Review: Copeland Smuggler’s Reserve Bordeaux Grand Cru Rum

Copeland Distillery, located in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, started as an idea in 2016 and, after a successful crowdfunding, it became a real facility in August 2019. They deal with an array of spirits – gin, rum and whisky (still ageing) and today I’m having a look at their limited edition Smuggler’s Reserve Bordeaux Grand Cru Rum.

The name of the distillery is inspired by the Copeland Islands which are visible from the Donaghadee harbor. The islands were used as a trading post by the Vikings back in the days and also as a smuggling point to bring rum and whisky into the area during the 18th and 19th centuries – hence the Smuggler’s Reserve name of their rum. The idea and goal behind the company, according to their website, is to create spirits that reflect the rich history and tradition of the local area.

The distillery is equipped with three copper stills, two for whiskey and one for gin, named Betty, Hessie and Pam. For their Smuggler’s Reserve rum range they use rums distilled by their whisky stills which they blend with rum from Barbados, probably due to their distillery being quite young.

I actually tried the Bordeaux Grand Cru Rum at this years’ RumFest and I was pleasantly surprised. The packaging of the rum stands out and the back of the label is pretty informative – it even tells us the amount of esters – 65.4g/hlAA and volatile compounds – 115.5g/hlAA

The Irish component was fermented for 14 days followed by a double distillation in their pot stills, Betty and Hessie. The distillate then spent 8 months in Quarter First-fill ex-Bourbon casks and then they were finished for 4 months in eight former Premier One, French Grand Cru casks. The Barbados component is a blend of rums aged in the tropics between 3 and 5 years in ex-Bourbon casks.

So overall this is molasses based, fermented up to 14 days, blend of pot and column stills, aged between 1 and 5 years in a combination of ex-Bourbon casks and former Bordeaux Grand Cru red wine casks. Bottled at 42% ABV without any adulteration with a limited number of bottles – mine is number 2095.

On the nose it reminds me of a mild Hampden. Ripe pineapples and bananas, camomile tea, varnish and burnt sugar. Fresh dough, juicy pears, nutmeg and black pepper. It could be confused for a Jamaican distillate quite easily. Some raspberry jam, passion fruit and dusty cardboard. I’m curious to revisit it!

On the palate the funk continues. Ripe pineapples, bananas and pears again followed by green apples and brown sugar. Orgeat, orange zest, hibiscus and Luxardo cherries. I would like to try it in a Mai Tai soon. Layers of nail polish and freshly printed paper along with tobacco and watermelon. The finish is medium to long with ripe pineapple, nutmeg and a pinch of salt.

Yep, this is good, it has body and is complex and layered. The low ABV makes it a bit thin, I would love to see this at a higher strength, anywhere from 46% and more, but that might be just me. I’m curious to try a rum distilled by them, without anything else blended (if anyone from Copeland sees this, my DMs are open).

You can still find a bottle for £35 (Master of Malt), a price I can easily get behind!

Copeland Smuggler’s Reserve Bordeaux Grand Cru Rum score:
Flavour/taste: 52/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 82/100


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