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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Epic Mhoba - Round 3 'Bourbon Cask'

Round 3, the final heat in this epic knockout Mhoba tasting. Which ex-Bourbon cask aged rum will take the prized remaining slot in the finals....?

If you're just catching up, here's links to Round 1 - 'Glass Cask' and Round 2 - 'Wine/Whisky Cask'.

And a reminder of the full line-up ...

Round 3, Mhoba rums predominantly aged in ex-Bourbon casks*. All aged at the distillery, and bottled with no added sugar, flavour, colour or other bullshittery. Let's get it on!

*After pouring, the light colour and nose of the Warehouse#1 sample immediately gave away an obvious error. This was aged in ex-whisky cask. Doh!

20ml of each left to open up for 30 mins. Nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted today by a bit of a throwback - the Batman album by Prince.

Left to right, as per the lead photo - Antipodes, Warehouse#1, HV, NWW

LMDW Antipodes Collection, 5yr, 60.8%, 286btls

I first tried this at WhiskyLive Paris in September 2022 and was very impressed. At that time it was Mhoba's oldest release. A blend of single and double pot distillations from 2017, aged entirely at the distillery, for 4 years in an American Oak ex-Bourbon cask and then for 1 year in a French Oak ex-Cape Red Wine cask.

Nose: What a triumph. The extra year in red wine has really taken this to another level. A mature, complex rum. Solvents and lovely fresh esters kick things off. Followed by rich dark fruit and then a wave of papaya and old pineapple juice. A little salted caramel nudges in and out. Outstanding.

Mouth: That sings and really makes you smile. A spicy, zesty, chewy, salty caramel symphony. You're still nom nom nom'ing it a minute or two later. Waves of flavour taking in turns. Dark autumn berries, a little esters, that salty caramel chocolate and spicy oak. Possibly not as high ester as some Mhoba, but an outstanding, complex and delicious rum. [90+pts]

Warehouse#1 S.A.W Mhoba barrel pick, 5yr, 63.5%, 216btls

A single cask selected by Czech bottler Warehouse#1. Aged at Mhoba for 5 years in a cask that previously held award winning South African whisky (produced from imported peated malt).

I recently reviewed the line of unaged Jamaican rums released by Warehouse#1, some stunners in there. You can find the review here.

Nose: Oily, dirty, herbal. A little fruity smoke. Imperfect alcohol integration leaves this a bit heady (later this settled well). A more vegetal offering. Quite buttery. Some wood polish but limited sweet esters and not much fruit. The peat is lurking and doesn't fit in here but otherwise no super bad notes just a different profile.

Mouth: Cripes. The peated whisky has absolutely ruined this. Sorry. It's just far too powerful and has absolutely eradicated any semblance of the delicate beautiful rum. If you want a light peated whisky with some rummy notes then this might be for you. [73pts]

Habitation Velier Mhoba 2017, 4yr, 64.6%, 1445btls

A milestone rum for Mhoba. Being included in the prestigious Habitation Velier line is an accolade for any new distiller. This rum was aged for 4 years in ex-bourbon casks with a loss / angel's share of over 22%. The always informative Habitation Velier label informs us of fairly high levels of esters (246.1g/hlpa) and congeners (571.3g/hlpa).

Nose: Back to more traditional funky pot still notes. Old tropical fruits, banana and pineapple, with lots of varnish. Kept in focus by a solid spicy vanilla caramel oak. Jamaican spicy ginger & pineapple cake. Noses well, and older than it's years. Very Jamaican. Very inviting.

Mouth: A mouth filling rum. Lovely balance of fruit and estery goodness. Zesty. Concentrated stuff. Coffee, caramel and a long spicy vanilla finish. The hefty alcohol works. A little goes a long way here [88+pts]

Navigate World Whisky barrel pick, 4yr, 64.8, 158btls

A single cask selected by local shop SpiritsSouthAfrica yielding just 158 bottles. This ex-bourbon cask was aged at the distillery for 4 years. [Cask #BC20]

Nose: Significantly sweeter and more candied that the HV. Incredible difference given that they are both 4yr ex-bourbon.

A touch lower ester - still lots of funky tropical fruit, but less acetone. Not quite as balanced either. The spicy vanilla oak appear more dominant but I suspect that's because the other notes (the high ester, old fruit etc) are less dominant. Still delicious, but not as complete and balanced as the HV.

Mouth: Tasty fruit greet you from the off. Bitter grapefruit skin mixed in with gluey pineapple pastries and salted caramel. A little short on the finish but nice tannins drying your mouth and tempting you for another sip. [87pts]

Conclusion: A 3 horse race, which is good as this was supposed to be a Bourbon round anyway. And a clear winner. The two 4 year pure bourbon are stunning rums but the extra year / year in red wine has lifted the Antipodes to another level of maturity and complexity.

So that's the final 3 decided.

Glass Cask - 1802, 1st edition (36btls)

Wine Cask - Velier FAQ Plastic

Bourbon Cask - LMDW Antipodes

Except that I have 4 glasses so I'm giving a wild card runners up entry into the final to the 2nd 1802 glass cask.

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