Ninefold Edition 1 cask strength – 1 year old

What is it? Scottish Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from the Ninefold distillery in Dumfries & Galloway. Ninefold is a tiny distillery on the Dormont estate near Dalton and is situated in a converted stone farm building. It’s pretty much a 1-man-band with Dr Kit Carruthers making the rum on a hybrid copper pot still, you can see a bit more about the distillery and the online shop on the website Ninefold Distillery

Ninefold is very small batch craft distillation and therefore there isn’t volume of product being pumped out, as such the range is still relatively small consisting of an unaged (white) rum and a spiced rum, although I know that will change with some time once aged stock starts to become ready. So far there’s been a couple of aged rums that Kit has produced, Edition 0 which was very limited in numbers and the rum which is being reviewed here; Edition 1. This edition of the rum was aged for 12 months in a new/virgin oak cask (specifically cask number 3!) after which it was released on 28th September 2020 and is a run of only 246 bottles, all of which are well past sold out now.

Aging the rum in virgin oak was a very clever thing, if you ask me. It’s pretty cold in Scotland and the Angels Share is only around 2-3% a year (albeit quite a bit higher in year 1) so there isn’t a massive amount of speedy maturation going on here. Unlike other cask types which are reused vessels (they’ve previously held Bourbon, or brandy, or whisky, or whatever), virgin oak is brand new. It’s charred up (in this case to a medium char) and filled with rum, this means that the first wood impact is directly into this rum and has not been taken away by any previous contents; it allows for a spirit that drinks at a higher maturity level than it otherwise would in refill casks. They do the same thing with Boubon, that has to be new oak, which is why there’s a lot of wood impact after just a few years. The problem is you can overdo things, so a 12 month period seems like a good middle ground.

Bit of a geeky bit now. The cask was filled at 60.9% abv and this is actually quite interesting. A lot of distilleries (especially Scotch Single Malt ones) fill to cask at 65% as it’s believed to be the most efficient abv for cask interaction – below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose (a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars of a spirit casked at 70% abv). Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So a fill down near 60% is letting the natural wood sugars come out into the spirit to mellow the youth whilst still allowing high oak interaction with the virgin oak. Filling this higher up, nearer to 70% would likely have left it harsher and a lot more tannic.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at cask strength of 59.6% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Big and thick with huge amounts of butterscotch. It’s really forward on the caramels; toffee pennies from Quality Street, Caramac bars, real butter fudge, Banana Skids (that’s a sweet) and white chocolate. Under this caramel onslaught there is some fruit with vintage marmalade, green banana, grapefruit and mango jam. A little prickle of cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns at the end.

Palate: Full mouth. Some heat at first, hey look it’s a young rum at cask strength so this wasn’t unexpected. Caramels again, golden syrup, maple syrup, tiffin and a big hit of chilli. After there’s a herbal aspect I can’t quite pin down, lemon barley sweets and menthol perhaps. Some really nice ginger biscuit notes as you swallow.

Finish: Medium. Quite hot as you’ve swallowed with red chillies, black pepper and tannic oak. Moves on to cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger root then sweetens again to Stroopwafles, toffee chews and milk chocolate. There’s a slight char/smoky note right at the end.

Thoughts? I don’t know what I was expecting here, but it blindsided me a bit. It’s very much on the sweeter note side (not actually sweet, no sugar here) but there’s enough spice and cask to stop it running away with itself. For a cask strength young rum it’s dangerously easy to drink. It’s not hugely complex at this point but it’s certainly very enjoyable. It’s clearly very well made rum and I can’t wait to see how Kit progresses Ninefold forward with future releases – exciting times.

This cost me £45 straight from the distillery online shop, now that is quite expensive for a 1 year old rum but you’ve got to take into account that this is being made by a bloke in a shed (ok, a big, very nice and very clean shed) and at the output volumes being done here there’s a unit price that things need to be sold at to even be viable to make. This is pretty much as craft as you can get with a spirit, and for the price I feel like I’ve definitely got value out of my bottle, so there’s no problem there – in fact, if there were any bottles still around I’d buy another.

This is the first rum I’ve had from Ninefold and based on this I’ll be picking up whatever the next release may be, no doubt about that.

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

What is it? Pure Single Rum (pot still, molasses based, single distillery) from the New Yarmouth distillery in Jamaica. Not a lot of people outside rum “enthusiast” groups will have heard of New Yarmouth; it is part of Appleton Estate and based in Clarendon, Jamaica. It produces rum mainly for Wray and Nephew and particularly white rum for the Overproof. They have both pot and column stills at the distillery and it has quite a large output, but most of this ends up in blended rums or other brands – there is very little out there labelled as New Yarmouth and where you do find it it’s almost exclusively in Independent bottles.

So that’s the distillery, what about this brand? Well Vidya is a new brand owned by Skylark Spirits who are a UK based distributor and importer of rum – they own Rumcask and do a lot of (nowadays) online tasting events. I’ve got to know them over the last year or so and they’re a really good bunch of lads, so I was very excited when they told me about this project, especially once I found out what it was. The word “Vidya” comes from ancient Sanskrit and means “clarity, knowledge and learning” – well chosen, if you ask me, to represent a (hopefully range of!) rum that is unaltered, fully transparent and about a pure as you can get it.

So where does the River Mumma fit in? Well this name was chosen because legends of the River Mumma goddess have been whispered throughout Jamaica for centuries. She is said to have guarded rivers such as the Rio Minho, which runs alongside the New Yarmouth distillery, acting as the protector of the fish and wildlife inhabitants.

So that’s the background covered off, now the nitty gritty, what’s in the bottle:

This rum, as mentioned, comes from a pot still and has been matured entirely in ex-bourbon casks. It was distilled in 2005 and the first 7 years of maturation were spent in Jamaica. On 16th May 2012 it was filled into a once used bourbon cask and shipped to the UK. In 2017 it was then sent off to Denmark until it was bottled in 2020. This gives us a tropical age of 7 years, a European age of 8 years with a total age of 15 years. Obviously the 7 years in Jamaica will amount for more, usually 3:1 so those initial 7 years will be around 21 years equivalent of European aging.

The cask marque is SFJW, but this is not a New Yarmouth marque, it’s likely to be one used by a shipper. The actual marque is NYE/EM which comes in a whopping 1300-1400 gr/hlaa of esters – which makes this an absolute monster.

Bottled at cask strength of 61.5% abv and one of 255 bottles released.

So just to summarise; well aged, insane ester, cask strength pot still Jamaican rum. Drink this sat down.

Note: For the purpose of my own survival and that of both my nose hairs and taste buds, I’ve taken this down to about 57% abv for the review. This is the strength I’ve been drinking it at for pleasure too.

Sugar? No way

Nose: Holy shit, this thing is mental. The smell from the bottle hits you right in the face as soon as you pull the cork. The nose is a total onslaught with huge amounts of fermenting pineapple, black bananas, banana foam sweets, pineapple cube candy, overripe mango and pears. Describing funk in a rum is quite a hard thing to do but one sniff of this explains it all, this is seriously, seriously funky rum. Then things get all savoury, and very interesting; beeswax, nail varnish remover, grease, petrol, Kalamata olives by the bucket, tar and a combination of Nam Pla (fish sauce) and wasabi. There’s a musty note of cardboard, hessian sacks and coconut husks. Sitting under all this is a little vanilla, coconut, almond, light caramel and some nutmeg. What. A. Nose.

Palate: Good body, full mouth feel but not oily, just nicely coating. We’re a step or two back from the nose here, not as big or brash, which is a good thing as I stand a chance of actually being able to pick out some flavours. Still big funk with lots of banana, pineapple, mango, passion fruit and cantaloupe melon but it’s easier to find the more subtle notes; vanilla, clove, honey and coconut. We’ve got a tobacco smoke, leather and old wooden furniture. There’s that Umami note of Nam Pla and wasabi again, white pepper and stamp glue. Plenty of salty olives and grease then back to bananas, some brown sugar and pineapple cube sweets as it goes to the finish.

Finish: Very long. Fruity here still with Fruit Salad chews, concentrated banana essence or oil and a little bit of strawberry of all things. There’s a flash of savoury with Black Jack sweets (liquorice candy), brine, Pear Drops and tarry ropes, but on the whole it’s the remnants of the massive tropical fruits that stays here.

Thoughts? Wow. This is a big, big rum. The nose is one of the best I’ve ever smelt and you get it as soon as you pour a glass. It drops a few points on the palate but that’s not really the palates fault, it’s pretty hard to come after that nose and be able to stand up for yourself, the smell is so good.

What I love here though is that it’s not just all about the funk, there’s loads of layers and huge complexity; you really do go down a rabbit hole with this rum.

So this is one of my top rums of 2020 and one of the best I’ve ever had; I ranked it 2nd and it was only piped to the post by Foursquare Nobiliary, so not a bad showing at all given what it was up against. Now, this is not cheap at £130 but let me tell you how good this is: I pre-ordered a bottle after a sample without even asking what the price was, I really didn’t care. Yes, it’s worth every penny.

If you fancy this you can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

Rumtastic rum of the year 2020

Well 2020 is nearly over (thank God), although 2021 doesn’t look like it’s about to start the right way – thanks COVID –  so it’s time for any bloggers obligatory “top rums blah blah blah”. As I don’t score my rums this process is actually fairly easy for me as I don’t have to go through my scoring and try to pick out rums with a slither of a mark between them, all I have to do is engage my memory. Basically my selection is pretty straight forward here, I chose my favourite rums; do I remember the rum blowing my mind? Ultimately, if a rum sticks in my mind then it’s a contender and there have been quite a few of these this year. Now I must caveat that I’ve not tried every rum that has been released 2020, let’s face it I’ve got a limited budget and a limited amount of time, naturally I can only rank what I’ve actually tried – so in the scheme of things this list is pretty much meaningless, but it’s getting done anyway. The other thing to note is that I may well have drunk and reviewed rums in 2020 that were released earlier, again because I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and money, and due to the volume of releases it’s quite easy to get behind with stuff.

Right, bullshit out of the way, what are Rumtastic’s 5 most rumtastic rums of 2020?

Coming in at number 5:

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 13 year old (2006) – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive

This was a bottle of Chairman’s Reserve that was done for The Whisky Exchange and a 50/50 mix of Vendome and John Dore pot still rum. It was the first time I’d really ventured into rums from Saint Lucia Distillers and made me have to sit down. It was incredibly complex, hugely phenolic and carried a very divisive profile so not everyone will get on with this. The result of drinking this rum was that I went out and bought a load of other stuff from Saint Lucia Distillers without even thinking about it.

 

 

 

Next at number 4:

The Black Tot 50th Anniversary

This rum was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day and is an incredible blend. A “Navy” blend rum that hits all the right notes but also tips it’s hat to a modern, fresher style of rum. No sugary sweet bollocks or cloying stickiness going on here, just really good rum blended together. Some of the original Naval rum in here too! Big props for full disclosure of the blend, right down to the percentages and the aging split of everything that went in to the bottle.

 

 

 

Rocking in at number 3:

Foursquare Detente

A list of top 5 rums of the year wouldn’t be complete without something from Foursquare and 2020 is no exception. Detente was probably the rum I was most looking forward to in 2020 because of the nostalgia attatched to the very first Port Cask in the Exceptional Cask line-up and it really didn’t disappoint. Beautiful rum, dangerously easy to drink and a showcase in the journey Foursquare have made with their rums and presentation over the last 5 years.

 

 

 

 

Runner up this year at number 2:

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

This bottle was released right at the end of the year and has managed to sneak into second spot at the very last minute. This was my Christmas present to myself so it’s only just been opened and at the time of writing there I’ve not reviewed it. This is the inaugural bottling by the lads at Skylark Spirits and is a 15 year old single cask New Yarmouth rum, bottled at full strength and from the NYE/EM marque which comes in at a whopping 1300-1400 gr/hlaa on the ester level. I was kindly sent a sample of this ahead of release and immediately pre-ordered a bottle…..I don’t even think I asked them the price, it was that good. I recall spending literally an hour just nosing this.

 

 

Top spot and my number 1 rum of the year goes to:

Foursquare Nobiliary

What is there to say about this one? Not only my favourite rums of 2020 but one of my favourite rums so far since I’ve been blogging. When I first saw the label I did a little eye-roll thinking it was going to be yet another 100% ex-bourbon cask Foursquare rum, which we get every year under the vintage releases, then I opened it. Boy how wrong I was. Utterly fabulous rum and a no-brainer to make my top spot.

 

 

 

 

So there we have it. My favourite rums of 2020. The takeaways from there are 2 things; firstly there’s a good range that’s fallen into my top 5 – that’s not deliberate, if my favourite rums were all Jamaican then that’s what my list would be – but we’ve got a scatter across Jamaica, a blend, a couple of Barbadians and rum from a country I’d never tried before. This is a good thing and shows that incredible stuff is coming from many different taste profiles and not limited to 1 style, country or region. The second is that these are all limited releases. I’m sorry about that, and if you’ve not been able to get your hands on any of them then that is a shame. This isn’t as good as the first takeaway. The rum is there, clearly, but no continuous release has made it. I’d really like to see 2021 lifting up bottles from core ranges and continuous releases and at least one getting into my top 5 next year – this would help everyone from the distilleries right down to the consumers. Let’s drink the best rum we can.

 

 

 

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

What is it? Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, molasses based, single distillery) from the Clarendon distillery in Jamaica and bottled under the Monymusk name – you can read a bit more about Monymusk and Clarendon here in this review. The rum was distilled in 2010 after which it was aged tropically for 9 years before being bottled in 2019 for the Habitation Velier series of rums. The aging has taken its toll on the rum with an Angels Share of over 64% lost in that short 9 years. This particular bottling is from the EMB marque of rum meaning it has an ester level of 275.5 g/hlpa – so a mid level range of esters.

Not chill-filtered, not coloured and bottled at 62% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Woody at first – toasty oak, varnish, furniture glue, toffee, maybe a touch of golden syrup. It’s not an ester bomb that’s for sure but Monymusk rarely are. We’ve got fruit in here though, richer, darker than you’d expect from a Jamaican with prune, plum, black cherry, sultana and dried apricot. There’s a little pineapple hiding in here too but it’s almost candied, some roasted nuts, marzipan, vanilla and dried coconut. Maybe a little note of chocolate here and there but it’s faint. It’s quite fruit cake like on the nose.

Palate: Full mouth feel. We’re at the same party as the nose, which is good. Cherries, figs, prune, black plum and raisin. Some dark chocolate, butterscotch, golden syrup, molasses, dates, flamed oranges – all that deep stuff. There’s a burst of sourness part way which is almost gherkin or caper like, some varnish notes, pear drops, mango and fresher pineapple, but it goes back to the richer side and gets cake’y again.

Finish: Long. Stays as we are here, nothing fancy. Brioche buns, vanilla, chocolate and fruit cake with marzipan again. The odd burst of sourness pops up with brine, some pear drops and mango too but it remains largely darker and cake’y. We get the addition of some rubber gloves and black olives here at the end as things tail off.

Thoughts? Very good. It walks a careful line between Demerara and Jamaica, and it’s definitely more brooding than normal Jamaican rum – it’s a cracker for our shit Autumn weather. Ok, this probably isn’t the “best” Monymusk I’ve ever had, but you often get a bit of a curveball with these Habitation Velier releases and this is one of them. This was a touch over a ton when I bought it, I think it was around £105 or £110.

Would I get another at that price? You know, I really enjoyed this rum but if I were pressed for an answer, no I wouldn’t. There’s just something missing here and I can’t put my finger on it, but if I’m spending over £100 on a bottle I want a little something “extra”.

If you fancy giving this one a go it’s still around on The Whisky Exchange here:

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

 

Or Master Of Malt here:

Monymusk EMB 9 year old (2010) – Habitation Velier

Hampden Estate Overproof

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from the Hampden distillery in Jamaica. This is one of the two official distillery bottles that came out back in 2018 – the Hampden Estate Overproof (bottled at 60% abv), the other being a standard 46% one – the rum in the bottle is the same, only the abv differs. It’s a 7 or 8 year old blend, I say this because the front of the bottle says 8 years old and the back says 7 years old, all of which was done tropically so is equivalent to around 25 years worth of European aging. There are no concrete details of the marques in the blend but the consensus seems to be that it’s a mix of OWH, LROK and DOK, which vary massively in ester levels – for those that know, the DOK will be only a small amount due to it being the secret formula that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, it’s that damn strong:

OWH: 40-80 g/hlaa (low ester level)

LROK: 300-400 g/hlaa (mid ester level)

DOK: 1500-1600 g/hlaa (holy fucking shit)

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 60% abv.

I’m drinking this, and therefore reviewing it, at between 50% and 55% abv depending on how heavy handed I’m being with my teaspoon as I find that this is where it gets the most out of the rum. 60% is fine, but a lot of the smells and tastes are muted there.

Sugar? No

Nose: Not entirely what I was expecting, which is good I guess as it keeps us on our toes. Pretty savoury at first; putty, wallpaper paste, vegetable bullion, nail polish and a little musty hessian. Dry spices like cumin and cardamom, maybe a little turmeric and liquorice root, and a touch of new leather. Classic brine and a bit of olive oil in here too and then the fruits with lemons, mango, Conference pears, faint pineapple and maybe a small peach which sharpens it. It certainly doesn’t scream “high ester” or punch you  in the face like so many Independent bottles.

Palate: Full mouth, but crisp at the same time. Hot, even with water. This is more like what I was thinking; brine, salted fish, tar, varnished wood, stamp glue, liquorice and olives. More fruit here with pineapple, lemons, papaya, mango and green banana. There’s a touch of pipe tobacco and some nutty, earthy notes mid way, just before it swings back to fruit again.

Finish: Long, of course. Salty, brine, olives and tar. Crushed shells, anchovies and rubber gloves. Little fruit here, as with the nose, but what does show up are the usual suspects and mainly on lemon and mango. There’s an undertone of smoky, leathery, oiliness as it finishes off that’s really nice.

Thoughts? I’ll get this out of the way first; it’s a cracking rum, of course it is, and I was never in doubt. As far as my preference for Hampden goes, it falls short. Where the Indie bottles and single casks are full to the brim with character and/or depth (some aren’t deep but are like dynamite), this is narrow and pleasing. It’s excellent rum and will please many (it does please me) but it’s lacking the je ne sais quoi that lurks in a single marque, single cask Hampden. It seems it’s an Everyman’s Hampden and this is something that often happens with official distillery bottlings; Worthy Park Estate was the same for me – very, very good, but robbed of the spark that you get in some those so wonderful single casks. When a distillery puts out a bottling like this they throw the net wide for the biggest catch and in doing so let some the more prized fish escape.

This cost me £80. I’d save the money and get the 46% version instead, as I’ve had to drop it down to not far from that anyway to get the best of out it, and it’s the same rum in the bottle.

If you want a full proof, real Jamaican and big ester stuff puts you off then go for it, but don’t be expecting a massive funky rum here. Not the Hampden I’m after I’m afraid.

If you fancy a bottle of this then you can pick it up at The Whisky Exchange here:

Hampden Estate Overproof

Or Master of Malt here:

Hampden Estate Overproof