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LAST LIGHT - NZ RUM DONE DIFFERENTLY

Last Lights origin story will be familiar to many people who follow the industry – a Kiwi in his shed invests time, drive and knowledge into tinkering around on a homemade still. Beginners luck this was not. Jon Price, Last Lights resident rum maker, has 30 years of experience in beverage production and knew he had made a good spirit. Turns out that the judges of the country’s biggest spirits competition agreed. He entered it well before he had even gone to market (before Last Light as a company even existed) and beat everyone. Appleton, Mount Gay and the rest of them. Cue the assembly of a team of business and industry pro’s, and Last Light was born.



What is Last Light doing differently?


Well, they are treating rum differently than we have perhaps been used to in New Zealand. There are plenty of distilleries in this country now making phenomenal rum, no post-distillation additives in sight, but Last Light’s commitment to transparency is commendable. Publishing details about yeast strains, mash bill and fermentation time are something more commonly seen in the whisky or wine worlds. Not that other rum makers in New Zealand don’t want to share these things, but Last Light have put this information directly on the bottle. In a space where rum has often had a bad reputation (thank you overly sweet, heavily flavoured hangover-fuel), these guys have shunned a blurb filled with marketing buzz words and let the facts do the talking. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying anyone buys rum based on which yeast was used in fermentation – but it is fascinating to see how attitudes towards rum, and spirits, have matured thanks to this type of innovation.


Last Light are also refreshingly transparent with how their rum is blended. They opt for the Solera technique, which essentially involves blending rums of different ages to maintain a consistent product. It sees barrels stacked into ‘nurseries’, arranged by age, with the oldest at the bottom. It is a gradual aging process and allows for flavour to be layered into the spirit as it rests. It also makes sense from a business point of view. Release as single cask rum, and you will either price yourself out of the market, or demand will outweigh supply. Solera allows Last Light to consistently hit the mark with amazing product time and again, and this consistency allows the brand growing space without detracting quality.


 

Trying all 3 rums’ currently on offer from Last Light, it’s clear that they are also doing things differently when it comes to what it in the bottle. There is the Solera Aged Rum and its Cask Strength edition, made with a combination of pot and column still rum. The former is an exemplary introduction to the portfolio – it is robust and surprisingly fruit-forward – while the latter is a moody, richer rendition, packed with baking spices and caramel notes. Both are fantastic rums, but the third bottling – the Cask Strength 100% Pot Still – takes the cake. Pot still distillation allows heavier alcohols to remain in the spirit, so what is left is packed with flavour. Nutty notes and leather hit the nose while the body is woody backed up by strong Christmas spices. It’s easily the most complex, and you can see why they exclusively bottled it at cask strength. Pour some of this if you have a whisky-drinker in your life who can’t quite wrap their head around rum being as in-depth as their favourite dram.



At Last Light, rum very much gets the treatment it deserves. To call that treatment ‘the whisky treatment’ wouldn’t be doing rum justice. Alas though, t’is the case. Rum is yet to become as respected as whisky, and indeed wine are, in this country. People like Jon Price and the team at Last Light though, they’re starting to change that.

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