Thank God for free thinkers, who see something that has never been done before as a reason to do something. While Jim Ewen was on holiday in the Dominican Republic, he was refused access to three rum distilleries. He just wanted a look around as a tourist, and he joked with his Brother-in-law that it would be ‘easier to build a damn distillery’. That night he couldn’t get a good night’s sleep, and the rest of his holiday was ruined by the thought that he should build Scotland’s first rum distillery. When he returned home, he convinced his brother John to set up the business with him, and now Scottish-distilled rum exists.
As our spirits buyer Arthur and Pitlochry manager Otto drove up to a small, pine-covered corner of Banchory, their expectations were that they would admire the pluckiness of someone’s crazy vision, would have to wish them luck without seeming patronising, but at the same time not raise their hopes too much. They left talking about how quickly they could get the first bottles on the shelf and wondering why the hell no-one had made rum in the UK before.
Scottish Rum Is Not Such A Crazy Thing, And Here’s Why
- Most rum is made from molasses, itself a bi-product of the refinement of raw sugar.
- Millions of tonnes of sugar are refined in the UK every year, so the raw material has always been there for distillers to use.
- This molasses is fermented with yeast, then distilled in either pot or column stills to make a rum spirit. This equipment is used in the production of gin, vodka and whisky all over England, Scotland and Wales, and has been here for centuries.
- Some companies, such as Bristol Spirits, even ship young Caribbean rums to Britain for maturation as they believed this ‘early landed’ rum aged better in our cooler climate.
- Rum is popular in Scotland, especially spiced rums. In recent years younger fans have joined the more traditional, older rum drinker.
More Local Distilled Rums Will Exist Soon, But They May Not Be As Good As Dark Matter
- Its founder Jim is driven and committed to excellence. This is not a folly project, he is serious in his aim not to just make a Scottish rum, but an excellent rum by any standards.
- He employed Cory Mason to commission the equipment and develop and distil his first liquids. Cory studied and conducted research at Heriot-Watt University International Centre for Brewing & Distilling, and is one talented, booze-obsessed dude.
- One of his specialist areas was yeast strains and their affect on flavour. Jim and Cory have discovered an isolated a local Scottish yeast, chosen for its clean, fruitiness.
- Dark Matter Rum is made using refiner’s grade molasses, which is the highest purity-level possible. It’s sugar content is exceptionally high (67-75%, compared to around 50% in most other molasses).
- They employ a new step of clarification of the molasses to further purify it.
- To add complex, caramelised flavours, they also add a small amount of spent ale (the left over liquid in the still after distillation) to the molasses at the beginning. This is similar to bourbon distillers, who call it ‘sour mashing’.
- Their column still is unique, and commissioned to produce a rum with lots of purifying copper contact on its ten plates, but also a great amount of reflux. The flavour of the white rum showed this as we nosed and tasted it coming off the still.
- They will be making use of Pot Stills in their production soon.
- Their Column still is adaptable, so they can increase complexity and weight by adding a copper retort. This is typical in Jamaican distilleries, and its how they create those intense overripe pineapple and banana flavours. When they start making aged rum this gismo will come into play.
- These guys are innovative. They even have a botanical basket to insert into the distillation process. Yes, a botanical basket like you might find in gin production.
Their spiced rum will be their first product, and the early versions we tried were extremely promising with a gingery base and a peppercorn punch. It will be £34.95 on Drinkmonger.com, click here and put in a stock enquiry to pre order a bottle. We will then get in touch when it comes in. We will be the first to have it, when it is ready.