Review: Market Row Botanical Rum

Market Row is made in London, Brixton, by Brixton Distillery Company which is owned by Laurent Lacassagne, former CEO of Chivas Brothers, and Patrick Venning, former marketing director for Chivas Brothers. The distillery is located in the heart of Brixton within the Market Row arcade from where they are sourcing their botanicals.

Botanical Rum is a fairly new term, it’s mostly not bound by any rules, much like spiced rum, but Brixton Distillery do address the subject on their blog. Apparently, for them a botanical rum is a flavoured rum that is not overpowered by warm spices and/or sugar and caramel additions. They are looking to enhance the base rum rather than drown them in flavourings, which is something I can get behind.

For me, as a rum person and consumer, botanical rum is a term used mostly by newer, smaller, craft distilleries as an attempt to jump on the gin marketing bandwagon. Nothing wrong with it, just is the same as spiced rum, it isn’t a new, revolutionary category.

Now back to Market Row, they are sourcing rums from the Caribbean, more exactly Barbados, Jamaica and Dominican Republic. Here’s something that bugs me – their website says and I quote “Market Row Rum is a blend of pot still rums from distilleries across Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic”. Well as far as I know, there are no pot stills distilling rum in the Dominican Republic and the Barbados component is most likely to be a blend of pot and column as per island’s style… so that’s unfortunately misleading…

All the rums are aged up to 5 years in ex-Bourbon casks, with the Dominican Republic rum being unaged. The blend is then re-distilled by their distiller, Matt Servini, with their chosen botanicals: Kenyan black tea, vanilla, allspice, South Asian red rose, cloves, Nigerian hibiscus, mace, oregano and black pepper. Brixton Distillery operates a 100 litre copper and steel pot still with integrated copper thumper and condenser column.

The Barbados component probably hails from Foursquare, and from what I could gather the Dominican Republic component is sugar cane juice based, so most likely it comes from Acoholes Finos Dominicanos (Barcelo), who use cane juice that is multi-column distilled to 95% ABV to make rum – therefore it doesn’t have that grassy profile we know from agricole rhums. These are just calculated assumptions and I might very well be wrong.

So molasses and sugar cane juice based, pot still, column and multi-column distilled then aged from 0 to 5 years in ex-Bourbon barrels. The blend is then re-distilled at Brixton Distillery in the 100 litre pot still with the botanicals and spices mentioned above. Bottled at 40% ABV with no sugar added. Given the golden colour I’d assume some level of colouring addition is present since no further ageing is mentioned.

On the nose this feels quite odd, there’s some Jamaican funk, but also a profile I’m struggling to put my finger on. Do you know that chemical smell you get from newly bought shoes? That would be the most accurate description. Banana, pear, glue, acetone, rubber and orgeat. Candied raspberries, freshly printed paper and grapefruit zest. Hints of caramel and vanilla, but it mostly smells chemically – went to sniff another rum just to make sure my nose wasn’t malfunctioning.

On the palate the profile makes more sense with a mix of fruity and vegetal notes. Mango, passion fruit, overripe bananas, coriander, green tea and cardamom. Caramel, biscuits, new cardboard, glue, moth balls and hints of juniper. It’s fruity upfront, then becomes grassy mid palate and towards the end a few floral/botanical notes come out. The finish is medium to long with pine tree, rose petals and a pinch of salt.

Before I get to the conclusion, I have to mention the fact that I won this rum from a giveaway in The Rum Bar Facebook group, feel free to join for similar giveaways and rum chat. The prize was provided by The Rum Boxx, so I received this bottle along with some cocktail ingredients, cocktail recipes, snacks, London Essence ginger ale and a sample of rum from a local distillery – not complaining!

The rum itself is meant to be mixed, as they are stating themselves, they didn’t add sugar so they’d leave the choice to the consumer. This isn’t something you’d normally expect from a spiced (fine, botanical!) rum, no heavy vanilla, chocolate, or most of the classic spices. The rum is bright and it’s allowed to exhibit itself, mostly via Jamaican funk. That being said I’m not sure I’m a fan of the botanical combo, feels like it tries to be too many things at once and it ends up having a very chemical-ish profile. I mixed it with the ginger ale from the box and the after taste is still somehow off-putting.

It isn’t cheap either, £32 (Master of Malt) for a 50cl bottle. The quality is definitely there, the base seems tasty and I do like the concept, I’m just not into the infusion – one of those things that are a matter of personal taste I guess.

Market Row Botanical Rum score:
Flavour/taste: 43/70
Value for money: 11/15
Transparency/purity: 13/15
Overall: 67/100


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