“Fancy some rum in the sun?”
OK, lets get this out of the way straightaway: what is a guy who predominately talks about Scotch whisky doing writing about rum? Well, being honest it was Scotch whisky that lead me in this direction. As a 19 year old living in Germany I felt I needed to experiment a little with the alcohol and spirits that frequented the shelves of the local bars. Rum was pretty common, and I enjoyed the usual spiced rums or dark rums.
A few years later whilst working in the Caribbean I spent time in Tortola. Often frequenting the Pussers Road Town pub, there I enjoyed many “pints” of rum. As I moved around the islands my adventures allowed me to sample more, including some that should never have been bottled! Thus, I have a wee history with the sugar cane spirit.
So, how was it that Scotch inspired this article? Well, several weeks ago I was in a tasting with Iain Forteath of Angus Dundee Distillers. For those unfamiliar with this group: they have both Tomintoul and Glencadam single malt distilleries amongst their brands, and Iain is the master blender. A conversation during the tasting of some specially finished drams from those distilleries raised the topic of rum, specifically Ron Larimar rum. Several weeks later I took delivery of samples of four different finished rums. The difference was more than just 4 separate styles; it was the fact that the finish was away from the Caribbean and in the style of Scotch whisky.
I am very lucky in that Iain has shared the story of how a Scottish, whisky-led organisation has taken a spirit from the other side of the world and given it a fusion-like welcome.
Malt: Why has Angus Dundee Distillers created a rum brand?
Iain: As a global bulk supplier we often receive offers of reciprocal trading. We have multiple markets in the Caribbean, some of these are rum distilleries.
Malt: The brand is relatively new; was it just spur of the moment stuff?
Iain: We were offered rum for possibly the last decade, but we have always turned them down as we didn’t have the experience and were unsure about releasing a product that we had not produced ourselves.
Malt: What changed?
Iain: The global interest in rum has grown. It made us rethink the offers of rum, so we began to look at and sample what our customers had to offer. One in particular – from Dominica – struck a real resonance with me, as it had a lean and structured profile, not too dissimilar to some of our whiskies, and this got the cogs turning.
Our way of putting our stamp on the rum was to do some of what we do best and apply some whisky cask finishing to further enhance these spirits. After many internal discussions the brand “Ron Larimar” was born, Larimar being a rare stone found in the Dominican Republic.
The rum is produced in the Dominican Republic and spends five years in American Oak maturing in the warm climate. It is then transported to Scotland and given a further period of between 18 to 26 months in the cooler surroundings. This is where the Scotch whisky influence is imparted on the rum. The distillers chose four different cask types to finish the spirit in: First fill Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, PX Sherry and heavily Peated whisky casks.
Ron Larimar First Fill Bourbon – Review
On the nose: One could almost say this is double bourbon matured, with the initial five years in American oak before moving to Kentucky Bourbon casks. For me this gives it a rich nose full of vanilla and toffee, edges with cream and honey, very clean and smooth on the nose.
In the mouth: Chocolate, toffee, vanilla, a handful of candy in a glass! A smooth vanilla custard topped with nutmeg and cinnamon, Crème brûlée… yum! On the finish, mellow, welcoming and smooth. OK I’ve now said smooth in the nose/palate and finish; yikes!
Ron Larimar Oloroso Sherry – Review
On the nose: Red Berries, orchard fruits; it is lively and spring-like, fresh feeling. Vanilla essence, all this sweetness has an almost tobacco influence hanging over it.
In the mouth: Perhaps starts with a slightly acidic approach, mellowing to citrus zest, dark chocolate, caramel, sweet apples and pears, that tobacco or old leather influence is there also, and a definite wood influence. On the finish, warming and pleasant, medium and more-ish.
Ron Larimar PX Sherry – Review
On the nose: Rich and indulgent fruit cake, sweet dates, dark rich chocolate, slight musty dirty water hint.
In the mouth: Dried fruits, raisins, strawberry jam, and some tropical pineapple in sticky sweet syrup. It leads to salty caramel, chocolate with a hint of tobacco. On the finish, rich and lingering.
Ron Larimar Heavily Peated – Review
On the nose: The vanilla notes from the original American oak maturation come through; there is an orchard fruit juiciness battling with a good smokiness.
In the mouth: The peat influence is apparent from the start but does not overpower; there is the fresh orchard fruit, perhaps more on the pear side; there is a woody hint and maybe a lime marmalade. On the finish, BBQ fruit cocktail, smoke from a campfire toward the end, a wee bit of spice.
Well this wee trip along the Caribbean beach has honestly been an absolute treat. Four very welcome pours of rum, and whilst my head is telling me that I can find a commonality across the four what I am really surprised with is that I can find a difference across them. The rum spirit comes ashore in Scotland the same, but that 18 to 26 months of attention from the different casks does well to create four different expressions from the one liquid. I think it is a bold attempt to take something and influence it to create a different approach to rum, to try to bring it under your whisky brand’s umbrella.
Perhaps I’m shadowed under the cloud of romance from trying something new, but as it stands I could honestly see myself enjoying and sharing these rums with friends. At around £30 a bottle, these could easily make a return on a regular basis.
Now my one critical question: can it be taken further? Is there enough scope across cask availability to find different avenues for exploration, or has Ron Larimar peaked at this four? I’d be interested/excited to see the future of the brand. My thanks to Iain Forteath from Angus Dundee Distillers for providing info for the article.
Editor’s note: these samples were provided free of charge by Angus Dundee Distillers, which does not affect our notes or score.