That’s the spirit! The rise of artisan rum

That’s the spirit! The rise of artisan rum

by Great British Chefs 20 April 2018

With new bottles of gin appearing on shop shelves every week, discerning drinkers are starting to take notice of other tipples being given an artisan makeover. We talk to Katherine Jenner of Burning Barn Rum to find out why 2018 could be a rum year indeed, and take a look at the best bottles made in the UK.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

It turns out you don’t need to be a pirate to enjoy rum, despite what Captain Morgan might say. Like gin the spirit has enjoyed a boom of late, with sales surpassing £1 billion in the UK last year. And despite gin getting all the headlines, rum’s market share is just one percent behind it, confirming Britain’s love for the good stuff. And that, in part, is thanks to a group of British-based businesses creating artisan rums that, like gin, are offering something a little more refined than the standard bottles of Barcardi and Captain Morgan often found behind bars.

The vast majority of these new artisan rums are dark and spiced – good white rum is available, but the most interesting bottles play around with the sugars and spices found in the darker liquids. Katherine Jenner, managing director of Burning Barn Rum, has created two rums – a spiced and the UK’s first smoked rum – and is spearheading this new wave of artisan rum production.

‘It all stemmed from a personal frustration of being a rum drinker,’ she says. ‘My husband and I would walk into a bar or pub and see a huge range of gins on offer, but then the same few bottles of rum over and over again. We thought it would be nice to do something artisanal with it.’

Discover more about Burning Barn Rum on FoodTalk

Want to know more about the UK's emerging artisan rum scene? Listen to Katherine Jenner on the FoodTalk podcast.

The smoked rum was inspired by a fire that ravaged a barn on Katherine’s farm a few years ago, and they use apple wood to smoke the spirit from the same site. The spiced rum, however, was developed to offer an alternative to the often overly sweet varieties normally available. ‘We thought it would be interesting to see what happens when you use whole spices to flavour the rum and not actually add any extra sugar during the process,’ says Katherine. ‘It resulted in a more grown-up drink with a drier finish, and the different flavours of the spices are a lot more pronounced.’

Katherine can’t see rum overtaking gin as the UK’s spirit of choice, but she believes there’s a huge gap in the market for premium rums that appeal to people who might have enjoyed mass-made rums when they were younger and are now looking for something more interesting or discerning to buy. Like gin, rum isn’t something people tend to drink neat (although Burning Barn’s smoked rum is smooth enough to enjoy on its own over a few ice cubes). Instead, the more pronounced flavours of top-quality rum complement mixers like cola or ginger beer in a more nuanced way.

Want to taste the new generation of artisan rums yourself? Here are the best bottles at the forefront of the craze.

Burning Barn Rum


Burning Barn produces two rums – a unique smoked rum and their own spiced rum, which is infused by hand in the West Midlands with vanilla, allspice, chilli, coconut and ginger. The use of whole spices means the individual flavours are much more pronounced, and the lack of added sugar results in a drier, more grown-up finish.

Dark Matter Spiced Rum


From the first rum distillery in Scotland, Dark Matter is an award-winning spirit made by two brothers using a molasses-based spirit with punchy notes of clove, cardamom and pepper.

Virgin Gorda Rum


Made from the finest British Caribbean sugar cane, this rum is blended by London-based distillery The Poshmakers, who take expressions from Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados for a vanilla-forward spirit with plenty of sweet, caramel flavour.

Bombo Rum


From Newquay in Cornwall, Bombo is an homage to the pirate tradition of blending rum with sugar and spices. Caramel, spices and fruit give it a tropical finish, and they also produce a coconut-infused variety for a sweeter experience.

Solway Spiced Rum


This Scottish company infuses a base spirit with root ginger, vanilla, chilli and other spices to create small-batch rum with a subtle kick at the end. Everything is bottled and labelled by hand, and every batch contains just fifty bottles.