October 2016… A unique rum was revealed to the world at the Boutique RumFest in London. An expression of rum that has a rather amazing providence, but is both extremely small batch and not released by a multinational drinks corporation. It is fair to say the money was spent on the rum and not on the fanfare!
Seven pure pot still rums; each from different distilleries located in either Barbados, Jamaica or Guyana; each of which have been matured for anywhere between 25 and 33 years. Factor in the small (but important detail) that some of the distilleries are not operational any more. What does this add up to?
There is no doubt that this is a fairly unique experience, but what do we know about the man behind the rum? Rumporter took a moment to ask Ian Linsley, the creator of ‘Old Man Rum’, a few questions.
Rumporter : Old Man Rum is an ambitious project. What made you undertake it?
Ian Linsley : Quite remarkably and unbelievably I felt I had no option, not in a pressured way but in a wonderful destiny-lead manner. Having been brought up with a father who had an ardent passion for rum and particularly pot still rum, I felt honour-bound to complete his own dream of producing what he had constantly referred to as “pure pot still heaven”. Even though he passed away in 2001, his voice and the words he spoke remain fresh and vibrant, they will guide me forever.
He taught me everything he knew about rum, which was considerable. Having spent my childhood in and around the brewery and rum companies (Alnwick) he ran, I devoured every single morsel of rum lore he shared. His passion for all things rum quickly transferred to me and I became truly fascinated by the magical processes that produce this most glorious and versatile of spirits. So much so, that by the age of 12, I was working diligently with the rums and other spirits during all my school holidays as I prepared the weekly orders for delivery to the local hostelries.
The rums that My father produced and worked with at that time all contained caramel and were blends of no more than three years of age, they were mostly column still but with the addition of a meagre but heady pot still influence. Repeated efforts to convince his fellow directors that they should move upmarket into pure aged pot still rums were largely ignored.
Ironically, it was on the golf course where my old man taught me the most about rum and what he also referred to as “honest rum.” It was almost as if after teeing off on the first hole that my rum schooling would begin and then continue as we covered the course. He told me all about why he favoured certain distilleries and rums and his reasoning behind taking some of the world’s most exquisite rums and blending them in his own unique way to produce rums that would always standalone – because not only would they be superlative to experience, they would also be honest and impossible to reproduce. This would then make them extremely interesting not only to the connoisseur but also to the collector and investor. Although my father has been dead for 16 years, I feel he is right here beside me urging me on to finish this epic rum journey which began for him some 70 years ago.
Rumporter: Please can you give us the details of what comprises one of the most amazing blends of all time?
Ian Linsley : This is the most delicate of all your questions, as even under threat of torture I would never divulge precisely the nature of each individual rum, nor the artful methods employed during the all-important blending process. I do recall, however, our dear friend Roger Barnes who one of those fortunate enough to sample (at Boutique RumFest), identifed the origins of four of the seven rums in this world-first blend of pure and unrivalled distinction. The rums in this unique blend originate from Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana. Expressions No. 1 is cask strength and is comprised of pure pot still rums ranging between 25 and 33 years of age. Three of the distilleries where the rums in our blending process were produced are no longer in existence: Enmore, Uitvlugt and Long Pond.
Rumporter: Without wishing to be indelicate, how can we trust the providence?
Ian Linsley : Having known and worked closely (for almost 20 years) with the exceptionally knowledgeable and magnificently resourceful team at Main Rum in Liverpool, it was to them and their senior directors I turned initially to establish if it would be possible to breathe life into The Old Man’s dream. The rum lore and extensive stocks available to this most respected of blenders combined with the impeccable company ethos of integrity and honesty at all levels of rum purchase, storage, product care and blending made them an easy choice for me to make. My father was the most honest man I will ever meet and I know he would have selected Main Rum similarly because of their dedication to overt honesty. The magic these guys bring to the specialised art of master blending is a sight to behold and an absolute delight to be a part of. Expressions No. 1 is an expression of pure rum honesty – or to put it into my father’s words: “Pure Pot Still Heaven”.
Rumporter: Putting the blend together must have been fun? And delicious! Was there a concern that you might make a terrible error and ‘waste’ the old stocks?
Ian Linsley : Many years ago, I was taught a wonderfully empowering pneumonic to eradicate fear from my life forever: (F)alse (E)vidence (A)ppearing (R)eal. So, armed and blessed with the profound knowledge that my father imparted to me over the years, combined with the extraordinary skills of my blenders, we stayed totally focused on the job in hand and succeeded in keeping losses to a minimum. I could not possibly have undertaken the fulfilment of my father’s 70-year-old dream without his post-death guidance and the brilliance of my blenders.
Rumporter: It might be an obvious detail, but how did you settle on the bottle strength?
Ian Linsley : It’s only obvious to those like yourself who have in-depth knowledge. The finished cask strength is determined by the seven rums in this remarkable blend. Many people know that with ageing in barrels there is corollary loss of quantity, commonly referred to as the Angels’ Share. What they don’t all know is that the alcohol content also diminishes with time, so the strength of the finished blend was as honest, pure and true as the rum itself.
Rumporter: So, we can assume that you did not add a lot of water to bring the blend down to a uniform alcohol by volume bottle strength of 58.5%?
Ian Linsley : No. Hopefully those with the knowledge will realise that with rums ranging from 25 to 33 years of age will have significantly reduced strength.
Rumporter: How many bottles comprises the batch?
Ian Linsley : There are ONLY 250 bottles of Expressions No. 1. The small residue we converted into samples and they are few in number. The limited bottles available ensures that for those who manage to refrain from tearing the seal and sampling the delights inside their bottle will gain in value in the years ahead.
Rumporter: Have you kept a secret supply for yourself? And can you invite us around for a sip?
Ian Linsley : Unfortunately, there is no secret stash and I only have an incredibly limited supply of samples, so I’m unable to be as generous as I was in the past and many people now think I’m tighter than a drum! The best place to sample would be at Hedonism Wines, situated in Mayfair, London.
Rumporter: The retail price of the bottle, must reflect the age and authenticity of the rums contained within. What is the retail price please?
Ian Linsley : You are right there, as a number of the constituent rums can never be reproduced. That’s what makes this blend not only a world-first in terms of the provenance and age of the constituent rums comprising the delightful end result but also unique. Once the 250 bottles are sold, they can never be replicated or reproduced again. Although I’ve been involved in the rum industry one way or another for much of my 57 years of life, the company and brand that I set up solely in honour of my Old Man is at this stage relatively little known. This all changes, however, once the word gets out about just how sensational this rum is. So right now, you or indeed any other adult who cares to taste pure pot still heaven, or can see the investment opportunity it also represents, can take full advantage and do so for £3750. Had Expressions No. 1 been released by a major brand, because of the quality and rarity of the rums in the blend it would have been, I believe, £5,000 plus.
Rumporter: Where would I be able to buy a bottle please?
Ian Linsley: Hedonism Wines Mayfair London is my one and only retailer. They have a magnificent reach and can deliver worldwide and they ticked all the boxes for me. They also have a few of the scarce samples I mentioned earlier. So, for the fleet of foot, they may even be fortunate enough to savour a memorable pre-purchase experience.
Rumporter: I guess the only way I’d think about drinking this is neat. Have you any recommendations? With friends, perhaps?
Ian Linsley : My recommendation is, naturally, neat because this above all else is an honest, pure rum with strictly no additives. For those who wish to dilute in order to release more congeners and esters (as a blender would) then the water must be purified either by deionisation or, more commonly now, reverse osmosis (RO). I could drink this distinguished rum absolutely anywhere. My favourite place for a tipple being alone on the top of The Cheviots. I’m certain that if you were to share it with your friends, as long as they understood the virtues of rum, they would have nothing but praise.
Rumporter : Would you ever consider a second project?
Ian Linsley : With the information gleaned from my father, and the contacts I have within the industry, I’m planning another 11 expressions. For the collector and investor, this will build into an impressive collection of rums that will represent a truly impressive assemblage of impeccable blends that can never be replicated or copied in any way. For the connoisseur, they will have enjoyed some of the most exhilarating and fulfilling rum experiences this world will ever know.
Rumporter: Thank you Ian. Further details may be found as follows.