12 Craft Distilleries Shaping the English Rum Scene

12 Craft Distilleries Shaping the English Rum Scene

 

Exploring England’s Rum Landscape

Reading time: 10 minutes 

Since England doesn’t grow sugarcane due to its temperate maritime climate with four distinct seasons, rum production relies on imported ingredients – as always geography is important.

Mountains in the northwest give way to rolling hills and white limestone cliffs in the southeast. This limestone sedimentary rock is a naturally good filter for water used by some distillers.

England has been heavily involved in rum for centuries since colonial times. Colonising the West Indies, controlling trade, and driving consumption in The Royal Navy and domestically. British/English style rums were exclusively a Caribbean import and tropically aged, but things are changing. After the whisky and gin boom, craft distillers are now switching up rum, and getting creative with long fermentations and presenting unaged flavourful rums.

England might seem an unlikely rum producer. But today there are around 100 rum brands, and a mix of distillers and non-distiller brands have popped up in the last decade. Currently, there’s no legal distinction between them, and rum production follows EU regulations.

Spiced rum remains popular, with several UK brands presenting Caribbean rum infused with spices or flavours. However, our focus is on the ground-breaking craft distillers bucking the trend and shaping a new English rum identity. The Isle of Man is not part of the UK but we include this as they are very much part of the English rum scene.

english spirit co

English Spirit Distillery 

The English Spirit Distillery is the father of British commercial rum, being the first scratch distiller of rum from molasses in the UK in 2012. Old Salt Rum is made at Great Yeldham Hall in Essex Cambridgeshire. In 2014, they won the best rum in the world with Old Salt Rum and have gone from strength to strength ever since.

They ferment molasses for 1-2 weeks, depending on temperatures. It’s then distilled three times in their copper pot alembic stills (pictured above). The spirit is then aged for a few months in English oak barrels.

Over the last decade, they have extended the rum range with the white St Piran’s Rum made in Cornwall, spiced rum, and several aged and matured variants of Old Salt Rum; most recently releasing Old Salt Rum 5 years old. With rum distilleries in Essex and Cornwall, their next venture goes even further;

“We are opening our newest distillery in Kendal, Barbados, where we will continue our rum journey marrying together the immense past of Barbadian rum’s heritage with my penchant for French Oak barrels!” says John Walters founder of the English Spirit Distillery.

You can visit them in their 200-year-old barn, at Great Yeldham Hall in the heart of the Essex countryside and check out their copper pot alembic stills. Open for tasting tours and a distillery shop, you can book a 90-minute informative guided tour and tasting.

Their second distillery is Treguddick Distillery in Cornwall which also makes rum and can be visited daily; book a morning or afternoon tour on their site. 

Abingdon Distillery

Abingdon Distillery

Just south of Oxford, and 90 minutes’ drive west of London is Abingdon Distillery Founded in 2014, Abingdon initially focused on gin, with the long-term goal of adding rum and whisky. Their new distillery in 2022 finally allowed this expansion.

They’ve been making gin for 5 years, and rum for just over a year now. Growing organically, they opened a new distillery in the summer of 2022 which enabled them to finally expand into rum & whisky. They wanted to create a unique style of rum as part of the growing English rum scene.

With most distilleries using molasses, they used Panela with 10–12-day fermentations. Distilled on their 6-plate column hybrid still, it yields similar profile characteristics to cachaca. Recently they scored 89/100 for their pure white rum at the London Spirits competition.

The first cask-aged rum will be released towards the end of May, and be a core to the range going forward, it’s aged for around 14 months in a very unusual cask which they are keeping a secret so an exciting release.

In June, they launch a Rum Academy at the distillery, opening on weekend evenings. 18-months in the making, this offers guests to learn the history of rum, how they produce rum, blend and bottle your own rum to take home from a selection of casks; ex-Bourbon, Islay, virgin oak, Sherry, Moscatel, and brandy casks. Visitors also have the opportunity to bank their custom recipe on file so they can order another bottle in the future.

cornish distilling

The Cornish Distilling Co

Near the seaside resort town of Bude on the North Cornwall coast is the Norton Barton Artisan Food Village which is now home to The Cornish Distilling Co. Going back to 2016, they make three British rums – Morvenna spiced, Morvenna white rum, and Mooncurser spiced rum. All are made using UK-refined molasses by head distiller Tom Read.

Distilled from scratch, Morvenna White Rum is a molasses-based premium white rum that is twice distilled before being diluted with Cornish spring water and rested in steel tanks before being bottled. The name Morvenna has local origins “Morven” translates to sea maiden or mermaid, with “Mor” meaning sea.

You can visit their distillery at Norton Barton Artisan Food Village which is open for tours, and you’ll get to see the process of rum making – from the fermentation of the molasses to the bottling of the finished product.

dropworks distillery

DropWorks Distillery 

Billed as the largest rum distillery in Europe, DropWorks Distillery is set within Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Founded by industry expert, Lewis Hayes, who believes that rum has so much to offer the world: “At DropWorks we are creating a fresh, new face for rum by injecting a new lease of life into the category through added vibrancy and innovation. We are launching truly high-quality, unique rums, and we want to deconstruct rum to create something new and exciting.”

Investing heavily in the site, allowing them to produce up to 2 million bottles of rum a year and up to 10 barrels daily. The distillery even features a unique 3-mile underground tunnel dedicated to cask storage.

The team brings decades of experience in distilling spirits. The distillery houses the first double retort still in England, a pot still and a hybrid still. Molasses and the first sugar cane honey, along with a “wild trinity yeast” consisting of 3 strains to produce their funky flavours.

DropWorks is very much looking to establish a modern British rum. They host a range of tours on which you’ll receive a welcome drink in the DropWorks Rum Bar on arrival, a walkthrough of the production process, and a rum tasting.

Fynoderee Distillery

Fynoderee Distillery

Fynoderee Distillery is in Ramsey, a coastal town in the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea, and in the only all-nation UNESCO Biosphere. The distillery was founded by local couple Paul and Tiffany Kerruish in 2017. They produce gin, but also Glashtyn Manx Spiced Rum described as “Caribbean Christmas cake in a glass,” and Glashtyn Silver Manx Rum. The word Glashtyn can mean water-horse from Manx folklore.

All the rums are made from scratch with organic Colombian panela, (completely unrefined cane sugar and the nearest thing they can get to raw cane juice). Sourced from cooperative farmers, it’s then added to local pure Manx water. fermented and double distilled.

Glashtyn Cask Aged Manx Rum is aged in first-fill Bourbon quarter casks and peaty Islay casks. In addition to these lines, they are laying down different casks (from first-fill bourbon to Madeira, Sherry, and Port) for subsequent releases of Manx Cask-Aged Rums – the first of which will be released in the coming weeks.

On 29 September 2023 (the Equinox low tide) they laid down rum in 11 first-fill Bourbon quarter casks next to a monument located on a notorious reef in Douglas Bay to age next to the sometimes ferocious Irish Sea and will be released later this year as part of our collaboration with the RNLI to help raise funds to save lives at sea. See the Refuge Rum Limited Edition project 

You can book a tour and visit the distillery bar & shop. They are situated next to the Manx Electric Railway station if you plan to arrive by train.

outlier distilling

Outlier Distilling Co 

Outlier Distilling Co is a craft distillery Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea. Founded in 2019, they are based in an old milking shed at Ballakelly Farm in the north of the island. They long ferment molasses, and double-distill on a wood-fired still. Their signature rum is Hoolie Manx White Rum. They have a special release Punk Croc, aged in Sauternes, New American Oak, and Islay casks. Hoolie means a strong wind, for instance ‘it’s blowing a hoolie.’

Hurricane Overproof Manx Rum at 64% is a blend of unaged and 3% aged for 2 years in ex-Islay-whisky-cask. Hurricane blends overproof Hoolie rum with cask-aged rum. Twisted Arm Spiced Manx Rum is their latest and more mellow expression, and uses local Manx honey.

Outlier were one of the standouts at the 2022 UK RumFest in London, and are very much part of the flavour-driven trend in the British rum scene. Expect further interesting expressions from the Outlier team in the coming months.

portsmouth distillery

Portsmouth Distillery 

The Portsmouth Distillery established in 2018 is located in the 18th-century bastion of Fort Cumberland, a historic naval fort in Eastney, Portsmouth. Founded on the basic premise of trying to stay true to first principles, making rum after time-honoured traditions, and yet introducing their unique twists.

After extensive global travels the distiller, Vince did not want to make a molasses-based rum, so used dehydrated sugarcane juice from Costa Rica, which is rehydrated and boiled to produce a syrup that then undergoes a deliberately long fermentation of two weeks.

This produces a soft smooth sweet rum full of body and tropical fruits, leaving a tiny nod to Rhum Agricole with its fresh herbal finish. A rum that can be sipped straight off the still.

“The vision for our rums is for them to be a recognised household name across the UK and to export around the world, with a customer expectation of premium high-quality handcrafted spirits. Having released England’s first 3-year-old rum in 2022, June 2024 sees the release of our 5-year-old, this promises to be a fantastic addition to our already established and revered inventory.” Says Vince Noyce.

You can visit the distillery and have a guided tour and tasting to try the 1812 3 Years Old Rum. This is aged in Bourbon casks and a single cask release, and a slice of history for the distillery.

revival rum

Revival Rum

Revival Rum is situated in the Northamptonshire countryside. Created during the 2020 lockdowns, farmer, James Singlehurst turned this keen interest for over 20 years in distillation into reality. Inspired by rums from Jamaica, he ferments high-grade molasses and Demerara sugar and adds cane vinegar for a very long time up to 40 days. This is then distilled on a copper double retort pot still. As crystalised cane sugar is not one of the raw ingredients for rum in EU and UK law, they call it pure cane spirit.

Revival Rum will continue to make its gold medal-winning unaged pure cane spirit and fill various casks for ageing. They have plans to develop a straight-up molasses-based rum and a spiced rum. You can book a visit to the distillery on their website.

scratch distillery

Scratch Distillery  

Doug and Ellie set up their family-run Scratch Distillery in 2016 on the Benington Park Estate in Hertfordshire. They spent some time experimenting with different recipes and released a Blended rum called Patience, and Sloe Rum. This won their first IWSC award in 2019.

They have their own natural spring water, which is fed by the Hertfordshire aquifer, and filtered through layers of chalk before getting pumped straight to the distillery. This water is rich in minerals and is one of the most important ingredients that impact their unique flavour profile developed during fermentation.  

Using copper pot stills creates a heavier spirit, their stills are also hand-hammered made to their specifications. By batch distilling each fermentation, and heating the copper pot stills slowly, they draw out the maximum flavour from each run.

The 2023 Winter Release is their inaugural bottling, the first in a series drawn from single casks. The rum distillate is from 2020, and aged in a 225-litre French ex muscat wine oak cask from the Bordeaux region. Three years, three yeast strains, and bottled at cask strength. Their releases will be limited and exclusive to retailers Berry Bros & Rudd, and Harrods for the time being.

three counties spirits

Three Counties Spirits Co.

In Bletchley, just southwest of Milton Keynes Buckinghamshire is the modern distillery Three Counties Spirits Co. Led by Luke Garnsworthy, they produce Landlocked Rum English Spiced Rum, and Three Counties Navy Rum, their inaugural bottles of British molasses rum.

“My plan for Landlocked Rum is to create a flavoursome range of rums that sometimes break the “rules” and go against convention but deliver the best quality product I can make. As a former chef, I approach distilling from a flavour-first perspective. It is the most important aspect for me and I think this is what Landlocked Rum delivers.

The plan for 2024 is to build on the early progress made since starting production in October 2023 and grow the brand and the business. I started the distillery as I have always been interested in distilling and I see it almost like cooking. When I stepped away from my restaurants it was the obvious next project for me and I am absolutely loving it. The freedom to explore and create is unlimited and I love creating new products.” Says Luke.

two dirfters distillery

Two Drifters Distillery

Based next to Exeter Airport, Two Drifters Distillery is the world’s first carbon-negative distillery. The rum is made from scratch with 100% cane molasses; fermented, distilled, and aged in Devon.

Founders Gemma and Russ were inspired to make rum after their honeymoon in the Caribbean, and the name Two Drifters comes from the Moon River song which Gemma walked up the aisle to on their wedding day.

“The fun part about owning a rum distillery is making the rum! Our goal every day is to ensure the rum we make tomorrow, is better than the rum we made yesterday. We never want to stop experimenting and improving. But the planet should not have to suffer because of the ambition of Two Drifters, we want to make the best rum, but we don’t get to do that hurting the planet. So, making rum that does not contribute to climate change is also our mission.” says Gemma Wakeham.

2024 has started very well with a major BBC appearance and launching on EasyJet. However, they will soon announce a huge step forward to their commitment to carbon removal. “The more rum we make, the more carbon we remove.”

You can visit them, and book their Signature Distillery Tour to get up close and personal to the full rum experience and enjoy a tasting at the Drifters Rum Bar. Two Drifters Lightly Spiced Rum, Two Drifters Overproof Spiced Pineapple Rum, Two Drifters Signature Rum, and Pure White Rum make up the core range.

white peak distillery

White Peak Distillery

White Peak Distillery is set in an old Johnson & Nephew Wire Works originating in the 1870s. Learning from whisky-making and fermentation, they now create an authentic, small-batch Derbyshire rum. The rum project research took over 12 months, during which they sought advice from several distilleries from across the Americas.

In early 2020 they produced their first un-aged white rum. They source high-quality panela (or raspadura) through partners in South America and distill on a 650L Carl copper pot still with a 4-plate side column. Everything is done on-site, and most of the spirit is put into a cask for ageing.

You can visit them and have a guided behind-the-scenes tour of a working distillery. It’s a Victorian still house, and you’ll get to try the whisky, gin, and Derbyshire Cask Aged Rum. Book ahead, the tour times are Thursdays 11am & 2pm, Fridays 11am, Saturdays 11am & 12.30pm. 

English rum map

As you can see from the above map the rum producers are numerous and widespread. Use our map for planning road trips and see quickly who makes what. RumGeography.com is the most reliable source for finding where rum is made anywhere in the world.

The English rum distilling scene is thriving and still evolving. Distillers are getting creative with sourcing and the longer fermentation trend to create distinctive and flavorful English rums has challenged the past perception of what English rum is. As the spirit ages in the cask, the scene will develop further and we’re here for that. 

England may be perceived as the old world, but their rum scene is exciting, young, and dynamic. 

Bonus: here are a few more producers to explore;

Goldstone Rum is made by South Downs Spirits Co near the south coast in Sussex. They make award-winning white rum from a blend of molasses and raw cane sugar from jaggery, panel, and cane juice. It’s Double distilled using a copper pot still. They have a spiced rum, and Goldstone Rum Dark rum uses rapid ageing with Bourbon, Sherry, Cognac, and virgin cherry wood. They have distillery tours and a rum school you can book.

Retribution Distilling Co. is a small producer making a few casks a year of artisanal rum and bottles Retribution White Rum, and Retribution Spiced Rum in Frome Somerset.

Greensand Ridge Distillery is an award-winning, carbon-neutral distillery located in a beautifully converted Victorian coach house in the heart of Kent. They make a single pot still rum called Wealden Rum near Tonbridge in Kent. You can book a Spiced Rum Experience and visit their shop.

Harley House Distillery has been distilling their award-winning Prohibition Rum 10 minutes walk from the Seven Sisters Cliffs since 2018. They make molasses and sugar cane pot distilled rum. The range includes Prohibition Rum Golden, Smugglers Cut (57%), and Spiced Rum. As far as they know, they are the first rum produced from scratch in Sussex.

Thanks to all the rum distilleries for contributing to this article.

For more general tourism advice for planning your road trip Visit England

Image credits to the rum producers, Canva Pro, and user contributions.

england landscape

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