Going against the grain and on to sugarcane…

Going against the grain and on to sugarcane…

While the gin tornado has been sweeping across the land, a tropical squall has been brewing offshore, and it’s about to make landfall. Rum is emerging from the realm of mermaids and sea monsters, briefly shaking itself off and sauntering into your local cocktail bar, still dripping.

Now, you might think rum has no business among civilised landlubbers, being more suited to hornswaggling pirates and wife-wooing sailors – and you might once have been right. However, rum has mellowed and matured, and while you may still not entirely trust it with your silverware, it makes for a fascinating dinner companion, with oodles of charm and just the right amount of danger…

You see, rum has cleaned up, and it looks good in the new hand-crafted suit it’s donning. I’m referring, obliquely perhaps, to the wave of South African craft rum that’s close to cresting, beckoning us on an exciting ride. Our invitation may have arrived late, and a little worse for wear, but the party is booming!

Indeed, after the starting pistol was fired on the rum race in the mid 1600s, sugar-growing locales around the world were fairly quick off their marks with rum production. The journey of getting South African rum to market, however, was more akin to swimming in treacle.

To be fair, sugarcane was only introduced to the tropical KZN region in 1848, but it still took us until 2008 to diversify our cane spirit production into rum proper. Happily though, we’ve since had some time to finesse our skills, and there’s now a bounty of good local rum to be enjoyed. Here are a few to get you started.

7 local rums you have to try this winter

Goldsmith Oak Aged Rum

Craig Hunter makes this molasses-based rum in a column still before aging it for two-to-three years in dinky 50-litre, ex-bourbon casks. It’s sweet with vanilla and darker molasses undertones, offers dry-toasted wood on the palate and rounds off with lingering citrusy spice. 

R850, stillman.co.za.

Nihilo Afrikan Gold Rum

This molasses-based rum is produced via cold distillation and aged in American oak for at least three months. It reveals soft caramelised molasses notes, subtle caramel, cinnamon, and citrus clove on the palate and a winter-spice aftertaste. 

R350, Tops, Blue Bottles and Ultra Liquors. 

Gertie’s 100% Gold Rum

This brand-new rum – the brainchild of foodie Emma Wilson – is made using wine yeast and matured for a minimum of six months. Aromas of honey liqueur, caramelised sugar and nuts lead to warm spice, nutmeg, toasted oak and dried-apricot flavours.

R400, www.instagram.com/gerties_liquor/

Copeland Rum

Distilled in Kommetjie by James Copeland, this small-batch rum has a Michelangelo Silver Medal under its belt. The blackstrap molasses combined with tropical yeast allows for a delicious blend of spun sugar, caramel, liquorice, cacao, pineapple, litchi and jammy fruit flavours.

R395, Norman Goodfellows.

Floating Dutchman Cape Rum

Dirk Prinsloo sets this rum apart with an unusual maturation method, which includes a red-wine-barrel finishing. It has smooth caramel, dark chocolate and dried stonefruit flavours, and boasts a Michaelangelo Silver Medal and a South African Spirits Trophy Gold Medal.

R269, Liquor City, Tops, Yuppiechef and Takealot.

Innocent Spirits Rum62 White Rum

If you’re not afraid of a kick, this overproof rum is for you! Made by Andrew Wheeler and John Hardie with slow-fermented, premium golden treacle, it’s a surprisingly smooth. It not only took gold at the 2020 Spirit Trophy Awards, but was voted best spirit.

R315, Liquor City.

Cape of Storms Fyn Botanical Rum

Dylan Meiring takes his brand’s White Rum to the next level by infusing it with spices and botanicals in a copper pot still to create this interesting rum. You’ll recognise honeybush and naartjie on both the nose and palate as well as splashes of cinnamon, allspice and coriander and lingering hints of caramel and butterscotch.

R290, Tops, Yuppiechef, Takealot and Norman Goodfellows.

This post first appeared on Toyota Connect on 2 April 2020.