Johann Jobello, the brand manager of Transcontinental Rum Line, has consistently emphasized that one of the key principles of the brand is its desire to recognize and celebrate rum’s diversity.
In this third and final installment of my series on TCRL, I share the rest of my conversation with Johann and conclude with a review of their bottling of an Australian rum.
Malt: How do you view aging and cask management? How do you view tropical aging vs. continental aging when looking for quality? Does the kind of cask used matter for you when you’re sourcing rum?
Johann: Most of our rums are both tropical- and continental-aged. I believe that rum should be aged in a tropical environment in its first few years so that it would develop its profile, but we also have stock of rum fully aged in Europe. Again, the main criterion is taste, so I try not to have any biases. In terms of the use of casks, I have a very traditional view: I mostly use ex-Bourbon and ex-Cognac casks. I also like to reuse our rum casks.
Sometimes, I have rums that are ready for bottling, but if I let them age one or two more years by reusing rum casks, it enables us to age rum but without giving too much additional aromas, I would say.
Again, I’m not here to criticize; I like what our competitors are doing, but for me, I don’t like to use exotic or wine casks. When I tried rums aged in ex-Sherry or other kinds of wine casks, I felt that the original liquid interfered too much with the rum. I’m not saying the rum was bad, but I felt that the original taste could no longer be felt.
With that said, I might experiment in the future, too. Why not try an ex-Sherry cask? But for those, I’ll use a high-ester Jamaican rum, for example, because I want to have a rum that can maintain its original flavor by “fighting” against the cask influence. For now, though, we’ll do things in a classic way for our cask management.
Malt: How would you describe your experience of managing TCRL compared to the experiences of managers of LMDW’s (La Maison du Whisky) other independent bottling brands like Artist Collective or Version Française?
Johann: Like I mentioned previously, we try to have the same standards regardless of what spirit we’re bottling. So we have, more or less, the same process in our product development. I think that it’s why people trust us, in fact. When we release a new product or range, people know that we follow the same standards.
If I have to be more specific, I would say that when it comes to bottling, we experience fewer constraints on production compared to Artist Collective when it bottles Scotch, for example, which requires aging, bottling, and labeling in Scotland. In rum, for now, regulations are looser except in areas like Martinique, which have AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). That’s changing though, albeit slowly.
In Jamaica and Barbados, they’re working on GIs (Geographical Indicators), and that would mean needing to age and bottle on those islands. From the consumer perspective, that’s definitely a good thing because it means more transparency. It gives me, as a brand manager, more logistical work to do, but I believe it’s a good price to pay for greater transparency, something the rum category needs.
Malt: You mentioned that you have plans to create a new blend or release rums from new countries. Among the different near-future plans that TCRL has, which ones are the most excited about?
Johann: I would say it’s the mixology SKU (stock keeping units), because it’s quite new for the range, even if we already have the two blends. We’re working on really cool packaging that would help make the blend fun and nice to use in cocktails. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’m preparing this for release in 2023. It’s a new kind of work for me because I had to design a blend! Testing with different rums, trying to maintain a balance while respecting our values and mottos… it’s an exciting experience.
This is a release of a molasses-based pure single rum (using the Gargano classification) or a single traditional pot still rum (using The Whisky Exchange’s classification system) distilled in 2015 by Beenleigh Distillery. It was aged for two years in Australia before being aged for an additional two years in the UK. It is bottled at 48% strength.
Transcontinental Rum Line Australia 2015 – Review
On the nose: The first impression is of asphalt and muesli. It seems unchanging at first, but it eventually opens up and develop into a blanket of subtle aromas: star anise, latex, light cookie butter biscuits, and bubble gum. Surprisingly, fresh fruit shows much later on, particularly strawberry skins and fuji apples.
In the mouth: Much more flavorful compared to the nose. The arrival starts similarly – with asphalt and toasted oats – before it follow a thread of brine that weaves through macadamia nuts, capers, straw, periodic touches of apple seltzer, and the surface of a glass of horchata topped with cinnamon. Lots of umami flavors among a general restrained sweetness. Medium-bodied. The finish is mouthwatering and long, touching upon nuts, cinnamon, and oats.
This is one of those rums that actively reminded me to pause and wait. It isn’t the most complex rum, but I enjoyed the fact that it rewarded me with new aromas and flavors over time. Of course, this can simply mean that my palate slowly become aware of new flavors after acclimating to others, but I find it valuable that the initial flavors were rich and engaging enough to convince me to see which ones would follow over time. The development through oxidation certainly does not render the wait meaningless. I bought this rum for around $57, which is not a bad price at all.
Final thoughts on TCRL:
On the packaging of TCRL’s core range releases, they write the following:
“Inspired by the rum casks’ historical trips between the New World and the Old Continent, the Transcontinental Rum Line highlights the fact that from the beginning of its existence, rum has always been shipped to Europe for nautical, economical, and technical reasons. Nautical, because it allowed to avoid the consumption of stagnant water during long transatlantic crossings. Economical, as the angels’ share is lower and the rum matures more smoothly. Technical, thanks to the diversity of barrels having previously contained wine, whisky, cognac, or other spirits, allowing for the creation of unique expressions.”
While the history of rum is rooted in Western colonialism and imperialism, these conditions nonetheless played a major role in the development of a diverse industry, one that now has many locally-owned distilleries and brands that seek to share and benefit from their own cultural products.
I believe TCRL should be applauded for their intent of maintaining their dedication to their own branding and business goals, yet also honoring and supporting contemporary movements toward diversity, inclusivity, transparency, and sustainability… movements that, I believe, are crucial for the growth of the category. Johann’s ideas clearly illustrate those commitments, conveying a strong sense of purpose that many independent bottlers seem to be missing. Add to that the quality of their rum, and it’s easy to join the ranks of those that anticipate their releases.
The photo of the bottle label is courtesy of expert24.com.