Ableforth’s Rumbullion Spirit Drink
42.6% / 57%
£35 / £50
“Uncategorisable” / Rum-based liqueur
ABV Hydrometer Test: Rumbullion: 30.8% Navy Strength: 34% ABV @ 20°
There are three drinks produced by Ableforth’s that contain rum. Their original “Rumbullion” at 42.6%, a “Navy Strength” at 57% and their “XO 15 years Old” at 46.2%. Today I am writing about the first two products.
Clearly positioning itself in the realms of pirates and British naval history, Ableforth’s produce spirit drinks with rum and spices added or as they call it “spices and botanicals.”
There is no declaration regarding the origins of the rum(s), merely that it/they are from the “Caribbean.” According to Ableforth’s website, they have added “creamy Madagascan vanilla, vibrant orange peel, clove, cassia and a pinch of cardamom.” They go on to describe that “the label features an illustration of a Navy grog tub, further showing off its maritime inspiration.” The bottle is “wrapped, tied and wax-dipped by hand.” Wow, that is essential in any rum-based product…NOT!
Of the two products, the 57% version caught my eye the most as I thought that despite my misgivings regarding putting spices into rum-based spirits, with such a high ABV, it would drown out the inevitably large dose of added sugars. Boy, was I wrong?
I had to do a double take with my hydrometer tests. The original Rumbullion measured 30.8% compared to the label’s 42.6% implying that around 43g of sugar per litre has been added. The Navy Strength is even worse…the label declares the ABV as being 57%, but my hydrometer measured just 34% implying a whopping 103g of sugar per litre has been added!!!!! Or should that be that a bit of rum was added to a bag of sugar?
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as “Uncategorisable” due to the lack of disclosure regarding the distilleries used. In fact, in reality, this is not rum, but is actually a rum-based liqueur or spirit-based drink.
There is no information of use on the bottle, instead relying on one of my most-hated of things on rum-based bottlings… Evoking images of Britain’s glorious naval history (great, I actually do love that bit), but totally disregarding the history and traditions of Caribbean rum making by chucking in shed loads of sugar and calling it “rum.”
To be fair, the packaging is unique and does create a branding for Ableforth’s, but I would suggest that rather than wrapping it by hand, they should focus on adding more rum and less sugar inside the bottle.
Glass/Aroma Rumbullion: 0/10 Navy Strength: 2/10
In the glass, both rums are orange and shiny. The Navy Strength is a touch darker. Both have very thick and heavy, gloopy legs on the sides of the glass, which are quick to drop. They are very viscous!
Nosing Rumbullion, I get this overwhelming aroma of cloves, with some cloves and indeed more cloves just in case you didn’t notice the first batch of cloves. Giving the drink a few moments to settle in the glass helps some of the cloviness to dissipate revealing bananas, citrus, artificial orange peel (think Robertson’s marmalade gone a bit off) and vanilla.
The Navy Strength is not as bad…..It smells a little more like rum with cloves being less dominant and overpowering. It still has some vanilla notes but at least it does have a hint of rum-like aromas, too.
Taste, Initial-middle Rumbullion: 4/40 Navy Strength: 4/40
Rumbullion…..Sweet, sticky, cloying and therefore very smooth. This is easy to drink but has very little in the way of rum flavours…just a bit of marmalade, cloves and vanilla at this point.
The Navy Strength is actually very similar to the original recipe. In fact I cannot notice any significant differences.
Taste, Middle/Throat Rumbullion: 5/40 Navy Strength: 6/40
Rumbullion’s stickiness continues as does the smoothness. Can there be a correlation between smooth mouthfeel and added sugars? Lol.
The continuing orange notes become similar to Cointreau or Triple Sec – not a problem if I was making a Margarita, but not really what I want from a rum-based spirit drink. Towards the rear of the palate the cloves that dominated the aromas start to dominate the flavour profile. It continues to have a sticky, cloying, teeth-grinding mouthfeel to the drink. A touch of black pepper develops too.
The Navy Strength’s flavours are once again similar to the original recipe. There is a slightly more noticeable rum-flavour that develops as the Navy Strength is not quite so dominated by cloves and instead cinnamon, allspice and vanilla are present. Albeit not quite as sweet, it still has that cloying feel to it making it not taste especially great and not at all like a Navy Strength rum should taste.
Afterburn Rumbullion: 3/7 Navy Strength: 4/7
This is where both versions are at their best. The original Rumbullion has a very long finish with lots of spicy pepper. Although it lacks much actual rum flavour, it does have a bit of rum fire at this point, which is very welcome.
Finally, the Navy Strength lives up to its name as for the first time, it tastes like a 57% spirit.
TOTAL Rumbullion: 12/100 Navy Strength: 16/100
What really amazes me with these drinks is that despite the addition of tons of sugar, the prices are mouthwateringly high. The Navy Strength contains roughly 10% of a 1kg bag of sugar, which costs about £1.10 (retail), so there is about 11p of sugar in there. Add in a few spices, buy in some cheap and cheerful rums (probably via Scheer in Holland), stick a fancy label on, pay some tax and duty and then sell it for £50! I can buy a bottle of Rum Sixty Six (Cask Strength i.e. 59%) for £45 (retail), adulterate it to my heart’s content with sugar and spices and it would still cost less than £50 *AND* would taste a damn site better.
It is interesting to note that one website selling Rumbullion mentions it being “enhanced with the addition of sugars.” This actually made me laugh out loud – if something needs so much sugar adding, would it not be better to start with a better base product? Maybe something that tastes like rum?
I have also seen a reference to the rum having “botanicals” added to it. I mean seriously? WTF? Keep your botanicals to flavoured vodkas (aka gin) and well away from rum.
Maybe, by botanicals, they mean spices, speaking of which, if you like cloves and I mean *REALLY* love them, you will enjoy the original recipe. Furthermore, if you love sugar, you will love these two products. I have not tried the “XO 15 year old” although given that the info states it only has a “15 year old Caribbean rum at the core” of it and costs a staggering £60 (for a bottle of liquid sugar), I do not intend to try it.
Spiced spirit drinks are very popular but you do not have to destroy the original rum flavour, nor add a ton of sugar to them for them to still be enjoyable. For example, Don Q and Cargo Cult make great tasting spiced rums without the teeth-grinding sugars. But the problem with these kinds of products is that consumers actually think this is what rum tastes like. Well it doesn’t, in fact this is the antithesis of rum in almost every regard.
Rant over…suffice to say, if you love the sweet stuff and are not too bothered about what you drink, you will enjoy this. But I didn’t, just in case you didn’t notice.
Review No. 115
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7