A new range of Scottish spirits offers no rum deal as far as Peter Ranscombe is concerned.
PAUL Rutasikwa may have just restored my faith in liqueurs.
While most of our so-called “gin liqueurs” in Scotland fall flat on their faces because the other flavours mask the juniper – the taste of which is the very reason for drinking gin in the first place – Paul’s new rum liqueur is extremely well balanced, letting notes from the underlying white spirit filter through without compromising on the intensity of the other ingredients.
Part of his success is down to the high quality of the new base spirit, which made its debut on Monday.
Paul and his wife, Jacine, opened their Matugga distillery in Livingston in 2018, joining the growing family of craft distillers making rum in Scotland.
They moved from London so that Paul could change career, swapping his life building bridges and earthworks as a civil engineering to become a student on Heriot-Watt University’s world-renowned brewing and distilling course.
Matugga’s eponymous rum has been a big hit, especially in export markets.
Now, Paul and Jacine have launched a companion brand, Liv, and tonight they held an online tasting to introduce the new range, which consists of white and spiced rums and rum liqueurs.
The starting point is their Liv Pot Distilled White Rum (£25.99 for 50cl, livrums.com), which has pronounced aromas of brown sugar, banana and a twist of orange on the nose.
Paul’s use of direct heat in his distillation and only copper – not stainless steel – apparatus gives the rum a biscuity note on the palate, alongside more of the orange and lemon flavours.
Adding apple juice emphasised the biscuit note, while Janice explained that they often serve white rum with cheese.
Maintaining the concentration of the rum at 57.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) instead of diluting it to the standard 42.5% ABV produces the Liv Navy Strength White Rum (£31.99 for 50cl), which had more pronounced biscuit notes on the nose, and then more intense lemon curd as opposed to lemon on the palate.
The stronger rum highlighted the sweet notes in the accompanying ginger beer mixer, while Paul paired the navy strength rum with smoked salmon and melon.
“This is the rum that I take to share with my family,” explained Jacine, whose family comes from Jamaica, where this style of overproof rum is used to make rum punch and rum cakes, and in cooking.
While Jacine’s relatives hail from Jamaica, Paul was born in Uganda – a country known for its sugar cane but not for its rum, as his wife pointed out.
They explained that their business draws on Jacine’s Jamaican roots, the socialising and food and drink element of life in Uganda, and the ingredients and distilling heritage in Scotland.
Those local ingredients were on show in the Liv Black Spiced Rum (£25.99 for 50cl), which is made using the white rum as a base and then adding molasses, heather flowers and other Scottish botanicals.
The result is more sweetness on the nose, with aromas of Demerara sugar, molasses and cloves.
Pairing it with cola brought out a savoury note in the spirit and made for a very sophisticated “rum and coke”.
Liv may be the “baby” compared to the main Matugga range – even coming in 50cl bottles instead of the standard 70cl to hit a different price point – but there are no compromises and it’s still packed full of flavour.
While I was impressed with the intensity of Paul’s base white rum, I was blown away by the way he used it in the Liv Honey & Lavender Rum Liqueur (£23.99 for 50cl), which will be released next month, alongside the Liv Raspberry & Hibiscus Rum Liqueur (£23.99 for 50cl).
On the nose, there was pronounced lavender, lemon and set heather honey aromas, with a sappy note too.
It was much fresher on the palate though, with lemon and honey notes coming to the fore, but not masking the rum’s notes.
The texture was really interesting too, with an almost tannin-like dryness.
This is no sickly-sweet late-night liqueur – it’s a summer stunner, with Jacine musing on its suitability as a mixer with prosecco.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.