African rums

Rums from Africa are rare. Besides some moonshine on vacations, the only one I have tried and reviewed so far was a 7YO Inverroche from South Africa. It was so-so, but recently a few serious rum distilleries have emerged. We shall have a look at three of them today.

We start with Sangar, which is located in Liberia’s Nimba county. The story goes back to 2010, when a certain Mike Sehzue visited his father’s home country. The 14 year long civil war has already ended in 2003 but the pain and challanges people had to deal with were still intense. The country was still rebuilding large parts of its basic infrastructure and Mike was wondering how to improve people’s lifes. His family owned a large sugar cane plantation and had over hundreds of years of experience in the production of beverages so producing rum and therby improving the local economy was a logical consequence. Thus, the Miseh Distilling LLC was founded and is now producing Liberia’s first exported rum.

afrisangar (2).jpgSangar White (Liberia, 40%): Nose: Quite ester-heavy with plenty of tropical fruits, glue, nail polish remover, grassy notes as you can find them in some Agricole blancs and flowery notes that remind me of daisies or rosewater. It is a really interesting profile that is a mix of two very unique styles, namely ester heavy Jamaican rum and Guadeloupian rhum agricole. We’ll have to take sip to learn more though. Very mild, slightly watery and not as intense as the nose. It is still sufficiently powerful and easily transfers all of its flavours, which are very similar to our impressions from the nose. The main difference is that the esters have been “diluted” if you want and made way for spices such as pepper or nutmeg. Quite nice indeed, it is just that a slightly higher abv would have been really helpful. Finish: Short with continental fruits, grassy notes and acetone. A very good mixing rum I feel but you can also easily sip this neat. I believe this would be ideal in a Ti Punch. I have been told that they’ve also put some juice in barrels already and I am already looking forward to try that some day. (79/100)

Mim is a family owned cashew plantation in the western region of Ghana. The property spans 760 hectare of organic cashew trees and the distillery typically distills from the cashew apple, which has a distinct sweet and especially sour taste. Anyway, they also started distilling rum from fresh sugar cane juice not too long aga and the first results are very promising. They ferment the juice with a cultured yeast and then double distill in a 2000l pot still. The two following rums have not been released yet, but they were widely sampled at spirit exhibitions so far.

20190831_125234 (2)MiM unaged (Ghana, 66,5%): This is their “still-strength”. Nose: You can immediately tell that this one is quite heavy. It is also quite rich in esters and comes with a large continental fruit basket (apples, pears, quince) but also tangerine and other, related citrus fruits. A whiff of nail polish remover can be found in the background but it is nicely paired with grilled and unripe pineapple. Then something sharp and spicy that reminds me of hot chilies. Palate: Lots of pears, wood, pepper, a mix of nuts and Grappa or a related brandy. It really doesn’t taste unaged as the body is quite full and balanced and many of the (alleged) rough spots have already been smoothed out. On the one hand, that’s quite remarkable, on the other hand, we do love some of the characteristic edgy notes in these unaged expressions. Finish: Medium long with wood and spices, i.e. notes you’d usually find in aged spirits. Cool stuff from another likeable distillery. I wonder how their aged rum compares to this. (78/100)

20190831_125234 (3)MiM aged (Ghana, 55%): This one has spent seven months in a 130l PX cask and 55% is the full cask strength. Right away it is clear that the ageing has greatly benefited the rum. In the nose we encounter a much more mature and aromatic rum with the same nutty and fruity profile as the unaged one, but with plenty of additional notes that not necessarily have to come from the cask but that might have been “squeezed out” over time. Almond paste/ marzipan, sweet pastry, more nuts as well as quite dominantly tamarind and wood apple. Really nice! Palate: Quite sweet and I immediately have to think of tamarind and wood apple again, but the mix of nuts is also clearly there. I am amazed how good this is. It is not very complex but it absolutely doesn’t have to be. This profile is just so good and unique that it doesn’t require many additional flavours and paired with the smooth and easily sippable texture makes this a really good rum. Finish: Medium long with the nuts and wood apple, as well as wood and spices. A very pleasant mix that really invited the next sip. Please release this. And then some more! (85/100)

Mhoba hails from nearby the small South African Village of Malalane. They produce exclusively from the fermented juice of their Nkomazi sugar cane. Their rhums are being high ester rhums made from fresh sugar cane juice, in a sense what some people have in mind when thinking about Grand Arôme (Savanna is refering to molasses based rums in that context, for example). The distillery has already made quite the name for themselves and is probably Africa’s most famous/ popular distillery to date.

afrimhobaaged (2)Mhoba aged (Sourth Africa, 43%): This one initially ages for a bit in big glass-Demijohns with American oak chips (nooo!) before it is transfered into proper South African ex-Whisky barrels. Nose: Slightly smoky wood chips with caramel, vanilla, green apples and somewhat sour mango. Deeper in the glass I can also find prunes and toffee, perhaps. Really nice, let’s hope that the palate can keep up with that. Palate: Quite weird at first with candy floss, glazed almonds, chewed tobacco, smoked salmon and quite some wood. Really not too bad but somehow the individual notes don’t seem to add up. With the third sip I also get coffee, cocoa andd other related roasting aromas as well as hints of hazelnut. Finish: Wood, apples, cinnamon and roasted cocoa. It is a solid, well made rum, that’s for sure, but this fun-fair character isn’t exactly my cup of tea. It does reveal the potential of the distillery, however, and I am sure that they will be able to improve on that!  (78/100)

afrimhobawhite (2)Mhoba High Ester (South Africa, 65%): They label this a high ester rum. It is unaged by the way. Nose: At first not super high ester but with a second sniff you’ll immediately “understand” the rhum. This is agricole style rhum on crack, a real sugar cane juice Grand Arôme if you want. The profile isn’t really complex, but it is straightforward with lots of acetone, vanilla and ripe fruits. Rather nice actually, just not my prefered type. But hey, good is good, eh!? Palate: No sign of 65% and the profile immediately reminds me of creamy mushroom sauce, nail polish remover, more flavourful mushrooms, sour pineapple, pink lady apple and layers of vanilla. Really interesting! Finish: Medium long with more of the vanilla and the mushrooms here and there. Quite ‘creamy’ in a sense with milk chocolate and capuccino on top. An interesting, well made rhum, which just isn’t what I am personally looking for. I am really curious what the aged expression at cask strength might taste like though… (80/100)

afrimhobafrench (2)Mhoba French Cask (South Africa, 65%): This rhum’s nose is rather interesting (we’ve really taken this word over the top today…) and really doesn’t let us conjecture that this might be a South African rhum. It’s heavy on the esters and comes with plenty of acetone and glue, once again this pronounced spicyness reminiscent of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, actually a lot of nougat, a whiff of herbs and a subtly fresh, oaky note. A really good one indeed and the nose makes you wonder what the palate might entail. Palate: Not sharp at all, which comes as quite the surprise. Then plenty of chocolate and nougat, grilled pineapple, Cognac-like notes, raisins, toffee and caramel. Really nice and surprisingly easy to sip. The finish is relatively short and doesn’t offer many new notes. It slightly sharper than the palate and comes with hotter, almost chili-esque notes. A really welcome addition to the rum world, I must say and I am looking forward for what’s yet to come! (86/100)