Rum Journal: Cayman’s Seven Fathoms

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Above: The Seven Fathoms distillery in Georgetown (All photos by Rum Journal)

A NUMBER OF RUMS have a unique raison d’être: high altitude, volcanic soil, aging done in more than one country.

But a rum from the Cayman Islands has a very unusual one — it’s the world’s first spirit aged underwater.

The rum, Seven Fathoms, is named for the depth of its aging — seven fathoms, or about 42 feet below the surface of the sea.

Seven Fathoms, which is currently distilled on the port in Georgetown, is the work of Walker Romanica and Nelson Dilbert, who created the rum five years ago in what would become the only rum distillery in the Cayman Islands.

THE IDEA for aging the rum underwater (the exact process is kept secret) is actually quite an old one, Romanica tells Rum Journal.

It’s about agitation — the effect of the movement of the barrels on the rum, one that can actually speed up and impact the aging process.

“It’s a new idea, but the concept of actually moving the barrels and agitating them is very old,” he says. “It comes from a time when they would make rum; they would put it on a ship, and they realized in time that the rum on the ship actually aged better than the rum on shore. And thus was born the concept of agitation.”

The Seven Fathoms distillery produces a range of rums — the aged Seven Fathoms label, along with several under the Governor’s Reserve brand. The latter comes in gold, white, coconut and seasonal varieties — most recently, a delectable burnt orange flavour. The latter rums are currently sold only in the Cayman Islands, while Seven Fathoms is exported worldwide.

Seven Fathoms is aged for one to three years in Maker’s Mark barrels using a solera method, according to Romanica.

It’s all helped by distiller Brian Ferguson, formerly of Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York, who joined Seven Fathoms earlier this year.

“We set out to kind of try and create the first rum ever made here in the Cayman Islands,” Romanica tells Rum Journal. “There’s always been a rum culture here for many many years — this was one of the original rum-running entry spots, where they would take rum to get past the blockades during prohibition. And rum has always been the drink of choice for as long as this island has been settled. So there’s always been a culture of rum here, and rum has always been celebrated with every festival — it’s just that we’ve never, at least on a commercial scale, made our own rum — until now.”

SEVEN FATHOMS has a pale amber colour, with an aroma of caramel and a hint of dark chocolate.

The taste? It’s smooth and crisp, with notes of citrus peel, toffee and slightly nutty. Unlike certain rums, it has no additives, Romanica says, meaning it’s just pure spirit. That gives it a unique taste — drier, and closer to the whiskey end of the rum spectrum — and quite good.

Of course, we recommend it on land — or at least above the water.

— CJ