British Rum – Scotland

It is safe to say, that when it comes to British Rum, the Scottish are really blazing a trail.

here are some we have enjoyed for a while now, and some that are popping up and about to move the needle even further. So of course we had to go and see it for ourselves, catch up with old friends and make some new ones!

The DropWorks team set off on a road trip of discovery (in an electric vehicle #Sustainability), that took us from the East to the West coast of Scotland. And discover we did! 3 distilleries in 3 days, and what we found was as exciting and inspiring as we hoped.

The 3 British Distilleries we visited all had such distinct personality, which was so clearly represented in the products they produced. They were all making Rum, but as we know, the reason we love Rum is that it is so diverse, and this was the perfect showcase.

Take a look at NB distillery for yourself!

NB Distillery – North Berwick

Current makers of very well respected Gin and Vodka, we had heard rumours that there was a Double Retort still at their distillery, one of only 2 double retort stills in the country (we will get to the second later!). 

Steve, Head distiller at NB distillery, welcomed us to his beautiful, picturesque distillery on the East coast of Scotland and showed us around the site and then the mythical Double Retort Still, a truly magnificent creature, crafted of copper and clad in wooden panel. Currently (at time of writing) she lays dormant, as they are laying plans for her future use. Previous bottling runs of their Scottish Dark Rum have all been snapped up so we couldn’t try it, but reviews spoke of a quality and full flavoured Rum. 

This is the first exciting aspect of British Rum, because as a category it is at most 5-6 years old, most distillers are using modern, shiny, custom made copper stills, ensuring lots of copper contact, quality cuts of spirit and a silky smooth mouth feel of the final product. This of course isn’t the only reason, the skill and knowledge is of vital importance, as we soon saw.

Rare image of Distillers meeting in the wild
Matugga bringing the heat!

Matugga Distillery – Livingston

Next up we saw our old friends Paul and Jacine at Matugga Distillery in Livingston. The first time seeing the distillery in the flesh immediately tells you everything you need to know about the Rum. Using traditional pot stills, heated by open flame (yes, open fires next to wooden barrels of high strength alcohol!), this is Rum made traditionally by Rum heads that know their shit!

An enduring image that sums this up, molasses sits in an IBC by the open door, lid off, exposed and open for wild fermentation, encouraging flies to have a dip and bring with them bacteria that brings an extra funk when fermented. The kind of thing that is common practice in a generational Caribbean distillery, but just unexpected to see in Livingston! Open fire, wild fermentation, staff dancing around to the blaring radio! It just works! And this is so clearly reflected in their incredible range of Rums.

This really highlights a second core aspect of British Rum, something which is synonymous with British values. As a Country we pride ourselves on inclusivity. Welcoming and embracing citizens form all around the World. Leading to such a wealth of knowledge, and expertise from every corner of the globe. British Rum benefits massively from the global education, of techniques, equipment, processes and little tricks to make the final product that extra bit special.

Islay Rum – Islay

Finally we caught the early ferry over to Islay. If you’re a spirits enthusiast in Scotland, you its considered sacrilege not to venture over to the home of smokey, peated, whiskey, and now, the home of Islay Rum!

Nestled in the Shadow of Port Ellen distillery, Islay Rum currently has a humble home (compared to the estates of the whiskey distilleries on the island), that houses a truly awe inspiring, technologically advanced, and almost surgically precise set up of equipment. Multiple fermenters are woking over time to feed the stunning Double Retort still (only the second one in Britain).

The devastatingly handsome Ben, walked us around and showed us what he is working on. Their Un-aged Rum is like gold dust, as they are looking to the future and ageing as much liquid as they can. The Un-aged rum is a showcase for just what they are ageing, and that quality we spoke of previously is so immediately obvious. This is liquid that has been distilled on exceptional equipment, by people that have meticulously studied the craft, and it shows. 

Which hammered home yet another exciting factor of British Rum. Although still in its infancy, the liquids we are trying now are just the baby steps. As a category, we are just finding out feet, and what we are making is exciting. Very exciting. 

As D:Ream said, things will only get better. And when you are starting at such a high base, the ceiling will continually be lifted. Even better distillates, barrel ageing doing its thing, and the settling in of equipment, as well as distillers getting in their grove and finding their rhythm. On top of that, the stories we have heard of experimental distillations, newfangled ageing processes and unique finishes and blends, means we are just lighting the fuse on an explosion of innovation within British Rum. And we can not wait to be a part of it.

Good things come in small packages.

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