Holmes Cay may be young, having only started their (independent bottling) negociant business in 2019, but they have quickly carved themselves out a niche, by sourcing some tasty and unique casks from around the Caribbean. However, Holmes Cay typically offers quality at a price point that not everyone is comfortable splurging on. Only real rum nerds need apply. Which is why the release of their Fiji Single Origin is so intriguing. Tasty rum under $50, no adulteration, and from an underrepresented region - yes, please! There are a few bottles I’m aware of out there that hit two of those marks, but, until now, not all three (though Fiji is quickly becoming “discovered”).
The difference, though, with this bottling and Holmes Cay’s others is the single origin designation. This is a bit of a curiosity, as Fiji only has one rum distillery, home to Bounty rum (not the one from St. Lucia), and sole source of barrels for independent bottlers like Samaroli, Plantation, and Transcontinental. We can infer this is not a single barrel but is all from one distillery. So, I suppose, one could make the case that this is Bounty rum reimagined by Eric Kaye, rum blender and founder of Holmes Cay, and collaborators, Will Hoekenga and John Gulla, the podcast duo behind The Rumcast.
My intrigue about Fijian rum stems from, one, how little I know about it and, two, its proximity to Papua New Guinea, the ancestral home of sugarcane. While some divergence would certainly have occurred, I wonder how similar the cane is to Papuan cane. Then add in volcanic soil which I am a sucker for whether it’s wine, mezcal, or rum. I love that bright zip that gets incorporated within plants that really had to strive to survive and their subsequent juices.
According to Holmes Cay’s website, this rum “is a blend of lightly aged molasses-based pot and column still rum” that has “no sugar, no color, and no other flavors added in distillation or blending.” Definitely a lightly hued rum, reminding me of an oaked Chardonnay. The first thing I get on the tongue is a funky caramel apple, as if someone was experimenting with a natty cider, along with a feeling of spoiled honey, coating the tongue but fizzy. And while that’s delicious and entertaining, what the flavor really unlocks for me is a very specific memory I have of an appetizer of kalamata olives oil-brined with black caraway and orange zest, and, like the dish, well balanced between those components, with the oiliness of the olives being tempered by the citrus and caraway as the bridge between the two. There is a tug back and forth between the fruiter apple notes and the umami, but they don’t rise to conflict. A little cleansing brush from something like green coriander and a lingering minerally finish.
This is a real fun rum - there’s hogo, there’s fruit, there’s minerality. The limited few I’ve had from Fiji haven’t been as robust in all facets and I can easily say this is the most interesting one I’ve had (Samaroli was incredible but more focused on refinement than funk). Holmes Cay has produced a Fijian rum well suited for fans of Jamaican rums and or those looking for exploration.