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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

J Gow Rum - Special Single Casks

The UK rum scene is positively booming, and Scottish distillers are right at the forefront.

J Gow, established in 2016, is an artisan craft distiller based on an island, off an island! The tiny islet of Lamb Holm measures just 1000m meters across and sits a mile off the coast of the larger of the Orkney islands. The Orkneys themselves are a remote cluster of islands off the north coast of Scotland!

Remote but dreamy - here's an old picture of the beach and the location of the distillery.

Head distiller Collin Van Schayk has been doing an incredible job turning out exciting, untainted, unflavoured, pure Scottish rums using his 2000L still. Today I have the huge pleasure of tasting and reviewing 4 of his very special limited-release bottlings.

25ml of each, left to open up for 20 mins, nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order.

Assisted today by the Bamboos new album as I'm off to see them at the Jazz cafe in a week or so :-)

Left to right - Private cask is the darkest. Both that and Clestrain are a lovely bronze. UKRC has an unusual peach tinge. And TBRC is a Chablis wine colour

J Gow - private cask, 51% (currently), 3yr, not many bottles :-)

A good friend had the foresight to buy this 20l cask and generously allowed me to join him as part owner. It has now reached 3 years old and I have a sample to try today prior to us deciding whether to further age or bottle it.

If you'd like to invest in your own cask of Collin's rum, check out the options here

Nose: Starts beautifully but moves to a creamy vegetal profile - not horrid but not delicious either. Has a slightly oxidized sulfurous edge that's also not working for me.

20 mins later things are looking up. A little sulphur remains but overall the profile has improved, less creamy, very dry fruit, and pretty inviting.

Another 20 mins and there's minimal 'egginess' and the addition of some chocolate.

Mouth: The bitter rotten edge is very lightly there on the palate, but offset by some decent sweet cane fruit and tasty smoked butter. Slightly (and pleasantly) medicinal in the second sip. A thin texture if we're quibbling, and a touch too acidic, but overall I'm very happy - a quality, tasty, and unique rum. Win. [83+pts]

J Gow Hall of Clestrain, 54%, 5yr, 229 bottles

Five year aged Scottish rum!! Extra long 14-day fermented blackstrap molasses, pot stilled and then double aged - in a virgin chestnut cask for 3 years followed by PX Octaves for 2 years.

Generously, J Gow are giving 10% of the profit from this release to the restoration of the actual 'Hall of Clestrain'.

Nose: Tasty, boozy, fruit compote & biscuits. The red berry fruit grows and grows until you might as well be nosing a summer fruit pudding with raspberry ripple ice cream. The fruit is quite astonishing. Really unique and delicious.

Coming back after another 20 mins a raft of deeper drier spicier nuttier notes have come to play. Even a touch of balsamic.

Mouth: A clever, naturally sweet, non-cloying, fruit surprise. Thankfully it's not all sweet fruit - there's some balancing pepper and dry spicy nuttiness. And a splash of acid keeping everything in focus. Tasty young stuff [86+pts]

J Gow - UK Rum Club Selection, 57%, 2yr 9mth, 140 bottles

A unique and very limited release selected by, and for, the UK Rum Club. Blackstrap molasses was fermented for 5-7 days before being pot distilled.

Aged in a scraped and charred ex-rioja cask for 2 years and 9 months prior to release earlier this year.

Nose: A much drier more vegetal nose. Quite musty, almost hay-like. Slightly sour. Sour fruit milk. Not terrible but not particularly inviting.

After at least another 30 mins the nose is still dry &musty but less sour and more approachable.

Mouth: Thankfully less sour on the palate but the off-fruit cream profile doesn't work for me. Not overly complex and the main flavours aren't gelling. [76pts]

That Boutique-y Rum Club, J Gow, 57.2%, 2+yr, 220 bottles*

A barrel pick for TBRC released back in August 2021. This milestone bottling was an unusual blend of rum aged for 2 years in virgin chestnut cask and rum aged for 3 years in virgin oak cask.

*Presented in Boutique-y's distinctive 5o0ml bottles

Nose: Surprisingly funky stuff. Acetone and deep esters lead to fresh summer berry pastry. Clean and very inviting

Mouth: A rum that puts a smile on your face. Tropical fruit, caramel, balsamic vinegar, even a wisp of smoke. Great depth and unexpected funk. A warming, complex dram where all elements are playing perfectly together [88+pts]

Conclusion: A brilliant UK distillery doing really interesting stuff. Fun, unique, artisan spirits - this is what rum is all about.

TBRC & Hall of Clestrain are comfortable winners for me, and well worth picking up.

I also highly recommend you explore buying your own cask - a surprisingly affordable and super cool experience. Collin is a fabulous ambassador for Scottish rum.

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