I haven’t been shy about my appreciation for the rum producers at Holmes Cay over the last few years, partially because their releases have been quite good, and partially because their no-nonsense, unadulterated approach is exactly what I want to see in the rum world. To date, that has manifested itself in Holmes Cay’s mission to present cask-strength, single barrel expressions from various luminary distilleries of the rum world, starting with their remarkable Barbados 2005 rum that was first released in 2019. Each subsequent Holmes Cay vintage release has been memorable in its own way—some a bit better than others, but always intriguing and rarely playing it safe.
If there’s been one knock on the company, it would be accessibility and pricing, however. The newest Holmes Cay release won’t do much for the “accessibility” issue, being another run of just over 2,000 bottles, but it does hint at the company’s future plans to make pricing less of an onerous burden for the average consumer. Rather than the usual, cask-strength and well-aged offering, the latest Holmes Cay release starts a new series dubbed “Single Origin Editions,” offering a younger and weaker expression of a rum that still ends up being wonderfully flavorful, at a price tag under $50. Suffice to say, this is an extension that a lot of people would probably be happy to welcome.
Holmes Cay has explored Fijian rum before with a Fiji 2004 release, but that was a 16-year-old, 116 proof flavor bomb with an MSRP of $159. The first Single Origin Edition release, on the other hand, is just labeled as “Fiji Rum” and is a lightly aged spirit from both pot and column stills (molasses based) of South Pacific Distilleries in Lautoka, Fiji. It’s presented at 46% ABV (92 proof), for an MSRP of $49. Clearly, a very different approach is in the works here. It should be noted that Fijian rum still isn’t terribly common in the U.S., with many rum geeks only starting to discover it, so some extra novelty points are being earned.
Now, the name of this series is arguably a bit confusing, given that the purpose of Holmes Cay has always been to highlight ultra-limited, single cask runs that were already “single origin” by default. This series, on the other hand, is potentially a bit wider in the net it is casting—it’s not “single barrel,” but will instead highlight single distilleries or single countries, which could mean some blends from multiple distilleries. This isn’t something that Holmes Cay is trying to hide, however, and I honestly would look forward to seeing what kinds of blends they come up with. The slightly more accommodating nature of the Single Origin Edition series would probably be seen as a negative by some of the most intense rum geeks, but I in no way would see it as such—simply as something that should be noted and acknowledged.
This first edition’s bottles are spread out in New York, California, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Florida and select online retailers.
So, with all that said, let’s get to tasting.
In the glass, one will immediately note that this is a very lightly colored rum, reflecting its short aging, with only faint traces of yellow giving some indication of the time it spent inside the oak. I assume that this is its natural coloration, and that the rum hasn’t been charcoal filtered to remove color, as it common in “aged white” rums in the Caribbean.
On the nose, this one is quite lively, immediately presenting an enticing bouquet of fruit and funk. There’s a whole lot of ripe fruit on the nose, hitting on banana and other tropical stalwarts, along with lots of bright citrus. It has a grassy freshness, but also a punchy vanilla note with accompanying florals. The funkiness, meanwhile, is actually pretty evocative of the hogo funk that enthusiasts chase in Jamaican rum, at least to my nose, although not quite so bombastic. I get hints of that “glue”-type note that is often used as a compliment among rum aficionados, but tempered with gentle vanilla wafer confectionery sweetness and lots of fruit. It’s honestly lovely; a very expressive nose for the proof and one that I think Jamaican rum lovers would actually quite enjoy.
On the palate, Holmes Cay Single Origin Edition Fiji Rum drinks very easily, but bursts with flavor at the same time. Again, I’m getting significant grassiness/freshness, along with overripe tropical fruit and sweet citrus, and a surprising amount of straight-up vanilla, which again contributes floral impressions as well. There’s an initial rush of sweetness powering those fruity notes, and then a lingering oaky dryness with very delicate tannin and wisps of smoke. The finish isn’t terribly long, making this feel more like an easy and very flavorful sipper.
This simply strikes me as very delicious, to be perfectly frank. It’s packing big flavors for its lower (by Holmes Cay standards) proof, while being quite accessible at the same time. It displays nice balance, offers good uniqueness in terms of its point of origin, and is even a good value. And I bet it would make a fantastic daiquiri, too. What’s not to love?
Distillery: Holmes Cay (South Pacific Distilleries)
Region: Lautoka, Fiji
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $49 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.