Mainbrace Rum first to ‘splice’ rum from Guyana & Martinique!
Mainbrace Rum is a unique, premium golden ‘spliced rum’. It blends the natural sweetness of a Guyanan rum with the punchiness of an unaged agricole from Martinique. This makes it the only rum in the world to blend these two styles, giving a unique taste profile.
Origins of Mainbrace Rum
Co-founders, David Haigh, Richard Haigh and Liam Jones spoke about the origins of the rum. It all began over a few drinks at The Ferry Boat Inn in Helford Passage, Cornwall. “Mainbrace started its journey about 1½ years ago“, explained Richard, “when we were all down in Cornwall where my family originated from. We thought there isn’t a rum that serves our purpose. Some are too sweet and some are too harsh, so maybe we should have a go!”
At the time, Liam was manager of The Ferry Boat Inn, a job he stopped soon afterwards. He then spent the next three months asking mixologists and experts what they thought was missing and what they wanted to see. After brainstorming different types of rum, the three rumsketeers narrowed down their choice to the current blend.
Splice the Mainbrace
“We knew about splicing the mainbrace and that it was a naval tradition“, says Richard. “We also knew there was a brand originally called Mainbrace and thought that was the perfect name to describe what we’re doing – splicing two different rums together. So, around this time last year, we came up with the name.”
“Splicing the mainbrace is an old naval term. In the days when you had rigging on ships, the mainbrace was perhaps the most important part of the rigging. It helped to control the main mast, which, if it were shot out in battle, meant that you couldn’t manoeuvre the ship. The Royal Navy used to give out a daily ration of rum. If you were part of the team that fixed this part of the rigging during battle, you’d get a double ration. Over time, ‘splicing the mainbrace’ just became the term for having a drink. Even today, they will splice the mainbrace and say to the Queen ‘God bless her’ on special occasions. It’s part of naval tradition.”
The bottle itself mimics the shape of the old rum barrel used to serve the daily ration of rum. Richard explains further. “It had a tapered shape. There were gold or brass bands going around and ‘The Queen – God Bless Her’ was written on it. On the top, the lid had a brass star with a little acorn that you would use to open it up. So, we tried to get as much of that into the bottle as we could. We tried to make the bottle something you could grab and that was a bit of fun. We wanted it to look grown-up, so that you’d happy to see it in more refined establishments as well.”
The bottle also resembles a decanter, so could be used for other spirits afterwards or even as a candle holder.
Rum sourced from Guyana and Martinique
Liam Jones describes the reasoning behind this particular blend. “We were looking for something that was extremely well-balanced and that you wouldn’t normally associate with rum. We found a lot of rums were too sweet and people were starting to consider spiced rums as proper rums essentially. So, we wanted something that had a bit more depth and would develop as you go through it.”
Guyana has a strong tradition of making rich, fruity, full-bodied rums, particularly around the Demerara River renowned for its sugar cane. Mainbrace contains rums from this area, aged for between two and five years from three different stills. Each of these brings its own unique character and natural sweetness to the blend. The rum is then produced at the Diamond Distillery, the last remaining distillery in Guyana.
Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) was founded in the 1970s as a joint venture of several small rum distilleries. It is located at the Diamond Distillery, the last surviving rum distillery in Guyana, on the east bank of the Demerara River near Georgetown.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, there were more than 200 distilleries in the region. DDL now houses several stills from those distilleries, following amalgamations and government privatisations. Diamond Distillery contains, for example, the legendary large double wooden pot still originally used at the Port Mourant Estate Distillery founded in 1732. Rum made on this still has traditionally been sourced by the Royal Navy.
Three stills for the Guyanan rum
The first part of the molasses-made blend comes from the Port Mourant still. The second part is from the famous Coffey still, originally found at the Enmore Sugar Estate. This is the only surviving wooden column still in the world and is also the oldest operating Coffey still, built in 1880. Both these stills are uniquely made from ‘Greenheart’, a native Guyanese hardwood. The final part of the blend comes from an original four-column French Savalle still, a metal still dating back to the 18th century.
Rhum agricole is the French term for rum made from freshly squeezed cane juice rather than molasses. This style originates in the French Caribbean. The agricole part of the Mainbrace blend comes from La Favorite in Martinique. This distillery was established in 1842, although only started making rum at the beginning of the twentieth century. The distillery is now in the hands of the third generation of the Dormoy family.
The same steam engine has been used to power the distillery since 1906. It is a complete closed loop system that uses the excess fibres (bagasse) of the cane to fuel the furnaces. These then create the steam used for distillation in copper creole column stills. This process is extremely sustainable and La Favorite is the last distillery in Martinique still working purely from steam. The agricole blend used in Mainbrace is unaged.
Profile of Mainbrace
Initially on the nose, “those up-front punchy, grassy notes from the agricole are evident, accentuated when using a wine glass“, notes Liam. “Then slowly more of the demerara comes through, showing toffee, honey, caramel and dried fruits“, he adds. Similarly, on the palate, warm peppery spice and an herbaceous edge lead to a sweeter, smooth, fruity, easy-drinking rum with a lingering finish. The ABV is 40%.
How to drink Mainbrace
The nature of this rum makes it ideal for drinking neat or on the rocks. Liam also sees it as a particularly versatile style. “It works really well as a twist on classic rye whiskey cocktails like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. You get that dryness from the rum and it’s great for people who think spiced or sweeter rums are the only types.”
Where to buy Mainbrace
Mainbrace Rum was bottled in early October 2019 and sold its first bottles of rum at RumFest through the Whisky Exchange. Following this success, the company created a bespoke rum punch for the launch of the newly renovated Punchbowl and Ladle in Penelewey, Cornwall. Bottles of Mainbrace are now available at selected bars in Cornwall, and on Drink Finder (RRP £36.99).
For further news on beers and spirits, check out the other articles on Ryebeck’s Industry Insights pages.
Author: Robin Goldsmith of The Write Taste.