British Rum – The Rise of the Craft and Micro-Distiller

British RumRum and Britain have a long and tangled past together similar to other plundering European countries such as France, Spain and the Netherlands.  Indeed the very origins of the word “rum” has been attributed to each of these nations (and others) at some point.

Like it or not rum was used as a commodity by British Privateers and was used to establish the slave trade in the Caribbean and the US.  Empires were built on the trade of goods in the Caribbean and the islands frequently changed ownership between the warring European Empires.

Even today Caribbean Islands are intrinsically linked to the rum styles of the countries of whom they were once former colonies.  The Caribbean Islands can still be divided into English, French, Spanish and to a lesser extent Dutch “speaking” islands.  The rums produced on each all being very different the Dutch islands often producing Arrack rather than rum as we know it.  The French Islands producing Rhum Agricole.  The Spanish producing the lighter “ron” style rums and the English speaking islands producing various molasses based rums dependant upon the island – Barbados and Jamaica being two of the stand out “styles”.

In 1655 Britain began its long Naval association with rum. when it captured the island of Jamaica.  With cheap domestic rum available they quickly changed their daily alcohol ration from beer or French Brandy to Jamaican rum.  Previously rum had only really been used in the colonies as a way of appeasing the slaves.  It was often used to treat illness and as a form of nutrition!

In 1675 following a crop failure in Britain stocks of Gin were dramatically cut.  This led to an increase in the importation of Rum from the Caribbean.  In 1687 Rum became the official ration in the British Royal Navy.

Not surprisingly it wasn’t long before enterprising individuals as well the Royal NavyLEMONHARTRUM began importing rum, mostly to London.  Huge warehouses were established on the banks of the River Thames and iconic brands such as Lemon Hart and Lamb’s began blending and ageing rum in Britain.

Whilst Britain has a long tradition in importing rum it does not have much of a history in actually making rum.  One of the reasons for this is the climate.  Britain is simply not conducive to producing Sugar Cane.  It is popular but it is far easier to produce Sugar Beets.  For a rum to be defined as such it cannot be produced from Sugar Beets. Whilst Sugar Cane production is possible in the UK it is not common.

The rise of craft and micro-distilleries in Britain has led to an upsurge in interest in both Gin and Vodka.  The availability of regional and local Gin and Vodka is something which appeal to your average Britain.  Trendy cafes and restaurants in the UK have been banging the drum of local products for over 20 years now.  Whilst the Internet has enabled consumers to branch out and explore further afield it has also made it easy for savvy local companies to attract new customers as well.

Food and Drink Festivals in Britain are also booming I recently attended and event in the Durham town of Bishop Auckland where I found over 50 different locally produced Gins, Vodkas and Whiskies.  Alas no rum.

So once again rum has been slow on the uptake.  Gin has suddenly become hip and happening again with Gin Palaces and Emporiums popping up all over the UK.  People are no longer satisfied with Gordon’s or Bombay Sapphire.  Likewise Vodka not just Premium Vodka but also the flavoured Vodka market is booming.

However, all is not lost and over the past couple of years a few craft or micro-distillers have popped up in Britain producing Rum.


English Spirit Distillery

English Spirit Distillery by the fat rum pirateThe distillery was originally set up back in 2009 and produced spirits other than rum such as vodka and gin.  They were the first company in Britain to release a rum which had been distilled here in the UK.

Their signature Old Salt Rum is fermented and triple distilled in their 200l Copper Pot Alembic Stills.  They have now began producing some Spiced rums and as time goes on they will introduce more aged Rum to their line up.

Although the molasses are fermented and then the rum produced in the UK they do received their molasses from abroad.  Venezuela and Trinidad to be exact.

They have recently began “contracting” out their rum to be used in other blends that are currently being set up, which I will cover later in the article.


Spirit Masters

Glorious Revolution RumUnlike English Spirit Distillery, Spirit Masters currently only produce one product.  A white unaged rum called Glorious Revolution.

The rum was introduced to the public at the 2014 Rumfest in London.  It has received a lot of positive comments from industry commentators.  From what I understand (I have yet to try this one) it is almost agricole in nature and despite being young and fiery works well as a mixing rum.

Again the rum is produced with molasses from the Caribbean and South America and it is produced in a single Copper Pot Alembic still.  Like English Spirit Distilery they are producing a very traditional, almost old school product.


Dark Matter Distillers

DarkMatterSetting up a Rum Distillery in the Whisky heartland that is Scotland, takes some balls.  The Ewen brothers have also shown considerable bravery in introducing a Spiced Rum which puts Spice rather than vanilla extract at the forefront.

The only rum in Britain made from molasses derived from UK sugar cane.  They have also developed a very modern and striking visual brand.

Currently they only have a Spiced Rum available but there are plans to introduce a White Rum soon.  For more information visit their website.


Rum Fellows Ltd

Rum Fellows by the fat rum pirate

The brainchild of one Olly Simpson and formed in 2014.  This is a still developing brand.

Currently in the process of releasing a Tonka Bean (a form of vanilla substitute) infused rum to the UK market.

As mentioned earlier in the article, this is one of the new Spiced Rum brands which are using Old Salt Rum from the English Spirit Distillery as their base rum.


The rum is now available to buy and the review is here.



British Island Rum Co.

Bushtea_Rum_01Another newcomer to the market,  British Island Rum Co. are in the process of releasing their flagship Spiced Rum – Bushtea Rum.  This rum is inspired by traditional Bushtea’s of the Caribbean.  An infusion of fiery root ginger, citrus zests and hibiscus.

From what I can gather Bush Tea’s are traditional herbal drinks often used as medicianal remedies.  Again the base of this rum comes from English Spirit Distillery.

The packaging on this one looks superb!   Interesting stuff yet again.


So that is the micro/craft distillery tour of Rum in Britain at the moment.  It’s not huge but its certainly growing. Looks like we have a couple of home grown rums to look forward to trying over the next few months and maybe a few of you may seek out some of the already available rums.

It’s noted that none of these distilleries are claiming to be producing aged products, no super fast, super duper ageing claims.  No 20 year aged rum in the 3 days here.  Having a tried a couple of these rums I can attest that they will taste very unlike anything you have tasted before.













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3 comments on “British Rum – The Rise of the Craft and Micro-Distiller

  1. Interesting reading all about your rum and distillery, however I have to point out that there is no such thing as UK sugar cane and as a Farmer I should know, all sugar grown in the UK is from sugar beet and all cane sugar is imported.

  2. Interesting reading all about your rum and micro distillery, however I have to point out that there is no such thing as UK sugar cane and as a farmer I should know, all sugar grown in the UK is from sugar beet and all cane sugar is imported.

    • Robert is this still the case now ? I realise your comment is from a long time ago, and you may never read this however in case you do dark matter distillers claim to make their rum from uk sourced sugar cane ?
      I wonder who is farming such a product as I would love to meet them
      [email protected]

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