J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020

J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020 rum review by the fat rum pirateJ Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020. We are back in bonny Scotland, well more accurately the Orkney Islands and the small island of Lamb Holm. Which is where Collin Van Schayk has decided to set up a rum distillery.

This may seem a very odd decision but Collin’s father Emile owns the award winning Orkney Wine Company so a career in the “booze” industry was perhaps his destiny.

As the title suggests this is a rum produced using “Wild Yeast”. As possibly the least geeky rum geek in the world I will at this stage hand over to Collin to give some background on this aspect of the rum

“J Gow NMO 2020 our first unaged release and the first wild yeast release from the distillery. Orkney doesn’t have a climate for growing sugar cane, but we wanted to use something local and unique. What better than a native yeast harvested from wild Northern marsh orchids that grow right beside the distillery.

Various mini ferments were setup with petals or swabs taken from the flowers. Successful ferments (and those that didn’t smell awful) were then isolated and scaled up from 50ml starter fermentations, all the way up, to grow enough yeast to then ferment 2,000L.

It even involved counting active yeasts cells under a microscope. To calculate how many litres of yeast were required to ferment a full size batch. It was a long process. Fermentation eventually took place in March 2021 and lasted 31 days, our longest fermentation yet. The yeast itself smelled completely different to the commercial yeasts we use for our main products.

This alongside the extra long fermentation created a high ester, fruity, naturally sweet spirit. We decided not to age in oak but to let the flavours created by the wild yeast speak for itself. It was rested for several months in a stainless steel tank and slowly cut down to an ABV of 58.8% (as we are at 58.8° North here on Lamb Holm).

This is the first release in our wild yeast series. We isolated a different strain from orchids again in 2021. Which was very mango forward, but much heavier this has been filled into ex-moscatel octave casks for a future release.

We’ll try to do an annual experimental batch with wild yeasts isolated from the island. We’ve also banked each of these strains and frozen them, so we should be able to replicate them again at any time.”

Collin has also added a little addendum as well, to help explain things that some people will find “unusual”…..

J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020 rum review by the fat rum pirate*Due to it being non chill filtered and the heavier flavour of this rum some flocculation may appear in the bottle at colder temperatures. These are flavour particles and heavier oils coming out of solution and nothing to worry about. Bringing the bottle back up to room temperature and giving it a gentle shake should disperse most particles present.

So there you go. Nice little background into the process behind this rum.

So that leaves me to pretty much set out the facts around my particular bottle. I have bottle number 13 of only 171 bottles. The front label of J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020, notes that it is a “Unaged Scottish Pure Single Rum” (they are trying to run with the Gargano classification). It has been bottled at 58.8% ABV.

The wild yeast was harvested 9th July 2020

Fermentation Date 9th March 2021. Fermentation lasted 31 days.

Distillation Date was 14th April 2021

Distillation is Single Pass.

I’m not sure what other information you might be needing at this point? Oh yes maybe how to get hold of a bottle. It was released to those signed up to the J Gow mailing list on Friday 10th March 2022. It will go on general release (for the remaining bottles) on Wednesday 16th March. A few bottles are going to Royal Mile Whiskies but your best chance it to try the official site for online sales at least. It is priced at £45 for a 70cl bottle. You could say that is pricy for an unaged spirit but I think we need to take into account the small scale of this release and as outlined above – the amount of work that has went into it.

With that in mind I think we should have a dive into this unaged rum and see if it merits the £45 price tag.

I always fJ Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020 rum review by the fat rum pirateind pouring a crystal clear spirit into the glass – knowing its not vodka slightly amusing. I often give my wife a glass to sniff (she is a vodka drinker and really not very fond of rum) and she recoils with repulsion. Which for me is always a good sign. She pretty much tried to ban J Wray and Nephew from the house on account of its pungent aroma…

On the nose I’m getting thick, heavy, treacly molasses. It’s odd but the rum smells oily and heavy. It’s a real nose tingler. Beneath this I’m getting an almost Sugar Cane sweetness similar to an agricole or perhaps more accurately much like a Clairin from Haiti.

There’s a grassy element, a herbal touch of pine cones. What I am noticing more and more with time in the glass though is the fruity element.

Or more accurately the slightly fermented “dunder” like fruitiness. It’s almost Jamaican in many ways with masses of fermented pineapple, bruised almost spoilt banana and a lighter sweeter burst of raspberry and strawberry.

It really mellows in the glass – either that or its just wrecked my nostrils……….

I enjoy sipping unaged white rum. Not your supermarket rubbish and perhaps not your standard white “rum”. More a Clairin or a Cachaca or (especially) an unaged White Agricole Rhum. The sweet sugar cane and grassy notes really appeal. Despite this being made with molasses I am getting that kind of vibe alongside a good chunk of Jamaican funk.

Sipped  J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020 is obviously not your well aged, sophisticated sipping spirit. It’s not sweet and smooth as many would want….

What it is though is a full on flavour bomb with lashings of molasses, caramel and toffee to begin with. Followed by sweeter, almost grassy notes mixed alongside some heavy fermented fruity notes – stoned fruits, pineapple, lots of pineapple, touches of banana and as you move towards the finish a sweet note of strawberry.

The mouthfeel is thick and oily and very satisfying. It coats every inch of your mouth and leaves a big “mouthsmack” kind of feel behind.

It’s big and quite boozy as well all the way through. As a mixer it will probably need to be used sparingly (he says nursing a huge rum and coke made with it) or it might well blow your head off.J Gow Wild Yeast Series NMO 2020 rum review by the fat rum pirate

There have been some really good unaged white rums come out of Scotland over the past few years in the shape of Ninefold and Sugar House. Nothing though has been bottled at this kind of ABV.

It certainly works and whilst Scotland might not be the best place in the world for ageing rum or producing sugar cane. In the care of a good distiller it can certainly produce an unaged product on a par with anywhere else in the world.

Finish wise due to the intensity of flavour on the initial entry and mid palate it does stick around for a while. Nice notes of molasses and pineapple linger for a long while.

You don’t want to try kissing the wife after a glass of this……..



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