It’s about time I start introducing more independent bottlers (IB) focused on rum. I’m sure the lot of us are familiar with the concept of IBs as they’re often better alternatives compared to the, usually overpriced and anemic, mainstream releases. More adventurous enthusiasts look to their smaller scale blends to show us what else is possible with blends. Or look to their single cask/barrels to see what a distillery’s spirit can do when unhampered by dilution, filtering and coloring.
Let me present to you Joshua Singh of 1423. I’ll admit I don’t have much experience with the products of 1423 but the rum geeks I’ve come to know in this pandemic always have high for 1423’s Single Barrel Selection releases. I’ve also come to slowly know Joshua thanks to the weekly sessions of the Global Rum Room.
John: First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you introduce yourself and give a bit of your background?
Joshua: My name is Joshua Singh and I am the co-founder and export manager of 1423.dk. My interest in rum came through another spirit, Whisky. My father and my grandfather have always been avid whisky drinkers and my brother and me, all inherited that interest. In the years leading up to the founding of 1423 I used to attend numerous whisky festivals and events around Denmark with my older brother and a group of friends, it was also at one of these festivals we actually tried what I guess we could describe as “real” rum for the first time. Until that point, our knowledge about it was limited to Bacardi, and various cheap supermarket brands we had been drinking as teenagers.
John: The 1423 website says you started the company in 2008. The name 1423 also came from the first rum the company acquired. I recall hearing there’s a story there regarding the cask no. of the rum. Can you share it with us?
Joshua: Yeah that is correct, well it all started at the aforementioned whisky festival. Me and my older brother have always been entrepreneurs with many different projects and big dreams about doing our own thing. So after that last festival my brother had started googling about rum and blending and a few calls later we had decided to make our own rum!
We started out with about 15 different samples that were produced according to our very limited notes about how the taste and flavor should be. These first samples did not have any names, countries, age or anything listed, all that could identify them was a number, so it was 14419, 14420, 14421 and so on. Now after sampling and tasting for a couple of fun nights we quickly picked out our favorite and we kept talking about 1423. Now, in reality, this was numbers 14423, but after 15 or more drams, we might have been a bit lightheaded.
When the time finally came to bottle our rum, we realized that as far as labelling and naming the rum, none of us had actually thought much about that, but this was months after that first sip and during all that time we had called it 1423. So, in the end, it was rather an easy decision and it was named 1423 – 1st edition.
John: Going back to what you said about being initially into whisky earlier on. What was the whisky scene like back then? What kind of whisky were you into?
Joshua: The whisky scene back then was the scene when it came to spirits. If you wanted a glass of premium spirits you would have a glass of Whisky, no one at this point was thinking about rum in Denmark and other spirits like cognac had a very limited audience.
I was still young at that time and I can’t say that I had a particular style that I preferred much over others at the time, details in spirits was not that important for me either at that time to be fair, so I pretty much drank everything, except for heavy peated. One of the things I used to do back then was to buy shares in a cask, so all I would have would be a description of the tasting notes, then I would pay xxx of Danish kroner and then wait 1-3 years before I received my share of the bottles from the cask. I thought that was a great way of trying something unique.
John: The international rum geek community may know your company better as the ones responsible for the SBS brand. What else does 1423 do in Denmark?
Joshua: In Denmark, we have our headquarters and main warehouse, here we also do our own distribution, so we have a sales team on the ground in Denmark and also represent a number of other brands from across the world. Primarily rum, but we do also sell Gin, Whisky, Tequila, Brandy and so on. During the past few years we have also opened up offices in Sweden and Germany, so we now handle our own distribution with our own teams in all 3 countries. The culture is not too different in the 3 countries and it gives us a lot more options to work better and more efficiently while working from our philosophy.
Aside from S.B.S we also own a number of other brands ourselves like, 24 Days of Rum, Companero, Ron Esclavo, The Original GinBox and the most famous might be the cooperation we have with the German Rock band Rammstein where we produce a rum and a gin.
John: It seems like I need to get my hands on a box of 24 Days of Rum! But since the topic of today’s review is S.B.S. I’d like to focus on this. What does S.B.S. mean and how did it come about?
Joshua: S.B.S. stands for Single Barrel Selection. Though the brand hasn’t been with us since our beginning it draws its DNA directly back to that first bottle of 1423 1st edition. Many of us here at the company are rum geeks, and what better way to live that out than experiment with our own barrels, bottle rum from legendary distilleries and of course sample a lot in the process. S.B.S. is not big profits, in reality when you account for the time being spent talking about the brand, doing tastings, taking it to festivals and so on, then there is no profit left. A good businessman would have cut that brand of long ago, but this is a place where rum drinkers can have a lot of fun.
John: Aside from a Glenturret, it seems like S.B.S. only bottles rum. What are the reasons for this?
Joshua: Well we have actually considered other spirits along the way but we are first and foremost a rum company.
This year saw us release “S.B.S. Brazil 2013/2017” and while the production methods are basically the same and it could be categorized as a rum this was in fact a Cachaca. Personally, I would like to expand to other spirits in the line up every now and then, rum is our favorite but there are so many other quality spirits out there.
John: How often does SBS get released in the market?
Joshua: We usually release SBS twice a year. Around March and around September. Sometimes there will be a barrel that we sample in the warehouse that is so good that we have to release it out of the regular schedule or we do a special bottling for a client.
John: Any future plans present and future 1423 fans should look forward to?
Joshua: This March release of S.B.S.! We will be releasing some very old rum from some of the most legendary distilleries in the world. I remember sampling these with my colleagues a month ago and we were truly blown away.
John: What can you tell us about this Guyana 2018 release? What thoughts went into bottling this in 50cl bottled and at 75% abv?
Joshua: The Guyana 2018 was bottled specifically for a Rum shop in Paris called A’rhum, Freddy the owner has become a good friend of mine and I always visit whenever I am in Paris. His selection is amazing and you can spend quite a long time just looking over the shelves until you stumble upon something amazing.
John: What of your brands do you export and where?
Joshua: Today we export to more than 30 countries across the world, we supply most of the European continent and also have various brands available in Canada, USA, Japan, Taiwan, Russia and more. We are slowly expanding across new markets every year.
For our exports is primarily our own brands, but we also represent Worthy Park from Jamaica across most of Europe and parts of Asia
John: 30 countries sounds impressive – do you have any parting words for your growing fan base?
Joshua: Thank you for inviting me to share my passion with your readers, you can follow our releases and news on our Facebook page.
Single Barrel Selection (S.B.S.) Guyana 2018 – review
Color: liquid diamond.
On the nose: Surprisingly mild for the 75% abv. I get medium scents of black forest cake. The two most pronounced scents I get are cherries and chocolate. The cherries are like cherry flavored candy and those bloody red cherry jam. There’s a bit of cream as well. The chocolate scents make me think of chocolate bars and hot coco. Behind them are lighter scents of oranges, blood orange, toffee and unpeel almond nuts. There are close to neutral scents of salinity at the end.
In the mouth: A lot hotter as opposed to what the nose would suggest. But the heat slowly dissipates as I swirl and chew this around my mouth. This still makes me think I’m drinking a liquified form of a black forest cake except that the chocolate is lighter. The cherries and oranges are more pronounced. Imagine those fake maraschino cherries sold in bottles in the supermarkets. Then add cream to them. The oranges are more like orange jam and marmalades. The chocolate tastes similar to that of on the nose. Some light flashes of nutmeg, pimento dram, unpeel almond nuts and blood orange.
Expectedly, this really tastes like the Habitation Velier Port Mourant White. Though I didn’t expect this to be so enjoyable at 75% abv. The only other rum and spirits I’ve had which were at least 75% are Bacardi 151, Hamilton 151, L’Esprit Fiji and Habitation Velier Worthy Park 151. Except for the traumatizing Bacardi 151, I consider all of these drinkable, provided one is used to high abv spirits.
I hope this encourages more Malt readers to be more open to quality rum, quality unaged rum and quality unaged spirits. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Casks and aging aren’t a magic bullet. They won’t automatically make a spirit better. The quality of the raw material, fermentation and distillation matter as well.