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Rum Club: February 2011 E-mail
Sunday, 13 February 2011 21:20

A Little Bit of Overproof Heaven 

Green Island Rum ClubThe first Rum Club of the year at Trailer Happiness really should be something special.  With Green Island (UK) Limited presenting three rum expressions, two of them being overproof rums – I think we might just have achieved it...

A good crowd turned out for the 2011 opener: Green Island UK’s brand ambassador: Martin So, presented three rums and a beer to the expectant audience.  Green Island rum comes all the way to the UK from Mauritius; a place that may challenge the geography of some, but to save the blushes I can tell you that the island of Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean, just above the Tropic of Capricorn and directly east of (the easily found on a map) Madagascar.

Green Island Rum Club: Martin So


Mauritius' history see’s it visited by Swahili, Arab and Malay sailors in the 10th century [Wikipedia], but eventually colonised by the Dutch.  The island was abandoned about a century later, probably due to the weather (more about that in a moment) and soon after claimed by the French (1715).  The British seized the island in early 1800’s but allowed the inhabitants to maintain their French traditions and language.  With such a melting pot of influences it is bound to be an interesting place to live...  A fact confirmed by Martin when he announced the rather amazing amount of rum that the Mauritians seem to get through.

Mauritius is a massive sugar cane growing island – about 90% of the cultivated land.  It may well have started its alcohol history with arrack (due to the Dutch influence), but the French saw it turn to rum (rhum), which the Brits saw no point in changing...  Exports in general started about a hundred years ago via the spice trade, but exports to the UK specifically are a relatively recent thing.  The company Green Island was formed in 1972 and exports to the UK starting in 2005.  Whilst the Mauritians love their rum, Martin tells us that there’s no culture of drinking aged rum.  Just about all of it is consumed in long drinks with mixers such as coke.

Geographically, the island has a typically tropical look by the coast, but is covered with forest in the mountains.  The island of Mauritius is affected with a unique climate: the south east trade winds bring a warm, dry winter during May to November and a hot, wet and humid summer November to May.  Martin tells us that the conditions are not consistent though – the weather can be all mixed up and for reasons not explained, a six degree temperature variation can be experienced between the north and south of the island.  Given that a quick thumbnail scaling of a map of Mauritius would indicate the island is only about 40 miles north to south is a heck of a variation.  Cyclones can really batter this island although the environment seems to recover well.

This climate has produced a version of sugar cane rather unique to Mauritius.  Much shorter and fatter than normal cane, it draws its nutrients from the rich volcanic soil, producing distillates which have a fairly unique flavour profile: big anise and vanilla notes.  All rum is produced from molasses as sugar production is the big industry on Mauritius accounting for 25% of the export income.

Green Island Rum Club 

The presentation now moves to the first rum tasting: Green Island Superior Light rum.  This is an entirely column still ‘industrial’ produced rum, which resides for a short while (3-5 years) in South African oak barrels.  The spirit ends up a light golden colour, which is charcoal filtered into the form we see in out tasting glasses.  Martin describes Green Island Light rum as a premium white rum for mixing.

Green Island Superior Light RumThe smell of the rum is simply fabulous – the anise that was promised to be present is there in bucket loads.  If only all white rum could smell this good!  It’s full of flavour and very smooth – a creamy mouth feel and all in all: really rather good!  It’s a 40%ABV rum as well.  A great price (check out the link below) and really worth spending a few of your hard earned pounds on.

The speciality cocktails initially complimentary and then later on, for sale are the daiquiri, the mojito and finally a ‘pineapple fix’.  I can’t speak for the last two as I didn’t try them, but the daiquiri was brilliant – the rum shines though.  Lime and sugar are the stage for the flavours of the rum to perform from.  For me this is a great sign of a quality rum.

Moving on we are soon tasting the Green Island overproof rum.  A full, 151 proof (75.5% ABV) rum and obviously the measure in the glass is a lot smaller.  Primarily I suspect, for health reasons but also because it’s a pretty expensive rum...  Apparently in all other respects, the rum is the same as the Superior Light, excepting that the ABV remains higher.  All the wonderful smells and flavour are still there anise, vanilla, tropical fruits like banana (I could go on) – the ABV packing more of a punch on your tongue than you would sensibly / normally experience.  The higher ABV does bring more flavour as well as more of a burn.

Phoenix BeerWith a business eye as well as a genuine need to offer everyone a palate cleanser, Martin brings out Mauritian beer!  Phoenix Beer no less, a rather gorgeous beer brewed in a German style (one of my favourites) and it really is nice.  It also does the job, but I’m not here to talk beer – this being a web based Rum Shack, so we’ll skip to the final rum of the evening – the Tilamibic.

Before that though, I’ll just summarize the history of the Green Island Superior Light and Overproof rums.  The former is sold all over the world and the rum that we get here in the UK has no special UK version.  The overproof is something requested by Green Island UK and the resulting product was selected from a number of presented options.  The overproof is a strictly limited run of 2,400 bottles.  The bottle numbering is all mixed up – so that a case might contain number 2,001 and number 101!  The bottle you purchase is individually numbered.

The packaging is in the same format for the Superior Light and the overproof: a simple, clear glass bottle with green screw cap.  A simple label confirms the contents.  The overproof has a red label near the base of the neck, just to remind you what you are about to pour from the bottle.

Tilambic 151 Overproof RumTilambic Overproof rum is a product specified and commissioned entirely by Green Island UK and therefore is something of a break from tradition for Green Island.  It might be packaged in the same style bottle, but the difference is far more obvious than the red cap.  The contents is amber coloured and this is due entirely to the fact that it’s aged for longer (7 years) and unfiltered before bottling.

The small still on the label is a ‘homage’ to the fact that Mauritius has a lot of moonshiners, rather than an indication of the production method.  In this case, it’s entirely column still distillate that goes into the oak barrel for ageing.  Tilambic means ‘little still’ in Mauritian Creole.

Whereas the Green Island rums are more fresh fruit, the Tilambic is more dried fruit: prunes and figs etc.  There’s no mistaking the heritage of the rum though – the anise and vanilla notes are still there, although not as powerful as in the Green Island rums.  It’s a spicier rum and a fantastic counterpart to the Green Island Overproof.

Which do I prefer?  Both are fab and I guess I probably come down on the side of the Green Island, if only because the flavour is so vibrant.  I really would like both in my collection.  All three in my collection I meant to say...  I think a bottle of Superior Light is more obtainable though as both overproofs have an RRP of £50+.  This is entirely down to the duty HMRC slaps on high strength booze coming into the country.

A brilliant night in which we learnt new things, tried new rums and caught up with friends: so left very happy.  As we were leaving, Jamie did give us a bit of a hint of things to come throughout the year and I can tell you that it looks rather exciting.  Stay tuned for more details.

The DodoJust in case you’ve been thinking – Mauritius – I know that island is famous for something... Just can’t think what it is!  The Dodo is probably what you are thinking of.  The only known location of a rather unique bird, that fell victim to the arrival of man and became extinct within about eighty years.  Not one of mankind’s most impressive moments I’m afraid...




Green Island rums are available at Gerry’s, the Vintage House and online at The Whisky Exchange.

Green Island Superior Light Rum: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-7146.aspx

Green Island Overproof Rum: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-7928.aspx

Tilambic Overproof Rum: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-9919.aspx




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