A whisky drinker’s rum?



Doug McIvor, our Spirits Manager, is the man responsible for Berry Bros. & Rudd’s rather exceptional premium rum. Here, Doug, who is more usually found nosing whisky, expounds the virtues and complexities that elegant ageing brings to this oft-underrated spirit.

When Berry Bros. & Rudd first offered a sneak preview of the first batch of Penny Blue Mauritian Rum to some industry experts around two years ago one of them, namely Dave Broom who is a leading authority on both whisky and rum, commented that he thought it was a whisky drinker’s rum.

A major part of my job over the last 25 years has been selecting and sometimes blending casks of Scotch whisky so perhaps a little of this Caledonian bias had crept into the Penny Blue blend which I put together with Jean-Francois Koenig, the distillery manager and master distiller at Medine in Mauritius where the rum is made, matured and bottled. But more likely it is due to the fact that, unlike many commercial rum brands today, we do not add sugar to sweeten it prior to bottling and this gives the finish a slightly drier style which I believe creates a balancing contrast to the sweeter notes in the mid palate.

Another leading factor is the cask profile used to construct these small-batch blends. A few years ago Medine was importing Scotch whisky in cask to bottle on the island and they filled the empty barrels with their rum to see how it would develop. The result was very favourable so Jean-Francois imported other types of cask including ex-Cognac and ex-Bourbon oak as well as experimenting with various techniques in order to advance and enhance the influence of the wood. As a result we have a rich pool of cask styles and age profiles to use for Penny Blue. The experimentation will continue although we are now able to prescribe our required maturation profiles to ensure that we retain the unique Penny Blue style even if each batch bears its own distinctive signature. In every bottle you will discover tropical fruit, vanilla, soft citrus, gentle spice and a plethora of other nuances.

Despite the differences in the materials and equipment used in producing rum and whisky and the starkly contrasting maturation climates (the angels are four times greedier in Mauritius than in Scotland), there are parallels to be drawn in the artisanal care that is taken to create a world-class drink. We do not chill-filter the rum in order to preserve the heart, the depth and concentration of flavours and we do not add colouring or flavouring leaving the rum in its authentic state.

With any great spirit there is balance, texture and complexity and that is what we have in the recently released Penny Blue Batch #2. You can sip it neat or enjoy it on the rocks, close your eyes and dream of Mauritian beeches… and perhaps a tiny piece of Scotland.

Read more about Penny Blue Rum.