When you think of Scotland’s spirits scene, whisky and gin are the first that come to mind. Rum, however, is probably the last thing you would expect from the northern European country. But Scotland, especially Glasgow, has a long history of rum.
When sailors introduced rum to the UK in the 17th century, the spirit very quickly spread across the island. A sugar revolution was taking over from tobacco, and therefore in the 17th and 18th centuries, many refineries started to emerge in Glasgow with several housing rum distilleries. There was a drink known as Glasgow Sherbet, made with water, sugar and citrus from the West Indies, which very quickly changed to Glasgow Punch with the addition of Jamaican rum. For a long while, Glasgow’s leading trade focused on Caribbean products, such as rum, sugar and cotton.
Buchanan Street, Ingram Street, Merchant City and The Kingston Bridge, to name just a few, are locations named after wealthy tobacco and sugar merchants or plantation owners who invested in Glasgow city centre. Unfortunately, a lot of their wealth came from slavery back then. There have been calls to recognise the history of these street names and respect those who lost their lives as slaves by adding plaques on these streets or buildings to acknowledge the past.
When I started my research for this article, I was not expecting to find quite as many rum producers from Scotland. I’m sure I have missed a few, but please feel free to add to the comments if I missed any of your favourites and I shall update the list.
Dark Matter Spiced Rum, 40% ABV, was the first rum brand to come from Scotland. Their journey started in 2015. It is a molasses-based rum with a very strong flavour profile of long pepper, ginger, green peppercorns and allspice.
Banana Peel Rum by Discarded Spirits Co
Discarded Spirits Co is a unit of William Grant & Sons. They create spirits and other drinks using discarded ingredients such as this Banana Peel Rum, 37.5% ABV. Otherwise wasted banana skins are used to flavour the aged Caribbean rum. The banana peels are dried and fermented before being steeped in alcohol for two weeks. To complete the blending process, the banana peel extract and rum are macerated together over two days.
House of Elrick Rum
You might be familiar with House of Elrick Gin. Now this Scottish distillery is also making a range of rums. Their white rum, 40% ABV, is flavoured with sweet mango, and the spiced rum, 40% ABV, has blood orange as its main focus, although ginger, cinnamon, black peppercorns, nutmeg, cubeb and caraway are also added. There is also a House of Elrick dark rum, 40% ABV.
Caithness Raiders Rum
Ice & Fire Distillery got the inspiration for Caithness Raiders Rum, 40% ABV, from the long Viking heritage still visible on the island. The rum is more delicate than your usual spiced rums. It is aged in oak and flavoured with honey, gorse and other spices. You get vanilla and tropical fruitiness with a floral sweetness from the honey. The distillery also makes Caithness Raiders Dark Rum, which has similar notes to their oak-aged rum, but with a deeper and more intense flavour profile.
Wester Distillery is a Glasgow-based micro-distillery. They use renewable energy and sustainable sources. Wester White Rum is fully fermented and distilled from sugar cane molasses at Wester Distillery. It is unaged and one of the strongest rums coming from Scotland at 48% ABV.
Their Spiced Rum, 40% ABV, is pot distilled and infused with all-natural spices. Expect rich, earthy flavours with plenty of citrus. Wester Pineapple Rum, 40% ABV, is twice distilled in pot stills and infused with organic pineapple. No added sugar or colourings.
Devil’s Point Rum
Devil’s Point rums are Caribbean-style rums with a Scottish twist, made at the Deeside Distillery in Aberdeenshire. The Devil’s Point Golden Aged Rum, 38% ABV, is a blend of different casks, old and new, with notes of vanilla, toffee, dried fruit and cacao. The Sherry Cask Aged Rum, 43% ABV, is aged in ex-Oloroso casks. It is rich and spicy. They have a whole series of small-batch matured rums.
I have been a fan of Mattuga Rum for years. I met Paul and Jacine in 2015 at a rum fair, and their energy and passion for rum really stood out. They have recently moved their small distillery up to Scotland.
Mattuga Golden Rum, 42% ABV, is made using sugar cane molasses from East Africa. The molasses is fermented for a week before being triple distilled in copper pot stills and finished in ex-bourbon casks. It is full of tropical flavours with subtle spiciness and notes of smoked treacle.
Their Spiced Rum, 42% ABV, uses their Golden Rum as its base. It is infused with an East African spice blend of black tea, ginger, cloves, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon. Th rum is smooth with warming spices, tangerine and dark chocolate notes.
The J.Gow Rum range gets its name from the Orkney pirate John Gow. The distillery is situated on what is probably the smallest rum-producing island in the world. Lamb Holm is just 0.15 square miles. The island connects the Orkney mainland with the Churchill Barriers.
Molasses is imported and fermented for seven days. The distillery has a range of rums using various fermentation methods. J.Gow Spiced Rum, 40% ABV, has less than 5 grams of sugar per litre and is flavoured with caramel and natural spices (two from Orkney). The taste is warming with plenty of ginger and notes of cinnamon cookies. J.Gow Fading Light, 43% ABV, is aged in chestnut casks without added sugar or colouring. The colour is very pale yellow.
SeaWolf White Rum, 41% ABV, was the first white rum to be distilled in Scotland. The rum was created by the duo behind some of the best-known Edinburgh cocktail bars and the co-founder of Scottish independent wine merchant Vino Wines. The molasses rum is distilled in Angus at Ogilvy Spirits. On the palate, you get a lot of banana, sultanas and a whiff of earthiness.
Banditti Club, 44% ABV, is a spiced rum from The Glasgow Distillery Co. First, the spirit is distilled in Madeira from sugar cane juice, followed by a 12-month maturation in oak in Glasgow. Finally, the rum is spiced with pineapple, cacao, allspice and orange. A tropical rum with warming spices.
The 45 Spiced Rum
The 45 Scottish Spiced Rum, 45% ABV, is distilled and spiced in Scotland using a blend of Scottish botanicals and spices from further afield. It is aged in ex-bourbon casks. The 45 is described as sweet and salty, similar to salted caramel. Expect flavours of ginger, caramel, orange, liquorice, subtle smokiness (smoked seaweed) and slight salinity.
Cadenhead’s is one of the oldest independent bottlers in Scotland. They source rums from around the globe, which are then aged and bottled in Campbeltown. They have no artificial colourings or added sugar, and no chill-filtering takes place.
Their Classic Blended Rum, 50% ABV, is a blend of Caribbean rums. They have a range called Green Label Rum, which includes rums from Barbados, Guatemala, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaican, Panama and more and they are available at a range of ages. Each rum is bottled at 46% ABV. Their Cask Strength Rum range contains Single Cask releases that are bottled at natural cask strength. The Green Label range displays the country of origin on the label, while the Cask Strength range shows the name of the distillery.
Sweetdram Smoked Rum
Sweetdram Smoked Rum, 41% ABV, is made from aged Guyanese rum which is flavoured with lime leaves, chamomile, cardamom, fennel, figs, grains of paradise and Lapsang Souchong. Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea, also known as smoked tea, and it is this that brings the smokiness to the rum.
Ninefold distillery makes premium rum in Dumfries & Galloway. Their Pure Single Rum, 40% ABV, is a white rum with a smooth and creamy texture. It has notes of vanilla, butterscotch and citrus with a spicy finish. For every bottle sold, they donate £1 to Refuge to help victims of domestic abuse.
They also have a Cask Aged Pure Single Rum, 59.2% ABV, which is a blend of pure single rums from the first five casks (a mixture of virgin American oak and second-fill ex-Tennessee whiskey) that were filled at the distillery in September 2019. Unfortunately, this is now sold out, and we’ll have to wait for the next batch.
Five Hundred Cuts Rum
Five Hundred Cuts Rum, 40% ABV, is a botanical rum from Brewdog Distilling. It is distilled from sugar cane molasses and is double pot distilled. Some of the botanicals have been distilled in the spirit, and some are macerated in it. The botanicals list includes cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, tonka bean, mace, nutmeg, orange peel, lavender, Szechuan peppercorns and cardamom. The outcome splits opinions as the flavour profile is heavily spiced with cardamom and highly aromatic with herbal notes.
NB Distillery has a wide range of spirits available. The NB Light Fruity Rum, 41% ABV, is modified during the fermentation process to reduce the molasses flavour and bring out more fruitiness. It is light and smooth. NB Full Bodied Rum, 41% ABV, is rich with intense fruity notes.
Dunedin Golden Rum
Dunedin Golden Rum, 43% ABV, comes from Strathearn Distillery. You can expect notes of caramelised banana, brown sugar and sweet grapes.
Solway Spirits has a spiced rum, 40% ABV, that is distilled from molasses and infused with herbs and spices, including ginger root, vanilla and chilli. Their spirit range also includes a banoffee rum, which is infused with banana, spices and caramel.
Redcastle Spiced Rum, 40% ABV, is a blend of Scottish rum (distilled from molasses) and three-year-old Caribbean rum. The mixture is then flavoured with vanilla, citrus and other spices.
Leith Rum, 40% ABV, is infused with exotic spices and orange zest. A creamy spiced rum with notes of vanilla, ginger and mango.
OK, I wasn’t sure whether to include this brand on this list, but I was won over by their beautiful bottles, labels and designs. And of course, the unique blend of rums. Samaroli is an independent Italian bottler, but all their whiskies and rums are aged, blended and bottled in Scotland, so I guess that makes them a Scottish rum brand. I’ll let you decide.
They have a comprehensive range of rums, with a limited number of bottles released each time. There’s a blend of Caribbean, South American and Fiji rums, a rum from Guadeloupe aged for 20 years, Demerara rum distilled in Guyana in 1989 then matured and bottled in Scotland in 2018. The list goes on. The climate in Scotland allows a long maturation process, and Samaroli Rums take advantage of this.
Did the extent of the Scottish rum scene take you by surprise? Have you tried any of these rums, or did I perhaps miss your favourite brand?
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