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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

New rums from down under

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

A quick-fire review of 5 {mostly} new Aussie rums released by independent bottlers S.B.S and TBRC.

It's been a couple of years since I reviewed any Australian rums, my previous article back in 2021 was specifically on Beenleigh rums (here). We've got some more Beenleigh today plus some rums from tiny artisan producers that I've not come across before.

No preamble required today. If you've not heard of Australia - it's a big, fairly empty hot place with better beaches, better weather, sporty people and lots of stuff that wants to kill you.

Five samples, 25ml of each, left to open up for 40 mins. Nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted today by the modern blues legend Christone "Kingfish" Ingram.

Left to right as per the title photo (S.B.S, Black Gate, Mt Uncle ...)

The imposter in this line-up is a release from way back in 2020 that I hadn't got around to reviewing. A molasses-based, pot still rum from Australia's oldest operating distillery (Beenleigh in Queensland).

Nose: Having had a few Beenleigh rums over the years I'm starting to pick out a distinctive note that a friend of mine describes as 'sort of squishy overripe fruit'. Possibly overripe pears or quince.

This one is quite candied, with a little vanilla and fig. Plus the squishy stuff. Maybe a little too much sweet overripe pear and not quite enough rich depth. Will see what the taste brings.

Mouth: Wow - that overripe pear or quince really dominates the start. But then moves over, or rather is pushed out the way by salty, briny olives and vanilla cream. If that sounds like a weird combination then you're getting the right picture. It's a little weird. The finish has a nice touch of smoke but is a little rough with imperfect alcohol integration. Lacking the richness & depth - as per the nose. [80pts]

The second bottling by Boutique-y of rum from the tiny artisan Black Gate distillery in New South Wales (the first was also 3yr but at at lower abv of 50%).

This very limited released, local molasses-based rum, was long fermented for up to 2 weeks before being double pot distilled. It was then aged (presumably on location) for 3 years in an ex- tawny wine (Aussie Port) cask.

Nose: Impressive depth. Stewed tea combined with the dark fruit I was expecting from the port cask. And some milk sweets. A morish dryness. Sweet smoke - like burnt ginger cake.

A really big nose - the oak and dark berries are so powerful that I feel like I'm nosing the ex-port cask directly!

Mouth: Good jammy texture, big luscious dark fruit. A little tight with some fairly aggressive tannins and a touch short on the spicy finish but overall an enjoyable rum that belies its brief ageing. Certainly a distillery to keep an eye on. [83pts]

An excitingly different bottling - here we have a local cane syrup-based rum that was fermented using dunder and distilled on a 1,500 litre Holstein pot still before being aged (presumably on location) for 12 years in a heavily toasted hogshead that previously held red wine.

The first bottling from Boutique-y of a rum from Mt Uncle in Queensland.

Nose: Sharp. Tannic. And very grassy. Underripe pineapple & mango combined with barbequed jackfruit. Powerfully oaked. Even a touch of burnt rubber.

Mouth: A big, bold and super interesting rum. Predictably cane forward. Excessively sharp and zesty. Tart green underripe fruit, lots of green rhubarb. Quite a hot one with lots of chilli and mixed spice. The finish reveals that red wine cask influence with some tight wine tannins.

Overall it's acidic but not as estery as I expected, given the use of dunder and the pot still. An unual, pretty decent and very interesting rum, just a little too grassy and too sharp for me. [81pts]

Next, we have a secret distillery. Not that much of a secret - it's the second of three rums today that were distilled in 2007 at Beenleigh in Queensland. This one is the result of a long (12-day) fermentation of local Queensland molasses, column distilled and aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a massive 14 years (10 years in Australia & 4 years in Europe).

Nose: The signature squishy pear is joined by some pineapple sweets and a little coconut. And lots of milk chocolate. Tropical cordial for grown-ups. And quince jelly again. Richer, and better alcohol integration on this one.

Mouth: The alcohol is a bit much at first, but second sip and the flavours are starting to open up. A little glue and some floral notes. Squishy pear. The chocolate has moved from milk to more dark. Some other tropical fruit is emerging too.

A slightly smoky and very spicy finish. I like the balance in this, there's sweetness from the overripe fruit but it's balanced by a little zesty acidity and some buttery, burnt sugar and tannic oak from the barrels. Not quite up to the level of the Velier pair from 2021 but a good Beenleigh [84pts]

Two years on from the first rum of this line-up and S.B.S have recently released another 2007 Beenleigh, at a much heftier 69.2%!!

A single cask, selected and bottled for Harvey Nichols. Just 134 full bottles are available, as well as 400 beautiful 4x20cl sets that include this rum along with releases from Panama, Jamaica & Mauritius.

Nose: A big bruiser no doubt. Hot, hot, hot. And pretty funky. The initial nose reminds me of a Jamaican Clarendon, blended with an old Fijian rum. Quite earthy. Mint, eucalyptus, orange peel and some leather polish. Heady almost menthol vapour. The high abv is making it a little closed up, after a taste I'll add a couple of drops of water and re-nose.... ["re-nosing" - an underused expression!]. After adding a couple of drops the flavours really open up. Less menthol, more five-spice paste. Still the polish but with a lot more juicy fruit.

Mouth: On the palate, you'd never pick this for 69%. It's hot for sure but the alcohol is pretty well integrated and there are some lovely layers of fruit and caramel. Our overripe pear is hiding in the background but definitely there. The oak on this is not too tannic yet still provides a classy backbone to the rum. Much less sharp than the other rums today, this is a deep, rich, well-aged Beenleigh. [87pts]

Conclusion: Some really interesting new rums. New distilleries not quite hitting the mark just yet, but certainly worth watching. The new 'Harvey Nics' S.B.S Beenleigh is the pick of the bunch and I'd recommend picking up one of the sets of miniatures as a great way to try this and the 3 other single barrel picks.

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