Grog is what was given to sailors. It is rum diluted with water, sometimes sweetened with sugar and laced with lime to prevent scurvy. James Lind conducted the first ‘clinical trial’ by giving sailors lime in their liquor.
Naval heritage and rum are established bedfellows and South Queensferry is an apt place to set sail and learn all about the launch of a modern un-grogged rum, Rum Union. It is the place where David Balfour in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped travels with Alan Breck and Stevenson of course also authored Treasure Island featuring rum swilling pirates.
As we board The Maid of the Forth at Hawes Pier for a trip along the Firth, we are served some grog, as a refreshing, long cocktail. From the first sip it is clear Rum Union is a premium spirit with a complex and intense flavour profile. A blend which marries the flavours of three non-traditional rum producing countries, The Philippines, Vietnam and Ghana hence ‘Union’.
I am joining a press gang to taste a series of rums from the Holyrood Distillery who have extended their portfolio from being experimental gin and whisky makers. The series of specialised cask rums are known collectively as Elizabeth Yard named after the distillery’s warehouses in Kirkliston, which were once used as the storehouses for the Royal Navy.
On our sunset sail Nick Ravenhall, Managing Director of Holyrood Distillery, explains:
“We are working with rum in order to push ourselves as whisky makers. Rum asks challenging questions on raw material and fermentation, questions that don't get asked in single malt whisky production. We are greatly inspired by the rum makers and that is why Holyrood is on this journey, to learn more and push ourselves further.”
The unique taste of the range comes from exploring differing maturation techniques and wood types. Somewhere in the process magic happens. Holyrood Distillery just won a clutch of awards for their rums with at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2022. Elizabeth Yard Diamond Distillery 10 YO Ungrogged American Oak Octave Rum took the category Trophy.
The launch of Rum Union is an extension of this work and the team are excited to bring their working style, ethos and skills as whisky makers to blended rums. Sugar cane juice harvested from Vietnam, creates a highly aromatic and floral rum post distillation; which when blended with the powerful pot still from Ghana and a molasses-based rum from the Philippines, results in a signature caramelized banana note. By bringing together three single estate rums create a naturally complex flavour, that does not require any additional colourings, flavours or additives and is non-chilled filtered.
It was a pleasure to nose the rums as we sailed the waters around Inchcolm and the seal and cormorant inhabited rocks while detecting flavours imparted by maturation in different casks. Rum Union also breathes premium life into classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned and The Daiquiri.
Holyrood Distillery aims to challenge traditional makers' mindsights and bring a modern narrative to the rum category. (S. Wilson)
Sold in a 70cl bottle and priced at £39.99 and is currently available to buy on the Holyrood website.