Unlike the completely unaged white “Hoolie” we looked at before, Outlier Distilling Co.’s Punk Croc is in fact aged, just a bit, in spite of its appearance that would suggest none at all. Perhaps Rick and Ian, the insouciant distillers from that milkshed-based distillery on the Isle of Man, felt that the screaming vibes of the colourful label and the crazy title didn’t need any competition from some dark colouring. It is, on the other hand, just a bit stronger at 43%, but in most respects the hilariously named (and drawn) Punk Croc – these guys have a great sense of humour – is very much a slightly older, slightly blended sibling of the Hoolie.
Since we have already discussed the short history of the company in the Hoolie review (I reprint it in the notes below for convenience), it’s important to understand exactly what we’re drinking here. Punk Croc (I can’t even type that without grinning) is mostly, but not all, pure Hoolie – 98% of it. The remaining 2% is composed in a ratio of 5:1:1 of Hoolie [a] at 75% ABV aged for one year in unused American oak barrels [b] at 63% for two years in Sauternes and [c] an unidentified 3YO rum at 46% ABV in an Ardbeg butt. “The rums have never been in another wood, so that’s the total maturation,” remarked Ian when I asked about such a peculiar admixture. “Pretty useful toolkit for blends, but I doubt any will make it to bottle on their own.”
He wasn’t kidding about that because what came out the other end was demonstrably Hoolie…just kickstarted a tad. Consider first the nose: it had that vaguely sulphurous smell of cordite and brimstone, the acridity of a licked copper penny, yet it developed pretty quickly into a crisp, fruity, olive-y scentbox that channelled fresh paint on old canvas, turpentine, and a gallon or two of tart yoghurt. Oh, and dusty rooms, the plastic peeled off a spanking new phone, light white fruits, licorice, cereal, and even some cinnamon. That was quite a bit coming from such a slim ageing profile.
This was also the case when tasted; the new plastic took the lead without (thankfully) completely taking over, and it dovetailed with a light briny note, some pimento-stuffed olives, a fruit salad of crisp apples and overripe cherries. There was surely more than enough sour and sweet to be going around here and yet it never faltered or went seriously off the rails Even the finish was pretty good: light and reasonably long, consisting mostly of some acetones, light fruits and a syrupy note that combined with (again) new plastic.
Overall, the rum was decent enough: sure, somewhat unusual, but it worked quite well, and even tasting it side by side with the original Hoolie, it was a tight race to determine which version was the better product. Both were tasty, both gave a good account of themselves, and both were well assembled in and of themselves, made for the cocktail circuit yet seeming slightly better.
In the end, I’d have to give a slightly higher rating to this one, though. Even that little itty-bitty bit of aged rum added into the blend is enough to make a difference in the profile, and provides that slight filip of additional complexity that makes it a somewhat ore nuanced drink, a more interesting sip, even if it’s actually made for daiquiris with an attitude. It’s not every day you have a mad badass neon croc come waddling into your drinks cabinet, but colour or crazy notwithstanding, it’s not a reptile I’d want to kick out any time soon.
- The guys couldn’t come up with a name for this rum, so they asked Meg, the graphics designer, to draw a suitably flashy mad-hatter design and then Ian’s wife Lydia came up with the name.
- First released specifically for the Manchester Rum Festival in 2023
Outlier is a recently-established tiny British craft distillery, which joins other new UK-based rum-making companies like Ninefold, Islay Rum Co, Sugar House, Retribution and J. Gow. These small outfits are showing that good rum doesn’t have a nationality and can be well-made in places that don’t immediately spring to mind when considering the spirit. It was founded in November 2019: they boys set up shop in the aforementioned milking shed with a small wood-fired 160-litre hybrid still, and began by issuing an instantly-sold-out elderberry- and blackberry-based schnapps called “Hedge Fund” and a 55% rum they called “Pudtroleum” for the 2020 Christmas season. By 2022 they released their next rum, the mild mannered 41% “Hoolie” and in 2023 the Punk Croc and the Hurricane.
Production is relatively straightforward: they ferment their molasses-based wash using local yeast for anything up to two weeks depending on the weather, then run it through their still twice, and reduce the resultant spirit down to a manageable strength. The still is small, but it allows 6-7 batches a week to be made, resulting in anything up to about 600 bottles and a whole lot of experimentation. They age in whatever barrels they can find and source – so far there is no major aged stock ripening, though its part of their long term plan, of course. Sales thus far remain mostly on the Isle of Man, the UK and more recently, the EU.