Our rum story began a few years ago. Our founder Dan’s interest in rum had been steadily growing for a number of years, accelerated both by his wife Katia’s fondness for the spirit and through his long friendship with and admiration for Alexandre Gabriel, founder of Plantation Rum. After many holidays planned around distillery visits, and trying rums from around the Caribbean and all over the world, Dan developed a particular interest in the so-called high-ester rums of Jamaica. These rums are made primarily from molasses (as opposed to Agricole rums which are made directly from sugar cane juice) and their long fermentation – often incorporating something called dunder (refermented stillage) - gives rise to a rich spirit known for its intense funky tropical fruit aromas and flavours.
Dan started thinking about how we could create a Jamaican-style high-ester rum in the Cotswolds and how we could make it our own truly English product with English ingredients. Sugar cane doesn’t grow in England, and sugar beets are not allowed, so we hit on the idea of making our rum with the most English ingredient, Tate & Lyle No. 3 Treacle, which is produced just down the Thames in Tate & Lyle’s venerable sugar factory on Plaistow Wharf in London from unrefined sugar from the Caribbean. In addition to making lovely tarts, treacle is actually a by-product of the refining process - basically molasses by another name - and it’s therefore as perfect for rum-making as it is English.
The good stuff (we used bigger containers than this…)
Next came the know-how. Our journey started in 2017 when one of our senior distillers, Cotswolds-born Leon, suffered a shoulder injury which kept him from running the big stills for a while. To keep him focused during convalescence we gave him a miniature rum still and a trunk-full of books on rum production, and in record time Leon had taught himself the art of rum-making Jamaican-style. He created some pretty amazing samples on the baby still, and by the time he was back to work ready to scale up to Lorelei, our 500-litre Holstein still, our tanks of treacle had arrived.
Leon set out to ferment the dissolved treacle using an intensely fruity red wine yeast. The bolder he got with the process the longer the fermentations would run, until they were averaging a whole month and our former casking room (renamed 'the rum room') was filled with the smells (and fruit flies!) of the Caribbean. Leon turned his attention to the use of dunder, the refermented stillage (not for the faint of heart), which shocks the yeast into overdrive and gets them to produce massive amounts of acids which, during distillation, become the incredible esters for which Jamaican rum is known.
All this was in the spring of 2018, around which time we were visited by a well-known Jamaican rum expert, Michael Delevante, who spent a few days with us going through various rum-making techniques. We’ve always enjoyed having visiting mentors, but by then Leon was already pretty far along and on a mission to push the boundaries of rum as far as he could. Going forward with what he learned from Michael, he did both (double) pot distillations, to create full-flavour spirit, along with column runs using both our pot still and rectifying column, to produce a lighter spirit. The rum kept getting better and better, and Leon lovingly casked it in some beautiful cream sherry barrels from Spain among others. Leon worked hard at the rum for most of 2018, by which point we realised we didn’t have the still size or the resources to keep on making rum every few days. Unfortunately, we had to put our rum-making journey on hold for the time being, disappointing as this was.
Before we all knew it, two years had gone by and the rum was coming along so well we thought it would be nice to share some with our closest friends in time for Christmas. It’s been a tough year after all, and we could all use a little tot of goodness. This release is extremely limited - there are only a few hundred 50cl bottles to go around, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. We’ll try and do this exercise each year around the holidays, to make the most of those few amazing barrels on which Leon worked so diligently. We think this is an outstanding rum, and we hope you do too. If you like it please let us know, and if there’s enough enthusiasm from all of you then one day perhaps we’ll be able to invest in a bigger rum still, and get Leon back to work making more Treacle Rum!
Cotswolds Treacle Rum