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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Epic Mhoba - Round 2 'Wine/Whisky cask'

Round 2 of this epic knockout Mhoba tasting. Which of these four will go through to the final??

Missed Round 1 (Glass cask)? Find it here...

A reminder the full line-up ...

Round 2 features Mhoba rums aged predominantly in ex-wine or ex-whisky casks. And showcases several bottlings from independent (and dependant) bottlers.

Ex-wine barrels are notoriously difficult to work but I believe Robert sources locally and from outstanding wineries so I should be in store for a treat today.

15ml of each, left to open up for 30 mins. Nosed first then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted on this Sunday lunchtime by the chilled sounds of Indra Rios-Moore.

As per lead photo, left to right Dead Reckoning, HC, FAQ, Wine Cask.

Dead Reckoning Mhoba 2022, 2yr, 56%, 377btls

An exiting first bottling of Mhoba rum by an independent bottler making quite a splash as their rums start to become available outside of Australia. Justin Boseley had a fascinating introduction to the rum world and has been selecting, importing and (secondary) aging a variety of rums for over 12 years. Happily some of these are soon to become available in Europe. More on Dead Reckoning in future but I highly recommend 88 Bamboo's excellent interview with Justin (here).

Aged at Mhoba for 2 years in ex-South African red wine casks (specifically those from the outstanding Vrede en Lust vineyard) before being 'dry aged' in the South Australian desert in an ex-bourbon barrel for an additional 5 months. This unique location has an unusual effect on the rum as it ages; the profile develops a little differently to usual aging locations, and the abv actually increases as the cask ages.

Nose: When first poured this offered a big hit of dark fruit but after the 30mins I'm getting a drier sulphurous profile [another 30 mins and it mellowed to become a bit more like a fruit stall in an Asian market, with a little old wine spilt and fermenting on the floor]. There's some treacle and vegetal notes. Sour berries. Pleasantly rich and musky (like old dry banana skin) with a little tannin. Sceptically exited to taste it...

Mouth: Well that's unexpected! It's always fun when a rum doesn't taste quite like it noses. This a bit of a muddle but I like it. Sweet, rummy, creamy with a slap of sharp tartness at the finish.

Starts with a brief flash of fresh berries.

The main flavour of mid palate is thick chewy custard apples. With a lot going on around the edges - green apple, marshmallow and pipe tobacco to name a few.

A little short on the finish but no bad notes. At the very end I get the signature Mhoba esters which is a nice surprise. A very interesting and enjoyable rum [85+pts]

Holmes Cay Mhoba 2017, 4yr, 59%, 1026btls

No introduction needed for Eric Kaye of Holmes Cay fame - his barrel picks are usually stellar so fingers crossed this is no exception. This bottling is unique to both today's lineup and to the whole 'epic tasting' - it's the only rum fully aged in ex-South African whisky casks.

After 4 years aging at the distillery the rum was shipped to New York for bottling; without reduction, and without addition of colouring or other additives. And then , thanks for a friendly mule, a bottle found it's way to the Secret Rum Bar in leafy Reigate :-)

Nose: A big and excitingly different nose. Initially sweet macerated fruit with a touch of marzipan, but mostly quite dry and musky.

Dry floral notes lead into plenty of spice. Estery banana 'scratch n sniff', almost Jamaican esters. A little peppermint and lashings of rotting pineapple. Old fruit juice. A little fiery but overall very enjoyable.

Mouth: Tasty stuff. Pretty 'hot' but a lot to enjoy beyond that. A whirlwind of caramel covered fruit. Some spicy cinnamon, peppercorns and cardamom. Strawberry foam sweets. A touch too young and fiery but delicious nonetheless. [87pts]

Velier Mhoba FAQ Plastic, 4yr, 64.3%, 1000btls*

This is the second time I've reviewed this legendary bottle. It was Velier's first collaboration with Mhoba and comes 'plastic free' in an iconic black Velier bottle with a distinctive yellow wax cap.

It was aged at the distillery in South Africa for 4 years in ex-red wine casks before bottling without reduction.

*plus VSGB mini bottles ...must be 3 years I've been waiting to join but still nothing :-( :-(

Nose: A massive and super inviting nose! Honeyed esters, lots of gluey acetone and shoe polish - pretty heady and funky stuff.

There's fruit, both fresh summer fruit and rotten tropical fruit. A little Chantilly cream. And some lime zest. Layers of flavour that work super well and result in a complex, enticing nose.

Mouth: More esters, more fruit, more caramel, more spicy oak. Simply more of everything. And better integration. A chewy, almost faultless rum that leaves you wanting more. Candied. Strawberry popping candy with a touch of cream soda, but balanced with just a touch of bitter tannin. Lovely fruitiness - I can taste strawberry and guava. And delicious sweet gluey esters. Amazing stuff [90+pts]

Mhoba Estate French Cask, 2yrs, 65%, 750btls

The only distillery release in this 'heat', 'French Cask' has formed part of the standard lineup for a few years now. Each batch varies from a few hundred to about a thousand bottles. Today I'm enjoying batch 221FC1 . Aged on location for at least 2 years in ex-Cape Red Wine casks.

Nose: The most 'caney' of the bunch. Nosed blind at first I might pick this as a massive unaged Martinique Agricole rum. But then a wave of summer berries arrive to remind you of those two years in the wine cask. And a touch of spicy, buttery oak.

A honeyed and super inviting nose.

Impressive alcohol integration at the muscular 65%, especially given the relatively short aging.

[On the side I'm comparing this 221FC1 bottling to 2019FC3 as I have both open. The nose of the 2019 is much 'hotter', less rounded and less approachable. ]

Mouth: Amazing. 2 years has had a profound influence. This big bruiser of a rum has a softer side - a wave of delicate summer berries.

Creamy and delicious, yet spicy and punchy at the same time.

It's obviously fiery given the age and abv but it works. A little dry ester with nutty nougat. Booze infused figs. And pineapple cream (that's a thing that should exist!). Moorish. [88+pts]

[2019 starts bigger and arguably fruitier, still creamy and very tasty but runs on to a fairly rough harsh finish.]

Conclusion: Another incredible lineup. The two IBs have bottled really interesting and delicious rums but today there is a standout winner. Velier Mhoba FAQ - see you in the final!

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