread. Some oak spices pop up with light clove, a little ginger, cedar wood and some vanilla. A touch of caramel and then that’s it.

Palate: Full mouth, sweet, very much so. Clearly obvious that this has been fiddled with. Bananas again, bah! Bloody bananas! That’s all I can get, and fake banana stuff too, so a banana milkshake or banana chews (banana split toffees if you’re in the UK and old enough to remember going to a proper sweet shop). Not much else sadly, no pot still notes at all and not even any heat from the alcohol. I’ll be kind and say there is some vanilla in here too, if anything.

Finish: It does, and quickly too. Blink and you’ll miss it. Guess what is here – banana.

Thoughts? Pass. I’ve had worse rums, I’m struggling to remember when but I’m sure I have. Sweet and just tastes of bananas. I picked this up having not seen anything from Ecuador before and thought I’d give it a go, not one I’ll be getting a repeat of.

£32? Nah, no way. Poor show I’m afraid, don’t waste your money.

Monymusk 12 year old (2003) – Duncan Taylor

What is it? The Duncan Taylor Monymusk 12 year old (2003) is a single cask Jamaican Pure Single Rum (100% Pot still, from molasses, produced at one distillery) from the “Monymusk” distillery. Monymusk isn’t actually a distillery, it’s a brand or type of rum that is produced at the Clarendon distillery in Jamaica – their 100% pot still rum. You can read a lot more about the Monymusk brand and Clarendon in this review; which is of a 9 year old bottled by Kill Devil.

This rum was distilled in August 2003 and bottled in February 2016 by independent bottler Duncan Taylor, making it 12 years old. No details on the location of the maturation but going from from own historic reviews of Duncan Taylor bottles, the colour and taste profile I’d say it was matured in Europe. This bottle is one of 194 bottles from cask number 2. No details on the cask marque or ester levels for this.

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled a cask strength of 52.1% abv.

So, molasses based, 100% pot still Jamaican rum at cask strength. Proper rum then. Perfect. On to the review:

Sugar? No

Nose: Ah, beautiful. We’ve got a soft Jamaican here, but don’t be fooled; there is some ester’y goodness inside lying in wait. Baked bananas drizzled with honey, golden syrup and salted butter. Pineapple jam spread on toasted brioche, toffee and pecan yum-yums and churros straight out of the oil. There is some fresh papaya, pear and lime lifting it up and a grungy smell of shipyards with old ropes, a little tar, distant boat engines and salty sea spray. Right at the back there is some oak evident but it’s pretty mild and doesn’t really impose any will on the rum here.

Palate: Full, rich and oily. A lot more savoury than the nose; olives, olive oil, sticking plasters, salted butter and maybe even a little seaweed. Very little spice, maybe a touch of white pepper but for 52% abv its not hot at all. At the back of the palate things sweeten again to light toffee sauce, maybe butterscotch, green bananas, orange rind and some fresh strawberries, of all things.

Finish: Medium to long. Carries on where the palate left off with sweeter notes, more strawberries, tangerines, cantaloupe melon, mango, limes and a funny sort of salted vanilla. There is a hint of rubber bands and olive oil right at the end.

Thoughts? Delicious. A lighter “heavy” rum if you will. Really good pot still notes, some good esters and amazing texture/mouth feel but plays it with a sweeter, more approachable side. I really like this softer Jamaican pot still stuff, lots of complexity and flavour without blowing your head off. Jamaican rum doesn’t need to be maximum ester, 100% of the time.

I picked this up for £60(!) at the time – late 2017 – and it’s a bargain. I’d easily buy this again at that price, although I suspect it’s likely to have gone up a bit now if there are any left about. I saw one recently (March 2019) for £80, which I think is pushing things a little too far. You’re getting into a different price category altogether there.