Rhum des Seychelles
Rum from the Indian Ocean isn’t new – we’ve tried a few, but Takamaka Bay is the first rhum we’ve tried from the Seychelles and to be absolutely honest – had we not been fortuitously introduced to David Owens (who is working with the Trois Frères Distillery) then we may have never got around to trying it. Well not until next month at RumFest – but more of that later.
Trois Frères Distillery was started by brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay in 2002; a relatively new company – but one that now has five rum’s in its portfolio and a desire to expand beyond the shores of the Seychelles. They already export to Dubai and have their sights firmly set on Europe right now. RumFest 2012 is the place where thousands of thirsty rum fans will get their first taste of what is a virtually unknown brand here in the UK. The Takamaka Bay website is a veritable mine of information on the brand and where it draws its inspiration from, although I will say that I really do fancy visiting the Trois Frères Distillery at La Plaine St. André – the site of a former plantation, but now rebuilt in conjunction with the Seychelles Heritage Foundation.
The portfolio consists of a Dark Rum (which I’m told would be considered a spiced rum here in the EU) and a White Rum – both at a bold 43%ABV. There’s a Coco Rum (actually a spirit drink made with rum as it’s only 25%ABV) and the rather exciting sounding St André Rhum Vesou – a 40%ABV premium white rum that could be thought of along the lines of an agricole rhum. The range is all produced from a base of column still rum, but blended with differing amounts of what they call Creole flavour-filled pot still rum to add character.
We were lucky enough to receive a bottle of their flagship rum: St André 8 Year Old and we’ve certainly been enjoying drinking it ! Served straight up – no need for ice and I’ve strangely not felt the need to mix it in a daiquiri or other cocktail at all. Simply: rum + glass = a relaxing moment.
The St André 8 Year Old Rum has won a Gold Medal in the Aged Rum Category of the 2011 International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) – in fact everything in their range (with the exception of the St André Rhum Vesou which is very new) has won an award of some sort, so the team behind Takamaka Bay must be doing something right!
The official tasting notes run as follows:
Appearance: Deep golden colour with a caramel hue.
Aroma: Light & lively at the front with orange zest and marmalade notes. Backed with a gentle alcohol warmth and notes and further notes of natural honey & golden syrup that give way to a caramelised, woody spice.
Texture: A light & springy mouth-feel for its age, softened with a lingering silky character.
Flavour: Light caramel and toffee, with a background of oak, ginger, vanilla. With a balanced finish of oak and a touch of spice.
Recommended Serving: Straight up in a large cognac glass or stirred on ice with light muscovado sugars, orange peel & tropical bitters. This rum also makes a stunning dried fruit infusion by adding a couple of handfuls of chopped, dried fruit to the bottle such as raisin, fig or apricot for around three days.
The bottle is tall and elegant and finished with a cork stopper. The bottle (as supplied) is closed with an overly large wax seal – very distinctive, although this feature is lost on opening as there is no obvious tear assist. The colour scheme of the label doesn’t quite work for me – the gold of the Takamaka Bay is rather lost on the slightly non-descript red background. This really is nit-picking though – it’s a great container for the lovely bright amber rum contained therein.
We are certainly happy to find a sipping rum from this region that isn’t overtly vanilla lead in profile and told David so in our last conversation.
TheFloatingRumShack.com: We’ve certainly been enjoying the 8yo received – very fruity is my take, nice not to be blown away by vanilla. It’s not too challenging and certainly smooth and easy to drink.
David Owens: That was what we were looking for, something not as blunt as Havana 7 and not as sweet as Bacardi 8 – It’s got noticeable marmalade to it and is subtle on the vanilla which I personally like. We’re very glad you like it!
With all our rums, we blend column still molasses based rum with pot still rum. With a few of the blends we add a little single press ‘Vesou’ rhum fermented from naturally grown cane harvested from several areas of the island.
This vesou rhum is initially packed full of flavour and is essentially like a rhum agricole. We refine it through an extended distillation process which softens it remarkably before it is used in any of the blends. It is this single press sugarcane juice rum that adds a soft, natural finish to our Takamaka white & St Andre Rhum Vesou blends.
The flavour of this distillate is quite neutral relative to "agricole" styles out of the Caribbean or Reunion – but it makes it a lot more enjoyable and gives our rums its signature light but flavoursome character.
TFRS: Is there any degree of infusion going on? [Note: a cheeky question, but some brands do tend to make fools of themselves by not admitting to an obvious addition]
DO: Our Coco is made from natural coconut extract blended into our white rum and our Spiced Dark is developed from a family recipe, typical of traditional Seychelles rums that is infused/blended with vanilla and caramel. There are no other flavourings added to our other labels. As I’ve already mentioned (I think) - we ‘rinse’ the St Andre Rhum Vesou in three & eight year old rums to give it a subtle maturity.
TFRS: Perhaps more fundamentally, given the packed market in the UK, what are you hoping Takamaka will bring to the market – what outlets are you targeting – what drinker demographic etc. Do you have indications of price points – will it be the entire range as per brochure?
DO: Simply an alternative premier quality rum from a small, family operated, boutique distillery – the exact opposite of the monster brands. We enjoy focussing on producing quality, interesting products in small volumes rather than sheer quantity. We’re a very socially conscious and actively hands-on operation here. When we are finalising new blends everyone from marketing, bottling and even occasionally the head gardener gets involved. We’re hoping that the enjoyment that we experience producing Takamaka Bay rubs off on a few people and we generate some positive brand support. We are always very fondly remembered by visitors to the Seychelles and would like to spread the word out a little.
We are certainly not able to reach mass retail, and do not want to at this stage. Our current philosophy right now is more about getting our rums out there for people to taste and enjoy and also to build the awareness of the brand person by person, much has been our philosophy since day one. We’ll be bringing a decent complement of our top team to RumFest so that people can get to know us a little better and founders Richard and Bernard D’Offay will be there personally, doing what they do best and getting people to taste our Seychellois rum and introducing the UK to their family recipe.
As for outlets, we’ll be targeting leading rum-friendly bars and specialist spirit retail outlets and we’ll be launching all five expressions.
Obviously the fact that we are a small operation will make cost efficiency difficult for us, but of course, price wise we’ll be as competitive as we can be. Our boutique size does allow us to control the quality of the rums we release very carefully, and this care and attention has been recognised by the IWSC two years running, which we are obviously very proud to have achieved.
So if you’re appetite has been whetted, then you really must get along to RumFest www.rumfest.co.uk to take a moment to try Takamaka Bay for yourself as they will be featuring. TheFloatingRumShack.com understand that Takamaka Bay will also be featuring at the German Rum Festival http://rumfestival-berlin.de/
The Whisky Exchange already has some of the range for sale online prior to the UK launch: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/B-339-Takamaka.aspx - and unsurprisingly the prices are quite high given it's UK rarity right now. The St André 8 Year Old Rum is a rather eye-watering £45.49 and we rather hope that the price will come down a bit as the retailed volumes increase otherwise a great many people might be put off.
You can find out what Takamaka Bay are up to by following their activities on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/takamakabay