Established by Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk seven years ago as a small-batch gin distillery, Hope Distillery has grown into one of the leaders of the artisanal liquor scene, having grown from distilling its own boutique gin to launching various other spirits and distilling for a multitude of other craft brands.
Being unable to sell their wares locally over the various alcohol bans due to the lockdown regulations, they spent much of their time researching and experimenting with new products.
The first of these is the Hope Rhum Agricole – their take on a rum. Unlike classic rums, which are distilled from molasses, a Rhum Agricole is distilled from freshly-pressed sugar cane stalks.
Rhum Agricole is a style of rum developed in the French Caribbean islands back in the 19th century and is a far more intense spirit than classic rum. It is often described as rum in its very purest form, and, if produced with skill, it is both intricate and dynamic. Beard explains that freshness is key in a Rhum Agricole – once pressed the sugar cane juice will start fermenting immediately, so it is important to carefully oversee both the pressing and the pitching of the yeast to ensure consistent and controlled fermentation. Because it is the pure fermented juice that is distilled, it really celebrates the sugar cane itself.
There has been much talk of rum being “the next gin” but Beard feels that the gin boom is not quite over yet. “Rather than distil a classic rum, we wanted to design something that was unique and more unusual, which customers and bartenders would want to seek out”.
Beard says: “As with our Small Batch Vodka, which is a homage to the South African wine industry, being distilled from local Western Cape grapes, we wanted our rum to celebrate South Africa. We source fresh sugar cane stalks from Mpumalanga and press these on-site and then ferment in stainless steel tanks before careful distillation in Mad Mary, our copper still. The resulting spirit really tastes of the land: both grassy and earthy, yet fragrant and floral.” Just like with wine, she believes that you can really talk about the terroir of the Hope Rhum Agricole.
The grassy notes combine a certain umami funkiness which makes for great cocktails. Whether you simply want to drink it with coke, or try your hand at the classic Daiquiri cocktail, the complexity of the Hope Rhum Agricole really shines through.