With murmurs of a rum-revolution tickling my ears for the last year or so, I was delighted to have a look-see at how our Capetownian crafters are interpreting this stigmatised drink. I recently visited Cape of Storms Distilling Company and let’s just say this – I’ve befriended a Great White that I’ll welcome with open arms into my house any day!
My big brother mentioned to me a few months ago that he knows someone who has recently started distilling rum in Cape Town. I immediately begged him to take me, and in no time, we have booked a date to visit Cape of Storms Distilling Company in Salt River.
With my ear firmly on the ground, a rum-revolution has been making vibrations in Cape Town for the last couple of years. I’ve attended launches of international rum brands who are now importing to South Africa. Further, it seems most local gin distilleries now also has a rum on offer. Makes sense. But a chance to visit a local distillery that pours all their passion and molasses into craft rum? I was intrigued.
At Cape of Storms Distilling Company they are pioneering a completely new rum making method in South Africa. By combining a centuries old Caribbean rum making technique with naturally strong African blackstrap molasses, they have created a truly unique product.
Their rum is fermented using only 4 ingredients; molasses, water, yeast and yeast nutrients. This ferment is then distilled using their big 760L still, affectionately known as “Big Jack”. The rum then undergoes a second distillation in “Little Elaine”, their 100L column still. Finally the rum is bottled on site at The Spice Yard, 100 Voortrekker Road, Salt River in the beautiful city of Cape Town (https://www.capeofstormsdistillery.com/).
The distillery tour
Mark and his son, Dylan, waited for us at their distillery in The Spice Yard, Salt River, early on a Saturday morning. We were invited for a tour, a chat and a taste of rum, as they settle into their new space.
The first thing that struck me as I entered the warehouse-chic space, was the lack of a strict dividers between the actual distillery and the tasting room. It became clear, through our conversation, that Mark encourages his visitors to peek around the corner into the distillery and engage with the distilling processes. This, to me, feels like an honest interaction between consumer and product. In fact, I embrace this type of fluidity that breaks down the boundaries between us and what usually happens behind closed doors.
Mark and Dylan enthusiastically walked us through the different processes involved in rum-making, introduced us to the distilling equipment (we met Big Jack and Little Elaine!) and chatted to us about where they source their raw materials from. We delved a bit into their foundations and they also shared in hushed tones some exciting future developments that’s all still in the pipeline.
The Great White rum
Mark’s rum is loosely based on the Caribbean style rum we all know, but you need to remember that in South Africa we need to account for cooler climates, so with a few tweaks here and there, he has put his own spin on the traditional recipe with the addition of their “secret sauce”. If you’re expecting something dark and sugary sweet that leaves you gasping for air, you won’t find it here.
In fact, Mark’s Great White is as crystal clear as spring water, and contains none of the artificial additives that makes your household brand rums a bit more palatable and colourful (think vanilla essence and caramel). Also – no sugars, chemicals or artificial flavourants are added to alter the profile of the final product.
A philosophy of slow-crafted quality
This approach goes hand-in-hand with Mark’s philosophy of producing a small-batch, premium product. He continuously strives for quality and excellence, which is echoed in his careful, methodological approach to every step in the process. Making rum takes time. Mark insists that his product rests between each step of the distillation cycle, giving the ingredients a chance to reacquaint themselves and converse together. In turn, these resting periods add to the insanely, beautifully complex flavour profile of double-distilled The Great White.
From the initial 680 litres of product, only 60 litres will be bottled, hand-labelled and boxed for distribution at the end of the distillation process. Nothing is wasted at Cape of Storms, and Mark reuses, recycles and re-purposes most, if not all, of his byproducts and water.
The distillery tour is incredibly informative, and Mark and Dylan are great hosts; ready to answer any question, however insignificant or silly it might seem. They casually painted a scenario of the current rum scene in South Africa as we walked through the distillery, which helps to put Cape of Storms, and the ethos behind it, into context for the laymen among us.
It was time for the tasting. Currently, Cape of Storms have three rums up for tasting (although only one is available for purchase): The Great White Rum, an aged rum and a spiced rum.
Taking a seat at the coffee bar, Dylan proceeded to prepare our tastings. They usually recommend visitors to the distillery to try the gins neat (or with a block of ice) and then Dylan will magically concoct up glorious cocktail-inspired combinations for you to try afterwards.
There are no tasting notes; the beauty of the tasting lies in the individual palates of their visitors. Mark is equally as interested to hear what his visitors taste, as he is as to share what he picks up from the different rums. An animated conversation ensued over the bar counter as we compared flavours and aromas. This was a lovely interactive tasting, with no guidelines or rules, other than to enjoy these craft rums in the way you like. Whether that is mixed with ginger ale, with Indian tonic and a squeeze of lime (yes!), neat or on the rocks, Mark’s joy lies in your enjoyment of his rum.
You can have a squizz at the rum pairing menu here, and yes, there are options involving coffee and chocolate…
TLH tasting notes
I particularly loved the clean, crisp lines of The Great White rum. Feel free to chuck all your pre-conceptions about rum out the back window, because this is a revelation of note. Deeply layered and deliciously smooth with tropical fruit on the nose and palate, this is the perfect all-seasons drink. A great base for an elegant cocktail, or just a classic sipper with a dash of mixer. Naturally on the sweeter side, this is a very versatile spirit to have in your collection.
Having said that, I also really enjoyed the aged and spiced interpretations of this rum. The spiced rum has hints of the expected coconut flavour, but it’s creamy, warming and textured, rather than fire-breath inducing. The aged rum is sheer perfection – the colour is deep, and the subtle earthiness complements the touches of wood.
Three hours later, our visit came to a reluctant end. Disclaimer; the usual tasting and tour doesn’t take three hours, that was just me being over-enthusiastic about the visit! If you’re an avid spirit-adventurer, or just curious about rum, go spend a Saturday morning with Mark and Dylan for a wonderful feel-good experience. The Great White rum is now a well-loved permanent resident of The Little House, and I simply can’t wait for the other two siblings to make their way into the world, too. Fingers crossed it will be soon…
Where to find a great white
For tasting bookings or their tasting menu, please click here.
Hours: Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm
Phone or WhatsApp to make a booking: 0835148688
Address: The Spice Yard, Unit RS01, 100 Voortrekker Road, Salt River, Cape Town
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity as The Little Hedonist. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.