Once upon a time in the east, about 150 years ago there were a couple of farmers who bought some land in Queensland, Australia. These two Englishmen wanted to build a cotton plantation, but they didn’t. It turned out creating a sugar cane farm was far more lucrative than cotton.
The farm was facing the Albert River, and on that river there was a riverboat captain called James Stewart who was running the S.S. Walrus, a floating sugar mill. This combined quite well, especially when the ship washed up on the shores near the distillery with a copper pot still on it.
A rum distillery was born.
Of course, there was a bit of adversity too. The S.S. Walrus got it’s license revoked at some point, but ‘Australians being Australians’, they just kept on going for years before washing up on the banks of Albert River in 1884.
In 1887 there was a flood which washed away the entire distillery, including a part of the stored rum. Beenleigh had to buy another still, and they supposedly did from another closed distillery in the area, the ‘Ageston Distillery’.
Beenleigh is Australia’s oldest still working distillery, and produces their rum in what is called a ‘Vat Still’. Guyana’s Port Mourant Distillery has a similar setup, and this is where one of the previous distillers learned their craft.
This specific bottling was done by The Duchess, at a whopping 63.4% ABV. It’s 13 years old. 10 of those years happened in Australia, well over their legal minimum of two years.
The distillery, or ‘The Big Red Shed’ dates from 1884 and is operated by four people. All parts of the process are done in house, from fermenting the sugar cane to the maturation.
Weirdly funky with paint stripper and oak. Sweet sugarcane, quite chemical, but also with some red fruits, and apricot.
The palate isn’t too sharp with some warm-up (as in, you should work up to this). Peppery heat, chemical paint stripper, but other things too. Fruits, grassy notes of sugarcane. Apricot, cherries and strawberries.
The finish is more typical of good rum, a bit sweeter. More herbaceous than sweet, but all on steroids.
While this paint-stripper stuff sounds negative, it actually is not. It does remind me a little bit of the gentler St. Lucia rums, and those are quite lovely. It’s a bit like peated whisky differs from unpeated whisky.
All in all this is quite a lovely drink, and because of it’s history and rather unique origins (yes, I know Bundaberg rum exists) it makes it all the more interesting.
I’m seriously considering getting myself a bottle, when it comes out this Friday. I can’t tell you what the price will be yet, as I don’t know so far.
It will be available from Best of Wines. They sent me the sample, so thanks a lot!