Outlier Distiller’s overproofed “Hurricane” is a jolt of adrenaline to the heart, an amazing rum of remarkable qualities which took me so by surprise that I kept it on the go for the best part of a day in a glass I refused to put away (or rinse out, much to the horror of Mrs. Caner). The previous rums in the company’s oeuvre – Hoolie and Punk Croc – were pretty good for their place and time and the producers’ experience, but the Hurricane took it to another level entirely. Most who tasted it at the 2023 TWE Rumshow that day could be seen walking off with a slightly addled expression on their faces, as if to ask themselves what the hell they had just had, and why were Ian and Rick grinning?
And yet, the Hurricane, with all that the name implies, stuffed into a bottle at a furious 64%, is actually a rather young blend, very much in the vein of Punk Croc: 98.5% unaged and undiluted Hoolie and 1.5% something else. It’s that little bit of extra, that tiny bit of a buggane’s DNA, that elevates this thing – a touch of 2021 new make spirit aged for a year or so in new American oak and a sprinkling of the 3 YO 2020 rum matured in an Ardbeg cask (actually a butt, but I know how that reads, so…).
What came out the other end was a rum that — after an initial sniff, a quick taste — made me cough, look at my glass, turn to the pair of cheekily smirking owners and mumble in semi-coherent bafflement, “This thing is how old?” Because the nose was just so damned interesting: it had all the directed force of Subutai’s army in the field, beginning right away with a lunging series of crystal clear aromas — vanilla, bon-bons, wet fresh coconut shavings, light white-sugar notes, and then the whiff of iodine and a sterile hospital mixing it up with candy, white fruits and the tartness of unsweetened yoghurt, milk going slightly off. It’s both sweet and sour with just a bit of salt, and while quite firm, is more than easy enough to smell without any health advisories issued in advance.
Oh, and the taste — it’s good. Well rounded, fruity and very strong, while at no point being so sharp as to cause distress and discomfort. Icing sugar and ripe white pears, guavas, green apples and pale ripe grapes; then salted crackers, cheerios, more of that slight sour milk taste, even a drizzle of maple syrup, all set off by a nice key lime pie and fresh pastries. The finish closed up shop very smoothly, leaving memories of crisp grapes and light fruits, brine, an olive or two, sweet soya and that peculiar medicinal tang that somehow missed being unpleasant by a whisker.
The way the profile unfolds is really kind of spectacular — here we have not just any old overproof white hooch, but a solidly executed example of rum assembly that’s put together like a fine Swiss watch. The profile meticulously juxtaposes a small array of disparate elements, and then it’s all tweaked and choreographed and hammered flat, so that it unfolds with near-clinical precision. Assassins like Le Samourai, the Jackal or the Accountant would instantly recognize it and smile.
By now we’re more than a little familiar with the rums of Outlier, the little milk-shed based distillery on the Isle of Man created in 2019 by those two newly minted Manxmen with a crazy vision, a flippant attitude and a knack for making good juice. Like most new rum-making outfits they are characterised by some really interesting young and unaged rums made with attitude and clever marketing, and while I have no idea if they’re in the black yet, surely the reputation they’ve garnered thus far speaks well for their future endeavours. With this rum they burnish their reputation to a fine lustre, by making a seriously tasty rum that is affordable and approachable, intense and enjoyable — and when you’re done it’ll be one of the best things you’ve drunk all week.
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.