In the UK, a lot of sugar is refined each year. Molasses is created during the process and this is what most rums are made of. To turn molasses into rum, it is fermented with yeast and then distilled in a pot or column still – the same equipment used to make vodka, gin and whisky. You’d think then that Scotland would be overflowing with rum distilleries. It’s very popular here after all. Until we can get Rebus on the case though, we’ll have to accept that it’s a total mystery. We’ll have to accept there’s only one.
Jim Ewen was on holiday in the Dominican Republic, trying and failing to arrange visits to local rum distilleries, when he made a casual joke which changed his life. He said it would be easier to build a distillery himself. This turned into a conceivable reality when one night he wrote down three words off the top of his head – Dark Matter Distillers. The holiday spirit was gone. Now all Jim could think about was his imaginary rum distillery. He returned to Scotland and ran the idea by his brother John, who apparently went “mad for it”. They teamed up in May 2011.
It didn’t take them long to discover there were no rum distilleries in Scotland. If they found out why, they’re still keeping quiet about it. In January 2012, they hired Cory Mason as their distiller. Cory had studied at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling. In a process lasting two years he conducted experiments to develop Dark Matter’s first rum, chancing across a fruity Scottish yeast which was then isolated. Meanwhile, Jim and John tried their hardest to raise funds. By December 2013, they had received no financial backing and ultimately decided to plow on without it. Construction began five months later in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, ending a year after Jim and John had chosen to risk financial ruin. Their gamble paid off.
Dark Matter Distillers has been producing rum for the better part of a year now. It is made from high-purity molasses which has an abnormally high sugar content (67-75%). Taking inspiration from the methods used to make bourbon, they add a drop of spent ale to the molasses to give it additional caramelised flavours. Once distilled, they infuse it with fresh fruit and spices – ginger, long pepper, green peppercorn and allspice berries. What you get is a very intense rum indeed; a drink which is dividing opinion between those who’d happily drink it straight and others who think it’s simply too spicy. Sitting comfortably in the former camp are the judges of The Global Rum Masters competition, who recently bestowed Dark Matter with a Gold award.
Dark Matter Spiced Rum is available to buy throughout the UK and their first exported bottles have gone to Germany, where the shop A Wee Taste of Scotland is stocking them in Hamburg. They also struck a deal with a major supermarket but are yet to confirm which one it is. All in all, it’s been a very successful few months for them. We thought of saving this article until April 7th – when a year will have passed since production began – but then we wouldn’t get invited to the big anniversary celebration they very possibly might be throwing. Hey, Jim followed his imagination and ended up with a distillery…