Dr Kit Carruthers , managing director of Ninefold Distillery near Lockerbie, gives his take on the rum category as a whole and discusses his future plans for the rum distillery in the Scottish Borders
What are you doing at Ninefold Distillery?
Here at Ninefold I make my rum from scratch using molasses imported from North Africa. I ferment, double distil, and bottle all on site. Currently I make an unaged (white) rum for sale but am laying down casks for future bottling. There’s a spiced rum in the works too! And I’ve recently started offering tours of the distillery, which go down very well indeed.
Rum has been tipped for a resurgence for a couple of years now, why do you think it’s taken this time?
The public and the industry are still very much in the thrall of gin, and it looks like they will continue to be for some time. Rum also hasn’t, yet, been able to shake off an image of being an old man’s drink and so is still relatively unappealing to young people and women. But the rise of small independent rum brands is definitely making inroads, through raising awareness of the category and what’s possible with the spirit. I think once the shine finally wears off gin, rum will be in a strong place to pick up the baton.
What was it that initially attracted you to the rum category?
Rum is an incredibly varied and versatile spirit, as well as being just damn tasty. There’s a lot of scope for producing a unique spirit, or brand, that doesn’t rely on gimmicks. For example, there’s no restrictions on barrel wood types, sizes, or maturation times. And how distilleries ferment and distil their rums contributes hugely to the finished product without having to add flavouring. To me, this is an incredibly honest way of making spirit and that was very appealing to me.
For someone who is keen to discover what rum has to offer, where is a good place to start?
A little bit of research is key at the start to see what you would enjoy. A good way is to find a pub or bar with a good selection of rums and get the bartender to give you a little education on the varieties of rum. Most people start with spiced rums, but anyone who likes to make Mojitos or Pina Coladas can start with a quality white rum and they’ll immediately taste the difference.
Should the type of mixer vary depending on the taste, age and method of distilling (ie. oak, sherry cask, etc.)? How would you recommend your rum be served?
Like gin and tonic are the perfect match, most rums mix very well with cola or ginger beer. However, there’s a lot of freedom to change up your rum mixer depending on the rum style (eg. unaged rhum agricole v spiced rum), and the consumer’s palate. Ninefold Pure Single Rum works great with Coke or pineapple juice, with a squeeze of lime.
Do you think the increase in home-grown distilleries, like yourselves at Ninefold, will heighten interest among consumers to experiment with the spirit?
Absolutely! The rise of gin has shown that small, local independent distilleries elevate the quality and interest in the category. Consumers really relate to their local producers. Personally, it’s extremely satisfying to see consumers with a renewed interest in rum, having tried my product.