Killik distillery, located in the east of Melbourne, is one of the “New Australian” outfits I have an eye out for: like others located up and down the east coast of Australia (and elsewhere), they are seeking to bootstrap a homegrown rum industry into something greater by applying modern techniques to old-style rum-making and adding an occasional dash of crazy to set themselves apart. So far it’s mostly local sales that keep these small and often family-owned operations afloat, yet slowly their reputation is spreading beyond the Bundies and Beenleighs everyone knows. The Boutique-y Rum Company’s recent bottlings of Black Gate and Mt. Uncle distilleries speaks well for the future of antipodean rums, and Killik is sure to be a part of that movement.
Readers with pachyderm-level memories will likely recall that we’ve looked at a Killik Gold (rum) before – that one was a year or so old and matured in Chardonnay casks, while this one is of somewhat more recent vintage, no finishing or fancy cask, and a different age. When I addressed this question to the Brothers Pratt (the owners), they remarked that although the overall production process remains the same — they continue to tinker with wild yeast fermentation and Jamaican high-ester-style rum making as a core ethos — the small size of their output means that until they expand it to larger sizes, batches are and will be strikingly varied, and those batches come out quite often. In that sense they are somewhat like the six-month ageing-and-output cycle Nine Leaves in Japan used to have.
One thing to look out for is the label. Now recall, Australia has that 2-year rule that states a cane based spirit cannot be called rum until it is aged for at least two years (producers are trying to address a potential revision to this outdated law through the courts)…so strictly speaking Killik should only be able to call it – as before – a “gold” or a “cane spirit” or some variant thereof. However, in what I personally consider a stroke of marketing genius, they trademarked their name and the image of the anchor device together, as “Killik Handcrafted Rum,” and cheerfully added that to their labels, right above the word “Gold”. They therefore stayed within the law while simultaneously skirting it and unambiguously stating what they’re making.
This particular version — it’s hard to identify it precisely since there is no notation on the label or the website — was confirmed to me to be at least twice as old as the version from 2022 that had come from the 2021 advent calendar. It is therefore a completely different rum, still made on a hybrid still, with dunder and wild yeast part of the recipe pushing the congener count up. It is also a blend – of 75% original stock rum now aged to 3 years, plus 25% of one year old fresh make. As before, the barrels are from a local cooperage and I have an outstanding query as to whether it was used or new barrels and if used, what they previously held.
Bottled at the same 42%, the Gold takes a few more chances than the original did – it noses as slightly richer, rounder, fuller. And while the funk and congeners remain as muted as before, there’s an overall sense of something slightly richer here: paint and furniture polish, a touch of wax, acetones and new plastic. This dissipates over time and is replaced by some middling-sharp fruity notes — apples, green grapes, diluted lemon juice, apricots, pineapples and unripe peaches. There are also, after some minutes, hints of vanilla, cherries, lemon key pie, hot sweet pastries, cookies, and unsweetened yoghurt – very nice for something so relatively young.
The palate maintains that sense of something more complex and richer than its predecessor, even if the strength undercuts that somewhat. And yet overall still it tastes pretty good — green apples, light pineapple slices, bananas, pine tart and grapes, combine nicely with the sense of pastries steaming fresh from the oven, vanilla, light sugar water, lemon zest, and bitter chocolate and crushed walnuts. The finish wraps up the show as best it can, and sums up the tart and creamy fruits and pastries vibe quite well – it is quite easy drinking with a bit of a sour edge, occasionally sharp, not too hot. More cannot really be said here.
Overall, I think the low strength hamstrings a decent rum that could actually be even better — that 42% is okay for casual drinking, but for more appreciation you do need more oomph. The relatively young age is something of a mixed blessing as well, since along with the slightly added complexity comes a bit of roughness — and so I can’t completely recommend it as a sipping rum. That said, the thing makes a really fine daiquiri, and on that front, with those sharp fruity notes leaning up against the warm pastries, the rum walks down strange and interesting yet hauntingly familiar paths inhabited by hot Jamaican patties and fierce white overproofs served in plastic tumblers at backcountry rumshops — and if nothing else, those are the qualities which define it as a rum too good to walk away from.
- A short bio of the company can be found here. It also explains the logo design.