Mhoba is a fairly young South African rum distillery that I like very much. Owner Robert Greaves is hands on and very innovative, distilling fermented fresh cane juice in a pot still that he built himself. Everything is done in house, cane to bottle, with a certain positivity that makes it hard to not like them. Robert has tried to create something unique in the rum market while being fully transparent and without cutting any corners. You can find a lot of information about Mhoba, including an interview with Robert, when you click here.
By now they have quite a variety of expressions, which are rather hard to get though, unless you reside in main land Europe. With a bit of luck I was able to get a sample of Strand 101 from a local rum friend and I bought a full bottle of BushFire through another rum friend. Some Canadian rum days are better than others.
When it comes to the story of Mhoba Strand 101 we have to mention Knud Strand. He’s a Danish seller and importer of rum who currently resides in France. He’s worked for many companies, including Bacardi and now Mhoba.
One day he was going through a ton of Mhoba samples to figure out which to bottle, at what abv etc. When he was done with that process he was left with two samples. A white rum that was too funky and a dark rum that was too woody. He decided to blend the two, keeping track of the exact ratios. He tasted and loved it. He then called Robert to share his findings, including the ratios of the blend, so that Robert could recreate it in South Africa. Robert enthusiastically called Knud back within a few minutes. The decision was made to bottle it. Robert felt it should be named after its creator, Knud Strand. Which shows Robert’s generous nature.
Knud had a hand in choosing the colours for the label as well. The blend reminded him of Smith & Cross, his personal favourite best value rum. S&C’s label is blue and gold, which are the colours of Strand 101’s label as well. When it comes to the abv, Knud thought 101 proof (50.5%) would be good. Robert agreed with the 101, but it had to be imperial proof, so 58%. I like Robert’s thinking here. :)
BushFire is one of the most recent Mhoba releases. Here’s Robert with the fantastic back story to that one:
“Braaivleis, or just Braai, is a South African BBQ which is very much entrenched in our society. I think it's our warm sunny climate, outdoor type lifestyle and availability of good and relatively affordable meat that has made Braai'ing so popular here. Just about everybody here loves to braai! I've always loved food and flavour and living on a farm out in the country makes braai'ing even better. There is something basic and fundamentally satisfying for me to make a fire and cook food on it. I love the back to basics simplicity of finding the right wood, making a fire and waiting several hours for the wood to burn down to coals (while watching the fire and drinking rum) and then cooking on it. The preparation and the braai itself has become a bit of a ritual for me and I find it therapeutic and relaxing. A lot of city people braai on synthetic briquettes because it’s quick and good wood is not always available, or is expensive in urban areas. Out in the country indigenous hardwood is always available to purchase or if you have a farm there is usually wood available from clearing bush to plant crops or from trimming bush from power line servitudes.
The seasoning and preparation of the meat and the waiting for the fire to burn down to coals has become my time to relax and drink other rums or to try a new rum of my own as a drink rather than a sample. So the fire making and watching and relaxed rum drinking have become almost synonymous for me over the last few years. One of the most common local woods in our area is Sicklebush and I often use this wood to braai with. During the early smokey stages of making the fire I started noticing a smokey but sweet perfume type aroma coming from Sicklebush fires. It's a smell that I will always associate with happy relaxed times in the African bush starting with braais with my Dad on trips to visit the farm as a young boy.