Not just for umbrella drinks: SA craft rums rival single malt whiskies

06 July 2018 - 11:53 By Richard Holmes
The Cuba libre is one of many classic cocktails that wouldn't be complete with a splash of rum.
The Cuba libre is one of many classic cocktails that wouldn't be complete with a splash of rum.
Image: 123RF/manyapeace45

First, there was craft beer. Gin was hot on its heels, with artisanal tonics not far behind. Now it’s rum’s turn in the limelight, as the Cape’s craft distillers swap juniper-driven gin botanicals for the tropical notes of fine rum.

“Rum has suffered from a bit of an image problem,” explains James Copeland of Kommetjie-based Copeland Rum. “It’s seen as a fun spirit, so people haven’t taken it seriously. But there are some very serious rums out there, which are on the same level as single malts.”

Copeland, like most distillers without easy access to raw sugarcane, makes its rum from blackstrap molasses, a dark and viscous by-product of the sugar production process.

There are some very serious rums out there, which are on the same level as single malts
James Copeland of Copeland Rum

In the distillery, the molasses is first fermented to make a “beer” with around 7% alcohol, before a double distillation produces a crystal-clear spirit redolent with tropical aromas and an undercurrent of caramel sweetness.

“It’s all about unlocking the flavours that are hidden in the molasses,” says James, whose rum is fast gaining traction in leading bars and restaurants across the city.

Delicious served neat – look for notes of roasted pineapple and litchi – it’s also superb in a classic daiquiri.

James also has a barrel of (soon-to-be “aged”) rum maturing quietly in a corner of the distillery and is playing around with everything from liquorice root to cassia bark to create a rich spiced rum for winter.

Another respected distiller that has turned its attention to rum is Inverroche, near the southern Cape town of Stilbaai.

The Inverroche Blackstrap Rum is also made from molasses, distilled in their custom-made copper pot still, before ageing for seven years in oak casks brought in from Scotland, Portugal and the United States.

A deep amber colour, with hints of toasted oak, caramel, cinnamon and butterscotch, the groundwater from the chalk-rich soils “adds a distinctive mineral quality to our rums”, says owner Lorna Scott, who says the rum is best enjoyed neat “or with a dash of water".

"[It's] perfect as an after-dinner drink, especially when paired with salted caramel chocolate”.


This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guides. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za


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